There’s always been an exhibitionistic edge to De Keersmaeker’s work, with much fussing with bras and kicking off of knickers, which sits oddly with her unsmiling severity. In fact, she’s just messing with your head, challenging you to ascribe emotional meaning to purely mechanical gestures. Before long, as the De May/Vermeersch score pounds out a metallic rhythm, you reach a split-consciousness state in which every movement you see on stage swims between what it is and what it might represent. Now, it’s just a movement, a purely physical element in the intricate structure of the dance, now it’s an angry statement about the way women’s lives are broken on the wheel of bourgeois convention.

Most choreography is a conscious uniting of movement and meaning, but De Keersmaeker succeeds in casting doubt over the whole process, and it’s the resulting tension that holds you in your seat. You realise that you can’t trust your own reactions; that nothing can be taken at face value. At the same time the Rosas performers, in a kind of triple bluff, are busy assuring you of the authenticity of what you’re watching by parading their fatigue, their sweat and all the other byproducts of effort that dancers usually try to conceal. With the realisation that this exhaustion is itself choreographed – the final section of the piece has the dancers, as it were, sitting around and getting their breath back – you sense the final evaporation of the traditional contract between audience and performer. The final transition, perhaps, from modernism to postmodernism.

Rosas Danst Rosas | Dance review | Stage | The Observer

I saw the latest revival of this last night – quite brilliant, and this review of a previous revival is the best piece I’ve read on it so far.

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