Monday, February 23, 2015

Gane: chamge all n into m.

Gane: chamge all n into m, amd vice versa. Go om, do it! Ism't it fummy? How would ome even promoumce sone of those words? Anazimg, infuriatimg - how cam you read that aloud?

This exercise nakes ne thimk about the actual writimg of the letters n and m. Im cursive, n has three 'bridges' (as my prinary school teacher used to describe then), and m has two. How cone they lose ome whem we capitalise then or write in primt? Where did they go to?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What made me cry during the final song of this concert?

Was it its minor key?

Was it its story of childhood memories, powerlessness, and sad resignation?

Was it because it came after two other sad songs - one written for a best friend who 'lost her battle with depression' ('you are a goldmine, you are a prize for winning!'), the other based on the last words of a coal minor, trapped underground and slowly losing air ('oh, how i love you Mary...')?

Was it because the earlier folk harmonies had taken me back to that summer we went mountaineering with dad, aged 14, and, deep in the Pyrenees valleys where the car radio wouldn't catch any signal, the only tape we had to hand was his bluegrass mixtape? (Mr Sandmaaaaan bring me your dreaaaammm)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 16 Feb

Interesting, intriguing, exciting, amusing, enraging, fascinating things I recommend.

Opinion piece - Washington Post: Why I'm So Over Dancers As Athletes (Or Why Misty Copeland Is An Artist)
I must say I am guilty of that myself, being in such awe at the dedication, discipline and training regimen of ballet dancers. They commit hours upon hours to learn and refine their art, while I seem to just sit at my desk. But, as Sarah Kaufman reminded me, they are, above all, artists, and their impact on us comes from more than their physique.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Documentary - Storyville: Bulldozers, Paving Stones and Power: The Chinese Mayor


A fascinating documentary about the work of Geng Yabo, Mayor of Datong, a town of about 3m people known for its coal mining industry (which makes it the most polluted city in China) and historical monuments (hanging monasteries, Buddhas etc).

Mr Geng has huge ambitions for Datong, and no time to waste: he is rebuilding the 14th century city walls, watchtowers included, and housing cultural institutions within them. This means demolishing thousands of homes, building thousands of new flats elsewhere and relocating hundreds of thousands of Datong residents.

Pharaonic is the only appropriate term to describe his plans.

For me, its interest laid in the access the film maker was given, as he followed the mayor from meeting to his morning meet with disgruntled locals in need of help from someone in power to solve their problems, via his surveying of the progress of demolition and building works happening around town, and his telling off of underperforming suppliers and colleagues ('the hospital is still not finished!', 'the drain pipes are too small. Can you add one on the other side?').


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 9 Feb 2015

Interesting, intriguing, exciting, amusing, enraging, fascinating things I recommend.

Podcast - New Yorker: Psychedelics as Therapy
Discussing the therapeutics effects of LSD on alcoholism, depression and terminally-ill patients. It made me think of all those very old people in hospices and retirement homes who are slowly declining, and how, gently, with ever increasing doses of morphine, they are being led to the end.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Cheesy dance films I have to see this year

Did the 1980s turn out to be the best decade for dance in films? Sure, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were queen and king of the box office back in the 1930s, performing in classics like Top Hat, Shall We Dance and Swing Time, but for sheer range of movies that were about dance and the people who lived for it, it seems to me like the 80s can't be beaten.

As a kid in countryside France with two older sisters, Flashdance and Dirty Dancing were watched pretty much on loop on the family 'magnetoscope' (VCR), and I have a blurry memory of a bit of Chorus Line too. With their stories of dancing against all odds and living for one's passion, they resonated within our young hearts. And of course the soundtracks just made us want to dance ourselves!

The other day, I stumbled upon the trailer for White Nights, a 1985 drama starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. It looked completely over the top: the Soviet dancer defecting to the US, his capture in Siberia after an emergency landing while on a plane journey to Tokyo, his run-ins with a US tap dancer who himself had defected to the USSR, and their ultimate plan of escape. Cold War movie meets ballet and tap - that just sounds too ludicrous not to be enjoyed (no matter how damning the reviews)! Plus it includes Lionel Ritchie's Say You, Say Me in the soundtrack. And also stars Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini!



