Saturday, November 13, 2010

Shen Wei

I love seeing dance in unusual places, seeing it change the way the body normally moves in a public space. So this video is a treat! Shen Wei Dance Arts - RE (part 3)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trisha Brown Dance Company

This year's Dance Umbrella festival is focusing on very important choreographer Trisha Brown. I had only seen one piece by her a few years back, and had not liked it much, but this year's shows were a revelation (I still feel so new and not very knowledgeable about contemporary dance!).

So pure, fluid, inventive, beautiful and sensual - I loved her movement and I can somehow now see what all the current contemporary dance artists and choreographers are trying to replicate or achieve.

There is a good article about Trisha Brown on the Guardian website - check it out.

I went to see early works too in the Tate Modern gallery - you can see my pics on Flickr.

Trisha Brown is "One of an almost zero number who can make 'dance' movement unconventional by seeming to exert no effort in letting it come alive" Jill Johnson, The Village Voice

But... interesting point from Alastair Macaulay (dance critic of the New York Times)
"I have two chief reservations about her. One: most of her work is consistently undisturbing, even in its visual and aural accompaniments, so that the sensuousness of the Brown world becomes too unvaryingly charming, with no evident toughness or rigor of mind or technique. The other: her work is limited in expression, always shying away from moments that might turn into drama".

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Great video - unfortunately it does not say what film it is from. At one point she looks like she is ice skating doesn't she? And those flips!! (if I can call them flips, she is not even using her arms)

The Royal Ballet have their own choreography by Christopher Wheeldon to the music of Michael Nyman's Musique a Grande Vitesse, which they will perform in Spring 11. It is less acrobatic but I do recommend it too.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lorrie Moore - Dance in America

This post is not strictly on dance, but on fiction and American writer Lorrie Moore. Don't run away though! She wrote a short story a few years ago titled 'Dance in America'. I read it as part of her Collected Stories and then a few days ago I found it on a New Yorker podcast (scroll down until you find it. It was put up in April 2008).

The story is about a dancer who, towards the end of a 2-week stay as artist in residence in a school in Pennsylvania, visits an old friend from college who is married and has a young son, Eugene, with cystic fibrosis. Like great fiction, it's about much more than this, and Lorrie Moore is a great, particular, funny writer. Do read or listen to it. The first few words will ring a bell with all artists and dancers.

'I tell them dance begins when a moment of hurt combines with a moment of boredom. I tell them it's the body's reaching, bringing air to itself. I tell them that it's the heart's triumph, the victory speech of the feet, the refinement of animal lunge and flight, the purest metaphor of tribe and self. It's life flipping death the bird.
I make this stuff up. But then I feel the stray voltage of my rented charisma, hear the jerry-rigged authority in my voice, and I, too believe. I'm convinced. The troupe dismantled, the choreography commissions dwindling, my body harder to make limber, to make go, I have come for two weeks - to Pennsylvania Dutch country, as a "Dancer in the Schools".'

You can buy Lorrie Moore's Collected Stories or listen to a reading of Dance in America on the New Yorker website.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gala Flamenca - Todo Cambia @ Sadler's Wells

Just a quick review of the Gala Flamenca, which closed the Sadler's Wells Flamenco Festival last week. I didn't go to any other shows this year as I was a bit underwhelmed with the line-up: Eva Yerbabuena, Rafaela Carrasco, Maria Pages - they're all great artists, yes, but they were all in the festival last year or the year before, and I want to see new faces. (Nuevo Ballet Espanol is not my cup of tea)

So for the new faces I went to the Gala, where three women (Rocio Molina, Belen Lopez and Pastora Galvan) and one man, Manuel Linan, shared the stage and toyed with their tradition.

Rocio Molina opened the show - I loved her in Mujeres, and she is becoming renowned for really looking into flamenco. Coming in wearing a small leather skirt and boots, she tells you straight away that she is here to play with tradition and your expectations of what flamenco can be. She doesn't hide behind big dresses, but at the same time the footwork and the postures are there: she is a great dancer, and there's a particular kick of the shoulder that I really enjoyed. She ends her performance dancing in a small rectangular wooden box, using the sides to increase the sound and possibilities of her footwork, building on the rule that a good flamenco dancer can dance in a really tiny space.

