Gigs, dance, art

Pina Bausch is dead

Out of sequence for a change. In a sense, it’s part of the expected loss. But it remains a loss. Not because of the memories and how she’d been a fixture for more than fifteen years. It’s a personal loss because of what would have been and won’t be. Because she died just when I had found a new interest after a few so-so years. At some point I almost stopped going, because it seemed too much of the same, and because there was such a high demand for tickets that I felt I should let someone else go. But the last few shows shaked me out of that line of thought, and that predictability was gone. Maybe familiarity had lulled me into not paying attention enough, anyway Sweet Mambo had emphatically put a stop to that. Too bad it turned out to be her last, on the other hand she left on top as far as I’m concerned.

In small understated ways, she kept giving me reasons to come back for more even when I wasn’t all that much into that particular show, and there have been many times when she brought me more than that, especially most recently. Maybe getting older helped me get a glimpse of the stuff left unshown. My fondest memory over these years remains something she left out, but that was nonetheless very much there for me. It’s definitely not a misunderstanding because I don’t pretend to understand. What was most precious to me then and is now even more so — for reasons totally unrelated to her passing — may very well be something she loathed. No way to know by now, and it never was about that because the point is she brought forth something I care about, and I took that as a way to take what she had done and claim it. Not as in claiming credit, but as acknowledging that some small part of it became a part of me, of who I would be from then on. Not every time, but often enough, and it did add up.

Her death sucks. Not because of the rich yesterdays, but because of the poorer tomorrows.

June 30, 2009 Posted by | Dance | Leave a comment

June 26th, 2009: Publicist / Bloody Claws / Hama Yôko

@instants chavirés

Yet another sparse audience, understandable with the many other gigs going on. Even I briefly considered going somewhere else, but that didn’t last because I’d been waiting for so long to hear Carla Bozulich: the first Evangelista is such an amazing record.

Hama Yôko was Yoko Higashi and Lionel Marchetti. I had never heard of the former, and in my experience the latter can be great or not, with not much in between. It was one of the keepers, I really liked almost every thing he did. At least on its own. As for Yoko Higashi, I don’t like her voice much — just too conventionally good for me — but when it was doubled through effects, her performance was much more to my liking. Not surprisingly, the more chaotic bursts of noise in between the songs were what I liked best, especially those involving radios. My favorite parts were those that reminded me of interferences, both as a sound and in the way it would undermine what had just been going on. But on the whole it was quite uneven, and sometimes Marchetti’s burners were made a little empty by their lack of relation to the rest. So for me it was a mixed bag, ranging from boring to great with many stops in between. The best moments easily made up for the boring ones, so I’m happy to have heard them.

Another duo, Bloody Claws featured Carla Bozulich on voice and guitar, and Francesco Guerri on cello. I happen to like cello, and its use in this combination was indeed nice. The beginning of the set was a little frustrating though, I felt it took a while to get going — but that’s probably because I knew too much about Bozulich and felt she was holding back. But it got better soon and while she never reached her full potential, I think it was better this way, in the sense that pushing her voice to the max would have upset the balance between the two of them. So it was the right call in my opinion. At the end she put her guitar away and even went down and sat among the audience while singing, and that one was where her voice was strongest — and she has such an amazing voice it was a very nice moment indeed. But my favorite part was a quieter song a little earlier, one that felt downright folkish, reminding me of those dark folk songs that gave rise to the murder ballads more recently. That connection with old stuff is something I have always associated with her for more or less obscure reasons, and a very real part of why I like her so much.

By the time Publicist aka Sebastian Thomson got going, there were precious few people left, which felt totally wrong, especially as his avoiding the stage should have made for a more involved audience. It called for a circle of dancing people, and all he got were bystanders and me honing my usual wallflower routine. At first I was put off by the eightiesish sound, but then the reversal hit me: he was drumming live with canned synth, and figuring that out made even the vocoder a non-issue — and that’s definitely a feat as far as I’m concerned. It did feel like a miscast though, a good set wasted on the wrong people in the wrong place. I’d like to hear him again in a more suitable setting, with a lot of more responsive people that would allow me to enjoy the show safely tucked in a distant corner.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

June 24th, 2009: Johanne Saunier – Erase-e(x)


Of course I remember Johanne Saunier from her days in Rosas, and her emotional farewell tour with them as she was about to leave. Then nothing for a long time, until a few years ago when I saw an earlier version of this show, with only four parts at the time. I liked it enough that I would have gladly signed up to see it again even without the two additional parts.