After I shared it with an ironic comment on Facebook, my sister commented: 'I love that film! We used to watch it every Sunday! This scene stills make me cry, like Helen Mirren in it'. I don't remember it at all, but White Nights is definitely on my list of films to watch this year, especially as it includes choreography by Twyla Tharp (see previous link) and bits from Le Jeune Homme et la Mort by Roland Petit.

After a bit of digging, I've come across a few more 1970s and 1980s dance films I just have to see asap. Clearly the success of Fame, Flashdance and Staying Alive got the Hollywood machine excited, a little too excited even as cheese got piled on top of even more cheese.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Joan Didion on computers

I love reading Joan Didion's essays and novels. I regularly feel the need to read On Self-Respect or Goodbye to All That, some sections of which bring a lump to my throat they are so full of truth (my truth).

I also love listening to Joan Didion's voice. So posed, almost bored. I recently found this 1987 interview with Don Swaim for CBS radio, where the conversation somehow lead to this question: 'What sort of computer do you use?'

In 1987, that was an interesting question, and it brought an interesting answer, and a discussion about crying learning to use a laptop, how literal you have to be when dealing with a computer and the value of spell checker. How quaint!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On 'New Year, New You'

Walking along the Regent's Canal on a crisp January morning, on our way to the gym.
'Notice all the runners today, with their new tops and flashy accessories...' I say.
'It's January' he replies 'oh dear look at that one blobbing along...'
'Come on' I say with mild exasperation (My new year hope is to be less negative and critical of others), 'it's commendable! Give them credit, at least they are making an effort. Maybe they are training for the marathon, for all we know!'
'No - I'll only applaud them in March, assuming they haven't given up...'
'Some people don't even try!'
'Yes and you know who they are? They are the happy ones.'

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Laos trip stocktake


Lost in Laos

- bright blue Uniqlo hooded fleece jacket (probably in some Luang Prabang restaurant I had to run out of to catch a bus)
- digital camera (dropped in a stream at Kuang Si waterfalls)
- SD memory card with photos (I put it in my jeans pocket after the camera went under water, and I reckon it fell off the pocket when I got into my swimming trunk to swim in the freezing, turquoise water)
- travel pillow (in a cafe in Pakse)
- hiking boots (not technically lost, but had to abandon them after they did not survive the exploration of stunning caves, developing several holes in their sole)
- my breath, on several occasions
- 3 kilos (we cycled a fair bit and it was hot)


Nearly lost in Laos

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Dance Umbrella: Talking Amongst Ourselves

The festival Dance Umbrella has been going on for over 30 years here in London, usually in October-November. Last year, a new Artistic Director, Emma Gladstone, took over and brought a new vision to its programming (a focus on 21st century choreography) and lots of new ideas and approaches to presenting dance events.

The one that caught my attention was a different kind of post-show talk. We've probably all experienced Q&As with dancers/choreographers/etc after a performance: it's always enlightening to hear from the artists involved what they had in mind, where they came from, how they worked towards the piece etc, and to get the opportunity to ask them questions.

But what if you didn't like the work? What if you didn't get it? For many of us, it would be a little daunting to admit it to the artist's face. So Dance Umbrella set up post-show discussions between audience members only, without the presence of the artist. Any questions that would arise would be answered via their blog.

I attended the one following a performance by flamenco dancer Rocio Molina at the Barbican and found it so envigorating, open and enlightening. It got me seeing things in the piece I hadn't noticed. About 40-45 people stayed to share their thoughts about what they had just seen. Some people loved Molina's experimentations; others (me!) found them a little self-indulgent sometimes. Some saw references to Lorca, Ginger Rogers, Coppelia in some of her choreography; others thought there was no need to try and find references to hang on to and said so loudly. A couple shared their amazing story of walking past Molina's rehearsal space in Seville, watching her from the street for a few minutes, and being told they should come and see her at the Barbican: flamenco novices, they were blow away by it all.

Everyone was very respectful of others' opinions, and willing to share their thoughts and impressions. And no one hogged the mic!

Not sure whether Dance Umbrella have copyrighted the idea [ ;-) ], but I'd love to see this happening more often across other events.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Pina Bausch - 1980

(In 2012 I saw 10 works by Pina Bausch as part of the World Cities 2012 season. I just blogged moments from the shows I remembered. I am doing the same now for 1980, which Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch is performing at Sadler's Wells this week).

Grass on the stage.
A very Bauschian line of dancers walking, dancing with their arms (opening them, kinda doing the Egyptian, moving their wrists...), walking down into the audience then back the stage.
A game for children: fisherman, fisherman how deep is the waaaater? (it is 75m deep!) And how can I cross it? (by doing the gorilla!/by hoping on one foot!/by rolling on the floor!). Then the fisherman tries to catch the person who is crossing.
One of the dancers impersonating a middle-aged guy, with leather jacket, like some kind of roadie, doing dirty jokes, always saying 'Fantastic!' at the end of everything.
Serving tea to the audience. 'Would you like some sugar with it?'
A woman dancing under a sprinkler, like on a beautiful summer afternoon.
A summer evening - people eating, drinking wine under spot light, listening to a man play the organ, singing with him.
A surreal beauty pageant, each female dancer being introduced, told to 'Smile!' and do a 'winkie winkie!', with the Australian proving the keenest. She has a huge number of hobbies. Then they have to show their front legs and repeat the tongue twister 'Betty bought a bit of butter but the butter Betty bought was bitter'. The men do it too.
Competition around a microphone to sell one's leg ('look at this leg! it's tight! it's beauttiful! and I have another one too!')
Competition around a microphone to share the number of scars one has ('here, here, here and there. appendicitis. car accident')
All the performers walking slowly up stage, and each having to answer a yelling maitre de ceremonie: 'Julie! What are you scared of?' 'Suicide. Worms. Closed rooms'.
Slow line formations
A goodbye scene: one dancer bottom left corner, faces all the others, who are standing quite close to each other. One by one they go to her and say goodbye. They say it quite formally, like what you'd tell someone you don't really know 'Thank you again for coming. It is such a shame you have to go. Best regards'. Only the final dancer gives her a hug. This scene is quite moving and is repeated at the end of the piece, only the lights go down after the dancers take their position. So you know the goodbyes are coming, but they are not given to you.



Friday, January 31, 2014

Boris Charmatz - enfants @ Sadler's Wells

I was listening to an interview with Australian director Simon Stone yesterday, in which he said:

“'Oh my god I can’t believe I am actually watching this’ - This is what theatre should make you feel like.”

I thought yeah he's right, this is how I've felt whenever I've been knocked over by how good a show was.

Little did I know I'd feel this way that very evening, watching Boris Charmatz's enfant at Sadler's Wells. Here are 3 things about it that made me go  'I can't believe I just saw that happen in front of my eyes!'



1. The set.
The stage is bare, with no wing curtains. At the beginning, some kind of crane with a motor (placed front stage right) is pulling pieces of rope that have been taped around the stage and along the wall. Two people are at the end said ropes, and end up being lifted and hanging what must be 5 to 8 meters about the stage floor. They look lifeless, just hanging there. The man is held by one foot, the woman is folded at the waist. The machine brings them up, down, deposes them on the floor only to bring them back up. What is going on?

2. Lifeless children being moved about by adults all around the stage.
They are like rag dolls being played with, made to dance, to sit, to chat. The children are what, aged 5 to 8? For half an hour they stay limp, eyes closed, while the adults move them about, dance around them and go about some crazy business. The sight of those children was funny at first, but turned disturbing for me. A few weeks ago I was sadly in A&E, and witnessed the death of a 3-month-old in the bay opposite mine. I only saw him being carried in by the ambulance people, then the curtain was drawn and I could just hear them trying to save him. Minutes later, a wail from the distraught parents. Their son was dead. Seeing the show reminded me of them, and how maybe in the madness of their grief they may have tried to will their baby back to life. I would have, I think...

3. After the children start singing, they start running around. There are incredible moments where one or two try to run off stage but get caught up by an adult. To them, it may be a game but there was a certain shock/violence that made me gasp. Then it's the turn of the adults to go lifeless while the kids move them around (5 kids needed to move one man, at one point). A bagpipe player (!!!!) then appears and guides all the children and adults around the stage in some kind of crazy celebration/parade. You can tell it's very improvised. There are mad marching steps, screams, rolls on the floor. You can see some kids looking around a little confused, but they soon remember some steps they know they can fall back on (one is scrubbing your eyes, as though you are waking up, or miming crying). I'm watching and I'm like 'What the fuck!?'. It is completely mad, I don't know where it's going but I am in awe of the performers and the vision of the choreographer. Here is the bagpiper being lifted by the crane.

Leaving the theatre, I was completely buzzing. It's hard to explain why, apart from complete surprise at seeing something so different, and so beautiful for it.

If I see another show this year that has the same impact on me, I'll consider myself very lucky.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Guess what those guys are doing?

Look at their faces. Bertil Nilsson has filmed them close-up. They are smiling a little. Oh no are they in pain? Are they trying not laugh? Yes yes they are trying to suppress laughter. Or maybe not, there is a hint of discomfort.

Watch this video and find out what's causing those facial reactions.



Visit Bertil Nilsson's website for more beautiful dance videos and his photographic work.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My 13 songs of 2013

It's end of the year lists season! I don't think I've even been to ten dance/ballet events this year - somehow not much was appealing - so I won't make one of these. Next year is looking a lot more promising already.

Instead here are songs from 2013 that caught my attention, that I listened to on repeat for several afternoons at work, that I sang daily on my bike ride home, or that I had to play to get the party going. Warning: there is quite a range. I never really paid attention to dance music before. This year, things changed and my ears opened up. Those tracks will always mean 2013 to me.

To all the friends who shared these with me, thank you.


Dark Dark Dark - The Great Mistake
The album it is from (Who Needs Who) was actually released in October 2012 but I only heard a track in January 2013, it was playing on the radio at a friend's. Thankfully she had a digital one so I could check out what it was. I love the moody start, the harmonies and of course the lyrics. Words always mean a lot to me: 'the great mistake was mine'.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

On a sad anniversary


Dear Brigitte. On this sad anniversary (five years already, it really hits me), I want to free myself of some memories that return to haunt me way too often. If I remembered them once a year (like today, for example, which would make sense) it would be fine, but they return more often and I do not understand why. So here they are.

The joy of seeing that my partner calls me at work, transformed into immense shock.
Crying over my desk, crying bent in half on my chair, the pain is so intense I cannot stop myself.
Quickly, quickly running to get home - I manage to stop myself from crying on the tube (it must be the weight of strangers' gazes, you see I am becoming so British dis donc.)
My mother in tears hugging her granddaughter.
My brother who does not want to come and see you behind that curtain, and my uncle who puts his arm over his shoulder and says 'come, come, you have to say good bye'.
Your sister, heartbroken, crying, turning her face away from you, holding this big wardrobe, as though she is holding for dear life (dear life... hum)
My cousins singing along softly to Renaud's Mistral Gagnant ('il faut aimer la vie, l'aimer meme si le temps est assassin et emporte avec lui le rire des enfants, et les mistrals gagnants')
And the tears, the cries, the howling, the weeping.
And the kids playing Playstation in the living room because life continues right? Yes it continues.

Today I will feel a bit lighter, more joyful. You understand it I hope? We miss you.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Trisha Brown Dance Company @ Dance Umbrella - 11 Oct - Thought review

The company of nine dancers performed three 'proscenium works'.

Astral Convertible
Haaa I just love Trisha Brown's movement. It's so flowy.
When was this made? With the light towers installation, the soundscape music, the 'nothing to hide' blue unitards, the serious faces, the general aimlessness of it, it looks exactly like the image most people have of contemporary dance. Is this  hallmark of the sixities? Let me check my programme... oh wow it's from 1989!
It's funny how on Wednesday I saw that new Wayne McGregor work at Sadler's Wells, and I was so bored, yet tonight I am not. I mean the two works have interesting lighting and movement, no particular direction. But I guess Trisha Brown knows when to end it? [at 32 minutes rather than 1 hour and 15].
Some of those dancers are so cute.

Friday, October 04, 2013

LA Dance Project @ Sadler's Wells - 4 Oct - Thought review

'Thought reviews' are basically the thoughts that popped into my head while watching a particular dance work/evening. My partner just called the idea 'Distracted Review' - appropriate I think!
This time, the LA Dance Project's triple bill at Sadler's Wells.

First piece, by Justin Peck
Oh they are wearing trainers and normal clothes. I think this guy's t-shirt is from Topman. Do they have Topman in LA?
I'm enjoying this. It's very Jerome Robbins. I need to watch that Opus Jazz film again. This piece could work as a film actually. An Opus Jazz for LA?
The dancer on the left is CUTE.
I like the music. I need to find out what it is. [it's by Bryce Dessner]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

On a Saturday night

Decide to go out because you want to see your friends. Think that you've had a great day so far and maybe you are pushing your luck to try and extend this feeling into the night: staying home, eating rhubarb fool while watching some edgy crime drama would comfortably do it anyway. Anxiously wonder if you might miss out on something whatever decision you make. Go out. Your friends leave early in the end, not in the mood for the crowd and the commercial music served by the DJ. Decide to feel your fear of being in a club alone and stay anyway. Dance alone. Dance with people. Dance some more. Listen to a drunk female dental nurse compliment you about your smile and advise you to always floss. Tell her you learnt that lesson the hard way, thank you. Make a note in your mind of a great remix of some song you don't know, that you will easily find on the internet the morning after (yikes, you won't be able to proudly tell people you don't know any Taylor Swift songs anymore!). Cycle back home, feeling teary. Maybe you are just tired. You experienced some good times, yet they seem diminished in your memory because you did not have anyone to share them with. Talk to the love of your life about it all. Sleep peacefully.

Friday, September 13, 2013

On dancing flamenco

Some words about a very personal experience that happened at my flamenco class yesterday.

'Chest open! Chin up! Stand taller, look higher than you normally would' shouted our flamenco teacher. 'You are dancing tarantos! When you dance tarantos the audience should cry!'. We laughed. 'Try and make me cry! I want to see lots of feeling!'. We laughed again: who will cry watching us dance under that awful sports hall light, covered in sweat? OK, maybe we can try this. How can I put lots of feelings into it, give it more intensity? Then I think about my dead. I imagine them in the room, sitting on the floor in front of the mirror, watching me dance. My grandmother, my aunts, my friends. They give me 'feeling', they make me dance more intensely, those people who will never see me dance. How can I impress them? I concentrate more on my elbow (drop it down, drop it down), on my weight when I lean forward (not too much), on my balance. It's kind of working but of course they are not there. Wherever they are, can they hear me stamp? I stamp harder, louder than I did before, in the hope that the sound will reach them. Pa-ra-tat-tat! Hello it's me I am dancing for you! Can you hear me out there? I get home and I think about this moment again, and how morbid it is: really, I should think about my friends that are alive and present, and how I would dance tarantos for them. I talk to my partner about important things, I sign some papers about buying a flat. Moving forward. Chest: open. Chin: up.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Re:Rosas - You Danst Rosas


I've mentioned it before, but I'd love for amateur contemporary dance classes to include the chance to learn well-known pieces of choreography, in the same way that a ballet class might teach you some pas de trois by Petipa or some riff on Bejart. Who wouldn't love to learn a bit of Pina Bausch for example?

Well Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker has kind of answered my call. To celebrate the 30 years of her work Rosas danst Rosas, she is teaching the moves of the piece's chair section online, and inviting us to film ourselves performing it and send her the results. 

From the first time I saw this work, I've always wanted to know the moves of this iconic section, and get hold of the music too. Well it's all on the Re:Rosas website, so pull up a chair and get learning! There are some great film submissions already to get you inspired.