Sunday, October 25, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 19 Oct 2015

Special edition: facts and figures for our governments.

The myth of welfare's corruption influence on the poor (New York Times)
Cash transfers do not discourage work.

The snarling dud of May (The Economist)
"Theresa May, the home secretary and would-be successor to David Cameron, this week declared that “there is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced”. Wrong. In 2001-11 new immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) contributed one-third more in revenues than they drew in public spending, subsidising native Britons. This boost to the public purse will be handy."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - soundtrack

Your classic 1980s dance film - with all the plot holes, montages, outfits, and clicheed characters you'd expect from the genre (buttoned-up dad, mad friend, silent but supportive mum, nuns...).

And amazing music! Some of which is not even on Spotify - whaaaat! So I am putting them in here so it's easy for me to find those tracks again.

You've got techniqueeeeee

80s remix of Motown...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 21 Sep 2015

Video: Mr Bojangles tap dancing his way up some steps

Music: Frida's I Know There's Something Going On (Lindstrom Remix)
I love the slow groove throughout.

Meeting the Pope after a Fight for Better Pay
Because when those with no individual power come together and organise, they can change their lives for the better. An inspiring read on fighting for a better life and system for everyone.

Dance films
The kind of films I wish I could put out at work! Soon, soon, I will!
Ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson on Nowness
The "third stage" of Paris Opera Ballet

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 31 Aug 2015

Video: Flamenco in Granada in the 1960s
A Swedish documentary around the Sacromonte neighbourhood of Granada. It really shows how kids mimic the movements they see around them.

Essay: Tim Kreider - The Summer That Never Was (New York Times)
My hubby shared this with me. The longing it describes, and also the realisation that the little things are also beautiful, are very much me.

Interview: Quentin Tarantino (New York Magazine/Vulture)
Was lead to this from a Guardian article that rather misquoted what Tarantino said about "those Cate Blanchett films that dont have longevity" (or something like that). He was being more subtle than that, and I am surprised by the Guardian on that one.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 17 Aug 2015

NYTimes: Ballet Life, Unfiltered and Uploaded to Instagram
A cool article about the use of the social media photo platform by ballet dancers. I use it all the time for work, as the dancers in my company share the most interesting content themselves.

Music: Kolaj - The Touch
Song of the summer! As simple as that. I can't stop listening to it.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Katherine Anne Porter - a second helping

This paragraph in Katherine Anne Porter's short story Holiday rang so true to me. I read it during a week I was alone at home, and enjoying the solitude, and it described very exactly how I felt.

In this story, set in the 1910s or 20s (I am not sure) the narrator goes to stay with a German-American family in deep rural Texas. The family (with children, sons and daughters in laws, grand children) speaks in German so he does not understand what they talk about.

"I liked the thick warm voices, and it was good not to have to understand what they were saying. I loved that silence which means freedom from the constant pressure of other minds and other opinions and other feelings, that freedom to fold up in quiet and go back to my own center, to find out again, for it is always a rediscovery, what kind of creature it is that rules me finally, makes all the decisions no matter who thinks they make them, even Il who little by little takes everything away except the one thing I cannot live without, and who will one day say, 'Now I am all you have left - take me'. I paused there a good while listening to this muted unknown language which was silence with music in it; I could be moved and touched but not troubled by it, as by the crying of frogs or the wind in the trees".


Monday, July 20, 2015

Royal College of Art Graduate Exhibition 2015

My office is right opposite the Royal College of Art's Kensington campus so I went down to the recent graduate exhibitions they held there. The work put out by the students in Global Innovation Design (MA) was amazing and made me feel optimistic about the future. Here are the five ideas I felt compelled to write down.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Katherine Anne Porter

In one of those lucky moments where one's mind is unsure of what it wants but is so open to suggestions it knows it will find it, I stumbled upon a collection of short stories by American writer Katherine Anne Porter at the library.

I like short stories and I like female writers who work in that form: Lydia Davies, Loorie Moore, Alice Munroe, Tove Jansson etc. so it all felt very serendipitous. And the book was in that fantastic Penguin Classics series, with its black and white covers and great overall look that make you pass for a hipster at a local swish cafe on Saturday mornings.

Porter was born in 1890, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1965, and wrote one novel (Ship of Fools - apparently it is famous but I'd never heard of it until researching this post) and 27 stories. From the first story in this book, Maria Concepcion, I was taken. Characters were defined sharply , the sense of place and time was evoked powerfully, and the ending opened the story up completely. As I was reading it,it was like the story grew and grew , encompassing so much more.

In The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, Porter writes about the slow death of Ms Weatherall from the point of view of the dying woman (The Death of Ivan Ilyich will come to mind, obviously). We go in and out of Granny's consciousness and reality. At one point she listens to her doctor, and the next she is off on the trail of an old memory. One returns often - that of the jilting of the title. I don't think I'll give too much away by writing down the almost perfect ending:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the value of dance in schools

On Friday I went to City Hall for the launch of the Dance element of the London Curriculum (a set of resources relating curriculum subjects to our city and enabling teachers to use London and all it has to offer in their classes). The sun was shining bright, there were short speeches, well-behaved kids and we got to learn a call-and-response African dance.

One speech was truly inspiring. It was made by Jamie Brownhill, headteacher of Central Foundation Boys School in Old Street. He talked about a dance project run at his school by Sadler's Wells (a dance venue) and Wayne McGregor Random Dance (a dance company). On Monday mornings (not the best time slot, he admitted, but he thought it set up the kids for the week and was probably their most valuable learning session of that week), a group of GCSE Drama boys would have two hours of dance with members of Random dance, and worked towards putting on a short performance on the Sadler's Wells stage. They also got to attend a couple of shows at the theatre.

Mr Brownhill was evangelic about the value of the project to his students and his school and listed the following benefits of the project:
- the students developed their creativity, by doing something they would have never done otherwise
- they saw the value of working as a team, and got the sense of what it is to achieve something together as a group
- they developed a better understanding of the similarities and differences between cultures, by learning different styles of dance and working with international artists
- the project was an opportunity for students to see excellence, by working in world-class dancers and seeing world-class shows at Sadler's Wells, and experience what it takes to achieve it, by performing on that stage
- because they had a clear final objective (to perform on a big stage), they got a clear pay off for their hard work and commitment. He hoped that, when later in life they may face a challenge, they would think back to this time as an example of what they can achieve and overcome.

His final plea was not just that such projects should happen in all schools. It was that, when implemented, they be compulsory. "If, at the start, I'd asked those boys to voluntary join this class, only 2 or 3 would have done it, if that. But at the end, when I asked all of them if they wanted to do it again, they all said yes! It is essential that all students engage with those opportunities, and not a self-selected group".

My write-up of his speech doesn't do justice to Mr Brownhill's warmth and enthusiasm: give him a TED talk slot instead.

More about the project on the Central Foundation school website.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 6 Jul 2015

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

A World Without Work (The Atlantic)
I have moments when I freak out about the future, mainly how I will earn a living. I often wonder what will be left for people to do once all the cashiers are automated and especially self-driving cars become reality and who knows what else. This article goes into the importance of work for self-worth and social cohesion and re-assured me a little bit. Maybe the end result won't be widespread poverty but actually fulfillment, as we'll learn to spend less and have more time to find our calling.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds (Vanity Fair)
I have felt bad for the Greek people ever since the crisis hit: they've had it rough. But then I read this 2010 article, that goes through the unbelievable level of clientelism, corruption and tax evasion that plagued the country in the preceding years. I am sorry for those that stayed honest during that time, while others filled their pockets. It's a long read, but worth it. This piece about an hospital in the third largest Greek town, Patras, covers the same topic, really. A friend of mine just came back from holidaying in Greece and told me she paid less at the restaurant because she didn't need a receipt: habits are hard to change!

Obituary of Tama the cat, Japanese station master
I love how some obituaries manage to make you smile and in love with life, even though they are about someone who just died. Quirks and other charming details bubble up to the surface of often eventful lives. this obit is about a cat, believed to bring luck, who reversed the fortunes of the railway company that owned the station where she had decided to live. They dressed her up at the station master, they turned her into a cartoon slapped on merchandise, they even made the station look like the face of a feline. So bonkers it made me sad I never got to meet her.

A cosmic and atomic voyage

Monday, June 29, 2015

Netflix double feature picture show: The Purge, GBF

So last night I ended up having a film night on my own, watching two films I'd never get my partner to agree to slumber in front of: The Purge and GBF (Gay Best Friend).

I was in the mood for a bit of suspense and thrill, and The Purge fitted that bill without reaching Saw-like levels of twistedness (which I can't hack at all ;-). In the 2020s, America is a happy place where crime is low, mainly because for 12 hours every 21 March (7pm-7am), pretty much all crimes are allowed. The reason is that, this way, people get out their anger and the weak are weeded out. Great premise, right? Sadly the writer kept it tight (to one family). Too tight really - I think so much more could have been wrought out of the idea of anything being allowed. On that night, who can you trust? who might shaft you? what have you done during the year to avoid pissing people off and becoming a potential victim? you dont want to take part in it but why do you still condone it? what could you do to make it stop? Also it wasn't completely consistent: if you have the money for a fancy security system, why wouldn't you just go on holidays out of the country? Also there is only so many times you can pull the rope of the hero about to be killed but s/he gets rescued at the last minute by someone else hidden in a corner.

GBF is a high school comedy with your typical set of characters ending with an eventful prom. It's pretty witty, but I found it hard to go past the cheap production values - the lighting in particular sometimes made it look like a South American soap opera. Funny highlights were Jojo presiding an LGBT society without an actual LGBT person in it (until our hero is outed), a very sharp black girl (maybe a bit of cliche but she was sassy...) and Megan Mullally playing an embarrassing mum (after finding out her son is gay, she plans a gay movie night-in: they watch Brokeback Mountain. Her live commentary of the tent scene is priceless).

Both get 3 stars.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Sintra (Portugal) is worth more than a day trip

I was lucky enough to spend a week in the pretty town and landscape of Sintra, a 35-40 min train journey west of Lisbon. (price: 2.15 euros each way! so cheap). Many tourists rock up for a day tour and leave, and I even got raised eyebrows from locals when I told them we were here for longer. "You are here until Friday!!??" said the woman behind the counter at the panaderia opposite the main square with incredulity. Even our super nice air bnb host, Daniel, had emailed us after we made our booking to check we indeed wanted to stay this long: "you'll have done Sintra in 2-3 days max".

Well actually, I wish I'd stayed longer! Here's why - with a few pics by me and the friends I was with.

The place has about 7 palaces to visit, with large gardens/estates (we only did 3). As a playground to the Portuguese aristocracy from the 1500s onwards, it's got gothic gardens (a tower carved inside the rock at Quinta da Regaleira), lots of exotic plants (some Sequoia redwoods can be found in the Palacio da Pena ground), stunningly designed rooms (the blazons room with its ceiling painted with the emblems of the Portuguese royal family and many others, at Sintra Palace) and more. The Moorish Castle is from even earlier. I found it hard to edit down my pics for instagram!

A photo posted by b (@studioincovent) on

C'est intéressant w/c 22 Jun 2015

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

Long form - Alanis in Chain (Solaya Roberts, Hazzlit)
Alanis Morissette before Jagged Little Pill. Good read. This made me think of a couple of tracks from the album after Jagged Little Pill (ie the not as bestselling one): Unsent (no chorus, extracts from letters to lovers) and So Pure (with its video of Alanis Morissette dancing in a range of style - has she thought about taking part in Dancing with the Stars? She's do well I reckon)

Opinion piece - The real benefit cheats are the employers who are milking the system (Deborah Orr, The Guardian)
Lots of interesting facts for your next dinner party with your right wing friends. Only £8bn worth of benefits go to the unemployed, while an estimated £76bn go to people who are working. Why? In part because some employers don't pay a living wage or offer contracts with enough hours, so the government has to supplement the employees' income somehow. Does it sound right that Tesco has cost the Treasure £364m in pay-rate supplements in the last year? Maybe if employers paid better, the government would have to spend less on benefits, and would be able to cut taxes: all in all everyone would win!

Creative Review July issue
My big boss is on the cover of one of the best mags on creative culture. Amazing! Go, ballet, go!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 25 May 2015

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

BBC Radio 4 - Soul Music: Gracias a la vida
A moving listen. People talk about what this song, made famous by Mercedes Sosa, has meant to them. Includes the testimony of a political prisoner under Pinochet in Chile in 1973. I responded to these words from a recent widow, who grew to associate the song with the death of her husband: "when you're saying to yourself thank you to life which has given me so much, you can't actually focus on what's been taken, if you really hear those words" 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 11 May 2015

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

A podcast by Broadway producer Ken Davenport with Liz Furze, co-head of AKA agency's New York office. AKA are a major player in the world of promoting live entertainment, particularly big musicals and plays (and ballet! I work with their London team). This is a really insightful podcast on how they made it from London to New York, and Ms Furze is surprisingly candid about budgets and how her business is working.

Despite what most people are lead to believe, new ideas don't just appear out of nowhere. "Few people find great ideas on a blank canvas" says this article, which lists different sources to discover insights and help you think more creatively. Worth a read - I particularly related to the theme of 'questioning orthodoxy'!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Frida Kahlo love and farewell letter

I am reading Frida, the biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera, as I realised I didn't know that much about this important artist, beyond her looks, marriage to Diego Rivera and bisexuality.