I like the concept behind this show, even though it’s the execution that really matters. Starting from a sequence Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker gave her, she successively invited others to erase and rewrite it. Which gives rise to a lot of interesting question about who “owns” the whole, but I’m not going there. To me, it’s clear its all Johanne Saunier’s, because she’s the driving force, dancing alone for half the show, and I’m sure she had more input than her choreographying the last part gives her credit for.

Despite this division in parts, it did make a whole, thanks in part to movements going through the show. I’m not sure one phrase or gesture was actually present in some form throughout, more each part quoting a bit from an earlier one, often transformed along the way. Another important part in this continuity was that she would change on the side of the stage instead of retreating backstage. I was told there were many less obvious references to the movie Contempt throughout — less obvious than the soundtrack, sound excerts and quotes — but as I have not seen that movie nor plan to, I can’t say.

Now for the show itself as it unfolded, it started with that original phrase, both instantly identifiable as De Keersmaeker and hard to pinpoint exactly. It seemed like oldish stuff, but also quite rough, like an draft of something more elaborate, a bit like when she introduces a new direction in her work, that she later develop to fruition. After this prologue, the actual first part was credited to the Wooster Group, and looped through an audio excert from that movie, together with its soundtrack. The original gestures were there at times, but no longer flowing, transformed away from pure dance and closer to acting. I liked the way her amplified breathing got heavier and added another disturbance to the process. Nonetheless, it’s the part I like the less.

The second part was credited to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, and with that fast Indian soundtrack switched to pure dance. My favorite part as far as dance itself is concerned, but not by that much. Really good, but maybe it would have felt a little out of place if she had not added a segue into a very different section, far less abstract, to Dolly Parton’s Jolene to boot. The third part, credited to Isabella Soupart, had her joined by Charles François playing a security/bodyguard type, commenting on Saunier’s moves as in a conversation throughout. He was often close to the ground, almost gliding at times, striking poses at others. He kinda steals the show during that part. Almost because Saunier’s part made a powerful contrast, sometimes flowing and changing, sometimes almost still but not quite, with a playful side at the end when she would come closer to him.

After a break, there came the part that had been my favorite in the earlier version, because it involves a nice video setup by Kurt D’Haeseleer — with an choreography assist from Anna Massoni — and the Mulholland Drive OST. I know it’s just a detail, and that there is a better explanation for it, but her donning a blond wig over her dark hair in a part that uses this music sure rings a bell. That setup had a camera mounted on a slowly turning metal arm extended from a kind of satellite dish on a pole, complete with whirring sounds and crackling bursts of light. As she was lying on the ground, her black and white image would appear on a screen higher up, until it fade to a very bright outside sequence showing her and François outside near a road and bridge. Later, as she rose and moved around, came a series of motions with her hand touching the ground that I thought were really great. The slowest part so far, it had left me stunned and wanting more the first time, and this time it worked just as well.

Then there was a kind of break in the continuity, with Anna Massoni and Julie Verbinnen joining her for a part featuring a very cool word based music by Georges Aperghis, with the dance partly credited to Shila. Even with the movements very different, the role of breathing in that part reminded me of the first one, and of course the words about a woman were another thread. I’m not that fond of this one visually, but it’s probably my favorite thing I ever heard from Aperghis.

