Gigs, dance, art

January 19th, 2011: Ea Sola – Air Lines


It had been so long I was starved for dance. I guess Ea Sola’s solo wasn’t the best thing for me in that state of mind. Because she seemed to falter in her trust in dance itself with all these flags and country names. Most of the time her dance and the single EU/US/Chinese flag in the middle was more than enough.

She was able to say a lot with just her arms shooting straight. From defiance to embrace to longing to struggle, depending on the moment. The flags kinda took something from the strength of her posture. And of course I had to throw in my own personal disconnect as well. As she donned a black veil and walked toward the American flag, I guess her intent had something to do with Afghanistan. But by then the mesmerizing waves of the plastic sheet had settled into hills, and all I could think about was something about her walking these hills in a long black veil, which was probably not the reference she had in mind.

I wish she would trust her craft a little more. I don’t think she really need those words or images to get her point across. To me the overkill blunts her message. And to me her slow beginning and end, and the progression through faster paces and a mixture of struggle and acceptance said much more. The more explicit images just got in the way. She certainly has things to say, I only wish she would not be so heavy handed about it.


January 24, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

November 16th, 2010: Yasuko Yokoshi – Tyler Tyler


I ended up sitting in the last row because I gave away my much better situated seat the next day to go to a gig. Maybe that played a part in my not enjoyed is as much as I could have, but I liked the bird’s eye view. I couldn’t see much of the facial expressions of the dancers, but I had a nice perspective of the group sequences.

I don’t know anything about Kabuki, I haven’t seen a single performance. So I guess a lot of what Yasuko Yokoshi aimed at went over my head, because I couldn’t help but pick up on the ironic treatment of the music — and didn’t like it much, by the way, especially the prettifying of Cat Power’s American Flag.  With those two out of the way, I did like this show. The contrast between American and Japanese dancers wasn’t that marked, as evidenced when they acted as a group with those shiny silver fans. Their clothes and parts were different, and I guess the latter was in part playing on each one’s strength, but there was common ground too, and the American dancers went beyond the usual moves, so I guess the same held true for the others. I know I missed half of it, but what I did get was interesting.

Even on the “western” side of it, there were things I liked for their own sake. I loved the relation of the dancers to the ground. The way Julie Alexander went down early on with a sweep of her legs and skirt was something I’ll remember for a while. But whenever a dancer crouched or lied down, something interesting was going on. I probably would have missed that had I not been sitting in the nose-bleed section, so maybe I should start going twice to dance shows, just to get that different view.

The group sequences were very nice, especially when they would move in sync then differently but with echoes that made me think they might have just been doing the same thing with a delay. I guess I could have tried to figure that out, but I was too caught in the flow of it to pay attention to that at the time. The fans were a focus at times, but at others they didn’t seem as important to me as the hands. There I wish I had been closer to pick up more of the wrist gestures. I only got tantalizing glimpses from up there.

Overall, I liked the show despite the music, even though that was what first made me eager to attend. I think I understand the intent of the soundtrack, but I still don’t like it. The slide whistle was grating for me, and then I made a conscious effort to ignore the music. There was a little too much irony at work there for me, and in parts of the dance too. But it only spoiled it a little, and the dance was usually interesting enough for me to just not pay attention to it.

December 4, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

October 27th, 2010: Maguy Marin – Salves


I didn’t remember I had a ticket for that show, because I hadn’t liked a show by Maguy Marin in many years. I’m glad I took a chance, because I really liked most of this one.

Even the opening sequence, with dancers coming from seats in the audience and running their hands on threads that may or not have been there (I just don’t know; I thought I saw them sometimes, but I could easily have been fooled by the dancers). That ambiguity got my attention. The four big reel-to-reel players did too, of course, come to think of it their occasional activation may have been a little too distracting, but I love that stuff.

