Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Rosas - En atendant

I went to Sadler's Wells tonight to see Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's En atendant, a piece she originally created to be performed at sunset/dusk, with the light slowly fading.

The piece was full of beautiful moments, but I spent most of the time wondering 'Why do you have to make it so difficult for yourself, ATDK? Why?'. Obviously she is an artist with a vision, a craft, a style, but I really wish she put herself in the audience's shoes sometimes, and she just tried to meet us halfway.

Why oh why couldn't they afford costumes, or simple things that would make us feel like the piece had more production values and wasn't just plain dry choreography? It is more than that of course, but I must say my heart sank a little bit when the singer came out in her jeans and purple top, and when the first dancer walked in with her little black dress and blue adidas trainers.

I started by having to consciously ignore the bland lighting and the dancers' boring black clothes - the female dancers would actually tuck their dresses into their pants (!). For sure it helped me focus on the movement and the music, but it would have been so nice to just go 'oh what pretty stuff they are wearing' and move on from there.

I loved the music used in the piece (early, medieval, ars sutilor from the 14th century, performed live by a singer and two musicians), but unfortunately there were also long moments of choreography in silence. These often looked to me like choreographic games we the audience didn't know the rules of, so they were a bit baffling.

I liked the choreography though: lots of balances and shifts of weight between dancers (there was this repeated movement of the right foot nesting itself on the back of the bending left knee and the body jolting backwards), some beautiful group work with knots of necks, arms and torsos being tied and untied, walks across the stage to the rhythm of the viola, the voice or the flute and more.

So by the end, I am thinking 'this is beautiful but how flippin' alienating'.

And then, two beautiful moments: a young, blonde, male dancer lies on the floor, puts one arm behind his head and looks towards the audience. Then he stands to take off his shorts. He is naked underneath, and he takes the same pose, and just breathes there for a minute or two. It's immensely erotic (and probably still fairly alienating to be fair).

As the lights dim and start to turn off, another male dancer ends the piece with an astounding solo. He too is naked, and his white body can be seen, glimpsed and just made in the darkness that enfolds him, his breathing the sole soundtrack. It's simple, but that image proved to me that ATDK can do beautiful and accessible when she wants to! And there will be an audience for that, and they won't leave before the end.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pina Bausch season wrap-up

It's taken me a long time to write that post. The World Cities 2012 season of ten Pina Bausch works ended back in July, but hey, there's always time to talk about Pina Bausch right?

So it was, let's face it, an incredible privilege to see so many works by one choreographer in such a short period of time. I had only seen four works by Pina Bausch live before then, and my total has suddenly more than tripled in five weeks.

It was not all positive though. I can't deny that Pina fatigue kicked in a little bit in the middle. Formulas became apparent, some images seemed a little bit cliched, and it was hard to work out which piece the solo you remembered was from, as they were all so similar. Thankfully Palermo Palermo (penultimate piece in the series) kickstarted the love back.

But, here is what I have learnt:

- Try and sit on the front row, as audiences at the front of the auditorium often have to get involved in the show (a man got his glasses cleaned, another was offered a banana, a dancer counted the fingers on the hands of all the front row, bread tartines were served etc...)
- Long evening dresses are to Pina Bausch what unitards are for Merce Cunningham. Maybe not as practical, but for the purpose of her dances, they work.
- Pina Bausch dancers can, well, dance - something lost when you only see the more theatrical productions
- When things start to get repeated, and it feels like a coda of the beginning choreography, you know it's nearly the end of piece
- She can make you laugh and cry within two minutes
- British audiences laugh at odd moments, sometimes the most sad and tragic ones

Another thought: can someone please teach contemporary dance classes where we learn famous routines? I would love to learn some Pina Bausch steps, you know, the same way some hip hop classes teach you the moves to a particular video or some classic Michael Jackson steps. I would particularly like to learn the clapping routine from Der Fensterputzer and one of the girl's Bamboo Blues's solo.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Martha Graham dance quote / picture

I have loved and pondered this Martha Graham quote for a while. It inspired me to take a few pictures and represent it visually in some way, while relating dance back to the body.

Image: @studioincovent

Monday, August 06, 2012

Nigel Charnock RIP

I was abroad last week so have only just found out about the passing of Nigel Charnock, way too early in life. He was very influential on the UK and European dance scene and will be sorely missed.

We are invited to share words, thoughts and memories on his website.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Crazy dances from the archive - 2

'Oh everything is as crazy as I am!' sings Hong Kong actress Grace Chang in the opening scene of Mambo Girl, the film that made her a big star in 1957.

Not quite mambo crazy though, is she? The steps are there, but it seems something is missing and she's certainly no Rita Moreno. To be fair, she is definitely more at ease with the rhythm than the friends looking at her and clapping (a girl in particular seems to have none!)

The opening step and sharp turn is particularly well executed, and I also like the little jumps from 2mins 10sec. Also of note is the superposition of the square tiles and her diamond trousers. Sty-le! You gotta love this scene.

Grace Chang was a big film and music star, but left the screen in 1964. You can find out more about her on the super blog Soft Film, and there are heaps of videos on youtube.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pina Bausch - Wiesenland

A wall of grass and vegetation.
An old Korean song and dance, performed with a white handkerchief, just as intermission has been announced.
Do you love someone?
A woman walking on men lying at her feet, the men continuously appearing before her.
Two men smoking and blowing the smoke into a woman's thick dark hair. As she starts dancing, smoke floats out of her head.
A feast.
A village in France where they have a festival where people just jump.
Another village in France where they have a festival where people throw food at each other.
Running through fields and sitting on the floor, your dress/skirt spread around you.
A dance where women hold the front of their dresses, their head bowed and their hair back combed to fill the space created by their arms and the dress. Then they lift the dress up and look up, letting the dress fall back slowly.
Talking to the front row audience through mime (move arms as if rocking a baby (do you have a baby?), count with fingers (one? two?), hand near the floor, or raised high up (young or old?)), or by spelling on your body (a first name name written on a stomach - R E G I N A).
A make shift shower with a big basin, a coat rack and a watering can.
The joy of walking/dancing to a waltz rythm: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3... down, up, up, down, up, up

Monday, July 02, 2012

Pina Bausch - Palermo Palermo

Silence. Dim lights.
A brick wall falls.
A woman repeatedly asks two men to hold her hand (she shakes him/them away), to hug her ('harder! harder!' before she pushes him away). She asks them to throw tomatoes at her face (they do), and at her stomach (they do).
A man breaks one spaghetti at a time on his chest.
A woman, holding spaghettis under her arm: 'These spaghettis are mine! I am not giving them to anyone because they are mine! I am not lending them. They are mine!' She takes one spaghetti: 'Mine!'. Another 'Mine!' 'Panadero! Panadero! Panadero!' (that is her last name)
A man wears a crown of cigarettes, poses like the statue of liberty.
The same man carries a snake and an apple, like Eve, staring at the audience.
Line dancing with an apple balancing on the head.
A soundtrack of ringing church bells.
A soundtrack of cicadas.
Nightime. A man bathing under the moon.
An interlude of five pianos.
Performing dance two by two (man and woman), side by side, then facing one another. Each dancer performs his/her own little routine. There are stamping feet, jerky arms, swift movements, little claps. A dancer comes behind them to take over - the new dancer puts her/his hand on the other's shoulder or waist to tell them they can go.
A man empties a bag full of coins on the floor.
A march forward by all the dancers, in three lines: they carry bags or cartons of rubbish, and throw one item of rubbish to their right, all at the same time.
The 14 women dancing all together in unison, in close formation. Mainly arm movements: crossing, bending, slight angling in the torso. They perform several short sentences, each one four times, with one of them calling 'Last' when it's time to change.
A women puts on several underwear under her skirt. She sits down, shakes a bottle of soda water and opens the top slightly to let out some hair. She moves her bum as though she is letting out a fart.
A woman is carried by five men. She moves as if she is walking but they move her body for her, she does not touch the ground.
A Japanese dancer bows politely to an audience member on the front row, before giving them a camera and asking them to take a picture of her. She then gives the camera to a fellow dancer, and starts abusing him in Japanese, shouting at him 'Can't you take a fucking picture? Take a picture!'
A man lights a candle. He pours the melting wax on his forearm and places the candle on there. He does it with about ten candles.
A man cooks eggs on an iron.
A man places a table napkin nicely on top of some of the brick ruins, places a plate with food on top, his cutlery. He leaves. A dog comes in, sniffes around, eats the food, and leaves.
A row of women do handstands at the back of the stage. One of them can't do it and does lots of preparation and tries several time.
A gypsy song about love that goes against conventions and shame brought to the family, recited deadpan.
Exotic fruits.
Thirteen men and fourteen women. Five pianists. One saxophonist.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pina Bausch - Agua

Four men walking on stage from the auditorium, wearing big platform shoes.
A woman eats an orange, while a man holds a mike next to her face and makes noise 'sluuuurp!' 'It's so delicious'
A man talks to a woman: 'I love your round eyes, they're so pretty'. 'They're not pretty!', she replies 'they're horrible! So round!' He compliments her on her hands, feet, hair, mouth etc, but she is never happy with them ('I move my hands fast so no one can see how small they are! I wear long dresses to hide my feet.')
A man tickles a woman by putting his face close to her arm and having his eyelashes brush against her skin when he blinks.
Women doing cartwheels over the men's backs.
White leather sofas arranged in big semi-circle. Dancers lounging on them.
Holding baskets of fruits, tarts and other things on their hands, dancers serve coffee to the front row audience.
A woman walks arm in arm with a man. She puts lipstick on him (his forearm, his belly button) and kisses those parts so her face end up with lipstick marks.
A small female dancer gets lifted by a tall male one, who puts his hand either side of her neck, towards the back of her head, to lift her.
Another tall man lifts her too, slowly walking across the stage, while throwing little parachutes in the air.
A cocktail party in a tropical garden.
A dancer tries to perform her choreography, but she is always interrupted by another one who keeps coming on stage to talk about her childhood dance classes.
After having thrown an old boot up in the air with her right foot, a woman looks at the direction it has fallen to predict the weather. 'It goes that way, see? And that way means the weather in London tomorrow will be rainy!'
As a man crosses the stage, a woman suddenly runs and lies in front on him, her dress over her face, showing him her body.
A woman goes through what she wanted to do but couldn't because it was impossible 'I wanted to saw this table's leg, and see it fall.' 'I wanted lots of newspaper, more than that, and put fire to it, but it was not possible.'
Projections of green vegetation and the sea.
Playing with silly beach towels printed with ideal, sexy bathers (women with big breasts wearing thongs for example).
A dance solo that seems to be a collection of small daily gestures, ending with a cigarette thrown on the floor.
A dance solo with sudden slow arm movements: a hand coming down across the face, an arm rising in an arc above the head.
A water fight.

Some of the music used in Agua
PJ Harvey - The Wind
Tom Ze - Emere
Susana Baca - De los amores
The Tiger Lillies - Pretty Lisa
Bugge Wesseltoft - Fast Forward
Bebel Gilberto - Samba da bencao
Tom Waits - Walk away
Julien Jacob - Shanti
Caetano Veloso / David Byrne - Dreamworld/Marco de Canavezes
Carlinhos Brown - Omelete Man

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pina Bausch - Nefés

Ten women and ten men.
Water seeping through the black flooring, creating a small lake in the middle of the stage.
Reflection of the water and the dancers's shadows on the back wall.
Men lying on the floor wearing white towels, as if in a hammam. Women stand next to them, head down, long hair hanging over them. They brush their hair slightly in rhythm.
The men sit on black chair. The women come crawling on stage and stop next to them. They pet their hair.
'My grandmother had 10 children!' she says after ten dancers come out from under her dress.
In the darkness, two women walk into the water with torches, and pick things up in their dresses (seafood?)
A male dancer sits cross-legged on the floor. To impress a girl, he throws a pillow high up in the air and as the pillow comes down he moves his leg and jumps slightly so the pillow is now under him. The girl, also sat on the floor, is impressed so he does it several time until he finds his way around her. He turns on himself, taking her with him.
'I am too fat for you!'
The men make a long line, holding hands, across the stage. It seems infinite as the last man in the line walks up to the front, and it goes on off stage and re-appears. The women do the same, going down into the audience.
The empty space around women's arms when the men they were holding leave their place.
A female dancer is lifted by a man and held horizontally as he turns and turns and turns. Several men replace him. When she is finally back on her feet, she is dizzy.
A branch balancing on a head, with inflated plastic bags hanging at each side.
A picnic.
A row of men slowly moving across the stage, from one sitting position facing the audience, to the same one facing the back. At the back, a row of women also do a routine of gestures all together, which takes them across the stage. They all smile happily at one another, and even hum the Tom Waits song that is playing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pina Bausch - Bamboo Blues

Eight men and eight women
Long white hanging fabric moving in the wind
Recorded sound of kisses
Tow men hugging and running fast in a circle. Sometimes one stops running and lets himself be dragged by the other.
Two by two, the dancers walk down in a diagonal, demonstrating different ways to tie a sarong (white with a blue trim)
Barathanatyam dancing. Dancer Shantala Shivalingappa's hands and wrists.
A man walks down in a diagonal towards front right. A woman keeps trying to stop him: she flungs herself at him, wrapping herself around his feet. She then grabs his arms and rolls herself to him, he then walks backwards and she slides down to the floor.
'I dreamt I was flying! I was flying! I was flying and cleaning the floor at the same time! I was flying and cleaning! I was also ironing!'
The woman who is telling us about her dream is surrounded by two men who each flap about a big fan-like square. Her hair and dress move about the place.
A vision of a woman washing her hair by the river: dry ice smoke, pulverised mist, a stone, a bucket
Women lying on the stage, their mouth moving as if cows grazing, looking impassibly at the audience
Pieces of branches balanced ona man's head, shoulders, arms, hands, while he walks slowly

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pina Bausch - Der Fensterputzer (The Window Washer)

A mountain of red silk flowers
Good morning! Thank youuuuuuu! Allo the YMCA?
'His nostrils were moving like a horse who does not yet know his rider'
Big circle of the right arm and fall sliding on the floor to the right, one dancer, then another, and another
Front row audience members getting their tickets inspected
A footbridge hanging from the ceiling, a man with a suitcase walking on it
A French woman singing a Chinese song 'I heard it in Hong Kong! I love that song! So beautiful!'
A woman walking on a long table, from one end. At the other end, a man slowly lifts it until it becomes very steep and the woman falls, sliding down
A woman is standing in front of a man. She bends her knees to go into crouch position, while raising her arms and putting her hands behind the man's neck, as though she hangs off him. He moves her slowly down to a lying position.
A skier going down the flower mountain, and then sidestepping back up
A bare chested man wearing a diamond necklace, holding two pekingese dogs, walking slowly down the mountain, surveying the stage and the audience
A Korean and a Japanese dancer singing a childhood/school song for two, complete with hand gestures
The dancers showing childhood photos of themselves to the audience
Soundtrack of fireworks explosions. Flowers being thrown in the air.
Women laughing and using their hair to hide their faces
The dancers, one after the other, climbing up the flower mount, again and again
A man hangs upside down on a table that is held vertically. A bucket of water is by his head. An empty bucket is hanging off the table, by his feet. With a small glass he moves the water from one bucket to the other, in a striking display of his abdominal power. After 3 or 4 repetitions, a man empties the second bucket back into the first one. Repeat.

Some of the music used in Der Fensterputzer
The New World Renaissance Band - La Prima Vez
The New World Renaissance Band - Minden Allat Orul Az Tavasznak (I may have imagined this one...)
The New World Renaissance Band - Dum Estas Inchoatur
Cesaria Evora

