Gigs, dance, art

September 12th, 2012: Sébastien Ramirez / Honji Wang – Monchichi


Now that’s what I want to see. A wonderful show, where for a change even the words didn’t disturb me, because they were just adding to what the dance had made clear by then.

At first I thought Honji Wang would be more about strength and fluidity, while Sébastien Ramirez was exhibiting serious mastery of stop and go. But those roles didn’t stick, though there was some of that. They were far smarter than that, and the roles were just a touch away from being traded. And they sure know how to handle a light touch, as was evident in a great sequence where there seemed to be a wave of life going from one to the other through fingertips.

There were definitely traces of hip-hop dance in there, but that’s kinda like saying there’s some classical side to Forsythe. And I’m not dropping that name out of the blue. It’s way too early, of course, but these two have the spark it would take for them to become the Forsythe of my generation. Their use of the ground was fed from b-boying but deconstructed  and rebuilt to suit their purpose. Acknowledging the roots? To me they went beyond that, they grew from them, and isn’t that what roots are for?

That’s why their words didn’t annoy me, they were repeating something the dance had made clear already, but focused the focus. German, Korean, French, Spanish, classical, contemporary, hip-hop, these end up being labels and boxes, not even in the way but irrelevant when lightning strikes. And this time at least, with these two dancers/choreographers/whatever-they-want-to-be-called, lightning struck home and lighted a path. I hope I’ll be there next time. I have a feeling these two are making their own lightning

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Dance | , , | 2 Comments

September 11th, 2012: Thierry Thieû Niang – Jean-Pierre Moulières – …du printemps!

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Patrice Chéreau read Nijinski, and for me hit all the notes of why I don’t like plays. That artificial voice rubbed me the wrong way. But he has his fans, as evidenced by the dozens of people who just left the moment he stopped and the dancers came closing in. From there they spread out in a spiral to start circling the stage, as one of them was steadily running around, and kept at it throughout. As they went, wings came off, then clothing, tossed aside. There were slight variations, brief runs, hands on heads or behind backs, but the circle held sway, even as they stopped and moved to the side, one by one. A twist on Rite of Spring? Not so much as an appropriation, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But it’s so conceptual. By the time I’d seen the first five minutes — ignoring Chéreau — I’d seen it all. OK, they’re seniors and not trained dancers, but that was light fare. And going all conceptual raises some questions too. Name-dropping Pina Bausch and featuring seniors sounds like a marketing plan. This was way better than that, but still, it got on that big stage and I can’t help wondering. I read some people were shocked some ended the play in their underwear. I ask: why not naked? Nudity is a tired trope in dance, but why are those people shocked at seeing seniors almost naked?  Good questions, and this show raised a few more. But little in the way of answers, or at least in the way of aesthetic ones. Marketing students may want to study this home run though. There’s money to be made there, I hope Thierry Thieû Niang puts it to good use.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Dance | , , | 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

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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

March 28th, 2011: VA Wölfl – “Ich sah: Das Lamm auf dem Berg Zion, Offb. 14,1”

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Coming into the theater to the sight of potted cypresses I hoped there was something to that, so I decided to play the game and get a seat where they would obstruct part of the stage. Most of the time this proved to be a mistake, but I think it did make the long slow classical part more interesting. Not that big a challenge, but that’s still something.

Slow and belabored are words that came to my mind early and often, but it wasn’t a big problem. I think the only part I really liked was the one where the guns — a constant presence in the dancers hands — were shooting the dancers arms and legs into movement. It took a while, but a few patterns were at work, including a move toward synchronicity that just reached its climax to dissolve almost at once. But a lot of small things were nice, the lighting was good — including the row of turned off lights echoing the dancers slow movements — and the big picture was OK.

Nothing new or challenging though, it was mildly comfortable in a way that reminded me of good old pomo metafiction. Tired clichés openly displayed (dancers in the audience): check. Fake earnest references to classical forms (ballet moves holding guns): check. Earnestly ironic discourse on the proceedings (dance as art is a business, dance as a business is art; boring in a bad way, but fashionable; I’m burning a fourth mic with a blowtorch): check. Break with the standard conventions of the form (all dancers leave the stage, come back five minutes later as people file out): check. They even threw in quotation marks in the title as a bonus. Of course those are required when playing the “Look Ma, no hands” game.

But as usual when it works — and it did for me — he did close the loop between a cry for attention and admiration, and a real assault on established forms. After a while it’s not that the question becomes undecidable but irrelevant. I could decide it’s all sophisticated criticism and be a fool for missing the point, or I could decide there’s actually a show in there and be a fool for falling for it. I don’t mind either way, at least I have a lot of experience at being a fool. So that’s the comfortable part. The mild aspect is more disappointing, maybe all these mind games took up too much space.

Despite their professed claim, I don’t think it was boring. It took a while, but the images and movements took their place in a whole that was worth waiting out, strangely static though unfolding through time. But that comfortable mildness probably means I’ll promptly forget it; I’m just not into comfort foods, maybe I don’t miss the past enough.

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

January 31st, 2011: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – En Atendant

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Anytime I get to see something by Rosas is a special event for me, one I’ll usually have been looking forward for a while — like since the last time I saw them. En Atendant was a rich performance for me, bringing new things, new twists on older things, and a sense of continuity that reached back many years. This marked the thirtieth work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker that I’ve seen over the years — not counting films and those I have seen more than once — so maybe the past tends to skew my perception toward picking up this kind of thing.

There was live music this time — ancient music — but not all the time, usually for group sequences. Actually I think there was more silence than music. Those sequences with music felt the most intricate to me, often involving pairs of dancers, but maybe that’s just because I was too close to the stage to really get the big picture. That’s why I like to see her pieces more than once from a different point of view, but she’s so popular it’s become tough to get that second ticket. There was a lot of walking, like in The Song, but with more lines this time. Another recent trend is her work with support, both in groups — piling on in one corner then freezing, getting back up and freezing again, but the best was what went in around and between these poses — and in pairs. I especially liked a sequence with Sue-Yeon Youn and Cynthia Loemij because of the way the support evolved into just fingers touching then just barely so, with a hint of that much later in the piece.

I saw a lot of these fleeting hints at something that came before, phrases or single movements or even just bits that echoes earlier things, like shoulders moved forward or a foot pushing on the back of the other leg’s knee. Sometimes much earlier, as a couple of hip movements reminded me of Microkosmos. Of course the continuity was much stronger with The Song and Zeitung, mostly the legs, bending, coiling and support, but I saw things that echoed earlier works throughout her career — though I do have a big blind spot there in the late eighties. There even was a bent arm or two that reminded me of the first part of April Me, which I hadn’t thought of in a while, but which fits somehow.

But all there fleeting moments were just that, and didn’t hinder the flow at all. They just gave the piece a special kind of richness for me. There was enough going on not to dwell on this flashes. New things stood out too, like the violent burst of a solo ending close to exhaustion. Still precise, but with a different kind of geometry, different angles and a sense of pushing some limits, control without restraint. One pretty impressive thing is that the very different elements — groups, pairs, solo; silence, music; even pauses — fit together in a kind of polyphony spread out over time. It all felt connected into a whole that made sense. It felt so rich on so many levels that I’m sure I missed more than half or what was there, a convenient excuse to fuel my desire to see it again. Yet, there was a lot of space too, but not empty, the kind of space that is needed by what’s in there. Kind of like you need some silence to have notes.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite things in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreography is when a dancer will lean before fully moving, something which makes movement start not just from stillness, but from within stillness. In music, I love Miles Davis’ silences, and I think that’s related. But sometimes dance takes it even further. That’s another reason why I was so happy/relieved to see Cynthia Loemij dancing. Sometimes I can see her start slightly before she actually moves at all. I guess I’m just picking up some slight visual hint of tension, out of the familiarity built over eighteen years of seeing her dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s works, without being able to point out anything. The same thing goes when she stops. It’s a blink of an eye, but it makes a whole lot of difference to me. She was not in The Song, and that probably shocked me out of taking her for granted. This is not a post about my appreciation for her though  — maybe I will write one someday — but what I want to say is this: Anne Teresa De Keermaeker is my favorite choreographer, though Padmini Chettur comes close. But for me nothing comes close to seeing Cynthia Loemij dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

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

January 28th, 2011: Emio Greco & Hanspeter Kyburz – Double Points: Outis

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Maybe I shouldn’t have read about it before the show. Reading that Emio Greco might be triggering some sounds through movement distracted me and that made me think his extended arms and hands were a way to overcome limitations of the technology. The point isn’t that this suspicion was right or wrong, what was wrong was that I took my eyes off the ball. I came to my senses because he had something going in his sinuous leg moves, despite keeping them bent low at the time. And in his second danced part there was something about his tilting/hopping/bouncing that caught my eye — though the lights were in the way and I could barely see him.

Still, that’s not much, and the singing parts were not my kind of thing — I don’t like that kind of voice. Of course, I’m not trained enough to understand the music, which I guess proved to big of a wall for me to climb. No surprise I didn’t like this show much, as I missed more than half of the point. I can’t complain though: they did warn it was for skilled listeners; I’m just not one.

January 30, 2011 Posted by | Dance, Music | , , | Leave a comment