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

May 14th, 2011: Wu Man


What can I say? Wu Man is amazing. She’d be on her own, but she played with musicians from Central Asia and that was even better. I think I had seen them before, but I’m not sure so I won’t wander and guess their names. The point is they all played in good faith and there was a magical moment where borders faded into irrelevance. Wu Man played a few songs solo, and these were great, then there was some Central Asian music where I was just sure I’d heard these guys before, they were so skilled yet that was nothing compared to when they played with Wu Man. Then it wasn’t about skill, they all had that. More about what each could bring to the table. It wasn’t always obvious, most of the time it was either Wu Man or the others, but when they played together at last that was a release and something special. I brought together worlds than had been kept separate for no reason.

It’s certainly not what I like best about Chinese music, and I like Kyrgyz music much better, but it made a lot of sense to bring these together. Wu Man definitely knows what she’s doing, and even though I don’t really like that side of the Chinese music tradition, she made her point that it belongs to it. And it’s such a rare thing that she could play with these guys like it was obvious they all belonged together. That’s how good she is, and that performance was something special just for all the untold things she made obvious. It’s all more than what just went on, and she conveyed as much by not playing at times. I’m still figuring out.

June 13, 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 2nd, 2011: Juan Carlos Oviedo y los hermanos Acuña / Berta Rojas


Berta Rojas is an amazingly skilled musician, but the music itself was just too polished for me. Though I think I would have liked it a lot a few years ago, back when I actually liked Bach. The music reminded me of that composer for no specific reason, just for the feeling that I had lost the ability to like it, but had it at some point. Still, even though I wasn’t all that interested in it, her skill wasn’t empty or showy, and there were still other elements that kept me from slipping into boredom. And her play had enough nuances to keep me on my toes.

Unsurprisingly, I was much more interested in the folk music of Juan Carlos Oviedo y los hermanos Anuña. It’s still not as raw as I like it, but the harp player was downright amazing. He pulled sounds out of his instrument I had never heard as crisp. In plenty of ways, but the shortest notes were the best for me. I was so transfixed I paid little attention to what the other two were doing whenever he got going. His fooling around at the end of the show was impressive to me, not because of the antics — though they were cool enough — but because he was still playing quite well. But not when compared to what he had done earlier, that performance raises the bar for me when it comes to this instrument.

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

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

January 13th, 2010: Johan Hedin – Pelle Björnlert – Erik Pekkari


I didn’t know anything about Swedish music, and I was curious about the nyckelharpa. That’s a very nice looking instrument, and Johan Hedin certainly knows what to do with it. All three musicians were really good, Pelle Björnlert has what was my favorite moment of the concert on fiddle, and Erik Pekkari was just as good on both zither and accordion.

But I didn’t like the music much. There was something about it, some flourishes sometimes, that were really grating for me. The few exceptions included an accordion solo, a polska during the encore that had less of these embellishments than usual, and a tune that sounded almost like a jig. I liked the sound of the instruments, especially the bass-sounding zither, but these were usually not enough to overcome my dislike for some of the phrases. I don’t know if that’s because it was sounding too old or too European, but I don’t think I’ll try to figure it out.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

January 12th, 2011: Nature Theater of Oklahoma – Life and Times Episode 1


When I got a ticket for that show I was just trying to take a chance with theater and selected this one by Nature Theater of Oklahoma just because it was in English. Later, when I read it was three and a half hours long, I had second thoughts and really expected to be in for an evening of boredom. Just before the show I read it was a musical, and my dread got worse. I had never seen one, but the music I heard never made me want to try it. So I was thinking I would leave during the intermission.

Wrong. I stayed, and didn’t get bored at all. On the musical side, it didn’t have those catchy tunes with an easily remembered chorus that I hate. Actually the singing was most prominent with the “so”, “like” and “hmm” parts, and the music played a fine supportive role. Probably a little more than that, because I don’t think the play would have worked as well for me without it, even though it never stole the show. Those uniform-like costumes with the red squares — that reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature — were just right: unreal enough to avoid reality, but simple enough to get out of the way. The same goes for the dance sequences and the props: they played their part to change the pace, but were not the focal point.

The text was a transcript of someone telling her memories of her childhood up to third grade. Games, family members, school, her first friends, stuff like that. Nothing special really, and no plot or drama to it, which suits me more than fine. The transcript included all hesitations, asides and mistakes, so it was totally mundane material. Except that the delivery was anything but. And that turned the boring details into something special.

In and of itself, any single component of that show would have bored me, aside of course from the charisma and presence of the performers. But the way they were put together was just brilliant. In a sense it reminded me of hearing Kenneth Goldsmith’s most tiresome/genius antics, but I think I liked this even better. There was just more to this performance, and every single one of the actors was memorable. Of course the three female actors had bigger parts, but each male actor’s part was just right. They all took turns singing the female narrator’s words, but for the first half or so the men were not involved at all. They were all great. I think I would have liked this show  anyway, but they made it something special.

I’m really glad I didn’t chicken out. I liked it so much I think I will go see the next episode if I get the chance. I hope it won’t be exactly the same thing, but I trust these people now.

January 16, 2011 Posted by | Theater | , | Leave a comment