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pina Bausch - Ten Chi

A big whale fin on the stage.
Cherry blossoms slowly falling for three quarter of the show (including the interval).
A Japanese female dancer being carried by two men: her arms are over their shoulders, and they are running at speed in a circle. Her legs are stretched so her feet barely touch the ground. Her dress and her hair fly in the air. When the movement is repeated later, blossoms cover the floor and fly as they pass.
Three men are brought on stage, their hair gelled to stand up on end. Two take on martial art poses, as if preparing to fight (legs wide apart in a plie, one arm up behind their head, the other stretched towards the opponent). They suddenly look like manga characters. Chairs are brought in and placed under them. They sit.
'I was in Japan and we did a lot of research! We did rice research... errr.... sake factory research... ikebana research, no, no ikebana research...'
The female Japanese dancer uses a white piece of cloth in different fashions on her head: if the kerchief is used that way, it's a farmer, that way, it's a businessman etc. 'Are you looking Helene? Are you looking?'
A blonde woman stands on a chair, holding a big block of ice. 'Shall I drop it?' 'Yes' replies the audience. She hands it to a guy standing next to her (not on a chair) 'Oh god it is so cold I can't tell you'. She takes it again. Meanwhile another woman has come in. She crushes a wine glass on the floor, takes off her high heels and stands on the broken glass. 'Why is she doing that?' asks the first woman with the block of ice in her hands. 'Why is she doing it now? I better come back later!'
A French woman enters from the back of the stage. She is channelling a Japanese tourist guide 'I am sorry, I am really sorry, but we have to go now. Very sorry, we should go.' She walks almost out then runs back to the front of the stage 'Oooooh sorry sorry I am really sorry, but I think, maybe, we should go now. We should think we should go now, maybe. I am really sorry.' She turns around then returns 'Ooooooh I am sorry I am so sorry. I think maybe we need to think about leaving all together. We should also think about thinking of leaving now.'
A beautiful solo by a dancer in a black dress - not sure how to describe it. There was sorrow in it (for me).
Dancers running in and out of the stage, performing little bits of choreography at high speed.
A Japanese girl taking surreptitious pictures of her with a tall guy. When he offers to actually stand with her in the picture, she simply bows politely, embarrassed.
The Japanese dancer teaching another one how to stand and sit properly, moving her arms, legs and head in the correct position.
'Can you snore?'
A woman counting the fingers of the audience members on the front row.
An actress speaking cliche Japanese words: 'Fuji-yama! Fuuujiyama! Fa-fe-fo-fi-fu-fai-fei-foi-fujiyama!'
Roaring laughter of dancer bringing a cherry blossom, a marrow and spring onions on stage.
Male dancers carrying female dancers on their backs.

Some of the music used in Ten Chi
Balanescu Quartett - Still with me
Robert Wyatt - La Ahada Yalam (No one knows)
Beth Giddon & Rustin Man - Funny time of year
Shizuko Kasagi - Sentimental Daina
Gustavo Santaolalla - Should I let her know (21 Grams soundtrack)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pina Bausch - ...como el musguito en la piedra ay si si si...

7 men, 9 women.
A woman on all fours to the front left of the stage, two men enter, lift and carry her. She screams. She stops when they put her back down.
She stands up, the men enter and lift her up, passing her from one to the next.
She then hugs one of the male dancer and they fall to the floor, her body towards the left, his towards the right. Their legs are pulled and they have to separate. They run towards each other again, and are separated again.
A man slowly pours water on a the head of woman who is sat on a chair. She puts make-up on at the same time.
A small female dancer doing a solo, in a pink dress, with hints of kathak and bharatanatyam dance: knees out, feet stamping, open hands with thumbs up, elbows leading the arms.
The same small dancer hiding under a black coat at the back of the stage, and suddenly coming out 'Hello! I am here' and running around, a bit like a kid, jumping from a chair, running off stage 'bye bye bye!'
A man on a chair welcomes all the female dancers, who enter one by one from stage left. 'Bienvenida! Que bella eres! Dame un beso!' He gives them a kiss as they walk past. As one leaves, another comes in. 'wow wow wow! La pequena!'
A woman walks across the stage with a wooden fish on a leash. 'I want to teach my fish to walk. Walk! Walk fish walk! No swimming! Walking!'
The white set slowly breaking and fragmenting, leaving black cracks, as if an earthquake had happened.
A woman lies on the floor, her long hair trailing. A man comes and lies so his head rests on her hair. She slides away.
Green, red, beige, white, pink flowy dresses.
A man lies on the floor and covers himself with a long black coat. He slowly moves the black coat up his body. A second man lies behind him, his feet next to the shoulders of the first man. As the coat gets to the first man's face, the second man takes hold of it and moves it along his body. A third man comes behind him. The first man then goes behind the third man and so on.
A male dancer runs from one side of the stage to another, an older dancer in tow, who tries to catch up with him, grabbing his jacket.
A line of seven female dancers, all lying on the floor, looking up at the audience, propped up on their forearms. Cue a series of arms gestures performed in unison: they slide up, and down, tap the floor, touch their faces. Six men do the same.
A woman holds her right wrist. She pushes it down and her right arm follow the movement in a big circle. As the wrist and hand come back to their original position, a man is there to catch and kiss it.
Many, many beautiful solo dances full of flowy movements, mainly through the arms, and often lead by the hand or the wrist, and if there is force or power in there guiding the whole body.
A man wearing a jacket but no trousers, in red high heels.

Some of the music used in ...como el musguito en la piedra ay si si si...
Violeta Parra - Volver a los 17 (obviously)
Victor Jara - Deja la vida volar

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pina Bausch - Nur Du

This piece had more 'tanz' than the previous piece in the season, Viktor, the atmosphere was less dark. The set was large, wide redwood tree trunks. Here are some images that have stayed with me.