This was another instance of a show featuring on-and-off lighting that would briefly pick out small sequences. This is getting tedious, but in that case I liked it. Some sequences were repeated, but usually not too closely. There was one with a dancer picking up shards of a plate, vase of statue and putting them together tentatively. A longer one had dancers setting up a table until one dropped a plate. My favorite had a dancer standing next to a wall with hands coming from his side to cover his eyes, then another one took his place and hands covered her ears, and finally the hands covered the mouth of the third one. I had the feeling these bits would maybe fit like the shards into a bigger picture, but I didn’t want to pursue that too much. It was fine as a dreamlike feeling, and at times I caught myself thinking of Inland Empire because of that construction. Which is high praise for me.

Another repeated sequence had dancers building a platform by throwing boards around before putting them down of a structure. These platforms became part of the show from then on, and that was a nice touch. There were too many small sequences like this to mentions, some with slight variations, some identical, and also some that didn’t come back but shared something with the other patterns. One of a varying pattern had a female figure in a bright dress taping a poster to a wall, with repetitions with two clones, and so on up to five. There were many interesting plays with repetition, expectations and variation. Some of it was there in Umwelt, but then the system was too locked down for me. This time I liked it a lot.

The final sequence had the lights on and steady, with a big table set up before the dancers went into a slapstick food fight involving buckets of bright paint. I didn’t like it much, but it did close out the show by breaking the pattern of patterns. And my dislike was mild and no match for my appreciation of the rest.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

October 27th, 2010: Josef Nadj – Cherry-Brandy

@théatre de la ville

This year Josef Nadj brought a mixture of the familiar and the new. Dancers were still barefoot and dressed in black suits, and there was the usual sequence of shadows featuring some little tricks. And Josef Nadj himself had a mechanical undertone to his movements as he progressively filled out the “sator arepo tenet opera rotas” word square on a blackboard.

But he only showed up from time to time, and for the most part left the stage to younger dancers and a different feel in their movements. Most striking for me was a sequence where they would move across the stage as a group, doing similar moves, but not at the same time. The slight timing differences gave it a hint of something like choppy waters. I really liked that one, where most of the soundtrack was the sound of their feet sliding on the stage. The movements had none of the usual qualities I came to expect from Nadj, like the stilted/mechanical or the animal-like. That is a very interesting development, even though it’s probably not still where he can take it.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the opening sequence much, when figures or parts thereof would briefly appear in dim light. I guess it was OK in itself, especially when there was some question about what exactly I was seeing. But the on/off lighting seems to be the flavor of the year in dance. The silver lining is that it can be interesting to see each choreographer’s take on it, but it does get predictable.

The last part of the show was maybe the closest to the usual, involving some props and featuring some small touches of red. There were some nice carrying in there, and a memorable sequence with a dancing standing straight on a table and sliding under the guidance of another one. Maybe the most obviously dark part of the show as well, with a box that had coffin undertones and some shroudish moments.

The show definitely had a somber mood, with less of the magical trickery that usually makes its own sense in Nadj’s shows. It’s probably not a coincidence that I saw some renewal in it as well. It’s certainly not one of my favorite shows of his, but it shook up the routine and made me even more eager to see what’s coming.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

September 25th, 2010: Hofesh Schechter – Political Mother

@théatre de la ville

That was my second time seeing Hofesh Schechter‘s work, but I’m already a fan. There are things I don’t like so much in what he does — the pomo attitude can get a bit overwhelming — but there are so many things I love, and I get a sense of something developing and growing, something that is rooted in the present and getting to shape a possible future of dance. Not by being something radically new, but by striking a nice balance between new and old. I don’t know what will come out of it in the long run, but I’m very keen on seeing where it ends up going.

On the pure dance side, he’s just as talented as I thought for group sections. The way subgroups emerge and melt back into other patterns was proof of an amazing mastery of one the things I like best in dance. I’m seriously impressed. I’d like him to combine that with a little more individuality from the dancers, but that may come later. For all I know it’s there already, maybe I just need more time to pick up those details. Of course it’s likely to be there in the latter sense, but what I’d love would be to see that side brought on by the choreographer, intentionally, not just by his accepting the dancers’ contributions. I hope this grows, and I hope I can see this — or something else — make its way into his language.

