Friday, December 18, 2009

Dance can be dangerous

Interesting opinion piece from Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director of Sadler's Wells theatre (London's dance house) about the BBC removing Javier de Frutos' controversial piece from tonight's broadcast of In the Spirit of Diaghilev.
And for once on an article about dance - lots of comments! yes!

Do read.
And do watch BBC4 tonight (or on the iplayer for a week after broadcast)

The Guardian also has a Step by Step guide to Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Thank you The Guardian.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

List time!

OK it's the end of the year and even the decade so the List season is even crazier than usual this December. The Sunday Times, The Telegraph and the Guardian have all compiled lists for 2009 or written reviews of the decade.

Telegraph - Dance highlights of 2009
Telegraph - Dance: review of the decade
Sunday Times - Best dance of the decade
Guardian - review of the decade: dance

Bloggers are at it too, including Libby Costello, who writes for the London Dance website.

Here are my dance moments of the noughties, as Cloud Dance Festival says. This is very very subjective, mainly because I only moved to London in the middle of the decade, and didn't go to dance performances before. And then, I am not a critic, so I really don't see enough and I am sure some shows I have missed would deserve a mention! The thinking behind this very short list is to pick the shows where I went 'Wow, my friends have to see this', shows that I really felt were important and deserved to be seen, shows that opened my eyes to new things.

Royal Ballet of Flanders - Impressing the Czar.
I didn't know what to expect. The first part felt all over the place, there was so much stuff going on. Then In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated - it was like drinking a cold glass of water, it felt so pure and like watching ballet with a new eye. The third part, where all the dancers were dressed in school girls uniforms,made me want to stand up and shout out how great I was feeling.

Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal - Cafe Muller / Rite of Spring double-bill.
My first experience of Pina Bausch. The Rite of Spring, with its pile of earth on the stage, was so impactful - you really felt a drama was happening: a sacrifice was happening in front of your eyes.
Beyonce's Single Ladies video.
OK that's not a show, but what a dance moment, right? Watched millions of time on Youtube, copied and parodied ad finitum. The routine of the noughties. I think it will be as important as the Thriller dance routine.

Romeo Castellucci - Purgatorio
Not strictly dance, but what a piece of theatre. I was in shock after it.

Zero Degrees.
The London piece of the decade?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Preserving modern dance

A few weeks ago on Twitter, Martha Graham Dance Company asked how modern dance could be preserved. And a simple thought came to my mind: by being performed more! It feels obvious to me that if you want to create modern dance classics, you need to give people the chance to see them and enjoy them. I think Sadler's Wells in London has got it right, regularly bringing back real favourites like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Sutra or Matthew Bourne productions.

Modern dance is a pretty young artform, and it feels like companies are always focused on presenting new works every year. They're always selling us premieres of new works with new choreographers, new music, the whole lot. But when do the previous works get restaged? And therefore, when do people get to see them and really know and understand them? I am sure there are some contemporary dance pieces that have the importance of Petipa's Swan Lake, but what are they, and how easy is it to see them?

Obviously now there is video and some companies and choreographers, like Siobhan Davies, are creating really useful digital archives. But others are more protective (see the whole palava about Balanchine ballets on youtube) - let's hope they embrace it soon or get their pieces performed more.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bill T. Jones / Keith Haring

Went to the Pop Life exhibition at Tate Modern today, which included a recreation of Keith Haring's Pop Shop, complete with awesome 80s rap soundtrack. The room included a tee-shirt with this visual on it: choreographer Bill T. Jones body painted by Haring. Pretty strong! (Photograph by Tseng Kwong Chi)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A little quote

'[Dancing] gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive' - Merce Cunningham

Of course in the case of Cunnigham it gave him more than that (a career, to start with!), but this is quite poetic and true I think, so deserves being read.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jiri Kylian & Michael Schumacher - Last Touch First

When you leave several shows in a row a bit disappointed , telling your friend 'I mean it was good, but something was missing', you start thinking you'd be better off saving your money for something else next season (a new coat?)

But then you see great shows, pieces that are good from beginning to end, dances that kind of blow your mind or bring you to tears, and you feel so grateful. I've had three great dance evenings in the space of a month: Rosas danst Rosas, Lotte Van Den Berg and now Jiri Kylian.

I had never seen any Jiri Kylian pieces before, so I didn't know what to expect, apart from the fact that it had to be good, and the expectation rose when I saw how busy The Place was. Last Touch First is choreographed by Kylian and Michael Schumacher.

As we take our seats, the six performers (3 men, 3 women) are already on stage, in position. The stage is covered in strong beige fabric. 1 woman is reading in a rocking chair and another in a tub chair, the other woman is standing by a table with a candle on it. Two men are sitting by a window, playing cards, while another is standing at the door, looking at the woman in the rocking chair.

As the piano music begins, they start moving, but very slowly. They even blink in slow motion. The guys play cards, the woman licks her finger to turn the page of her book. Some things are odd: the woman by the table pulls at the table cloth, sliding the candle from one side to the other, the woman on the tub chair pours herself a drink, and becomes quite drunk. The man at the door surprises the girl in the rocking chair and she avoids his kiss, turning her face away from his.

There is some terrible sadness in them, a longing of some kind... they all look somewhat bored, waiting for something. Kylian and Schumacher mention Chekhov in the programme notes, and this is definitely the feeling I got away from reading Chekhov: the characters are bored out of their heads and think they have missed on what life had to offer. I really responded to that emotion.

Behind the decorum and appearances, they're actually all a bit crazy: in the second half of the piece, the table is turned upside down, a woman is lifted above the door, they play with a mirror (creating a great lighting effect), and there are flashes of fast movement. They are many great duets, with many poses that look difficult to hold, but the dancers make it all flow beautifully.

At the end, the drunk woman walks slowly towards the door, the fabric being pulled from under her feet by the 5 other performers, who are sat at the front of the stage. The furniture has moved forward with the fabric, and they all take on their initial position (woman on the rocking chair, man standing behind her etc...). They start talking to us but no sound comes out. They slowly close their eyes. Maybe they can only escape in their dreams. The piece ends at the right time: I have tears in my eyes.

Monday, October 05, 2009

RIP Mercedes Sosa

This post is not dance related, but Mercedes Sosa was an astonishing singer, a wonderful woman and I will miss her performances very much. She died on Sunday, aged 74.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lotte Van Den Berg - Stillen @ Lilian Baylis Studio

I can't really say how I felt about this piece. It was so different from I have ever seen, more performance/visual theatre than dance. So I am just going to describe what I saw, in the hope you will get an idea of what it was like. (It is quite possible I will have missed some bits!)

The stage is much wider than it is deep, and it is almost bare: no masking, about eight chairs along the edges, a piano in the top left corner, and a floor paved in bars of soap. An old woman with wild reddish hair sits on a chair. Neon lights at the back come on, slowly lighting the space. A young woman enters the stage (from a door on top right corner) and sits on the other side, near the piano. They wait. For possibly over two minutes, they sit and wait.

Finally a young man comes in, walks over the young woman. He touches her, wanting to show his affection, but she shakes him off repeatdly. She goes to play the piano (what music? The notes didn't say. Chopin?), while he moves angrily, stamping on the floor and making a hole in the soap paving. He then walks to the front right corner, sits and eats some bread and water.

Another man walks in slowly. He looks strange: he is blinded, his face covered by a mask of plasters. The first man takes him to the centre stage, and feeds him some of the bread he has been chewing, provoking repulsion in the audience. The blinded man wants more and tries to fish more bread from the mouth but there is none left by this point. The first man sits on the chair at the back, and cuddles the blinded one as if a baby, sitting him on his lap and taking him in his arm. The blinded man gets angry, tries to escape this hold, punches are exchanged, with loud thumping, until he walks. The soap pavement under the chair has been partially destroyed by the fighting.

The young woman plays the piano again and, while the young man starts putting the floor together again (like a puzzle) a little girl with very long blonde hair and in pink leotard walks in. She helps placing the soap bars neatly back before dancing a little.

An old man, tall, slim, bald, walks in. The little girl looks at him and walks off. He sits down. The old woman walks in and sits next to him. The lights change to something dimmer and warmer than neon. The young woman, who has stopped playing piano, is sitting down next to it. She pours a glass of water on her feet, and starts lathering up the soap with her feet. The young man, now in the opposite corner, does the same. They look at each other, smile, play.

The man with plasters on his face walks back in and sits on a chair along the back wall. He starts to whimper loudly, moving about on his chair. The old man goes to sit next to him and seems to calm him down with a few quiet words (we cannot her what he says) but then he starts whimpering again, and the old man keeps talking. The other young man takes his chair and comes sit next to the old one and makes another loud noise, the old woman sits next to him and does the same, and finally the young woman sits next to the man with plasters and talks quietly too. Slowly they all stop until the young woman is last.

The young girl walks back in, heading straight to the piano, where she plays some high notes. The old woman walks to the piano and plays low ones. The young woman comes and sits in the middle and plays a tune. When they are done, the blinded man suddenly walks up along the back wall, almost in a panic, until he find a rope that he pulls, tipping a big glass container full of water. For 30 seconds, water pours down on the stage, drenching him. The whole cast is looking at him. It is a beautiful image.

Things get a bit funnier after that, as the floor is now slippery and the cast must carefully manage that, as if they were walking on ice. The young couple hug and keep falling and laugh.

Then it got very moving for me: the old woman walks across to the old man and they kiss tenderly for a long time. The old man then turns around and starts crying, his sadness feeling very real. They both sit, but the old man seems to be gone: little by little, he falls on the floor. He has just died. The old woman cries, her face to the back wall, before turning to sit a beautiful song (what? I do not know) in the quavering voice of an old mezzo-soprano.

Finally, in what was a superb and very powerful image, the little girl, holding a big bucket of water, comes near the old man and, sat on the floor, starts slowly washing his face, his hands, his feet.

The end.

You can watch an extract of Stillen here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Opus Jazz

A bit late on that one but this is worth checking out: two dancers of NY City Ballet got the idea to film Jerome Robbins' NY Export: Opus Jazz, and the idea is now happening. There is a trailer of their work on youtube, and a blog charting the progress of the shoot.
More background info on Dancing Perfectly Free.

Shutters Shut - Nederlans Dans Theater

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dancing outdoors

Went to the free DeloitteIgnite festival at the Royal Opera House yesterday, and two pieces made me think how contemporary dance (and dance in general) could be made so much more popular: by people taking classes outside, in parks for example.

This idea had vaguely crossed my mind a few weeks ago when I saw this picture of a dance performance that took place on a basketball court on the (great) WNYC Culture blog.

Dance Gang. Credit: Kennis Hawkins

In NY, there are guys playing basketball in courts in a lot of places, or people playing baseball in parks... it's part of the normal thing to see. Passers-by ignore them, or stop for a few minutes to watch them play, maybe some even join in. In London, every time you go to a park, there will be some people playing football or softball. It's just part of what people do in parks here.

But what about dancing? People often have a little stereo and play music from their ipod when they are having a picnic in the park. But why dont' they dance? I find it interesting that dancing is only allowed in certain social occasions, and that people feel self-conscious about dancing on their own or in a small group in a public space. At the DeloitteIgnite festival, Ben Wright rocked the house by teaching disco steps to 40 people on stage in the Lindbury Studio, but the Silent Disco, outside in the Covent Garden Piazza, attracted less numbers (could be lots of reasons: maybe it was the £5 deposit, the idea of dancing in such a public space, or the fact that you couldn't hear the music people were dancing to).

Ben Wright's This moment is your life, as seen through disco glasses

What if there were groups learning salsa in the park next time I went? Or contemporary dance? People would no doubt stop by, watch, maybe join in.

What if dance got out of the studio, the bar, the club, the enclosed space? It would be a great opportunity for people to run into an art form and a physical activity they might not be aware of, or might not have considered, and show them how unstuffy and fun it is. Actually, I think last week's DanceMob at Southbank Centre proves my point: they taught the dance routine outside their hall along the river Thames and must have attracted 300 to 500 people! Some came specially to learn it, but lots were passers-by who just ran into a group of people learning a dance and decided to join in. Same for the belly-dancing and tango lessons that were happening a few hundred meters away at the National Theatre.

It would be great if such things were more than just one-offs put on by big arts organisations, and if groups sprang up all around London on sunny Saturday afternoons, wouldn't it?

Friday, August 28, 2009

10 dance shows this autumn in London

A very subjective list: 10 dance highlights in September, October and November in London.

1. Rosas
The Flemish dance company presents 2 shows in one week: Rosas danst rosas with Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker reprising her original role, and a new work, Zeitung.
Keersmaeker is a legend, so if, like me, you've never seen her work, this is unmissable.
8-12 September, Sadler's Wells

2. Bonachela Dance Company
New work: The Land of Yes and the Land of No
I really enjoyed the extracts of this new piece that they performed on the steps of St Paul's cathedral in July. The company is made up of dancers who have worked with Rambert, Australian Dance Theatre and others, the score by Ezio Bosso was pretty stirring and I am curious about what the full piece will be like.
25-26 September, Southbank Centre

3. Crystal Pite's Kidd Pivot
Canadian choreographer with 'a distinctive, poetic sensibility and a capacity to create an onstage world of her own' (NY Times) who's never been seen in the UK before. She is influenced by Forsythe - yeah! All tickets £10 only - yeah again!
17-18 September, Sadler's Wells

4. In the spirit of Diaghilev
Four new works in one night. By Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Wayne McGregor, Russell Maliphant and Javier de Frutos. Very very promising.
13-17 October, Sadler's Wells

5. New McGregor at Royal Ballet
Always happy when the Royal Ballet put on some new work (the season also includes the usual Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker). And it's by McGregor - his last two pieces (Chroma and Infra) were big winners for me. Part of a triple-bill that includes Balanchine's Agon.
4-18 November, Royal Ballet

6. Lotte Van den Berg
Dutch theatre director known for a minimalist touch, in the UK for the first time. No idea what to expect, but, as I read somewhere once, it's good to be excited about what you don't know.
25-26 September, Sadler's Wells

7. Jiri Kilian
Another modern dance legend, Kilian was director of Nederlands Dans Theater. Like Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (see number 1) I have never seen his work before, so can't miss this opportunity.
8-9 October, The Place

8. Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company (Dance Umbrella)
Dance In Israel recommends it! Part of Dance Umbrella, which brings so much more dance in October and November. (A post about that later probably)
18-19 October, Southbank Centre

9. Touch Wood
Season of works-in-progress from up-and-coming choreographers. To be very honest most of the names mean nothing to me, but I will try to go once to see how it feels to see such 'drafts'.
12 Sep - 3 Oct, The Place

10. Michael Clark Company
Dance to David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop? I'm in!
28 Oct - 7 Nov, Barbican

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sasha Waltz - noBody

Really like this.

This is from 2002 - I feel so behind! Anyway.
More on Sasha Waltz and noBody here.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dissecting a dance

Very interesting video over at the New York Times. Their chief dance critic disects a Merce Cunnigham solo. I think this is a great way to open dance to people, by doing something simple: explaining it!

Dissecting a Dance - New York Times.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dance barriers

A debate has been going on in dance circles about the quality of British dance works, with John Ashford, who was director of The Place, saying they were not very exciting in an issue of Time Out a few months ago.

Luke Jennings from the Observer gets involved this week, when he reviews a double bill by Hagit Yakira and Sara Dowling from Laban Theatre (Laban is a famous contemporary dance school)

'The problem with this kind of work is not, as Ashford claims, that it's timorous. It's that a substantial cohort of theory-laden choreographers have lost sight of the fact that they work in the theatre, for the benefit of a paying audience. The hour-long Yakira/Dowling programme is notionally open to the public (who, after all, have bankrolled the whole thing), with tickets priced at £12. But there's no local advertising, and the fact that the blurb-sheet doesn't even bother to credit the dancers - I recognised the ever-excellent Elisabetta d'Aloia, but no one else - tells us that non-Laban outsiders are not expected to attend.

These invisible barriers - and you often get the same insiders-only vibe at the Place - are bad for dance. They indicate an indifference to public opinion which, as the economic purse-strings tighten, the art form can ill afford. The choreographers who will survive are those whose work speaks to those outside the bubble, not just those who know the secret handshake.'

Full review here.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dancing to PJ Harvey

More about Mathilde Monnier here

Monday, July 27, 2009

RIP Merce Cunningham

Another very sad news today.

A good article and interesting video on the NY Times Arts Beat blog. Do take time to watch it.

'Mr. Cunningham ranks with Isadora Duncan, Serge Diaghilev, Martha Graham and George Balanchine in making people rethink the essence of dance and choreography, posing a series of “But” and “What if?” questions over a career of nearly seven decades.' NY Times

From the Guardian archive, a step-by-step guide to Merce Cunningham.

Article 19 reminds us that he had already made arrangements for his company after his death: the company will go on tour for two years before disbanding.

I was not the biggest fan (I like musicality) but he was a true legend.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Taste The Place

Now that I have booked my places, I can talk about the special weekend Taste The Place at the Place ('The UK's premier centre for contemporary dance')

On Friday 11 and Saturday 12 September, they are offering over 50 free dance sessions, in a massive range of styles and for people of all ages and dance experience.

Sessions include street, Kathak, Egyptian, Contemporary African, samba, Cha Cha Cha, jazz, contemporary, ballet, plus sessions for families ('dads and lads' sounds like one I'd love to watch!), pilates, tai chi and more...

On Friday, there also are some DJs and on Saturday a barn dance, some Q&As, film screenings and plenty more.

You can only book for 3 free sessions, so making a choice was hard, but I can't wait!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Erika Janunger - Weightless

A friend sent me this great video, really clever, well-made and almost hypnotising.

Click here to see the credits.
More on Erika Janunger here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

La La La Human Steps - Amelia

Dance filmed beautifully - it can happen!

Full performance in 7 videos here.
More about La La La Human Steps here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bonachela Dance Company - The land of yes and the land of no @ St Paul's cathedral's steps

I went along to the steps of St Paul's cathedral last weekend to check out Bonachela Dance Company's new work, The land of yes and the land of no. Dressed in white, six dancers moved up and down the steps, performing solos or in partnership with others, before a big finale all together.

In a way this was typical abstract contemporary dance, with quite a lot of floor work and some phrases that looked bloody exhausting to perform - particularly the last section, that must be relentless for the dancers.

As well as a cast of very good dancers, the piece benefits from a great score written by the Italian composer Ezio Bosso. All strings and minor keys, it conveys particular emotions (somethign bitter sweet, some sadness, the wish to soar) that I could see in the movement and the dancers.

My only small criticism is that I found it difficult to see how Bonachela explored how everyday signs and directions affect us, which is apparently the idea behind this piece. I noticed how, when they performed in three, two dancers often seemed to block the other or redirect his movement, but beyond that... A solo by Paul Zivkovich also reminded me of someone trapped, unable to achieve what he wants because of society's obligations and expectations.

But this is only minor, for anyone can read what they want into an abstract dance piece, and it does not matter anyway. What matters is that it makes you feel something, touches you. And I was quite touched by The land of yes and the land of no. I am now curious as to how these extracts will transform into a full-length piece at the Queen Elizabeth Hall this September, without the powerful backdrop of St Paul's columns behind them.

Some nice black and white images of the performances here and here.
More info on Bonachela Dance Company here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

RIP Pina Bausch

'I am not interested in how people move, but in what moves them'
Pina Bausch

The Guardian - 'a dangerous magician of modern dance'
The Times - 'Europe's most influential modern dance choreographer'
The New York Times - 'the scene is smaller without her'
and more

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dance costumes

I showed the video of ballets C de la B's piece, Ashes, to a friend and he made me laugh saying: 'Why do people always look like tramps in contemporary dance?'

Hummm... yeah... it's true that they often look like they are wearing their own rehearsal clothes, or are in their underwear...

Budget issues, most probably?

But it's not always like that, of course. See Guillem/Maliphant/Lepage's Eonnagata and its Alexander MacQueen costumes. I also had a look around and saw this video for Inbal Pinot & Avshallom Pollak Company, from Israel (part of Dance Umbrella 2009). Great coiffures!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Les ballets C de la B

Love the music in that trailer, and there is some interesting stuff going on with a trampoline!

Coming to Southbank Centre next week.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clod Ensemble's Under Glass @ Village Underground

Went to East London on Friday to see the Clod Ensemble and their show Under Glass. I wasn't really sure what to expect from 'a collection of human beings contained in a series of glass jars, cabinets and test tubes', except that it would be different to what I had seen before.

I was not disappointed. Everything was different from the moment we arrived at the venue. Tucked in an alleyway, me and my friend couldn't find the place, until we noticed this massive wall painting indicating it. Duh.

There are lots of people outside having tea and cigarettes, who tell this is indeed the place we are looking for. It turns out that they actually were the cast having a break between two performances. Pretty chilled out!

Before the show starts, an usher makes an announcement: 'There will be moments of complete darkness. Please follow the ushers, who will tell you where to sit. When you have to move, the area you are moving to will be lit. Ushers might ask you to sit on the floor or crouch to ensure everyone can see, please follow their instructions.' I get quite excited. We are led to a rectangle of light and asked to sit on the floor.

Under Glass is made of eight individual pieces: eight characters, each in their own glass case (a test tube, a jam jar, rectangles, squares...), each prisoner of their own world and their own minds. Only one of them speaks, an older lady who talks to someone on the phone. She is one of those grannies who know everything that goes on in the village, spending her time hiding behind the curtains, looking out and calling her friends to share gossips. Her text is a poem by Alice Oswald, and it describes a disturbing place at the end of the world, where nothing is quite normal:

'so many names in this place not many of us left
living on the last we can find can you hear this
somebody out peering out not me noticed the least likely the very soul of respectability
eating something in the cemetery not rats I hope are you listening'

Each character is intermittently illuminated: the old woman, a shy girl, a big woman in water, a couple on the floor who look very much alike and who are confined to a small circular spacelike twins in a womb, a tall woman in a black victorian dress who spends most of her time looking at herself, an office worker stuck in his very small office, unable to stand up in it, a girl in a small jar, another girl lying on grass.

There is a bit of dance (in the shy girl for example, who like a wall flower is confined to a thin strip against a wall), some humour, a score made of strings and rumbles, and in the end it creates a very immersing and poetic experience.

After the show we went for vietnamese on Kingsland road and the police burst into the restaurant to arrest a man in the toilets. You gotta love London on nights like this.

More about the Clod Ensemble.
Review of Under Glass and image from the Guardian.

Dance Film 09

Dance Film 09, Scotland's Dance Film Festival, is back from 21 to 30 May, featuring musicals, documentaries, short films and workshops. Sounds like a pretty nice mix to me.

More info here, and a trailer of some of the movies being shown below.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hagit Yakira - Oh Baby @ Cloud Dance Festival, Jacksons Lane

Headed all the way to Highgate to Jacksons Lane for one night of the Cloud Dance Festival (it ran Friday 24 - Sunday 26 April) for what was a pretty long evening of dance (7.30pm start, end past 10.30pm)

And following some good (Jennifer Essex in Washed and the quote of the year: "Have you ever been on a date because you were too lazy to commit suicide?", Rancidance's Musicology) and quite bad stuff, came on Hagit Yakira and Takeshi Matsumoto with Oh Baby, choreographed by Yakira.

It started with Matsumoto singing what sounded like some sort of Japanese nursery rhyme (though I can't be sure!), smiling to the audience, gently and with humour, before he was joined by Yakira, who was her singing in Hebrew (I believe!)

The choreography was very physical, with lots of jumps and collisions between the two, reflecting the dynamism and crazy mood of Yakira, who started giving orders to her partner: Hug me! (he hugs her, drops her, she falls on the floor) Hug me! Stay! Fall! (they both fall on the floor) Hug me! Stay! Fall! Turn to the left. Another turn to the left. - in their relationship, she is the one making the decisions, she is the choreographer.

But when she orders him Talk to me! He stays silent, until, after she repeats her order again and again, getting angrier and angrier, he makes a face and starts screaming like crazy, venting his frustration.

The mood of the piece throughout is very humourous and witty. They flirt, play with each other, she bosses him around, they kiss... All in all, this was my favourite piece of the evening: fun, full of energetic movement, it left me with a big smile on my face.

I wish I was that good at PR

Wow big credits to the PR person who managed to get the Guardian to write and publish this piece about Shobana Jeyasingh's new work Just Add Water?

'A dance about paella and pumpkin pie? Judith Mackrell on the long love affair between choreography and cooking'

What da what???!!!! Thin thin thin it seems to me.

Their video of the rehearsals (with an interview of Jeyasingh) is worth it though.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Make war on yourself

Extract from Order my steps by Evidence, a dance company. Coming to London 7-8 May at Southbank Centre.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Forsythe's Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced

Still from annotated video illustrating the complex system of cueing in One Flat Thing, reproduced
Credit: Synchronous Objects Project, The Ohio State University and The Forsythe Company

Back in January, I was looking at William Forsythe's videos from his CD-Rom Improvisation Technologies and wondering what we could do now that computer and film technologies have progressed so much. Well it turns out Forsythe was on it too: his latest project, called Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced, is a collaboration with the Univeristy of Ohio and launches on the 1st of April.

From the press release:

'Focusing on Forsythe’s complex ensemble dance One Flat Thing, reproduced, the project presents an original collection of screen-based visualizations (video, digital artwork, animation, and interactive graphics) that reveal interlocking systems of organization in the choreography. The project aims to appeal to a broad public from diverse fields including but not limited to dance (...)
This research is a process in which choreographic ideas are the source of information for the composition of unique visual objects. These objects enable the ideas in the choreography to be quickly grasped in their entirety and suggest new interpretations.'

The teaser video and images look stunning, I am really looking forward to seeing more.

Full press release and images from the Synchronous Objects website. There is also an essay by Forsythe. To be honest he kind of lost me after about the fourth paragraph but I kept reading and it started making sense. Choreography can now exist outside of performance, outside of the body, and this project gives choreographic thinking a new outlet for expression (I guess?!)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dance and disability

A video from the New York Times about Gimp, a New York City dance company that includes disabled dancers.

A good opportunity to shout out to Candoco Dance Company, very well known in the UK for their fantastic work integrating 'disabled and non-disabled dancers' as they say. It has been running since 2001.

Are we overdosing on Swan Lake?

Asks the Times, in a very interesting piece where Debra Caines asks top companies what's going on and why there are so many Swan Lakes being performed in London this year.

"Any national company has to have a Swan Lake because it is the very definition of classical ballet. It is the standard of measure and you have to keep it alive" says Kevin McKenzie, AD of American Ballet Theatre, who is performing Swan Lake in London this week. But "my heart sank when I realised that we and the Royal were performing Swan Lake at the same time,” McKenzie says. “If we had known, we would have looked to do a different repertoire. If the economy weren’t so bad, people might come to see both, but who is going to do that now?"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I too want a giant tambourine to dance on

Carmen Amaya, probably the best flamenco dancer of the 20th century.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Miyako Ishiuchi

1906 17
Credit: Miyako Ishiuchi

Photographs by Japanse photographer Miyako Ishiuchi are currently on display at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London, until 16 April. From their website:

'In ‘1906 to the skin’, Ishiuchi creates portrait of Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno, who was born in 1906. For this unusual exploration of a man, Ishiuchi turns her attention to human skin –studying Ohno’s scars and the effects of aging on his body, the patina of which convey a person’s history. No shot captures his face or personality; instead the series is an intimate study of the strength and vulnerability of a man through close up images of his skin. The results are celebratory and full of warmth. Ishiuchi says: “His skin is unusually beautiful. It is smoother than silk, warmer than wool, suppler than cotton, stronger than canvas.”'

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Los Abrazos Rotos - trailer

It's not dance-related, but Almodovar is my favourite film director, and the man managed to include some Pina Bausch into one of his films - the guy has balls!

Almodovar's new film, Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces) comes out next week in Spain. In the UK later this year I'd imagine.

Plus below a genius short inspired by characters from the film - hilarious!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Eonnagata reviews

The Times - 3 stars 'Gorgeous in many ways, especially visually, yet dull in others, Eonnagata feels like a work that hasn't yet found its focus.'

The Evening Standard
- 2 stars 'Eonnagata works as a reverse synergy, with the baffling sum less than its intriguing parts.'

The Financial Times - 'Eonnagata does not ultimately hang together and falls far short of a coherent show.'

The Independent - 'It can be beautiful, but it is a static experience.'

The Daily Telegraph - 'While never less than interesting, it is as if the admiration that each of the trio has for the others has blunted the clarity of their individual visions. The effect is attractive but blurred, an evening that is both too full of ideas and too short of the means to develop them.'

The Observer - 'You leave gorged with artifice - the lighting, the couture, Guillem's still-fabulous développé devant - but wondering what, if anything, lies behind it all.'

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dance is co-existent with life

DANCE. Every age has had its dance, and the fact that dance has not perished is evidence of its value to mankind. The fact that there has always been dance compels it to be accepted as an old and deeply rooted human activity whose foundations reside in the nature of man himself. The universal interest in dance rests upon the fact that it carries on and systematizes an activity that is operative in everyone's experience: it is co-existent with life.

Margaret N. H'Doubler, University of Wisconsin.

From a 1946 Encyclopedia of the Arts (Philosophical Library, New York)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Live webcast of Hofesh Shechter's double bill - Friday 8pm

And dance house Sadler's Wells makes the dance headlines again (see previous post already) with its live webcast of In Your Room/Uprising, tomorrow from 8pm UK time.
The double bill is performed at another venue, the Roundhouse, in association with Sadler's Wells.

It will be interesting to see how it shows on screen - do watch it and let me know what you thought!

Eonnagata press in full force

We've had a glut of press articles on the new show by Sylvie Guillem, Russell Maliphant and Robert Lepage here in the UK, with all the newspapers interested in the story of the dancer, the choreographer and the theatre maker making a new show together on an 18th -century, sexually-adventurous prince, with Alexander McQueen designing the costumes and a bit of kabuki theatre thrown in.

I'll let you know what the reviews are like when they come out!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Video - Binary form

Binary Form from shiftwork on Vimeo.

From Shiftwork.

Triple bill @ Royal Opera House - review

Seven Deadly Sins/Carmen/Danse a Grande Vitesse

I can't believe the Financial Times' Clement Crisp gave such a bad review to this triple bill - ' it has all the attractions of Ebola fever' he said (he likes his random references, the Clement)

Seven Deadly Sins is more a show that ballet, with a big multi-level set, great lighting and the singing of Martha Wainwright. The dancing was ok, if nothing much, and I thought all the sins blended into one - lust (there was a lot of groping). It wasn't that bad.

Ek's Carmen was really interesting. I enjoyed the music, adapted from Bizet of course - lots of percussions and weird sounds, and the cast shouted a lot too, in an invented language as far as I could tell (think Spanish meets Russian meets Japanese) There was some really cool movement, very modern and angular, with lots of humourous bits thrown in.

I was worried I had idealised DGV in my head - maybe I remembered it as a better ballet than it was. Thankfully I was proved wrong. Some amazing lifts, fantastic group work, and this almost relentless music from Michael Nyman, marching and taking you on with it. It really works.

This couple was sat behind me and they had come in to see Martha Wainwright. 'Oh', she said before it started, 'there are 2 intervals, so many we can leave after the second, unless we want to see some real dance.' I turned around and told them they should stay 'the third piece is very good!'. At the end, she thanked me for my advice 'It was fantastic! Magical! Some pure dancing... I felt like a little girl... beautiful. It was also nice that there was no story to follow and you could just lose yourself into it.' Horray, a new convert?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mondays with Merce

It's Monday! Why not spend with Merce Cunnigham?

Every week, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company is putting a video up and goes behind the scene at the company's studios. Interviews, classes etc, it looks like there will be lots of rich and interesting content to look at and enjoy, even if, like me, you're not too sure about the man's choreography.

Can we get more websites like these please?

Originally read on Article 19.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Arvo Pärt

There was an opinion piece in The Guardian blog last year about the overuse of Arvo Pärt's music in film soundtracks. "This is music that drops jaws in any context", said the journalist. "Lest Pärt's sound begin to work in the opposite direction, jolting us from our involvement with a film as we recognise what a cliché its use has become, it is I think time to give it a rest."

I think the same could be said about its use for dance. There was even a special event held the Guggenheim in New York where only dance pieces set to Pärt where performed (plus a piece by installation artist and photographer Sophie Calle). Here is a random list of dance pieces set to Pärt's music I was able to find within one hour of internet searching:

Miguel Robles to Tabula Rasa
Wheeldon's Misericordes to Symphony No3 for the Bolshoi
Wheeldon's Liturgy to Fratres for New York City Ballet
Wheeldon's After the Rain to Tabula Rasa and Spiegel im Spiegel
Alonzo King's MAP for Lines Ballet
John Neumeier's Othello (Spiegel im Spiegel and Tabula Rasa)
Ulysses Dove's Dancing in the front porch of Heaven for Royal Swedish Ballet (to Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten)
Susan's Marshall's Kiss for Pacific Northwest Ballet
Jessica Lang's De Profundis for Colorado Ballet
Matjash Mrozewski's Castle Nowhere for Royal Ballet (3rd Symphony)
Lynne Taylor-Corbett's Code of Silence for Carolina Ballet
Andrew Simmons' Through to you for Royal New Zealand Ballet (Spiegel im Spiegel)
Inbal Pinto Dance Company's Shaker
Mui Cheuk-Yin’s Season N for City Contemporary Dance Company in Hong Kong
Paula Conduit for her own company Vortex Dance Theatre - the piece Es Sang Vor Langen Jahren is used in her dance work Conduit
Leipzig Ballet's The Great Mass, by Uwe Scholz
Araiz's Numen for Group Motion Dance Company
In the Middle of the Moment - Uri Ivgi and Johan Greben for Scottish Dance Theatre
Three Pieces for Het -Van Manen for Dutch National Ballet (Psalom)
Johan Inger's Walking Mad
Mats Ek - Smoke for Sylvie Guillem
Mary Anthony Dance Theatre - Lady Macbeth

Now why is this music so popular with choreographer? I have looked for interviews where choreographers would explain their choice of music, but haven't found anything.

Critic Susan Yung said 'Pärt’s compositions invite collaborators into a shared space, a helium-filled elysium' and, Bjork, when she interviewed him for a BBC documentary, said 'I like your music very very much because you give space to the listener, he can go inside and live there'. Is it this 'space' that Pärt creates that attracts choreographers? It is easier to choreograph a piece to his music?

Arvo Pärt's works also have this power, universality and beauty - they create a special atmosphere. Does that make it easier to choreograph as well? But then, are choreographers choosing the easy option by letting the music take such an important role? Or is it actually more difficult to create movement that matches the resonance of the music?

I don't have answers to any of those questions, but I do wonder if it is not time, like in movies, to give Pärt a bit of a rest before we get bored of it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

World Press Photo 2008 winners

I always really enjoy looking at the winning pictures of the World Press Photo Contest - nature, sport, current affairs, portraits, stories, they cover such a huge range of topics, and are always outstanding images.

The winner of the 2nd prize in the Arts and Entertainment category - singles, is photographer Jerome Bonnet for his portrait of a student at Paris Opera Ballet School. You can view the image here.

The winners' gallery can be seen here. Enjoy.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Rafael Bonachela - 62C

As mentioned earlier on this blog, choreographer Rafael Bonachela picked 6 choreographers he liked and invited them to perform at Southbank Centre. It was free so I went to check it out.

Due to the snow and stuff, I only made it on the Saturday (3 other choreographers were performing on the Sunday) but still it was pretty good. A few pics below.

Quite a lot of people turned up, which is cool! Go dance!

Rafael Bonachela wasn't there himself but did record something on video.

Adam Linder. Yes, he wanked off a gun - the 10-year-old girl next to me looked a bit horrified. His solo, set to Ravel's bolero, was interesting, but maybe with an undertone that was too violent or sexual for an afternoon audience (even a contemporary dance one). The hilarious thing was this middle-aged man who went at the front of the stage and started putting his legs up in the air and do weird things - we all thought he was part of the piece, but realised he wasn't when security came to take him out.
Credits to Adam Linder for carrying on with his performance though.

I can't really remember anything Blanca Arrieta did (sorry!), but I am quite happy with this picture.

If you went on the Sunday, feel free to let us know what it was like!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Olivier Awards

Barely mentioned in all the articles on the recent Olivier Awards nominations announcement, the dance nominees are:

Best new dance production -

Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal's Cafe Muller / The Rite of Spring at Sadler's Wells

The Royal Ballet of Flanders' Impressing the Czar at Sadler's Wells

The Royal Ballet's Infra at the Royal Opera House

DV8's To Be Straight With You at the Lyttelton

Outstanding achievement in dance

The company of the Royal Ballet of Flanders for their performances in Impressing the Czar at Sadler's Wells

The company of the Royal Ballet for their performances in Infra

Savion Glover, Marshall Davis Jr and Maurice Chestnut for their performances in Savion Glover's Bare Soundz at Sadler's Wells

I am going for the Royal Ballet of Flanders' Impressing the Czar in both categories. It totally blew my mind, it was so good!

Full list of nominees. Results on 8 March.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tanja Liedtke - Twelfth Floor - UK Tour

The production Twelfth Floor, created by Tanja Liedtke, is touring the UK this Spring starting on the 10th of Feb in Warwick, and ending on the 27th of March in Oxford.

Tanja Liedtke was a German dancer and choreographer based in Australia. Her dynamic and highly physical choreography won her awards and in 2007 she was selected to be the Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company. However she died tragically before taking the post.

You can find more info on the tour website.

The tour is brought by Dance Touring Partnership, a network of theatres working together to bring exciting dance to new audiences around the UK. It must be tough, but credits to them!

There is something that reminds me of Jasmin Vardimon in there.

Update 16/2: A review of Twelfth Floor in The Observer ' If this is what she was capable of at 29, what might the future have held?'

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jordan Clarke

I saw this video on the really good blog Dancing Perfectly Free and thought I would put it up too.

Vanilla Strawberry from Jordan Clarke on Vimeo.

It looks like a live Gilbert & George painting sometimes.

More Jordan Clarke's video here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thomas Noone Dance

Decided to try out this Barcelona company next week at Southbank Centre. It was set up by a British guy who trained at Rambert and worked in the Netherlands and Spain, Thomas Noone.
It seems quite well-known in Barcelona, as it is resident in one of the city's cool theatres, the Sant Andreu Teatre.

"Futil is a beautiful yet haunting duet following a couple and the history of their increasingly polarised relation. Beginning with the end, the piece starts with their separation and rewinds to the initial moment of meeting" - sounds interesting. I like the way he falls on the floor at the end of the video.

More info here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

National Dance Awards winners

Winners were announced at what I'm sure was a most glamourous gathering, on a Monday afternoon (that's how much dance matters... erm)

De Valois award for outstanding achievement in dance
Richard Alston – artistic director, Richard Alston Dance Company
(happy about that one, I really enjoyed his last pieces Shuffle It Right and Blow Over. He always picks really good scores for his dance works)

Dancing Times award for best male dancer
Edward Watson – Royal Ballet

Richard Sherrington award for best female dancer
Agnes Oaks – English National Ballet (she is retiring this year)

Dance Europe award for outstanding company
English National Ballet

Best classical choreography
Christopher Wheeldon for Electric Counterpoint - Royal Ballet

Best modern choreography
Hofesh Shechter for In Your Rooms

Patron's award
Northern Ballet Theatre – received by NBT artistic director, David Nixon, from NDA patron, Beryl Grey

Artsworld Presentations award for best foreign dance company
New York City Ballet

Spotlight award: classical male
Martin Harvey – Royal Ballet

Spotlight award: classical female
Yuhui Choe – Royal Ballet

Spotlight award: modern male
Anh Ngoc Nguyen – Wayne McGregor / Random Dance

Spotlight award: modern female
Kate Coyne – Michael Clark Company and freelance

Working Title Billy Elliot award
Michael Guihot-Jouffray

Dance UK industry award
Janet Smith – Scottish Dance Theatre

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rafael Bonachela week end at Southbank Centre

The popular Rafael Bonachela is presenting a selection of his favourite young choreographers next week end (31 January - 1 February) at Southbank Centre in London. I don't think he will actually be there himself since he is now AD of Sydney Dance Company, but it seems like there will be some good stuff on offer.

Saturday 31 January, 4.30pm
Adam Linder - he is the 2008 Place Prize winner. I like his videos but I've never seen him live, I am looking forward to it. Apparently he will dance to Ravel's Bolero.
Blanca Arrieta - all the way from Bilbao, Spain.
Frederick Opoku-Addaie and Jorege Crecis - their piece is called Bf Starter.

Sunday 1 February, 4.30pm
Laila Diallo - ex-Random Dance, performing a piece called The Wayside. I am quite interested in seeing that one as it is set to a song I really like Pa' llegar a tu lado.
Cameron McMillan - the ex-Rambert Dance Company dancer presents a duet with Amy Hollingsworth.
Ben Wright - a performance by two dancers from his company, bgroup. Ben Wright is the guy who created the role of the Prince in Matthew Bourne's famous all-male Swan Lake, back in 1995.

Plus it's free, and you can have a drink while you watch - pretty cool prospect.

Hopefully I can take some pics and let you know what it was like.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spring Awakening @ Lyric Hammersmith, London - review

Went to see Spring Awakening. 2nd preview, and it looked pretty sharp to me. Let's keep this review simple:

- Cast: all good from everyone. Good acting, good voices, good presence. Many are doing their professional debut in this production. Very fresh.
- Staging: very cool. Lighbulbs hang from the ceiling, neons in the theatre, back wall covered in paintings, images, a blackboard listing the songs, more neons and lights, some objects related to the story etc... There are seats for the audience on either side of the stage, where the actors also sit sometimes, and a small band at the back (piano, guitar, fiddle, drums and more). Actors help with the running of the show, moving microphones about, taking the lights down etc, giving a special feel to the proceedings.
- Songs: pretty good. I wasn't sure about the idea of pop-rock tunes for something based on a 1900s play, but it did work. Being a teenager then was worse than it is now, but the angst and the fear and the weight of adults' expectations on your shoulder remain. Mama and Spring/Summer are particular favourites of mine.
- I enjoyed the story and realised it was darker than I expected. Abuse, violence, suicide, teenage pregnancy... it's all in there.
- The one thing I didn't like was the way the gay relationship between two of the boys was treated as comic relief for act 2. I doubt that at a such a religious time, in small-town Germany, two boys realising they loved each other would be so comfortable with it. Why did the audience laugh? Embarassment, probably (as in many other moments of the piece) and because one of the boys suddenly developed cliched manoeurisms (nowhere to be seen beforehand) and we had jokes about licking the cream. Why present it that way? Their future is probably no brighter than that of the 3 main characters...
Anyway this is a small thing...

Overall, this is a very good show and production. The message I got from this was that thank god I am living in 2009, in a (relatively) tolerant society that allows you to be who you want to be and where social norms are not as suffocating as in the past. However, growing up remains tough!

Tickets here.

Review update (4 Feb)
The Guardian - 3 stars
The Telegraph - 5 stars
The Times - 5 stars
The Stage - positive review

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Teaser for the film Falling

Falling in Space from Dan Farberoff on Vimeo.

Director: Dan Farberoff
Composer: Errollyn Wallen
Choreographer: Henri Oguike
Words by NASA astronaut Steve MacLean

The full length film is part of the Henri Oguike Dance Company 10th Anniversary show touring the UK now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

South Bank show awards winners

Aaron Sillis (in black) in Dorian Gray. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

Wayne McGregor’s Infra at the Royal Opera House won in the dance category.

The Times Breakthrough Award went to dancer Aaron Sillis, who played Basil Hallward in Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray. It is great news that an award voted for by the general public went to a dancer. Bits about him in today's Times: "Born in Norwich, Sillis got his break when he was spotted in a local panto at the age of 12. He trained at Bird College of Musical Theatre, in London, and has since worked with Take That, Mariah Carey and Leona Lewis. He has choreographed Kylie, stalked the catwalk for Versace and played a schoolboy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Congratulations to them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

National Dance Awards

I guess it's not just awards season for Hollywood. As well as the South Bank Show awards, the National Dance Awards will be held next week. Categories include Best Choreography (Classical), Best Choreography (Modern), Best Foreign Company, Best Female Dancer etc etc...
Nominees include Christopher Wheeldon, Eric Underwood, English National Ballet, Edward Watson and more.

Full list on their website. Results on 26 January.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sampled at Sadler's Wells

Sampled is back at Sadler's Wells next week, on 24 and 25 January.

This is London's version of New York City Center's Fall For Dance festival. Two nights of mixed dance styles, cheap tickets (£10, or £5 standing) - ideal for a taster. Most of the companies performing will be back at Sadler's Wells later in the season, so it's also a great marketing tool for them!

The line-up looks good to me (as per SW's website):

American Ballet Theatre - White Swan Pas de Deux performed by Veronica Part and David Hallberg.
Flying Steps - World-beating virtuoso hip hop styles from Germany.
Jasmin Vardimon (Sunday only) - Intensely physical dance-theatre in an extract from Vardimon's Yesterday.
Matthew Bourne's New Adventures -Enjoy the Swan and Prince Duet from Act Two of Swan Lake.
Rojas & Rodriguez - The stars of Nuevo Ballet Espanol bring some authentic flamenco flavour.
Russell Maliphant - Former Royal Ballet dancer Dana Fouras performs Maliphant's sublime Two.
Traces (Saturday only)- Experience circus as you've never seen it before.

You can buy tickets here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

William Forsythe: Improvisation Technologies

A bit of Forsythe has never hurt anyone, has it?

This video is from Forsythe's CD-Rom Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye. The CD-Rom contains 60 video chapters in which Forsythe explains his movement language.

I love how things appear to help see what Forsythe wanted. The videos were made in 1994 - imagine what we could do now that film technology has progressed so much.

Out of print at Amazon. You can view them all here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alistair Spalding in the NY Times

The New York Times profiles Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief exec of London theatre Sadler's Wells, a 1 500 seat-theatre that only programmes dance.

It talks about the theatre's successful programming and marketing strategy, that resulted in the organisation only relying on public funds for 13% of its budget.

The journalist goes even as far as saying that Sadler's "may well be the most important dance house in the world", which is quite exciting to hear as it's in the town I live in!

Article here.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Dance notation

I have been loving dance for a long time, but I am still quite new to some technical language, like dance notation. What does it mean? Looking into it, I found this interesting article on Slate about how choreography is recorded.

How is choreography recorded?
By Sean Rocha
Updated Friday, March 5, 2004, at 10:55 AM ET

(…) Before the advent of visual technologies like video and film, dance was almost impossible to record. Music has scores and plays have scripts, but dance has always defied attempts to create a written system of symbolic representation. Obviously, it is difficult to use two-dimensional figures to indicate movements through time and space (although two 20th-century notation systems, Labanotation and Benesh, have achieved modest success). But for the most part, the adoption of a written system has been constrained by the dance community's reliance on its oral tradition.

The history of Western classical dance begins with the founding of the first dancing academy by Louis XIV in 1661. From there, the fundamentals of ballet technique were built up over centuries and passed down through schools rather than by a literature of dance. Teachers trained students who, in turn, grew up to become dance teachers. Since ballet requires strict body control and clearly defined positions, these generations of teachers were able to develop a working vocabulary—for all those port de bras and pliés that still torment young students—that could be universally understood by practitioners. This language, codified by Jean-Georges Noverre in the 18th century, created a way to talk about the mechanics of dance, but the art of it was still recorded primarily in the memories of the performers and their audience.

It is the choreographer—part creator, part teacher—who represents the human link to the works and traditions of the past and it is he who shapes, through instruction, the dancers of the future. (…) Even today, despite the advent of video, a choreographer without disciples is in constant danger of having his work fade away after his death. Video can capture the external form and movement, and notation the positions, but the philosophy and technique of the great choreographers is impossible to get down. That is why so many of the giants of modern dance choreography—Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham—founded their own companies. It also explains why fierce battles can break out among students about how best to carry on the master's legacy—the schisms resemble those that beset religious groups. The students may be disputing aspects of technique or interpretation, but what they're really arguing about is the memory of a dance performance they saw long ago.

