A Dance to the Music of Time and T.S. Eliot

A Dance to the Music of Time and T.S. Eliot

In its commencing is its conclusion. In its stop is its commencing. These tail-taking in strains, paraphrased from “Four Quartets,” the poem by T.S. Eliot, notify you the outer shape of “Four Quartets,” the considerably-acclaimed dance by Pam Tanowitz that had its New York Town debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday.

The round structure is a formal strategy with philosophical resonance. If you are going to make a dance to a lengthy and difficult poem, it can make sense to acquire Eliot’s phrases about beginnings and endings as guideposts, practically as stage directions. But the achievements of Tanowitz’s function — why it doesn’t sink under the bodyweight of the poem’s paradox-laden ruminations on time, pattern, historical past and memory — lies as a great deal in the dance’s independence from the text as in its coordination.

There’s so substantially likely on here, so many layers. The actress Kathleen Chalfant recites the poem subject-of-factly, with a voice of expertise that earns the occasional chortle. For a even though, her voice is the only sound, and when the tunes enters — a spectral score of harp and strings by Kaija Saariaho, played reside by associates of the orchestral collective the Knights — it is approximately an intrusion. But quickly the ear adjusts to the music’s buzzing and sliding as a further component of this globe.

By now, there is a great deal to see. Clifton Taylor’s beautiful established and lights style interprets paintings by Brice Marden into house and motion. In one particular painting of luminous gates and T-styles, the black strips are holes into which the dancers disappear. Some of the paintings are on wheeled panels, translucent screens that the dancers transfer to reshape the phase region, obstacles to go guiding and all-around. Scrims fall and increase, a play of opacity and transparency, shadow and light-weight, looking at and observing by that is echoed even in the costumes: diaphanous pajamas by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.

All of this is ideal for the poem and for Tanowitz’s choreography. Her elaborate and irregular feeling of form — now however or spare, now brief and insistent solos and duets emerging in and out of sudden gatherings action that overlaps and spills off the edges of the stage — is complemented instead than crowded by the other elements.

The viewer is remaining with a liberty to concentration and drift. As the tunes sinks and resurfaces, photos and ideas from the poem (some direct and sensuous, some baffling) progress and recede in your imagination, or just in your consideration. So do recurrent illustrations or photos in the dance: a managing-in-place with heels kicked up powering, head again, one particular arm reaching substantial a deeply tilted arabesque adorned with a quaking, shimmering hand.

The infrequent correspondences amongst text and dance — or the exceptional synchronicity of a musical plunk and the convert of a head — ring like bells during meditation. The lots of scattered allusions to dance and new music in the poem, surely the inspiration for the project, permit Tanowitz to address the text tangentially, trusting in the two set and serendipitous back links.

All those ruminations of Eliot inflect Tanowitz’s patterns, building the return of a dance phrase even a lot more like a memory. The poem and the paintings assist the dance from likely as well dry, and the dance and the paintings save the poem from some of its obscurity. A viewer who concerns, as Eliot’s narrator does, about owning the working experience but missing the meaning, require not get worried. There’s a superabundance of both equally.

At the core of that working experience are the 10 unostentatiously remarkable dancers. And it is like an Easter egg when Tanowitz herself appears, at first apart and then joining the other folks. A late entrance, in a person of these choose-it-or-depart-it correspondences, comes at the instant in the poem when a “dead master” poet comes.

When “Four Quartets” debuted at Bard College in 2018, it appeared a pleased tale of an admired but underfunded choreographer lastly staying presented opera-residence sources and producing the most of them. In this perception, while Tanowitz’s aesthetic is a lot more in the line of Merce Cunningham, her “Four Quartets,” with its scrims and circles and scale, reminded me of Mark Morris’s “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” his 1988 breakthrough to the massive time (which returns to the Brooklyn Academy future thirty day period).

That parallel felt even much better at the Brooklyn Academy, particularly considering the fact that Tanowitz has now broken by, with commissions from New York Town Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Martha Graham company and just about most people else. But this do the job, with her possess stable of dancers, is improved, an argument for extra substantial-scale unbiased productions.

The earth all-around “Four Quartets” has altered due to the fact 2018. Various phrases in the textual content now bounce out: “The full earth is our healthcare facility,” for just one. But this is a creation that, like the text in it, requires a very long see. It turns out that a poem about how “all time is eternally present” is a excellent poem for a dance.

4 Quartets

By way of Saturday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, bam.org.