During her loving yet tempestuous marriage to Rivera, they both had many affairs. When Frida was in New York for her first solo exhibition in 1938, she fell in love with Nicholas Murray, a portrait photographer working for Harper's Bazaar and other mags who had helped her organise the show during a visit to Mexico. During her stay in Paris in 1939 (she despised the town and was not impressed by many of the Surrealist painters she met there), the affair floundered as she felt the need to return to Mexico to be with Diego and Murray got involved with a woman he eventually married that year.

Murray wrote to her:

"I knew NY only filled the bill as a temporary substitute and I hope you found your haven intact on your return. Of the three of us there were only two of you. I always felt that. Your tears told me that when you heard his voice. The one of me is eternally grateful for the Happiness that the half of you so generously gave. (...) When you left I knew it was all over. Your instinct guided you so wisely. You have done the only logical thing for I could not transplant Mexico to NY for you and I've learned how essential that was for your happiness."

Frida later wrote him a farewell which includes this paragraph I find extremely moving:

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Death of Maya Plisestkaya - reactions

Maya Plisestskaya was a legend of ballet, and her death yesterday, aged 89, marked the passing of one of the true greats. Her grace, class, technique, passion, legacy were celebrated by many ballet dancers and fans around the world. Here is a round-up of their tributes.

Ballet Stars

A partir de 3'45 c'est unique.... From 3'45 it's unique !!!
Posted by Sylvie Guillem on Sunday, May 3, 2015

One of the greatest dancers of our time, Yves Saint Laurent's and Pierre Cardin's muse, beautiful and graceful Maya...

Posted by Mikhail Baryshnikov on Saturday, May 2, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pina Bausch - Ahnen

The first half of this piece was probably the favourite Pina Bausch work I've ever seen. I was really wowed by it, and somehow at the end of the night I didn't want to break the spell by writing down things on the way home, I wanted to let things stew over. So the list may not be as long as for other works - do add moments I missed off in the comments.

25 performers
stage with sand in the back and large cactii
jumping through a hoop and crashing into the wall
eating salad, nervously, little bits and lots of quick chewing
a woman with a big heart drawn on her face, sitting cross legged, obsessively grating chalk (or soap? couldnt tell) and stopping to put her hand on her knee
a woman in a large dress walking around, admiring the scenery, a man following her - first holding a tray with something wrapped in white cloth on it, then the same man is swirling around, she runs to escape him
a song about the Shinkansen train
tutus worn as headdresses
a wind machine and blowing newspapers
a woman carrying bricks in a wheelbarrow, noisily emptying them at the back of the stage (on the sand), building a wall
a walrus
a walrus saying a joke and clapping
a pianist and a saxophonist
a punk in a kilt
on the side of the stage, a woman in sunglasses eats very slowly, takes out a gun and shoots (surprising and making us jolt us every time!)
a jackhammer
a blindfolded samba/mambo dancer, who uses a towel to fan himself while dancing
three men on sun chairs, one is singing Carmen (L'amour est enfant de boheme...), the second one translating the words in English to the third, deadpan
wiping the floor in rhythm
a remote-controlled helicopter
an alarm

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 20 Apr

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

Music: Goldroom - Mykonos
According to my husband, I am a terrible music fan. He is a "let's listen to the whole album" kind of person ("this is how it's meant to be listened to"). I am a "Repeat song" ad infinitum sort of guy. If I like a song, it can take over my ears and mind completely. I will listen to it all afternoon at work, hitting replay every 3min28 on youtube. If I somehow forget and notice the absence of that melody, I jerk myself up and put it back on straightaway. I will listen to it on my commute home. I will put it on spotify and have it on repeat until my other half comes home and my obsession has to be  on hold until the next morning. (I may sneak in another listen before going to bed, while he brushes his teeth). 
My current obsession is this rework of Fleet Foxes's Mykonos, by Goldroom, a guy who makes sun-kissed grooves and takes the original folk version into completely new territory: French-touch, Ace of Base, tropics, that sort of thing. At my current rate of listening, my memory will imprint spring 2015 into this song. 

TV: BBC Young Dancer competition (BBC4)
The BBC has launched a Young Dancer competition (like they have a young opera singer one). I watched the first 'category' final (there will be 4 in total: contemporary, hip-hop, south asian, ballet) and was bloody impressed by the talent in the contemporary category, particularly those with their own choreography, or those made by their friends. I really liked this duet, by Jason Mabana. It made me think of Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkoui's works, and Hofesh Shechter in the second half too, without seeming like a rip-off, still feeling original.
You can see all the clips here. Get past the swooshy graphics, it's great.