– Publication at TANZ magazine about Vera Tussing & Albert Quesada, by Julia Danila
Resolution! 2008, Robin Howard Dance Theater, 14th of February 2008
It’s curious how powerful something as simple as closing your eyes can be. Invited to do so by Albert Quesada and Vera Tussing at the opening of their Beautiful Dance, the ears were treated to the sound of rhythmic beats in the dark. To me it sounded like a body being massaged (wishful thinking: it had been that kind of a day) but on opening my eyes, it turned out Quesada and Tussing were tapping out complex syncopated patterns with their feet.
Using this simple technique, supplemented by gently humorous shadow projections, Quesada and Tussing ingeniously inveigled themselves inside Beethoven’s Sonata No 13 in E Flat Major as played by Glenn Gould. Spare and skilful, punctuated by sections of complete stillness, this engaging duo mirrored the spirit of the music in their percussive limbs, producing an understated delight.
Keith Watson, dance critic of Metro, London.
Jumping and padding across the floor, Albert Quesada and Vera Tussing performed an excerpt from Beethoven’s Sonata No.13, entirely with their feet. It was refreshingly different, simple and understated. Despite a lot of repetition in movement, the score allowed for gradual variation and development, with arms used to give more power to specific beats and floor patterns weaved to slow the tempo. Plain clothes, black woolen hats and backs to the audience kept all attention on the rhythms and patterns created. As the choreography came to an end, the lights dimmed and a traditional piano version of the Sonata was left playing. As I listened I could not help but envisage the skipping figures playfully marking out the music.
Sarah Smith, dance critic of Metro, London
Firsts 09, Linbury Studio Theatre at The Royal Opera House
‘…. provocative…… quirky and humorous..’
Giannandrea Poesio, The Spectator, London. 25th November 2009
Solo on Bach & Glenn
Resolution! 2010, Robin Howard Dance Theater, 19th of February 2010
Keith Watson, dance critic of Metro, London
Albert Quesada’s Solo on Bach and Glenn, is as simple as the title suggests; one man on stage and his reaction to two great masters. If the anatomy of Gould and his piano could be divided and splayed across the space, Quesada sequentially embodies different parts in action. Although it might be conjecture that Glenn Gould experienced the phenomenon of Synesthesia, Quesada’s Solo seems to incorporate this unorthodox computation of sensation; metaphorically he dances the piano’s hammers, its sounds, Gould’s thoughts, his fingers, his feet, the emotional responses to the interviewer’s questions and the silence. Later Quesada speaks the words of Gould, then speaks the music. Imbibed with humour, this bold, subversive study demonstrates Quesada’s strength as an artist.
Zoe Cobb, reviewer for Resolution! 2010
Beautiful dance / Solo on Bach & Glenn
English Translation by Albert Quesada
Dance Review: Dancing Notes
Albert Quesada & Vera Tussing. Bcstx Festival. Tantarantana Theatre, Barcelona. 29 May 2010.
The existence of a festival like Bcstx in a theater for small format works and by little known artists, is more than justified by the surprise of Albert Quesada and Vera Tussing, allowing us to imagine a brighter future for the scene of the country … if they return. Because Quesada, despite being from Barcelona, has received its most important training in Brussels, where he currently lives, like many other young people who go to foreign schools, where they find more stimuli.
Among others, there he found the English Vera Tussing, with whom started collaborating, having as a first fruit Beautiful Dance: a really nice dance, with delicious music by Beethoven, to which they respond with steps and sounding movements of steps and rubbing that reproduce the original rhythm and melody. The idea is simple and the production austere, which emphasizes the value of both performers. With a black hat covering half the face, they are the musical notes that dance, converted in listening and instrument, receivers and transmitters of sensitive stimuli.
In the second part, the solo by Albert Quesada continues with musical analysis, now with the seminal figure Glenn Gould and his Goldberg Variations. Despite the prejudices of seeing them again, Quesada brings a new approach in finding the melody on words and subverting the creator in creation. Unlike solo of Maria Muñoz, who danced it dressed as a man, him wears a white skirt which flies with jumps and little jumps mirroring the filigree of the fingers of the pianist, and also his voice, as they include fragments of an interview. Quesada turns through what is being shown and what is not taught to show and guide us through the music and its creators, and from the choreograph that follows.
