I watched *Verklärte Nacht* on April 12, 2021. It’s a dance piece by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker set to a piece by Arnold Schoenberg. The performance was recorded on February 1, 2019 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The performance started with two dancers dancing to no music, which had me wondering if I was having an audio problem. Not an issue in a live performance, usually. The initial dancers were a man and a woman, Boštjan Antončič and Cynthia Loemij, later they were joined by another man, Igor Shyshko. The dancing with no music went on for about five minutes, and it was wonderfully intense and expressive.
The music came in and it brought the dancing to an exciting new level. I’m a fan of Schoenberg’s and know this piece by name but was shocked at how accessible it is. It sounds like a souped-up Prelude to *Tristan und Isolde* to me, it doesn’t really sound like Schoenberg. Maybe it was the performance by Pierre Boulez and the NY Phil. Thank you, by the way, Baryshnikov Arts Center, for giving credit to the orchestra and conductor. You’d be surprised how often a dance company uses canned music and gives it no credit at all - - sometimes not even saying what the damn piece IS.
Back to the dancing. The choreography didn’t usually line up rhythmically with the music (I like this), but it did a glorious job of communicating the anxiety and drama. All three dancers were marvelous, with special kudos to Cynthia Loemij in the central female role. I also want to give a shout-out to the lighting designer, Luc Schaltin, who shared the lighting credit with de Keersmaeker. They made a pool of white light on the black stage, fuzzy along the edges, set at an angle to the playing space. The dancers sometimes moved out of the direct light, which gave added impact to the moments when they were in the light. The lighting design seemed to be part of the storytelling rather than just making the performance visible.
This was one of those online performances where I wished I had been there in person. I bet it had a big impact in the theater, and I’ll keep my eye out for performances of de Keersmaeker’s work when companies open back up.