Belen Lopez followed with astounding footwork. She looked very masculine in a white suit (high waisted trousers and jacket), even her arms and hands were that of a man (she didn't use her fingers when turning her hands for example) When she reappeared at the end in a tightly fitted dress and with castanets, I didn't recognise her.

Manuel Linan was also very good. I wasn't sure about him at first, what with the walking stick and all that, but he won me over by the end of his performance.

Finally, Pastora Galvan closed the show. She is the sister of bailaor Israel Galvan, and she went closest to traditional flamenco. Her face was so expressive and intense, it really felt like she had a story to tell us. When she walked backwards in a circle, biting her fist, it made me think of a flamenco version of Giselle's crazy/death scene. She had a great connection with the musicians and singers - it seemed to me like they shouted the most for her. 'Baila Pastoraaaaa'

So it was a great night of flamenco dancing, and I wouldn't mind seeing any of those performers... in next year's festival maybe?

Here is a video of Belen Lopez - what a zapateado!

And here is Pastora Galvan, in a more contemporary style than what I saw. Very influenced by her brother!

El perro del mar video

This is choreography I suppose. Really nice video.

Here is the youtube link to read the description and find out how it was made etc

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ivana Muller @ Lilian Baylis Studio - review

'In theatre you never know what is going to happen next. Except that there will always be a bow at the end.'

For just over an hour, the six performers in Ivana Muller's Playing Ensemble Again and Again take a bow. The show starts with the end of recorded piece of classical music, and the roar of clapping from an appreciative audience. Moving in slow motion, the performers come out from behind a curtain at the back of the stage: their performance is over, and they are now taking what is theirs - the appreciation, gratitude and support of the audience. They all come out, stand on a straight line, and bow, before going through what we all expect happens in those occasions: they walk down the stage, bow again, hold hands, take a step forward one at a time, the lead performers are singled out, they raise their hands to the back of the auditorium to thank the technical staff etc...

All this happens in slow motion, with the performers speaking their thoughts, making the show funny, touching or insightful. The humour often came from the juxtaposition of the slow movement with their thoughts: as they are all smiling and clapping, they would say 'There was a lot of blood on stage tonight. There even was a real rape', or one bitter performer would look at the lead and say 'Tonight is the first time I am not the lead', suddenly charging his smile with falsehood we hadn't noticed before.

There was also humour in some of the stories themselves: 'Sometimes I dream that I go to the supermarket the morning after a performance, and I get a standing ovation there'.

And there were in-jokes about the theatre/performance world:

- We do not have a costumer designer.
- We were only assigned colours.
- That's why we look like we have just come out of H&M.
- But I like to think that someone in the audience has the same yellow top.

- After the show we have talked to programmers, directors, audience members.
- But mostly it's just the six of us in a corner with no one talking to us.

- To perform here, we have received money from the national fund, the regional fund, the European fund, the theatre fund, the dance fund.
- And tonight you are 178 in the audience and together you have paid £2200
(they all bow)

There were also touching moments (eg: 'Tonight we all had two tickets for the show. I didn't have anyone to invite') and everytime the performers leave the stage and return for another bow, they have aged (though not physically). One of them would say 'We are between 20 and 34 years old', then 'we are between 42 and 50 years old' and finally 'we are between 60 and 80 years old'. So their thoughts would change slightly.

As you can see, I am going on a bit, which is a sign that I really enjoyed this performance. Maybe some characters were not defined enough compared to others though (the former lead with a high self-esteem was great, but it was hard to see what the other characters were so clearly), but this is a very minor issue. I found it funny, moving and very engaging and easy to get into.

Playing Ensemble Again and Again, with its pace and text and with the way it presents something not seen normally (the actual thoughts of a performer/dancer) , reminded me of Jerome Bel's Veronique Doisneau. And it made me think that someone should mix the two: Ivana Muller should create a Playing Ensemble Again and Again with ballet dancers, in a big opera/ballet house. There is so much ceremony to bowing in ballet, what with the flowers, curtain calls etc etc. I think it would be touching, irreverent and funny to have it in slow motion, with the thoughts of the ballet dancers spoken out loud. Imagine having a whole ballet company doing it - all the hierarchy, the history of the place, the stories behind those great performers... I think that would be awesome!

'When the lights go out, you will not see us anymore'.