Seven or so pure dance solos, all involving mainly arm movements but all a bit different. Wavy hands and arms, big circles, a repeated step kick to the front and a fall to the back, a little finger man travelling along a neck.
An arm chair made of three men, a woman resting on it.
A lifeless woman being made to stand on a chair, then slowly lowered down to the floor by a man holding her only by her hair. Another woman stumbling across the stage, repeatedly falling forward, only to be caught at the last moment by a man. A song whose lyrics sing 'I will hold you' in the background.
A giant blown-up whale.
A small paper house on fire, in the middle of several couples dancing tango.
A glamorous lady lying down on a bed made of six kneeling men, who move up and down in wave. 'Under my dress I am naked! I am sorry hahaha I am so sorry!'
A man in a big blue ball gown, with diamond necklace, saying Hollywood quotes: 'I always remember faces, but for you I'll make an exception.' 'In this town they shoot too many pictures. They don't shoot enough actors.' 'With so many ugly people around, no wonder they pay us so much money.' 'Everything good in this movie was made by me. Everything bad was made by others.'
A man with black wings moving up a tree.
A woman standing on the stomach of a man who is lying down, moving up and down with his breath.
A woman in a black coat and short dress runs to a tree: she takes down her pants. She runs to another tree: 'Haha there's another one' and takes down another pair of pants. Repeats it two more times.
A woman practices the rolling Spanish r 'Ferrrrrrnando. Rrrrrrrregina. See, I can do it, he cannot.'
A self-defence practice class taken to slow-motion, as a woman silently and slowly demonstrates tricks to fight back your assailant with a knowing look to the audience.
Twenty five men ironing their shirts.
Water in big plastic bags.
A plastic bag attached to a man's neck, turned up to go over his head: water is poured in it to cover it. He wears underwater glasses and looks at us, magnified, bubbles coming out of his mouth.
A dancer remembering her football cheerleading routines from high school 'oh my this one, this one, this one is great' she gushes: 'ACTION! A-C-T! I-O-N! A-C-T! I-O-N! Give us some action! yeah!' jumps jumps jumps, a little sadly 'oh that was great'.

Some of the music used in Nur Du
Simon Diaz - Tonada de Luna Llena
Simon Diaz - Luna de Margarita
R. Carlos Nakai - Stone Mirage
Harry Connick Jr - The Last Payday
The Platters - Only You
Alfredo Marceneiro - Mocidade Perdida
Elis Regina - Alo, Alo, Marciano
Dinah Washington - Blowtop Blues
The Clark Sisters - Sugartime
Rudolfo Biagi and Hugo Duval - Mariposita
Orland Silva - Neusa
Amalia Rodrigues - Libertacao

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Pina Bausch - Viktor

There is no way I can even try to write a review of a Pina Bausch work. I am seeing 10 this month. Erm.
So I'll just share some of the images that stuck in my mind. Add yours in the comments section! There were so many tonight.

women in long evening dresses holding gymnastic rings and swinging in the air
a woman fountain, spurting water from her mouth
a man washing his face and body from the woman fountain
a dead couple being married
female dancers serving bread and jam tartines to the audience
a row of close-knit java couples slowly moving across the stage, and down some stairs into the auditorium
three hilariously bad waitresses with back problems
a hooded, crooked man with a cane, directing the dancers
three dogs for auction
two sheep
a fairytale with no happy ending: 'all is death'
a woman running on the stage, saying 'good evening' to the audience, before checking the time on her invisible watch and realising she is late and running out for something, only to return
sweeping arms, small gestures and flowy hair
earth being thrown down an earthy wall, and falling across the stage. it sounds a bit like rain.
smoking and puffing
a story about one's grandmother told while skipping around the stage: 'I was born in a bunker'

Friday, June 01, 2012

Crazy dance from the archives - 1

Some kooky, crazy, not-sure-I-can-quite-believe it dance videos.

Dear Quincy 1968

Not sure where to start with this one. The music obviously brings up completely new associations nowadays, and I actually get the whole Austin Powers movements after seeing this video: the wacky poses, jerky arm movements, walking in funny fashion, it's all there.
The female dancer is Carmen de Lavallade, one of the major African American dancers of the 20th century, and she is perfect as the sultry and cold seductress. Only her opening walk looks effortful: for the rest, she is in charge.

The choreography is by Geoffrey Holder, who is de Lavallade's husband, but I haven't been able to find out what this was filmed for unfortunately.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eurovision: Loreen's clever staging

I watched the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday. It was pretty entertaining to have in the background while getting ready for the night CHERYL at the Shackelwell Arms.

The winning song, Euphoria by Loreen, is catchy, makes you want to dance, and is very much of today. What I noticed though was how its staging was very different from that of the other contestants.

The Eurovision show stage is always ginormous, even though rules state that there can only be six performers on it at any one time, and changover between acts can only take 45 seconds. That leaves very little options to create striking visual images, and often the stage looks really empty and staging is dull.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Chuck Arnett - 1970s costume designer

A ballet costume designer who also worked in gay leather bars and helped create an iconic gay visual identity? Now I'm interested!

I recently read the book Stonewall by Martin Duberman, an account of gay life and activism up to the 1969 Stonewall riots, which sparked awareness for the gay liberation movement that had been developing well before then. It got me researching 1960s and 70s gay visuals: at the first Gay Pride march, in 1970, (it was then called the Christopher Street Liberation March and celebrated the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots), a banner read 'BETTER BLATANT THAN LATENT', which made me laugh and want to find out what else witty protesters had written or chanted.

I came across subdued magazine covers which included the art of Chuck Arnett, an artist famous for his murals in and adverts for gay leather bars in the San Francisco area. His iconic black and white mural for the bar The Tool Box, featuring masculine, tough-looking men, was pictured in a 1964 Life magazine article about 'Homosexuality in America', a watershed moment in American gay history. Also check out this ad for a bar called The Balcony.

Delving further, I found out that Arnett was originally a ballet dancer, who performed for National Ballet of Canada, and originally arrived in San Francisco after being a lead dancer in a touring production of the musical Bye Bye Birdie. Later on, his career in design would see him create costumes for San Francisco Ballet. Here is more info about his dance background, via the GLBT Historical Society. (I love how the Hades costume design above has a direct link to Arnett's more daring art and his depiction of men's wilder fantasies.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Claire Danes is a mean CIA agent in Homeland but she is also a dancer

Like a large number of the US and UK's television-watching public, I am currently gripped by the TV show Homeland, starring the actress Claire Danes.

