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.

Contemporary dance classes

This blog has been left dormant for too long.

Working for a big dance venue, I felt that I could not really write reviews about the shows presented there, and Twitter worked better to share videos or articles I enjoyed, so there wasn't much to mention on here.

But I am hoping to write more in 2012, mainly because I will be taking beginner's contemporary dance classes, which I am very excited about and think it will make for some good posts! I will also try to blog more about flamenco, which I have been dancing for five years.

Happy new year everyone!