Again there were a few quotes from earlier works — and I’ve only seen Uprising and In Your Rooms, so it had to have been obvious — and a few sequences that went a little too far on the pomo side for me. The rock concert, political rally or empty stage parts felt a little too isolated, a little too smart. Maybe I missed what tied these into the piece though, I may have grown over-sensitive to post-modern poses.

I want to single out Lee Curran for the lighting. Amazing job, maybe even more striking than last year. The lighting was at least as much a component as the music, and was at least an extra dancer or two on its own. I think the live music was designed to grab attention, even though the few moments of silence or sudden change outlined that dance was really what it was all about. I liked that. A lot. The music was driven and definitely no wallpaper, but it knew its place as support. Not that that means it has to be boring, but it shouldn’t become a distraction either.

Here’s hoping Hofesh Schechter will become a regular in this venue, because I’m so hooked by now. The most addictive thing in his work is that I get the sense the best is yet to come. He seems very — maybe overly — aware of what he’s building, but the good side is that he seems to be building something anyway, and that would be a great sign on its own. Coming from someone who clearly have been fed the pomo kool-aid, it’s even more promising.

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

June 16th, 2010: Jan Fabre – Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day


This was probably the last dance show of the season for me before the long boring summer. Over the past few years I’ve grown increasingly bored by Jan Fabre‘s shows, but that doesn’t apply when he writes a solo for a dancer. The twist was that it was written for Ivana Jozic but this time Artemis Stavridi performed it. That can’t be easy, but she made it hers — though I have not seen it performed by the original dancer.

Besides the intensity of these solo works, I like how they reach a delicate balance between dance and a purely visual side. Here the stage featured stacks of coal with toy trains running over and around some of them, and a bunch of bird cages hanging high enough not to be an obstruction, but low enough to be props when needed and to be set swinging close to the end. There was also a rocking chair in the front right corner, that one time moved haltingly on its own.

At first I thought the text — a suicide letter detailing a planned jump from a series bridges — was getting tedious, but the repetition and small details about the bridges grew on me. And the music included Bobby Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe, which immediately reminded me of Laura Cantrell for a reason that should be obvious to anyone familiar with her show on The Station. The text made sense on its own, and also in the context of the song, and I think it was rich enough to allow different viewpoints.

There was some of that with the dance too. It was clearly organized in parts with a kind of movement in each one at first, that came together later. But they could also be seen as forming a narrative, or rather several alternative possible one came to my mind. There was some drunken stumbling as well as whirling virtuosity, mechanical carrying of lumps of coal as well as an intense physical immediacy. And none of the teenage provocation that bored me in some of his last few shows. It all made sense in more than on way, held together by the dancer’s presence, the text and an aesthetic vision generous enough to include more than reduce. It was good to see him put his many facets together in this way, and I think his ability to again find a dancer to embody and nourish his vision shows he can still be more than the caricature into which he sometimes lets himself stumble.

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

June 10th, 2010: Savion Glover – Bare Soundz

@theatre de la ville

That was my first contact with tap dance, and I think the setup was right for me. It was maybe too different from what I’m used to when it comes to dance, but those amplified platforms turned the performance into an almost purely musical one, and one I really liked a lot.

I never really thought of it as dance but music, even when they relayed each other on a single platform the visual side faded to the distant background because the rhythmic side was so strong. To me it felt like three gifted percussionists in the kind of exchange I often expect from Indian musicians. But the closest reference in my mind was Kodo, especially when they slowed down a little. I have not seen them in years, but they too have a visual side, even though it’s secondary. It was diverse enough to invoke other references, and at times some of their swiping sounds reminded me of scratching.

The virtuosity was a little too much at times, especially from Savion Glover, though Maurice Chestnut proved just as able to go blindingly fast. Marshall Davis Jr. was my favorite of the three, because in his slower moments he weaved my favorite rhythmic sequences.

It went beyond just rhythm too, the repeated phrases around solo burst took on a melodic quality and the changes in pace and the difference in sounds built the same kind of effect several times. As dance, I’m not into that kind of speed and it was a little monotonous. But as music I just loved it, and most eagerly sign up for more of this.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | Dance, Music | , | Leave a comment