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.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pina Bausch - Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört

stage covered with soil
25 dancers + a brass band
a man in red pants, black shoes, red swimming cap, an elastic band over his face that squashes his nose, red sunglasses. he picks up balloons from his pants and blows them up until they explode, again and again. after 4 or 5 he stops blowing them too much and ties them up as one would.
a man lying on the floor, another man trying to put balloons under his body so he floats up, but some balloons explode.
a man and a woman chased by groups of men, and being made to kiss
a typical Pina walk dance, made only of flicking hands
a song about a hunchback ('bossu') and his wife, and somehow a turtle ('tortue') as well
a woman as a dead weight, being lifted by a man and moved energetically left to right so her arms fling about and hit another man
a woman, slowly walking down stage, back combing a piece of her hair, and saying "Pourquoi t'es pas calme? Calme-toi! Pourquoi t'es pas calme?"
a man yelling 'I want to kill! I want to spill blood!'
a woman walking slowly upstage, the auditorium gets very dark, the light is very dim. she wears a black dress, a black veil, we can't see her face. she carried a shovel and a chair. she starts burying the chair under soil
"la tete... comme ca! les jambes... comme ca! plantees! la taille hop la poitrine flack! tu meurs! tu meurs!"
song: parlez-moi d'amour, dites moi des choses tendres
25 spruces brought on stage, looking freshly fallen
a dancer singing, her long black hair being painted white with chalk by a man
a dancer in a black negligee running in circle, running, running, repeating an arm movement: right hand pushing the left to the side, then both hands coming back to her heart, then the right arm is flung forward as though she is trying to catch something. she then lies on the floor
someone who seems to be drowning
a woman chasing a man, who has her dress "why did you take it? give it back! why? why? give it back!". when she gets it back, he stands behind her and holds two chunks of her hair up (as though pulling it). she screams for a long time
double cartwheels
a dancer, bent down, her long hair parted forward so you can't see her face, dancing, lying on the floor, being marked with a slash of lipstick by a man
a man moving like he is playing drums, but the drum kit is actually four people's bottoms which he slaps
the male dancers running onto the stage like ballet princes, head high, one arm bent in front of them (hand to the heart), the other extended out, stopping and running on again

Monday, April 13, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 13 Apr

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

The Guardian: most disturbing novels list
The Guardian asked its writers and readers what novels unnerved them the most. Replies include Brett Easton Ellis, Murakami and many more. I'd add to the list Hubert Selby Jr's Last Exit to Brooklyn (the violence and self-hate, heightened by the stream-of-consciousness writing style) and David Vann's Legend of a Suicide and Dirt. Those really shook and it took me a good few days to get over them. I reckon it will be another 5 years before I read another Vann novel.

Music: M.O - Preach (Cahill Radio Edit)
This popped up on my soundcloud stream. The original has a sleek, mid-tempo beat, a la Aaliyah/TLC, and the video, while low on production values, emphasises the connection with baggy outfits and classic hip-hop moves. I like it a lot, but not as much as this pumping remix by Cahill. After 15 seconds I was like 'oh ok...' and wanted to be on a dancefloor where I could take my top off. And it made me miss some very good friends who now live way too far away... It's set to be my summer theme tune.

Food: Fennel, feta and bean salad (Leon)
Super simple, quick to make, and delicious. Perfect for when temperatures hit the twenties in the UK next week (no, we don't know why either... well..).

Music: Michelle Williams - Say Yes live feat. Beyonce and Kelly Rowland
Because a Destiny's Child reunion, even if only 7min long, will always have a place in this blog.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A book to make you scream in frustration and disbelief

I've just finished reading And The Band Played On, Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, by journalist Randy Shilts.

Randy Shilts was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle through the 70s and 80s and, as such, was in the eye of the storm. His account is very researched and detailed, focusing on key protagonists in the discovery of and fight against AIDS, starting from one of the earliest cases (a female Danish doctor who had worked in country hospitals in Zaire in the the 70s) up to the revelation to the public that Rock Hudson, one of Hollywood's biggest male stars of his era, was dying of AIDS, in 1985.

It is a gripping story, and sadly, a real-life one.

Reading the movements of Patient Zero (an Air Canada stewart who was at the centre of a cluster of victims in San Francisco, LA, NY and other cities), you can't help but gasp at the guy's refusal to believe his diagnosis and change his lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

On my grandmother

10 years on, here is what I never want to forget about her:

- her cooking. Hearty, simple, epitomised in her ‘salmis de palombe’ (a stew of wild doves my granddad would have hunted) and her pasta with cheese gratin (so crusty on the top, so cheesy in the middle. I have never managed to replicate it)
- the blue/purple/flowery colour of the blouses/aprons she would always wear over her clothes. Always useful for cooking, gardening etc
- her habit of wearing lots of layers of clothes and cranking up the heating. Gosh we were always so hot in her house in winter!
- the self-deprecating way she always said she just knew nothing: ‘enfin tu sais moi je n’y connais rien!’
- her evening TV ritual: 6.30pm = quiz show ‘Questions pour un Champion’. That show is still running and everytime I hear the jingle, I am transported back into my grandparents’ front room again.

Friday, March 27, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 22 Mar

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

Video - Public Domain Review: Strange Contests in the Netherlands
Public Domain Review explores all the films, images, texts and more that are free of copyright. It's full of weird stuff. In this post, they look at videos of contests such as a 1933 ostrich race, and the use of typewriters to make art in 1937 (the precusor of those images created from signs like ( 3 ^ and the like on Twitter.

Article - New York Times: Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant
I am an immigrant myself to the UK, after all. A simple point: "Logically, if immigrants were “stealing” jobs, so would every young person leaving school and entering the job market; countries should become poorer as they get larger. In reality, of course, the opposite happens."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Breakin' - ten things I love about the 1984 breakdance film

A few weeks ago, I wrote about cheesy dance films I had to see this year. The first one I got to enjoy was Breakin', the story of female jazz dancer  (Kelly) who discovers the street dance of Venice Beach. Here are some of my favourite bits (all the dance sections are a great watch, so make sure you catch the entire movie one day!)

1. This top. Adolfo 'Shaba-doo' Quinones has amazing style. If only I could rock a jumpsuit like he does!

2. This signature look, worn by Kelly's friend Adam, who takes jazz class with her and is friend with streetdancers Ozone and Turbo. One word: tight. (credit to @ParisLDN, who came to see the film with me, for the joke). In a later scene, Adam pays Kelly a visit in the diner she works for, and wears really tight bright blue trousers. From this, the audience can easily work out that Adam tucks it to his left.

3. Ice T being credited as 'Rap talker' in the end credits. I guess the term rapper didn't exist at the time?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How would you imagine a #dancingmuseum?

French choreographer Boris Charmatz is taking over the spaces of Tate Modern on 15-16 May, with the goal of turning it into a musee de la danse, a museum of dance. I am so there to watch it happen.

I still remember the first time I heard Mr Charmatz speak. It was at a poorly-attended event at Southbank Centre, where a number of artists had been brought together to present ideas, works in progress and the like. He just stood up and started talking, leading us to imagine what a musee de la danse would look like if there was one right here at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. "I was looking at the skaters underneath here, and thought that they would fit in well within a musee de la danse. I would put people in that green space you can look down on from the foyer too..."

He went on with more ideas like that. He was refreshing. His French accent was charming. Now it's kind of happening, in a re-hash of his takeover of MoMA in New York in 2013.

In some marketing copy, the Tate asked "how would you imagine a #dancingmuseum?". Well here is a first list of what I'd like to find in that kind of museum...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 9 Mar

Interesting, intriguing, exciting, amusing, enraging, fascinating things I recommend.
Article: This is what it's like to go to jail for trolling (Buzzfeed)
It's not all silly pointless lists over on Buzzfeed... a sobering (!) report on two Twitter trolls who were sentenced to 8 and 12 weeks in jail for online threats.
“I thought in my head actually, that when someone sees something like that and they read it, they’re gonna complain … But you think, ‘This is Twitter’ – you don’t expect to be raided by nine police officers.”

Their song Sonsick made it into my list of 13 tracks of 2013, and it was probably the most played track on my Spotify in 2014. I just could not get enough of it. Their gig at the Village Underground was perfect - hot singers (sorry, can't help it!), awesome brass section, the album played in order with a sprinkle of new tracks. They are back in London in April at the Jazz Cafe: I have my ticket already.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 2 Mar

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

Essay - The New Enquiry: Permanent Records (by Molly Knefel)
Kids are uploading their adolescence in real-time, and the Internet refuses to forget. Will it change the way we live as adults?

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.