I've loved Claire Danes's sublime acting since first watching My So-Called Life back in the 90s (it was called Angela, 15 ans in France) and always thought we were not seeing enough of her around. My estimation rose further in the mid-2000s when I heard she did some dancing too, and some pretty contemporary stuff at that.

Danes started dancing at a young age, taking classes at Dance Theater Workshop in New York until the age of 14, and performed in a few dance pieces then, before moving to acting. Around 2004, she took up dancing again, taking classes with choreographer Tamar Rogoff, whose daughter had been a school friend. Danes ended up performing in two of her pieces: the solo Christina Olson: American Model in 2005, and the duet Edith and Jenny in 2007.

Claire Danes in Christina Olson: American Model. Credit Harvey Wang

Friday, April 27, 2012

William Forsythe's Artifact - The Ballet Bag

I am very proud to have written a post for the really cool dance blog The Ballet Bag about William Forsythe's Artifact, which was performed here in London recently by Royal Ballet of Flanders.

The Ballet Bag have this great list of fact sheets about a number of ballets, and they were very happy to get me on board when I approached them about writing a fact sheet about Artifact, a beautiful and dense contemporary ballet piece. Check it out here.

As you know I am trying to create fact sheets about contemporary dance classics on this blog. The first two have been on Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Fase and Merce Cunningham's BIPED. It takes a lot of research, hence the slow progress, but I'm hoping to add more over the next few months, including Alvin Ailey's Revelations and Jerome Bel's The Show Must Go On so check back soon!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dance in New York

I went on holidays to NYC last week. It was fantastic, as ever with New York. Here are some dance highlights in pictures, words and videos.

I took a short pilgrimage to the Westbeth Artists' Housing on 55 Bethune Street, the home of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for many years. I was going to the High Line, and it's only a short walk from there, I thought I had to see the place where the legendary choreographer worked from for many years. There is a photograph hanging in the lobby, signed by Cunningham. I tried to go up to the 11th floor, where the studios were, but unfortunately it was closed and the receptionist did his job pretty well!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Photo 1

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Einstein on the Beach world premiere in Montpellier (France)

I was extremely fortunate to get to go to Montpellier in the south of France this Friday to attend the world premiere of the 2012 production of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass's iconic opera, Einstein on the Beach (I am working for the London venue that is presenting it in May).

Friday, March 09, 2012

Keith Haring exhibition at Brooklyn Museum

Believe it or not, my blog post with the most traffic ever, and pretty much consistently being the most visited every month since I wrote it, is the one about the Pop Life exhibition at Tate Modern in 2009, which includes a picture of choreographer Bill T.Jones body painted by American visual artist Keith Haring.

No need to say I am super excited that an exhibition focusing on Haring's early works is about to open at Brooklyn Museum in New York. I will definitely be making my way there when I head to the Big Apple next month. Find out more.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dance quote

Check out my Dance quotes board on Pinterest and pass on any good ones!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A film I've made

I have a Flip camera and tend to film the most random things on it. I've created a short abstract film with those rushes. It's about the small details around us, London, snow, white noise. Hope you like it!

It's called 'That sign is completely white.' (If you watch until the end you will know why!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pinterest for theatre and dance

Today I decided it was time to explore what Pinterest was about, as it's been all over my twitter feed and marketing news. I had a good go at filling up some my boards, but still need to find more people to follow and decide on what exactly I want to put on there: check out my profile. I am a marketeer, so my first thought is 'what would work on this platform?'

Pinterest lets you organize and share stuff (images mostly) you find on the web. People use pinboards to organise their images around themes. You can follow people and specific pinboards. It's a pretty neat way of sharing what you like and discover new stuff.

As I was pinning away, I realised that this would very much be a cool new channel for venues. Any company that is already on instagram (eg the London's Royal Opera House) or flickr (eg London's Southbank Centre) could easily create boards based on their existing images.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flamenco Gala @ Sadler's Wells - review

I wasn't really planning to write a review for this, but I got a bit excited about this show commenting on Webcowgirl's review of it, so I thought I should write one after all.

The Flamenco Gala is always one my highlights of the annual Flamenco Festival: three great dancers sharing the stage, all for the price of one ticket? I'm in!

This year's gala probably didn't have as many wow moments as the previous ones, but I still really enjoyed it, with a line-up showcasing the different flamenco perspectives of Rafaela Carrasco, Olga Pericet and Carmen Cortes. Just a few notes on each of them...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Merce Cunningham's BIPED

Following our look at Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Fase, we're continuing our tour of contemporary dance classics with this cheat sheet about Merce Cunningham's BIPED.

As a clear example of Merce Cunningham's choreography, philosophy and originality, I think it deserves a place in the list.

John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, London 1964. Photo: Douglas H. Jeffrey
Merce Cunningham is one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, and one of the major names in the history of contemporary dance. He transformed dance not only with his choreography but also with his philosophy about the creation of choreography and about the relationship between dance, music and the other stage elements.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Manuela Carrasco @ Sadler's Wells review

Yesterday I joined a few of my flamenco class friends to go to see dancer Manuela Carrasco's show at Sadler's Wells, as part of ther annual Flamenco Festival.

A few things about her show, Suspiro Flamenco, left me perplexed (mainly the almost random lighting) and I would have liked to see a little bit more of both her and her fantastic male dancers. But overall, it was a good evening of very pure flamenco.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Flamenco class 31 Jan 2012

Tuesdays are always good days because I have my weekly flamenco class.

This week was particularly good, even though for a moment everyone in the class got majorly worried. Our brilliant teacher was ill so another teacher was to take over for the hour and a half we had. The worry was for three reasons:


Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Fase

Contemporary dance has problems with old works: choreographers always present new pieces, and quite often older, great works becomes the stuff of legend that us newbie to the artform can never enjoy live. So I thought it would be good to start a series of fact sheets about some contemporary dance classics, a bit like the brilliant cheat sheets the Ballet Bag does, or the Guardian's Step by Step guides to dance.

