Gigs, dance, art

April 20th, 2011: Cecil Taylor / Amiri Baraka

@cité de la musique

I was so excited about finally seeing Cecil Taylor I hadn’t noticed Amiri Baraka was there too. I’d have gone to this show for him alone, so that was an unexpected treat to say the least. Except it took me a while to realize exactly who he was. His name didn’t register until he mentioned the controversy about Somebody Blew Up America, then it all became clear. I followed that at the time, and even there are sides to his poem that I just don’t care about, most of it is a strong work, and even stronger live. It wasn’t even a highlight, his delivery is so good it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. He has a musicality and rhythm that makes beat, jazz, and hip-hop come together. My own reaction was nothing to be proud of: the reception was icy at first, and I sat frozen, I was again too much of a coward to break the silence and be the first to clap. I did that before, and I still regret it. I’m just not one of the good guys. I was hoping he’d join Cecil Taylor at some point, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

A few years ago, I hadn’t even heard of Cecil Taylor. I can only express my deepest gratitude to Scott McDowell for introducing me to his amazing body of work. And now I got to see the man play, and he’s every bit as amazing as I hoped. He has that percussive side I love on piano, but also a delicate touch at times. And he uses all the range of his instrument, sometimes playing both high and low notes, with no filler moment. It was all the time intense, and his sense of endings is flawless: each time he stopped abruptly, as if he had no time to waste winding down when he could move on to the next piece. And anyway had no patience for niceties; when he’s done, he’s done, and that’s it. This might seem weird, but it made a lot of sense with the way he’s playing, there’s no settling down for less with him. How could that be anything but a good thing? If anything, seeing him play live heightened my appreciation, and thanks to Scott’s teachings, that’s saying something.


May 2, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

April 19th, 2011: Jean-Claude Gallotta – Faut qu’je danse – Daphis é Chloé


I hadn’t seen anything by Jean-Claude Gallotta in years, so I was a bit wary of having grown insensitive to his work — I had some good memories, but they didn’t seem relevant somehow. His opening solo was puzzling though, which is a good thing in my book. He talked about the original version of this work, almost twenty years ago, and that was quite interesting. This speech was interrupted by his bursting into bits of dancing that had a weird exercise quality, as the movements were that scripted. But that tendency was defused by his playful/awkward demeanor. I can’t say I liked it, I just don’t really know what to make of it. That’s definitely not bad.

Daphnis é Chloé was too narrative for me, which could easily have totally bored me. But there was again a vivacity that avoided virtuosity, and again some of that playfulness that saved the day. And the intensity of the piece prevents it from straying too far into prettiness. Here again, I can’t say exactly why I liked it better than I had any right to expect based on some elements I just don’t like. It didn’t feel dated as I feared it would, another pleasant surprise. But there’s a limit to that, I don’t think I can really embrace something that illustrative when it come with another Greek myth story. So for me it was OK but certainly not great.

May 2, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

April 18th, 2011: Paulo Ribeiro – White Feeling – Organic Beat

@théatre de la ville

I don’t remember seeing anything by Paulo Ribeiro before. One common thread between both pieces is that he’s pretty good with groups, which is something I tend to like. I was close to the stage, but I wasn’t too close to get that, which I think shows how good he is.

White Feeling featured an all-male cast, all dancers dressed in black. I didn’t like the music, and at times the dance was a little too predictably confrontational in that setting — like one pushing the others around — but there were also things I really liked, like having one dancer moving around the stage at his own separate pace. Plus he did very nice things with support, in fact I think he was at his best when there was a clearly united group, and even better with one offsetting presence. There was also a very nice sequence toward the end where I could faintly make out the figures of dancers in the back, moving in gravity defying ways that hinted at the others carrying them, though these others remained unseen. That was a nice touch.

I like Organic Beat better, and I guess the music — Cage — had something to do with it, with its sampling and overlaid radio snippets. The — many — dancers came on stage humming the Internationale before some of  them broke into other songs in various languages, and ended with Bella Ciao, so they added their part to the soundtrack. With so many dancers — I’d guess about 30 — on stage most of the time, there was no way I could focus on details. But the overall picture was potent because there were waves and great uses of their numbers, like when some rolled on the ground from a circle and rose to join it again. At times that crowd would break into smaller groups, or some dancers would leave the stage, but I thought the sequences with the most dancers were the best. That’s because it’s quite rare for me to see someone really make use of what such a big ensemble enables, while avoiding the temptation to have most serve as a backdrop for a few soloists. No filler there, the crowd was necessary for what he had to show.

I still wish it had started on time and the intermission had been shorter, I might have had a shot at rushing to Nan Turner’s show afterward. But it just ended too late.

May 2, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment