In the forest

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
"Forêt" by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Némo Flouret and the Rosas company in the Louvre Galleries

Anne Van Aerschot

Every day, people stand in long queues at the gates of the Louvre in Paris to see ancient art. But sometimes, at night, you can even dance in front of these masterpieces. Choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has fulfilled this dream.

In the hallowed halls of the Grand Nation, Brussels choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker created a dance event with the very simple title of “Forêt.” She led her ensemble into the world-famous collection of Italian masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci (oh, “La Gioconda”, the beautiful “Mona Lisa”) and on to Giotto and Raphael, Tiziano and Tintoretto, Caracci and Caravaggio. Then on to the red rooms, to the French section from the heyday of academicism and the heroic romanticism of the early 19th century: David, Delacroix, Prud’hon and, of course, Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa.” Here, all the suffering, all the pain, all the death of the centuries are fixed in oil and framed for eternity – a non-place. Anyone who has ever braved the ever-growing queue in front of the Pyramid of Pei and entered the Louvre must know for themselves how much they are prepared to suffer for art.

“Forêt” by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Némo Flouret and the Rosas company in the Louvre Galleries. The gentleman in red is Alain Franco

Anne Van Aerschot

In 2022, “Forêt” by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker offered members of the public the rare opportunity to be one of five hundred spectators allowed into the Louvre for an evening. Immediately, she lost herself almost completely in the former residence of the French kings, as if she were the sole witness to how all these paintings speak to each other over the centuries and form a dense forest, a proliferation of images – a “forêt.”

In this dance work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, an elderly gentleman stepped onto the precious parquet, flanked by a dozen dancers from her Brussels company Rosas and carrying two ghetto blasters: De Keersmaeker’s music dramaturge and pianist Alain Franco, as berserker and music-maker. He was tasked with answering the question as to how one could throw even a single sound at the overwhelming historical burden of the palace, this mirror of the nation’s past, cast in countless facets. The man in the jumper, almost bent double under the enormous musical globe of all the sounds ever declared to be art amid this collection of classical masterpieces begging for respect, replies:

I would argue that when it comes to history, it’s not much different to music. There are historical works – paintings, compositions, music, architecture – that bear witness to their aesthetic assertions from the past and are transferred to us for archiving. Because that’s what museums are for. Just like scores. They are images of music that have come down to us so that we can use them to conduct our own analyses and debates. That’s all history is: a collection of testimonies on how a past subject and individual behaved in relation to the major or minor events of their time.”

“Forêt” by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Némo Flouret and the Rosas company

Anne Van Aerschot

Let’s go up to the second floor with him, to the Denon wing of the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa hangs. The Mona Lisa dominates the intersection that leads to the huge halls; there is no way around her. Here stands Alain Franco, a world-class pianist, not to mention a Belgian authority on the dance scene. As music dramaturge, as he calls himself, he is well-versed in the history of European sound art and a more reflective tinkerer – indispensable not only to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, but also to other Belgian dance art greats, among them Jan Lauwers, Meg Stuart, Claire Croizé, Elisabeth Borgermans, as well as dance companies from other parts of Europe, from Raimund Hoghe to Isabelle Schad, Deufert and Plischke to Silvia Costa. It seems that dance needs someone like him – urgently, one could say. A thinker who tells us about the freedom of art, its will for revolution and its inability to revolutionize itself.

Read on …

Music for Dance Revolutions


For dance, says Alain Franco, you don’t need music. Because it’s not the beat that makes us dance. Time itself is what shakes the dance off its hinges.

with audio

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