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Fase is one of my favourite pieces of contemporary dance. I have the DVD and saw it as part of a retrospective of her early works at Sadler's Wells in 2011. Since I am going to Paris in March to see it again (at the Centre Pompidou), I decided to start the series with it.

Piano Phase. Still from the DVD Fase, a film by Thierry de Mey

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Being surprised.

Yesterday I went to the premiere of Ivan Putrov's Men in Motion at Sadler's Wells. I had bought a ticket a while ago, enticed by 'the beauty of the male form in ballet' - if you know what I mean.

It turned out to be a good buy as one of the stars of the evening, Sergei Polunin, resigned from the Royal Ballet only a few days before these performances, giving them a 'you have to be there', special dimension. No matter when or why we had bought the ticket, seeing him perform had become the main reason we were there. It must have been a stressful week for him - how would he perform? Would he even be there? Of course he was there, and he was astounding.

I was very impressed by his performance in the solo ballet Narcisse, originally created by Kasyan Goleizovsky for the great dancer Vladimir Vasiliev (check out this video) - some big jumps and seemingly never-ending turns showed off his style, and the ending, with Narcisse dancing in front of a big spotlight projecting a large shadow at the back of the stage, felt quite relevant and symbolic. 'You want to see me? Here I am!' But also, in the original Narcissus way, 'I am so beautiful, so good, it will be the end of me.' Good, if lucky, bit of programming! (Check out some pics over on Ballet News)

The other good bit of programming was to include a tid bit of contemporary dance in the mixed bill. Last night, a lot of ballet fans discovered the beauty of Russell Maliphant's AfterLight (Part One). With stunning lighting by Michael Hulls and a gorgeous performance by Daniel Proietto, the solo was the big winner of the evening. I was sat next to a real ballet fan who had never seen the piece, and all he could say at the end was 'What artistry! What artistry!'. It surprised part of the audience, who probably had no expectation about this piece, and completely blew them away.

Most of my most memorable moments as a dance spectator have been at performances I knew nothing or very little about: I went to see Rosas danst Rosas based on the advice of a friend or I bought a ticket for William Forsythe's Impressing the Czar because of a cheap deal, for example.

So here's to being surprised!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Frite of Spring

I love Cheryl! Cheryl is a video art collective that also puts on fantastic parties (gotta pay the rent somewhat!), mainly in New York, but sometimes in London too.

'Through themes ranging from topical to bizarre, the CHERYLs revel in the joyous power of dance-induced psychosis/euphoria'. That's the kind of talk I respond to!

Their last party in London was only last week, and on the screen projecting their videos, I noticed this funny and low-prod take on the Rite of Spring: The Frite of Spring. Fav moment: the maypole dancing sacrifice at the end. Check it out!


On a more serious note, 2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of the original premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps. Expect to hear a lot more about it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Israel Galvan

I have been taking flamenco lessons for nearly five years. I absolutely love losing myself in the music every Tuesday night in class, learning complex rhythmic patterns, trying to free myself and get some flamenco attitude and fire within my performance style, and searching (in vain so far) for the duende.

One of my favourite flamenco dancers is Israel Galvan. Galvan 'is a dancer ahead of his time, as no one has ever danced this way' says El Pais: 'nothing he does is orthodox, but you can't question his flamencura (flamenco attitude)', and it's a fair description.

His poses, the angle of his arms, his footwork are different from your traditional flamenco, but at the same time they are not imports from other forms of dance: they are still flamenco.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tendu TV's 10 things the dance field should be talking about in 2012... thoughts

Every year Tendu TV writes its subjective list of what the dance world should be talking about. It's always entertaining, interesting and thought-provoking. The 2012 doesn't break the rule: read it here. Here are my thoughts on a couple of the points raised by this year's list.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trisha Brown's Man Walking Down the Side of a Building

I still remember going to see this, back in 2006 at Tate Modern. We went up to the balcony on level 2 and saw the man slowly come to our level, facing the ground. It was terrific!

Of course it isn't dance per se, but it is choreography - designed movement. Here is a video of that day from the Tate Channel.


Friday, January 13, 2012

First contemporary dance class

I had my first contemporary dance class this week, and really enjoyed it - as I expected!

There are about twenty people taking class with me, from a wide range of backgrounds, from budding actors wanting to work on their movements, to a 67-year-old who decided to start dancing six years ago and ballroom dancers looking for something else.

Our very friendly teacher started by explaining what release technique is: it is basically the most relaxing of contemporary dance techniques: 'it doesn't mean we won't be making any efforts, but it means we will move in an efficient way that is good for our bodies', she added.

I definitely felt a connection with meditation and relaxation - the idea of being in the body and thinking about your breathing. From the start, we worked on feeling the space and the others around us, walking around in different directions, making eye contact but not crashing into one another. We repeated that exercise, this time all breathing together: pausing to inhale, and moving about when exhaling. It felt great to simply remember to breathe!

Apart from a short bit of choreography (already!), here are a couple of things I have learnt: to use the inside of my thights to keep my balance, and to walk tall, with my shoulders relaxed, feeling some wind behind my neck, carrying me (love that image! how can you not feel good thinking this?).

The only little negative would be that all the floorwork we did, involving lots of turning around, was pretty painful on the knees, the class having wood flooring. The class ended with some travelling exercise, jumping side by side with a partner, trying to keep the same speed - cue bursts of laughters from everyone!

Can't wait for next week.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Jerome Bel at the Tate Modern

Some exciting news on page 35 of the Tate Guide for February & March 2012:

'BMW Tate Live launches Performance Room, a series of live commissions, created specifically to be broadcast online. Acclaimed French choreographer Jerome Bel presents the first performance, continuing his exploration of the relationship between choreography and popular culture, alongside that of the dancer and audience.'

It is part of the BMW Tate Live series, whose launch back in October totally passed me by. There is more info on the Tate blog.

This performance goes live on Friday 23 March at 7pm apparently [update: this event is now on Thursday 22 March at 8pm]. I have always found Jerome Bel's work fun and engaging - check out videos his works Veronique Doisneau, Cedric Andrieux and The Show Must Go On. Can't wait to see what he is going to come up with!

Anselm Kiefer at White Cube Bermondsey

If you haven't been already, I highly recommend you take the walk down to White Cube's recently opened gallery in Bermondsey to see the exhibition Il Mistero delle Catedralli by German artist Anselm Kiefer.

Kiefer works on a large-scale: the painting above, Dat rosa miel apibus, is over 17 metres wide, taking the entire wall of one of the galleries. Cast of sunflowers feature in many works, along with wings and big books made of metal. The paintings and sculpture look as though they have weathered by the elements (rusty, elemental colours tend to dominate).

I was very taken by the scale of the work, and couldn't help but picturing some Wayne McGregor choreography being performed in front of it. Go and let me know what you think.

Anselm Kiefer's exhibition runs until 26 February.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Happy birthday David Bowie

David Bowie celebrates his 65th birthday today. A good reason to share the video of his song Fame (90)!

Originally released in 1975, Fame was re-released in 1990. Gus Van Sant (Elephant, Milk, Good Will Hunting) directed the video, which featured choreography by Edouard Lock of the now established company La La La Human Steps. The dancer in the video is Lock's muse and one of the big names in contemporary dance, Louise Lecavalier.

I love the series of small gestures to the face from 1min 40 followed by some partner work!

Stretching exercises

I completely suck at stretching. I am not flexible at all and, if I stand up and try to touch the floor with my hands, keeping my knees straight, I can only just about do it. Years of barre extensions during ballet class on Saturday morning never helped, unfortunately I was not that committed then.

 This fact was actually one of the reasons I had decided to learn flamenco dancing a few years back: no need to be able to do the splits for it!

But I am starting contemporary dance classes next week, so I feel like I'm going to have to improve at it andI've started stretching exercises. I should probably do yoga or pilates as well, but I don't have time to take more classes, so let's hope stretching will help for now!

 What's great is that there are lots of web pages and youtube videos on how to do them (even some specifically for dancers) - just pick one and go! My routine is simple: arm and chest, butterfly, straddle and harmstring stretches. I'll let you know how bendy I get!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Contemporary dance techniques

So I am about to start beginners lessons in contemporary dance next week - I am very excited and will try and blog about the experience as often as I can. To start with, I thought I'd take a look at the different techniques used in contemporary dance: after all, I only picked my class because a friend said 'You should do release!' - whatever that meant...

So not all contemporary dance is exactly the same. Dancers train in different techniques, which influence how they move and the choreography they create. There are four main techniques: Cunnigham, Graham, Limon and Release - what is what?


Monday, January 02, 2012

Goodbye to Merce Cunningham Dance Company - twitter round-up

Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Park Avenue Armory. From @ParkAveArmory 's feed.

As per the wishes of its late founder, the mighty Merce Cunningham, his dance company closed shop two years after his death. Its final performance was in New York City, at Park Avenue Armory.

No need to say it was a piece of dance history and I would have loved to have been there.  I bagged a last minute ticket to the final London performance, and the audience's reaction was thunderous. I can't imagine what it must have been like in the company's home town - the LA Times reports a 10-minute ovation.

While in London we were treated to three different programmes, these performances 'included portions of 24 Cunningham dances representing five decades. From various vantage points — including six elevated platforms that offered a panoramic perspective on all three stages — one could marvel at dances ranging from the wildly feral to the privately meditative' says Susan Reiter in the same LA Times review. Which sounds pretty fantastic. https://twitter.com/#!/lawsonwhite/status/153262862381494273/photo/1 shows the view from one of the balconies onto one of the stages, with people standing around.

As Devin Alberda from New York City Ballet tweeted: 'loved MCDC at Armory. Multi-stage? Experiential? Ambulatory viewing? Yes please. I'm getting it...'

So I wasn't there, but luckily there is always Twitter to see people's reactions! Here is a round-up of tweets, including some pics of the final bows.

 Bill Bragin 

Final final curtain call for  cunningham dance co. So moved to be here. Thanks. 

 Cameron Silver 

The end of an era with the final performance of the MerceCunningham Company NYE NYC 2021 

 Micha Merrick 

Electrified performance at the Merce Cunningham finale 

 Lian Chang 

Merce Cunningham dance company taking their final bow -- bittersweet ... 

 Marley Jay 

Thank you for an unforgettable performance and goodnight, MerceCunningham company. 

 Steve Smith 

An era ends as the Merce Cunningham Dance Company takes its final bow at . Just gorgeous.

Final word to the Bolshoi and American Ballet Theatre's dancer David Hallberg.

 David Hallberg 
Perched above 3 stages, watching 50 min of roughly 18 ballets from 1950 to 2009, I watched Merce Cunningham's co. say goodbye. Unreal.

Yes it must have felt a bit unreal to see this, 'an extraordinary artistic act of self-immolation' (New York Review of Books) but the legacy will leave on, let's hope!

Other reads & listens:
WNYC radio has some audio coverage of Cunningham's career on its website: Saying Goodbye to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.