Gigs, dance, art

November 10th, 2010: Merce Cunningham – Roaratorio

@théatre de la ville

I could only have a ticket for one of the two programs of the Merce Cunningham company, but the choice was easy: I just love Cage’s Roaratorio. That turned out to be a mixed blessing, though. First, I was seated on a side and quite close to the stage, which meant the sound wasn’t that good and I missed a lot of the soundtrack. Second, the music was so good that it was distracting and I sometimes had caught myself not focusing enough on the dance.

On the other hand, I liked the way the dance matched the music. Not following it, but there were similar ideas sometimes. For instance there were hints of Irish folk dance, but more like bits mixed in with something else, like the music had bits and phrases of Irish music weaving in and out of the dense collage.

I liked the dance itself more than usual. It was less abstract and less obviously technical than the later works, and yet just unmistakably his, and not just because of the familiar tilts here and there. I also thought it was less consistent than usual, and I think that’s a good thing. I mean it featured not just different speeds, but also very different kinds of movements. And there was a sequence with pairs where the dancers looked far more human than usual. What I mean is that is the more recent pieces the technique and virtuosity would take over and when combined with the geometry of the choreography, it gave an abstract and unreal feel. This time the dance was still technically demanding, and they are no less skilled at it, but it was less obvious, and there were moments when the strain was less dominating. The timing look every bit as precise, but without the sharp angles I enjoyed it more.

I also liked that dancers would sometimes just stand or sit in the back instead of leaving the stage. That also echoed that the dancers had been stretching and warming up in street clothes on stage as we filed in. Both put the dance within a context instead of an aloof ideal. Which I think was also a good match for the music.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

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

December 8th, 2009: Merce Cunningham – Nearly 90²

@theatre de la ville

I think Merce Cunningham thoughtful plans for his company after his death show that he knew this had a fair chance to be his last. But I didn’t get any sense of a farewell or of a look upon his storied past. As usual, his dance remained about the present. And if there were lot of familiar elements in the speeds and the kind of movements, it felt more like another step in the direction he had been exploring these past few years. I think he was still trying new things.

I’ve never been a big fan of his work, and this show had about all the things I like and don’t like about it. On the positive side, there’s the dance for itself, pure movement without story or props. There’s also a really interesting array of different speeds, very slow at the beginning, pretty fast later, then less extreme. I think this is a very rich show, with a lot of different aspects, but very consistent as well. There is definitely something running throughout the show, more specific than Cunningham’s later style. That’s equally impressive and rewarding. And of course some specific movements that stood out for me. The one I liked best was repeated often at the beginning, with a dancer on one leg slowly turning her head and torso to one direction while turning her other bent leg in the other.

Which is also illustrative of what I don’t like much about his work. The software origin of the dance really shows, but in those extreme movements and in a kind of artificial looking smoothness. It does create something unique, but when combined with the high skill of the dancers, it often goes so far in this direction that it becomes almost purely visual. I think that’s what people call abstract about his work, though the word is wrong, just like cold would be. To me the demands of the dance make it impossible to relate to it on an immediate level, it’s an intellectual appreciation, which lacks something. Likewise with the dancers, they’re so skilled there’s not much showing from each as an individual.

I think the explanations of Cédric Andrieux helped me like this show better, in retrospect. Now I can guess some of the things I missed while I was seeing it. And anyway, even though it’s not the kind of dance I like best, it’s still a great show, and it display a real vision and trust in that vision. And it succeeds in making it come true. That’s a lot, more than I can reasonably expect from a dance show.

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment