Between Ecstasy and Harmony. Choreography and Video of Beatrice

Ondertusschen so wert minne so ongehmate ende so ouerbrekende in der sielen alse har seluen so starkeleke ende so verwoedelike berurt int herte, dat hare dunct, dat har herte menichfoudeleke wert seere gewont ende dat die wonden dagelix veruerschet werden ende verseert, in smerteliker weelichheiden en de in nuer iegenwordicheiden. Ende so dunct hare dat har adren ontpluken ende hare bloet verwalt ende hare march verswijnt ende hare been vercrencken ende hare borst verbernt ende hare kele verdroget, so dat hare anscijn ende al hare leden gevuelen der hitten van binnen en de des orwoeds van minnen.

In the fifth manner, Beatrice of Narareth – the writer of the short Middle Dutch mystical treatise On the Seven Manners of Holy Love – describes her psychosomatic response to the presence of Divine Love/God. Love rages through her body while her soul is captured in holy ecstasy. Throughout her treatise, Beatrice contemplates the nature of Love using seven manners to capture Her movement, alternating between presence and absence, ecstatic union and agonizing loneliness. In a way, the cycle of presence and absence is harmoniously repetitive, like ebb and flow, like seasons, like holy rituals.This tension between ecstasy and harmony was the main inspiration for both the video and the choreography. 

Jelle Wildiers, Sander Vloebergs – Beatrice

This video was a close collaboration between the video artist, Jelle Wildiers and dancers Sander Vloebergs and Ina Wellens. Therefore, it is suitable to produce one blog post covering both perspectives. The rhythmic alternation between ecstasy and harmony are repeated in both cinematic and choreographic motions. The tension between Apollonial harmony and Dionysiac ecstasy is a theme in the music as well. In order to capture the ecstatic nature of the text, the dancers decided to focus on improvisation, while repeating certain pas de deux phrases which were choreographed and rehearsed in advance to resonate with the harmonic and ordered side of the text. 

The video artist used fragments of the improvisation, fragments that illustrate harmonious repetition that occurseven during moments of ecstatic dance movements. After all, every dancer is bound to his embodied state and his own bodily memory. During improvisation, the dancer plays with familiar bodily patterns and unknown movements which are conjured up by the mood and the environment where the dance takes place. Furthermore, the artists decided to play with repetitive bodily functions such as breathing and blinkingto stress the repetitive nature of human-embodied life. The same use of patterns could be found in human love relationships when two people start to trust their harmonious exchange. These patterns are then again disturbed by moments of rapture, of intense breathing after physical exhaustion or increased heart rate when Love’s arrow strikes.

The artists decided together upon the location for the recording, namely a forest during autumn in order tostrengthen the relation between the video and the repetitive patterns which are beautifully shown by Nature herself. This location allowed for some great colorful contrast between the dark, but warm, tones of the fallen leaves (representing death and harmony) and the white skins of the dancers’ bodies(representing life and movement). In some shots, the whiteness of the body even recalls angelic light while the breathing and the sound of leaves evoke moments of heavenly bliss and harmony. These moments alternate with ecstatic movement, moments that are often presented hyperrealistically by placing the original sound of the recording over the music.

The excessive bodily phenomena, described by Beatrice in her fifth manner and accompanying the ecstatic experience of Love, are projected on Mother Nature’s body. The roots represent the veins which are about to be broken. The dancers’ bodies flash between Nature’s scars, finding love andrepetitively losing it. The images flash by on the vast speed of a beating heart, causing glimpses of ecstasis within the viewer. It is these moments of ecstatic rapture that make us feel alive;these moments of excessive Love keep the heart beating. However, dark tones were kept in the video to accentuate the darkness found within the text and to counter the romantic expectations of the viewer. After all, Love seems to escape our grasp and the threat of loneliness remains. Like Beatrice, the video artist plays with this friction between expectation and his rough visual language to deconstruct harmony and conjure rapture. 

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