The final part was at last credited to Johanne Saunier herself, and that’s the one that came close to being my favorite on a pure dance basis. It’s probably just me, but the music reminded me of the Indian one earlier, as if it had been heavily filtered and processed, an effect made stronger by the added tones at the end, exactly like in that earlier part. The dance was very slow and flowing in circles, with the three dancers often moving in sync, but almost as often one would start turning around earlier but the others would catch up by going slightly faster. I loved that, and it didn’t remind me of De Keersmaeker but of Padmini Chettur, and that’s some serious praise coming from me. Then one went into an almost frantic solo before exiting the stage, leaving the other two in slow motion. Finally the other sped up too then left, leaving Saunier alone on stage again, going further back at time went on. That dancer came back on stage, wearing the same costume Saunier had during the prologue, and performed part of that original sequence with Saunier in the back. That closed the loop and marked the end of the show. At least for now. I sure wouldn’t mind another part or two.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

June 19th, 2009: T.I.T.S. / Le club des chats / Chantal


Sometimes I get a little tired of seeing the same people over and over again, but as this season winds down before the great summer drought, I was really pleased to see people playing that I don’t know personally but keep running into. And it had actually been a while since I last heard them play.

Chantal was a case in point. I can remember growing tired of Oso El Roto‘s antics, but now I don’t exactly remember why. Sure it’s goofy and over the top, but fun and good natured as well. And it’s not just stupid either. Having two others playing — three for the final song — probably helped, but the diversity of spoofed styles was a treat. Now I look forward to checking out one of his many projects in the fall.

Le club des chats is a different story. They are often around and play quite often nearby, so I was a bit shocked to realize I had not heard them in almost two years. There was always something else going on, and I kept thinking I’d easily get another opportunity. That’s bad judgment on my part, because they’re pretty good, not the least because they have a unique sound, with both often on drums, yet keeping their sound through instrument changes. Fast paced and light short songs with are actually far more diverse than I remembered. I was probably in a good mood, but there’s more than that to this reevaluation. I don’t plan to wait two years before hearing them again.

T.I.T.S. were headlining, but their coming in late cut both their setting up and their set a little short. Not that it spoiled anything by any means. I really like what I heard from Kim West in Death Sentence: Panda!, and I’m partial to female bands, so I was fully expecting to like this. It was better than that, they played loud with definite power, yet whenever all four over were singing at the same time, those parts were beautifully harmonized, but without making the whole any less powerful. I especially loved Void, but the whole of the set was great. Probably more mainstream than DS:P!, but I’m definitely not complaining. Their latest record is definitely worth checking out, but T.I.T.S. is such a great live band it would be a shame not experiencing the thing first hand.

Cool music from cool people throughout, I had a great evening. And I even finally catch up with my posting backlog after running very late for more than a month.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

June 17th, 2009: Sudden Infant / Billy Bao

@instants chavirés

I had low expectations about Billy Bao, because I had seen them once a couple of years ago and remembered only some obnoxious and boring provocativeness. Not so this time, even though I got worried at first when they delivered short bursts of guitar and drum shots with long pauses in between. The guitar sound was great, but it was getting tired and I half expected them to keep doing that all set long. Wrong again, as they went playing relatively softly while Mattin’s contract was being read from the stage — they played in the middle of the room. But the best was yet to come in their finally letting go with an all out assault with a great guitar sounds. Physical and engulfing, that part made the whole set very good, giving sense to the earlier parts and finally justifying all the praise I’d heard about them.

I was more excited about Sudden Infant, who has been in relatively heavy rotation on the station lately, and Zipper Ripper especially had given me high expectations. The set turned out to be very different from what I had heard, much wilder and in my opinion just better, easily leaving my expectations in the dust. He was joined by Ute Waldhausen, whose initial appearance in a parrot’s head mask seemed over the top at first. But that prop turned out fine when she held it at arm’s length and made great use of the mics inside by moving it quickly around. She also used a contact mic inside a shoe and plenty of other tricks with those mics. Joke Lanz was more conventional in his own use of those contact mikes, rubbing one over his chest or holding one on his throat. But all that’s more about the visual aspect of the show, a little over the top but still OK. The real treat was the music, as those sounds were put into loops or just meshed together to create a really interesting and driven music, together with a bunch of samples — car horns at one point, plenty of others too. The loud and intense parts were great, but there were also great quiet moments, no less intense. A great performance I enjoyed immensely, with possibly the best use of contact mics I ever experienced.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

June 12th, 2009: Oneone / Le Ton Mité / Cancan

@instants chavirés

I was very surprised that so few people showed up. Having side projects of two core members of Deerhoof in an intimate setting where they’re comfortable was such a great opportunity. It was even a bit too intimate as a consequence. But really interesting.

