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Trilogy in Collaboration with Albert Quesada

Listen with your eyes. What does it mean to listen? How can the listening experience, the structures of music, be transcribed into movement and expressed in performance? In the Trilogy we have tried not to dance to the music, but to dance in the music, to get inside it and dissect the act of listening. While Beautiful Dance, Your Eyes, and Oh Souvenir all explore very different forms of music: a piano sonata, a rock song, and an operatic duet, what binds the project together is a method, a set of concerns. The Trilogy is an attempt to develop a form of acoustic reading: a detailed, precise translation between the separate languages of music and movement. We try to enter into the music, discovering its structures, and transcribing them onto our bodies. This is an invitation to observe and to listen.

PRESS / Your Eyes

Firsts 09, Linbury Studio Theatre at The Royal Opera House

‘.... provocative…… quirky and humorous..’

Giannandrea Poesio, The Spectator, London. 25th November 2009



11 May, 2011 - By Eleanor Sikorski

Three pieces of music are deconstructed before us. Our eyes and ears are forced into unison with each other as Tussing and Quesada’s collaboration, as choreographers and performers, guides us through a trilogy of musical numbers. Sometimes it feels like the ABC for under fives and sometimes it is pure, unadulterated, glorious theatre magic.

The first two pieces are Beautiful Dance and Your Eyes are dry and clear. The strength of these two works lies in their simplicity. A two and a half-minute Allegro from Beethoven’s Sonata No. 13 and the original rock song Anno and Honeysuckle, written by their musical collaborator JS Rafaeli, are given the same geometrical translation. Tussing and Quesada step, hop, jump, rock and gesture with a tense focus, becoming a moving, visual score of the music. Their shadows multiply and dance around them in the light. They wear beanie hats in one piece and whole body suits in the other to prevent any strand of waving hair or glimmer of facial expression from distracting from the linearity of the movement. It is awkward but incredibly organised – a slightly uncomfortable combination.

The movement and sound are continually separated and then brought together; testing our ability to connect the two and surprising us with how strong the association between what we see and hear can be. The logic is mathematical. Beautiful Dance plays with the chronology, bouncing between parts so that each illustration of musical rhythm echoes into the next. Your Eyes, on the other hand does not deviate. We are led to connect the visual and aural rhythms and, like good students, our ability to follow the pattern of deconstruction is rewarded with a display of the complete whole: the music plays and a film rolls – all instruments depicted in movement, everything in sync. It satisfies... but in theory more than feeling.

As I have written already, the strength of these two works in the Trilogy lies in their simplicity; however, within the simplicity also lies emptiness. Tussing and Quesada are neither rigorous nor casual. They are clearly fanatical but the movement itself is not any indicator of that. They translate the music only into shape and rhythm and the eradication of their emotive, performing selves from the choreography is sad rather than enlightening.

Oh Souvenir feels like a wholly different journey. Sure, it sits and relies on the bleak foundation of the first two pieces, but it sings so much louder than them. The stripped-back approach becomes intriguing rather than empty and the deconstruction reveals layers of humour and beauty rather than a bare skeleton. Parle-moi de ma mère, a love duet from Bizet’s Carmen, is this time teased apart. Tussing and Quesada give things to us on a fantastic scale and their humanity, namely their gender and their lovely calm faces, are revealed and begin to play a crucial part in what we see and understand. The set is ambitious (a massive hanging cloth which is moved and lit, and paper sub/surtitles which roll off a bobbin like lengths of shipping rope) but they move around it with ease.

The success of Oh Souvenir is that it genuinely offers new sensation with which to listen to music. There is billowing space, inanimate objects becoming alive through tiny details of movement and the sometimes bare and sometimes dressed legs and swooping steps of the two performers (as well as the rhythmical following of the music) – these are all symbolic and literal and are also aesthetically beautiful. Importantly, Tussing and Quesada also take charge of the composition; creating a context within which the choreography becomes independent of the music and gives the audience space to find things for themselves rather than instructing them exactly how music should be heard. I wish all Opera was like this one.

Concept, Choreography, Dance and Production: Albert Quesada & Vera Tussing

Illustration: Gosia Machon

Costumes: Vera Tussing

Writer and Dramaturge: JS Rafaeli

Sound Engineer: Christian Francois

Special thanks to Rebecca Hanson, Alison Duthie, Julia Kalache, Petra Söör and the Costume Department at The Place



Music: Beethoven’s Sonata No.13 in E-flat major Op.27 allegro molto e vivace played by Glenn Gould

Lighting Design: Albert Quesada & Vera Tussing

Residencies: Summer Studios, WorkSpace Brussels (BE), PACT Zollverein (DE), Open Arts Cafe (UK)



Music: Anno and Honeysuckle by JS Rafaeli

MusicalCollaborator: JS Rafaeli

Lighting Design: In collaboration with Andrew Hammond and Arne Lievens

Film and Editing: Vinicius Salles, Jordan Copeland, Ilke de Vries

Sound Engineer: Camilo Tirado / Originally commissioned by ROH2 for ‘Firsts’ at the Royal Opera House, London

Residencies: Choreodrome at The Place, Open Arts Cafe, The Royal Opera House (UK), DeWarande, Bains Connective, WorkSpace Brussels, wp Zimmer (BE), PACT Zollverein (DE)



Music: Parle-moi de ma mère from Bizet’s Carmen, sung by Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa

Lighting Design: In collaboration with Arne Lievens

Produced by Monty

With the support of Vlaamse Overheid, Consell Nacional de la Cultura i de les Arts (CoNCA)

Co-produced by Monty, Kunstencentrum Vooruit (Départs)

With the support of the Départs/European Commission (Culture program), kunstencentrum BUDA (BE)

Residencies: Monty, wp Zimmer, kunstencentrum BUDA, Summer Studios (BE), Choreoroam / The Place, The Royal Opera House (UK), PACT Zollverein (DE), DeVIR/CAPa (PT), La Caldera (ES)

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