Tussing and Quesada represent a new generation that provides academic value to research and who is not afraid of using a precise technique for experimental purposes. We hope they’ll be back.
BARBARA RAUBERT NONELL, News published at the newspaper AVUI, page 32. Tuesday, 1st of June 2010
The Icarus Project
The Place Commissioned for the Place Prize by Bloomberg
‘Happily, the third billing, Vera Tussing’s The Icarus Project, offered some gentle relief as it encouraged the audience to engage more with their ears than their eyes. Several microphones hang loosely from the rafters to pick up and reverberate the dancers’ movements, transforming them into a wandering soundscape. Running, swaying, flapping, rubbing, stroking and stamping are some of the variations explored at different speeds and with different body-parts to evoke familiar sounds – a helicopter propeller, heart monitor, machinery or birdsong. Whilst it is not choreographically or visually striking, the work develops subtly like a gradual crescendo, increasing in momentum and impact.’
Katie Fish at www.londondance.com
‘Vera Tussing’s The Icarus Project searched for delicate rhythms, reaching on tiptoe for sounds made by claps, slaps, strokes, pokes and scratches to be amplified by microphones positioned overhead. The three lithe female performers were graceful and the choreography structured simply but to beautiful effect.’
Alexandrina Hemsley, 22nd of September at www.bellyflomag.com.
Spring Loaded, Robin Howard Dance Theater, The Place, 10th of May 2011
The three works that form Trilogy are intricately connected by two of the choreographers’ shared concerns: that together they create a ‘listening experience’ for the audience whereby the very different musical compositions are danced (rather than danced to) and that what is realised onstage is not the physical presence of the performers but the idea driving the movement.
First up was Beautiful Dance, a visual manifestation of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 13 (as rendered by Glenn Gould) for which Vera Tussing and Albert Quesadaexperimented with the acoustic and sensory variations possible in simple walking sequences. As they invited the audience to do at the beginning of the piece, Tussing and Quesada spent time listening with eyes closed, tuning in to the subtle changes of intonation, tempo and rhythm in each other’s footfalls. Tempting though it is to open your eyes and see the movements that are producing the sounds, it is also pleasantly engaging just to listen to the reverberations. Both performers wear hats pulled over their eyes and much of their movement is done with their backs to the audience, allowing the acoustics to become the third person. The choreographers also designed the lighting, which was cleverly angled to give the impression of a crowd of chasing shadows. The idea of a chase also presents itself in Beethoven’s score with its beguiling playfulness that in turn lends itself easily to the light and minimalist charm of this work.
For the lighting in Your Eyes the pair collaborated with Andrew Hammond and their regular designer Arne Lievens. This time however the shadows are not just projections but are actualized by the silhouetted figures of the performers dressed head to toe in black. The sound waves of the music – a rock piece this time by JS Rafaeli – can be seen in the rebounding and rippling waves of their bodies. The layers of Rafaeli’s composition are unravelled so that bass, percussion and strings are explored and their subtleties brought under the spotlight. Likewise, the lyrics add another level through the imagery of the words. The movement material is often repeated but thanks to the rhythmic structure of the music that is being physicalised and that propels it forwards, the work never becomes repetitious but has a living fluidity.
A duet from Bizet’s Carmen was the impetus behind the last piece in the triune, Oh Souvenir and the dialogue between the song’s two lovers frames the humorous vignette of two enamoured sound speakers masterfully conducted by Tussing and Quesada. In this instance, the performers remove themselves from the direct glance of the audience by personifying the speakers as Don José and Micaela, thereby becoming facilitators instead of protagonists. A white billowing curtain on a pulley system screens their bodies so that we see two pairs of bare legs, one in heels, one in lace-ups guiding the speakers – one waistcoated, one cloaked – as they prowl and stalk the stage before coming together to embrace. At another point it is the curtain that is manipulated in synch with the male and female librettos, with Tussing pulling one side and Quesada the other. Perhaps this is a work you have to watch to be fully convinced. Fortunately, each of the three works is available to view on the choreographers’ website https://veraalbert.wordpress.com. Experience for yourself and see the music!
londondance.com – Katie Fish
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.