Cancan featured Greg Saunier, Ueno Takashi and Tetsuya Umeda. I wish the latter had done a solo set, because I couldn’t make out what he was doing at all, expect for the few times when the other two were silent, and all I heard then was some faint buzzing for the short time it lasted. His setup looked way cool though, with a fan and other objects. Really cool set, with Saunier being his relentless self and just proving how big a part of Deerhoof’s sound he his. But the guitar is what really made my day. He mixed so many things during that set, sounding at times almost like classical Japanese music and a few seconds later like regular Western indie rock. And many other things in between, shifting effortlessly from one style to another. He’s part of Tenniscoats, a band I know exactly nothing about but now I’d love to check them out.

Le Ton Mité was his usual self, an endearing character with his fragile poetry but also someone whose belief and inspiration run strong enough to make people react, one way or another — one guy just left for good shaking his head. I guess I had seen him too often back when he lived around here, because I didn’t like his act. But it had been a while, and I realized I had missed him. I’m still not overly fond of his music, but there’s something precious about someone who brings something so personal and unique to a scene that can get complacent. Definitely a must-see act, but to be experienced with an open mind.

Oneone came last, and added Satomi Matsuzaki and Saya Takashi to Cancan’s lineup. Of course it reminded even more of Deerhoof, but lighter and in a way more interesting. I love Deerhoof, but I’ve been growing a little too used to them maybe, and that set was very interesting in that it was far less polished than the last few times with that band. And the guitar player was just great again. Saya Takashi being the other half of Tenniscoats, I really have to check out that band. That set had a lot of stuff I love, poppy with an experimental side, in the sense that it was both accessible and interesting.

June 21, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

June 11th, 2009: Wim Vandekeybus – nieuwZwart

@théatre de la ville

It had been a long time since the last time I saw Wim Vandekeybus, even longer really because that one was the anniversary show putting together bits and pieces of older works. New faces throughout, and these new dancers were probably instrumental in the fresh and energetic feel of this show. Or maybe that break was just what I needed to look at it with fresh eyes instead of seeing what I expected. No video again, and far less storytelling than before. I felt it was more focused on dance itself, even though there was a very strong visual element in the props and lighting.

There was an actor on stage, telling a text by Peter Verhelst that I liked a lot in that it was poetic enough to loosen its relation to the dance, not coloring my perception of it at all. The music was performed from a platform hanging in the back for most of the show, and that part too was done right, feeling connected but never obstrusive.

In the beginning, there was a lot of writhing by the naked dancers with the musicians stopping next to one and basically using them as instruments — as percussions or by their lifting them to change the way the mics picked up their moans. That was not indicative of the rest, as most of the show was fast and intense, apart from a longish spell towards the end when they stood in a line and bumped into each other. Speaking of lines, a section I liked a lot had all of them on the ground in a line, except for one who would use all the width of the stage and at times vault over them.

But for me it wasn’t really about any one time, the thing I liked best was the way the show as a whole stood together as consistent, going through many phases with a sense of purpose. Some of his earlier shows were more obviously narrative, but here that very sense was transferred to the dance itself, movements put together to make a whole show without an explicit story apart from the evolution of the dance itself.

Each dancer had his or her own character, which again came across through dance alone for the most part — apart maybe from the one that played the more hostile element, bumping into another repeatedly, but even that was still dance, if less abstract. I think this cast shows a lot of promise for the next few years with Vandekeybus, as he was able to build a real group while preserving their identities, and all of this without relying on props or words. A very good show, with a lot of things echoing his earlier works, yet different, and possibly showing more confidence in his ability to rely on dance alone as a language. And a totally exciting one from feeling like it’s only the beginning. I hope they will be back soon around here, even though I already know that if they do so next year, it will be in a different place. I don’t mind that, as long as I hear about it before it happens. I’ll be there if I do.

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment