Gigs, dance, art

January 28th, 2010: Lemi Ponifasio – Tempest: Without a Body

@théatre de la ville

I am fully aware that I probably missed a lot because of my total lack of familiarity with the Samoan and Māori cultures, but I loved this show as a contemporary dance one. I hope Lemi Ponifasio will be back in the coming years.

I was a little puzzled by the subtitle, as it was pure dance, and almost everything went through the body. If anything, there was a sequence with a dancer crouching in the back with his back turned to the audience, and the way he had his back rippling made him look headless, as were the two dancers that walked onstage at the end of this sequence, as their heads were hidden by the big silver block hanging from the rafters.

Another important element beyond dance itself was Helen Todd’s lighting, which was just terrific. It changed the shape of the stage and often transformed the dancers, another instance of that was a prone dancer on a raised platform in the back that looked made of bronze at times.

Most of the movements were deliberate, though not always slow. There were several sequences with a group of dancers in dark robes sliding with short steps and a raise finger, who would stop and switch to clapping/slapping motions whose energy looked just as deliberate as the slower motions in other sequences. That restraint built a tension that was there from the delightful roar of noise that opened the show.

The only time words were involved was when Tame Iti delivered his speech, dressed in suit and tie, but moving around with authority and arm movements that looked like some of the videos I’ve seen since — I did try to catch up a little about those cultures, but gave up for lack of a reliable entry point.

My favorite figure of this excellent show was the beleaguered screaming angel that appeared several times, often just passing by, once dragging a fallen dancer offstage, and once rubbing her hair to let forth a cloud of smoke.

That was an awesome show, so strong visually. And really physical, despite its title. Lemi Ponifasio is someone I’ll definitely be on the lookout for in the future.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | 1 Comment

January 26th, 2010: Josef Nadj – Sho-bo-gen-zo

@theatre de la bastille

I was surprised to be able to get a ticket for this show after learning about it so late. I like Josef Nadj, and having both Akosh S. and Joëlle Léandre on stage made it even more interesting. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s puzzling.

The dance was performed by Nadj himself and Cécile Loyer, with each musician on one side. I was a sequence of scenes but the music never stopped. The first scene made the Japanese theme obvious, with a white mask and costume for Loyer and a black mask with samurai helmet for Nadj — but he was wearing his trademark black suit, and Loyer switched to one right after this one. No such nods in the music though, and that was a relief as it would have been a waste of these talents. Those over the top elements soon disappeared, and though some elements did echo some Japanese traits, the very same things were very much in line with Nadj’s work. Which only means it meant perfect sense for him to use this material. I guess it would be possible to attribute some parts to the book, but what’s the point?

It may have referenced something different, but for me it fit perfectly within his work, familiar but different, as usual. There were those usual movements that are almost mechanical. But also some fast and wide arms motions I had never seen so emphasized in his work. A purely visual sequence without dancers, another with Nadj pushing a miniature stage to the front with a small unicorn he shaped into something else. And Loyer with a flexible mirror wrapped around her that reflected the musicians. So the tricks and the usual universe were there. The dance was there too. It’s easy to forget about it with all these other elements, but I think Nadj’s dance is very physical, trusting the body to say what other media don’t. And he’s so good at using many of these, each doing its part in the whole, but I think the dance remains the most important.

I didn’t pay enough attention to the music on its own, but it was interesting when on its own between scenes, and what I loved about it was that I couldn’t really separate it from the dance. There were a few times — one when the dancers were hitting their thighs, another with Léandre whipping the air with her bow — when I couldn’t tell the sounds the dancers were making apart from the music. I guess I could have, but it seemed beyond the point. And I think that was the case throughout, quite possibly the best merging of music of dance I’ve ever experienced.

January 30, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , , , | Leave a comment

January 24th, 2010: Quentin Dubost / Red Horn Cannibals / Philémon / Fabriquedecouleurs

@la suite

I guess I was not in a good mood for laptop stuff, and Fabriquedecouleurs is all about that. He knows his stuff, and put his laptop to good use, but that’s probably what I didn’t like, too neat and proficient for me at that time. Some days I do like this kind of sounds though, so maybe I’ll enjoy it next time.

Philémon started his sets with a steady beat, but then moved away from that into a more irregular kind of noise. Not a clear-cut change, more of a progression throughout the set. I’m a bit weary of noise at the moment, but this was a nice set, with a enough changes to keep me interested.

Red Horn Cannibals had nice guitar sounds — one regular guitar and a pedal-steelish contraption flat on a table. The latter yielded nice slides and picking. The music itself was quite mainstream with bluesish overtones. Not really experimental, which suits me well these days. I think I need to hear some more regular music, I’m getting so used to the experimental stuff it’s become predictable.

That’s probably why I didn’t like Quentin Dubost’s set as much as I could have. Though his guitar bowing was nice and enhanced by a couple of twists: bowing very high on the neck, and cutting off the sound then putting it back on. Interesting set, but I kinda acknowledge that on an intellectual level but wasn’t really into it.

January 30, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

January 23rd, 2010: Music from Taiwan


Actually two concert mingling, as there were three Paiwan singers and sixteen Bunun ones. Both were separate and would perform a few songs before leaving the stage to the other group.

Both musics were very different, and not just because of the size of the groups. The Paiwan music was the one I liked best, and the most familiar too — though that’s not saying much — as it seemed related to some songs from Southern China. At least more than the Bunun songs, which sounded to me more like Pacific islanders music, though it’s totally foreign to me. In both cases, it wasn’t like the musics I’m referencing, just that those were the closest things I had heard before.

My preference for the smaller group may also have been influence by its being one male and two female singers, whereas the larger one had the about the opposite ratio. The Bunun songs also felt more boisterous — though I have no idea what that was about — and the climax of the show was their Pasibutbut song, which was interesting and powerful, but not really my kind of thing.

Anyway, that’s yet another world opening about which I know nothing at all, and just starting to learn about these people has been a treat.

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Music | | Leave a comment

January 22nd, 2010: Xavier Charles – Jean-Philippe Gross – Franz Hautzinger – Lionel Marchetti

@instants chavirés

Back to my favorite venue, thankfully, even though they had to scale back their programming because of funding cuts. And even that is conditional on their funding not being cut further, which remains a very real possibility. I might as well enjoy the place while it’s here.

The lineup was appealing, with two people I like quite a lot — Xavier Charles and Jean-Philippe Gross — and two with who my experience has been more mixed, but with valuable highs — Franz Hautzinger and Lionel Marchetti. Also a mix of acoustic and electronics, so it looked promising. I don’t think it really lived up to that potential, but it wasn’t bad either. I think Charles and Hautzinger tended to dominate the quiet parts, with Gross and Marchetti taking the lead when it got loud. The latter did push the others to play louder and get away from what sounded too familiar to me, but the most balanced moments where just too short. So that there was a lot that I had heard before, and also a lot of common sounds along the sets. Though the second half of the second set did mix that up a little more.

I guess these guys are not that far apart to begin with, so maybe I was expecting too much. Still, it was a little too much the usual stuff, and I’ve seen better performances from each of them. It wasn’t bad at all, but nothing special either, in my opinion.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

January 21st, 2010: Kumquat / David Fenech – Rhys Chatham


Hearing what David Fenech and Rhys Chatham would end up spewing was enough to make me skip Jozef Van Wissem, and that’s saying something. I’d say it was worth it. The first part of the set — with Chatham on pocket trumpet — was a bit tame, with Fenech much too respectful and not enough happening. I mean I love this piling up of loops from both performers, but this was way too tame.

The second part had Fenech bow loudly and that seemed to kick it all into a higher gear. Chatham responded to the challenge with a cornet and the interaction was indirect but still going on. My favorite part of the gig. The third had Chatham pull off the full size trumpet and was about as good as the previous one, except it felt a bit less balanced. The encore had Chatham put the pocket trumpet to a more satisfying use for me, but this whole set — though pretty good — left me feeling these two can do better together. It was their first extended gig together, so there might be another in the future. Count me in if that happens — and please tell me about it. I think Fenech benefits a lot from being somewhat familiar with those he plays with, so another gig would probably be better.

As for Kumquat, well, it’s just not my kind of thing. I just happen to hate the guitar player’s sound and play, and as he’s the leader, that was a definite damper. I usually liked the intros though. But as soon as the guitar got in, I got out, so I only had a very limited perspective on what they were doing. To each his own, though, a lot of people do enjoy it, and in a sense I can understand why, because there’s really something in there. It’s just me being unable to get it.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

January 20th, 2010: Robyn Orlin – Call it… kissed by the sun… better still the revenge of geography


I know, I said I would give up and stop going to her shows. But her moving out of South Africa had given me hope that familiarity was holding her down. The first time I saw one of her shows was great, so maybe she had been getting too comfortable.

Well. Ibrahim Sissoko was great, and I’d like to see him perform in another setting. He can do a lot, and his B-Boy stints were both technically cool and not overdone. So that’s one trap nicely avoided. The guy has charisma, and he made it a good show for me. Maxime Rebière was doing live graphics and though he was OK, it was all to meaningful for me and suffered a lot from reminding me of what Meg Stuart can do when it comes to collaborating with visual artists. I think that hit the main nerve. It’s not just about integrating someone else into a show. I think it’s just that I can relate to Meg Stuart’s language in a way that I just can’t reach with Robyn Orlin. So I can appreciate Sissoko’s performance, but the cheerful/comfortable/predictable background makes me uneasy. And her provocative bits just leave me unruffled. This time that was her calling for everyone to have their mobile phone alarm go off at the same time, challenging everyone to transgress that big rule of theaters: turn off your mobile.

Well, I didn’t play along, and got a couple of sneers from people next to me. I don’t own a mobile phone. And I think that tells a lot about why Robyn Orlin is too cool for me, and why I love Meg Stuart.

There were good bits, but most of that relied on Sissoko’s presence. And as the show went on I felt he could have done more. But those many cliched bits had him stuck. I mean I don’t think any single one was left out. It’s so easy for her to stand and bring them out. She can claim she’s being ironic. But her Sarkozy trashing was also so easy as to be almost an endorsement. It’s all so comfortable and predictable. Her audience is mainly people who make a show of loathing Sarkozy but wouldn’t set foot outside of Paris into the suburbs — totally different concept from in the US: here suburbs are your inner cities — and she plays to them, makes them feel good. She can say she leaves things open-ended, and blame the audience. Maybe that means I’m a middle-of-the-road person — I wish — but it all felt as a discourse for the middle-aged middle-class. Claiming Hip-Hop for that could have made sense but didn’t for lack of a deep enough connection. In my opinion, of course.

I didn’t think this post would come out this way, but I try to be positive this year, and this time that meant dragging Meg Stuart into an unrelated post. Leaning on her for cheerfulness, that’s going to make sense to exactly nobody but me.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , , | Leave a comment