Full article here.

More info on dance notation from the US Dance Notation Bureau website. You can also find an introduction to Labanotation here.

11/11/09 - Update: an article on how choreography is preserved in the New York Times, taking Merce Cunningham as an example. Really interesting.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Positive thinking

I received some good news career-wise today, it makes me happy. I have been working hard and it's good to see you can get to where you want to be if you're talented enough and work hard at it.

Reminded me of those two recent blog posts over at Article 19 from dancer Jack Webb.

'I've decided that I'm very bored of wanting things and thinking about it, so I'm just going to have them if I so wish. I'm talking about things in dance, for my work, my career, of course. Because I think we can have all we want and need, we just have to look for it and find a way to achieve it.'

Bring it on.

More Pontus Lidberg

Pontus Lidberg and Derek Jacoby. Pic: Erin Baiano

Once I find something I like, I tend to go a bit obsessive about it, so I have been researching stuff about Pontus Lidberg, the guy who choreographed and directed that dance film I really liked, The Rain.

Pontus hails from Sweden, where he trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School. He has choreographed for the Norwegian National Ballet, Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Stockholm 59° North (a company made of soloists from Royal Swedish Ballet) plus worked on dance films, like The Rain.

Last year, Pontus Lidberg also created a new work for Morphoses (Christopher Wheeldon's company - Wheeldon, the one we talked about in Strictly Bolshoi - isn't the world of dance small) which you can see bits of here, plus a video of Lidberg at work with Morphoses dancers here (very interesting) Just realise the piece was performed in London when the company came down last September - damn.

I really enjoy his movements, but also the sense that he knows what sort of music works when creating beautiful, emotive dance pieces.
Pontus Lidberg's website.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ballets Russes -100th birthday

We're going to hear a lot about it - Diaghilev created his Ballets Russes 100 years ago.

The revered Financial Times dance critic Clement Crisp is the first to write about it a very interesting article.

"The shock of Parade, of The Rite of Spring, of Afternoon of a Faun, of Les Noces, even of Apollo, still reverberates in performance. In 1909, his very first balletic year, he had commissioned Ravel to compose Daphnis and Chloé. Stravinsky came to public attention by way of the Ballets Russes. Debussy, de Falla, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Satie, Richard Strauss, Florent Schmidt, Milhaud, Constant Lambert, Auric, were to write scores. Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Pruna, Gris, de Chirico, Tchelichev, Larionov, Derain, Goncharova, were among his designers. The mind reels: we have no comparisons today.

The Diaghilev exhibitions and performances this year are a necessary celebration of one of the greatest artistic forces in the 20th century. They are also a reproach to today’s ballet with its play-safe timidities (“Oh good! It’s Swan Lake”) and its tunnel-visioned directors. Can a new Diaghilev emerge and fight the good fight as that great man once did, to galvanise the art of ballet for this century?"

South Bank show awards

The South Bank show awards will be handed out later this month (28 January) and broadcast on the UK channel ITV. The South Bank show awards celebrate UK artists in a wide range of cultural activities.

Nominees for the Dance award are:
Akram Khan's Bahok (Liverpool Playhouse)
I am Falling (The Gate at Sadler’s Wells)
Wayne McGregor’s Infra (Royal Opera House)
Wayne McGregor and Random Dance's Entity (Sadler's Wells and national tour)

Will let you know who wins!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New dance at The Place, London

The Place (pretty much London's home for contemporary dance) is presenting 37 nights of new dance in its annual new year platform, Resolution! Every night, 3 companies will present a new work. That's a total of 111 companies/works.

It's full of people you might not have heard about (I certainly haven't) but, as The Place marketing department says, you might end up seeing tomorrow's big talents. Tickets are £12 or £15 'return' (ie you can come see another performance within six months for free)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

4Dance 2008

Silenced, by Isabel Rocamaro (pic: Nick Knowland)

4Dance was 76 minutes of short dance films shown recently on Channel 4 in the UK (if you have missed it, you can watch it online here)

I think it will always be kind of hard for a programme like this to get an audience, but putting it on at 3.30pm on the 27th of December, right in the middle of the Christmas break, is probably not ideal. Maybe it is actually... lots of people who have eaten too much and can't move from their sofas...

If you forget the annoying presenter (drop the attitude, man!), there was some pretty good dance films to watch. My highlghts:

I really enjoyed Pontus Lidberg's The Rain - gorgeously filmed and choreographed, very lyrical (a trailer for this film is posted below)

DIY -from Singapore, it was the film that came closest to be a music video. Lots of cool shots and well-paced editing, with a great link between the movement and the music. Directed by a director well-known in his home country, Royston Tan. You can view DIY here (not amazing quality)

Lick Your Pavement - A shirtless guy in white skinny jeans dances around a camera, slowly going around it, with skateboarders passing by him all the time. Quite trendy. Great mix. One of the directors (and the performer) is Adam Linder, winner of 2008's Place Prize (to the surprise of many) You can see more of his work with Will Davidson on their website (Funnily enough the piece is called Fuck Forever on there...)

Silenced - I normally like my dance set to music but really enjoyed this almost silent film of 2 women set in the dramatic desert landscape. By Isabel Rocamora.

Falling - this is part of the 10th Anniversary tour of Henri Oguike Dance Company.

Full list of dance films shown:

Director: Royston Tan

The Rain (2 extracts)
Director/Choreographer: Pontus Lidberg

Lick Your Pavement
Directors: Will Davidson / Adam Linder

No Man's Land
Director: Alexandre Oktan
Choreographer: Peter Chin

Director/Choreographer:Liz Agiss

Tiny Dancer
Director: Stefan Georgiou

Night Practice
Director: Susanna Wallin

In Stone
Director: Margaret Williams
Choreographer: Maria Munoz

Soma Songs
Director/Choreographer: Daniel Belton

Director/Choreographer: Sergio Cruz

Tea Time:
Director /Writer: Lisa May Thomas

Director/Choreographer: Isabel Rocamora

Director: Gina Czarnecki

Director/Choreographer: Robert Hylton

Round 16
Director: Pete Gomes
Choregrapher: Eddie Kay /Imogen Knight

10 Exhalations
Director: Roman Kornienko/ Maria Sharafutdinova

Director: Dan Farberoff
Choreographer: Henri Oguike

Friday, January 02, 2009

Strictly Bolshoi

Misericordes, credit Dimir Yusupov

The Balletboyz documentary on choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's work for the famous ballet company the Bolshoi in Moscow, called Strictly Bolshoi, was shown on Channel 4 this week.

It is available to watch online for a month. You can watch it here.

Even non-dance fans will find it interesting: it gives good insight into the creative process of a choreographer, and is also a bit dramatic (changes of opinions, unhappy dancers etc...) and quite humourous as well. The created piece, Misericordes, is shown at the end. This documentary won the 2008 International Emmy Award for Arts Programming (no less)

Not sure Christopher Wheeldon comes out very well in this but the piece is great so who cares. You can see bits of Misericordes here.