Gigs, dance, art

May 21st: Ballet de l’opéra de Lyon

@théatre de la ville

The show opened with Ralph Lemon’s Rescuing the Princess, without music for the most part, which set apart the few moments with music, even more so as those were the ones when the dancers formed a group. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me. The beginning was pretty strong, with pairs of dancers supporting or pushing back each other before one left and another whirled onto the stage. The good thing is that this didn’t last long enough to settle down into a system, but I didn’t think the rest lived up to that part. Part of the problem for me was the high technical skill of the dancers, which neutered some of the potency of the choreography. That’s perfect with some choreographers like Forsythe or Cunningham, not so much here. The slower parts with less dance worked around this nicely, so it was still pretty good.

Speaking of Cunningham, the second part was his Beach Birds. I was nice seeing Cédric Andrieux after that Jérome Bel show, and here the dancers’ skill was completely appropriate. Still, it was a little heavy on the cold side, and the costumes were a bit too much for me. I was pretty close to the stage, but I thought the dancers were hiding the strain and difficulty a little too well. Without that human element, it felt a little too close to some computer-generated images. Which is part of the point, but the lack of failure made it less interesting for me.

The last part was clearly my favorite. It had been years since I last saw anything by Trisha Brown — long time no see indeed — and I clearly regret that now. I liked a lot the way dancers would come on and off the stage proper, joining, doing something close but different, or completely different from those already there. It was all fluid and changing, but also very consistent. Maybe I would think otherwise if I was more familiar with Brown’s work, but this felt refreshing to me even though it was written almost 3 decades ago. It was fast enough to put the dancers’ technical skill to good use while changing so often with a focus on small groups that the numbing coldness never had time to set in. I still would like the dancers to be more like individuals, but that was a as good a show as can be without this element.

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , , , , | 2 Comments

May 20th, 2010: Cluster / Evil Moisture

@instants chavirés

Evil Moisture’s set started with a deep rumbling and some harsh noises I liked a lot, but then it settled down with that and not much went on for a while. The second part of the set was much more to my liking, with more layers and something happening at last. That was good enough to make me like the set, but still fell short of what I know he can do.

I wish I could say as much about Cluster. I didn’t know them before, and that set won’t make me rush to fill that gap. I guess it’s just not my thing, that’s all. There were some nice moments with conflicting rhythms that had me interested, but these were just short-lived transitions, and I wasn’t into the synth sounds themselves either, so I never really got into that set. Maybe I’m just spoiled by the profusion of gigs these days.

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

May 19th, 2010: Gregory Maqoma – Beautiful Me


Nice show, and an interesting collaboration with Akram Khan, Faustin Linyekula and Vincent Mantsoe providing providing elements of the choreography. Gregory Maqoma authored the rest and was the only dancer, though the live musicians — Poorvi Bhana, Bongani Kunene, Given Mphago and Isaac Molelekoa — were very much an important part of the show.

Akram Khan was the only one I was familiar with, and the kathak part early in the show was probably his. That was interesting because despite the very similar movements, it was still different and Maqoma made it his own. Having that part early probably helped me see more clearly how he tied the many different styles together and made it obvious that there’s just no reason kathak and Michael Jackson shouldn’t fit in a dance show. Such diverse influences do meet in most people, especially artists, so while distinctions can be useful, they would have been out of place in what I took to be a very personal show.

I usually don’t like talk much, but I liked the part when he crouched with an arm extended while naming a past ruler of an African country — colonial or more recent. By then I had seen enough of his style to get an idea of the potential dance to come even from his keeping still, one the things I like best in a dancer. More than his ability to inhabit different kinds of dance, that’s what made clear to me how impressed I was by his talent. Definitely someone I’d like to see again.

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

May 18th, 2010: Michel Doneda – Tetsu Saïtoh – Shunichiro Hisada

@instants chavires

This project mixed the usual free improvisation with Noh vocals and drum. I tend to like those vocals, and I’m quite fond of that small hourglass drum, so it was worth a shot even though I didn’t expect much.

I liked Tetsu Saïtoh’s performance best. He did many different things in diverse modes, so his bass was the least predictable element. Of course Shunichiro Hisada’s range was narrower, but that wasn’t an issue when there was some interaction with the others. I found Michel Doneda to be too predictable, with a few exceptions, but that’s the way I’ve felt with most of the improv scene lately. There were interesting play between the voice and sax at some points, but overall I think the bass/drum combination worked best. That was a long set, so it had highs and lows. It felt a little too much like small variations over the continuous thread of the voice/drum, lacking interesting dynamics within the project. Nice snapshots, but I’m not convinced over the whole set.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

May 17th, 2010: Orquesta Tipica Misteriosa Buenos Aires

@instants chavirés

I had no expectations going in: I didn’t like the little I knew about Tango, so I was thinking I would see how long I would last. Orquesta Tipica Misteriosa at least had me linger for both sets. It’s still not the kind of music I’d listen to on my own, and I won’t be on the lookout for more of it, but it wasn’t boring, and there were a few songs I really liked.

I’d say I liked the first set better, which is somewhat surprising as these were the old songs. I liked the singer’s voice, but not the style of singing, so I liked the instrumental songs better. And the parts I really liked were those with short notes on both violin and bandoneon, those that left some room for silence, not easy with such a big band.

Obviously my utter lack of knowledge meant all that the second part had in terms of relation to tradition was lost on me. And even though I’m still glad I went and learned something, I don’t expect to follow up. It’s just not my thing, too melodic and with instruments I don’t like much either.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

May 13th, 2010: Sutcliffe Jügend / Babylone Chaos / V.I.K.I


I knew I would be hard pressed to enjoy this show because I basically hate this part of the city. History. I’m always uncomfortable there and can’t wait to leave. Not the best frame of mind for a gig.

And definitely not the right one for V.I.K.I. He creates nice textures, but that kind of uneventful music requires more focus than I could muster this time. In my distracted state it was too much of the same, but that’s squarely on me.

Babylone Chaos was my favorite set. At first I thought I would grow tired of it too, because it was a little on the ambient side, despite some nice micro-events going on within. But suddenly there was a metallic crash and the music grew assertive and took hold of my attention. Nice change-up there, and it got better as it mixed industrial sounds with an elemental visceral quality — metal is my element, so it’s not that inconsistent.

Sutcliffe Jügend had nice moments, sound-wise at least. I had to block out the words though, I just couldn’t take them seriously otherwise. Powerful enough, but not my kind of thing anymore. Problem was it all sounded the same, and to boot it sounded like stuff from years ago, and it was not the right place for that kind of thing for me.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

May 12th, 2010: Akram Khan – Gnosis


This show displayed both sides of Akram Khan‘s work, Kathak in the first part and contemporary dance in the second. Combined with his return to this smaller venue, this felt like a nice way to look at what he’s done these past few years, and ended with a look at what might be coming.

I hadn’t seen him perform a Kathak show in years, but the reprise of Polaroid Feet reminded of the way his explanations really helped me to like Indian classical dance. He didn’t talk this time, but I remembered his words quite clearly. The second piece, Tarana, was faster on average, but shared a lot with the first one, with a focus on the upper body, especially arms. There was the precise extending of the arms, at an angle or level, and this controlled energy always ready to explode into a short burst of speed. The mic stand came on stage for a rhythmic part focused on footwork and phrases introduced by Akram Khan and the tabla replies. Unplugged, the name of this piece, also included instrumental parts without dance, and one of these was just great, with just tabla and Japanese drums. At times their sounds merged so that the taiko rang first but then the ringing of the tabla took over. A very nice effect.

After a short intermission, they came back for the contemporary dance part of the show, Gnosis. Yoshie Sunahata wasn’t drumming anymore but dancing. Though it wasn’t that clear cut, as after a slow part her movements were just like she was drumming, exactly the way I remember from Kodo performances — from what Akram Khan said when he introduced her, I think she’s from that ensemble. He joined he at that time, then went whirling around the stage before collapsing. Then the show went more narrative with a blindness theme, but still with nice dance moments — my favorite involved hands — and some potent images — like her walking on him. When she left the stage the light went red and Akram Khan reused a fast hand movement like around a ball I remembered from his previous show. He was the only dancer for the rest of the show, but Yoshie Sunahata came back singing. And she has a very nice voice. She played, danced, acted and sang, and pretty much stole the show as far as I’m concerned.

I hope there’s more coming from that pair, this show was so promising but also short. The use of material from earlier shows was in keeping with the theme of the show, but I’m sure there could be much more. Yoshie Sunahata is talented, and somehow the taiko feels a right fit with Akram Khan’s dance.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment