Gigs, dance, art

September 25th, 2009: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Apocrifu

@cité de la musique

I really like the last of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui‘s shows I saw, but I was wary of this one because of the religious theme and the bigger stage. I really like him better in less ambitious pieces. But this one turned out OK. Not great, but I liked enough of it, maybe because having only three dancers kept him from going on too long.

I did have a hard time at the beginning though. Yasuyuki Shuto’s coming down those huge stairs was a little too fluttery and ostensibly graceful for me. Then the ground-hugging solo by Dimitri Jourde was just too in contrast with the opening, and by the time Cherkaoui got into his own solo I was fearing the style would be kept too separate. But his solo was really nice, mixing a bunch of small things that didn’t fit that well into this grid. And even though their ankle bells struck me as odd at first, they did fit in with the Corsican singers somehow.

And then their first lining with books in their — they would do that later with swordish props — made for a nice break. They would mix up their arms and hands keeping the books open and moving them around, with heads sometimes jutting out as a multi-armed and headed creature. Maybe a little long and possibly easy on some level, but very well done, with made it work.

I still think there was a bit too much soloing, but there were also times with two of them supporting/confronting each other and a later even sequences with all three in sync. The message wasn’t exactly subtle — all three people of the books being blinded by those before being even more alike in their sword wielding — but that’s a minor detail to me. Even though I don’t think it was an unqualified success on that front, he did manage to bring those different styles into a dialogue of sorts, and that’s interesting.

In another case of evolution for the better along the way, the initial puppet handling wasn’t my thing, and seeing them mime pulling their own string to move their legs looked just too obvious at first, but the final twist made me appreciate that much more. Cherkaoui’s steps got more like a ponderous stomping, and his climbing the stairs a last time was golemish as he got to the top and jumped off as the lights went out. Maybe not the subtlest thing either, but there was a definite dramatic buildup to that finale in a short time, and that was a nice trick.


September 29, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

April 23rd, 2008: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Origine


Well, I had been lukewarm about Myth back in September, but this time I have no such reservations. Origine was probably my favorite of all of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui‘s efforts I have seen so far. I think it tops D’avant, because the sense of humor and mix of ancient music with contemporary winks are still there, and the dance is just better, my favorite as far as he’s concerned. As usual, the music was ancient and performed on stage, this time by three musicians from Sarband: Fadia el-Hage on vocals, Miriam Andersén on gothic harp and vocals, and Vladimir Ivanoff on percussiond and lute. I still like that kind of music, even more so as the dance was so clearly of and about today. The stage design was simple — especially by his standards — with a four paneled structure in the back featuring a small platform. The panels were backlit at times, and used for some shadow play that was all the more potent from its being used sparingly — great lighting throughout, by the way. Fewer bells and whistles, the focus was square on dance this time, and justifiably so. Shorted than his recent works as well, and that probably enhanced its intensity.

My favorite moments of pure dance were when all four dancers were involved, a very dynamic sequence at the very beginning, with a lot of quick motion, circling with outstretched arms and almost aggressive chopping — almost but not quiet, that was defused by a sense of flowing. Another beautiful sequence toward the end when each dancer in turn would flow in and out of the group — here the motions had a swaying quality and echoes of earlier moments. Each dancer had his solo parts, there were many combinations and the show was diverse with many highlights in different styles. At some points it was more like pantomime, as when a dancer played out a beating where he was both the victim and the perpetrators. But most of the time dance was prominent.

A personal favorite was a long sequence where one dancer would become everyday objects used by another — from shoes to chair to cigarette to clothes and many more, including a shower sequence where he was showerhead, soap, towel and bathrobe. It was still dancing though, and there was an understated poetic aspect to it that reminded me of Josef Nadj without the props and with a softer melancholy. It was funny as well, but to me it was first and foremost beautiful and imaginative.

I had a great time, and it felt good to see what I liked most about him come together like this at last. And to cap it off, at the very end, the back panels were showing a computer screen and finally a map; I realized the starting point was Manhattan from the single place name I read as it was zooming out: Jersey City, of all places. Small world indeed.

April 23, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

September 27th, 2007: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Myth

Opening of the regular dance season, at last. Unfortunately, I had a very bad seat, especially for this one. It one so far on the side that some parts of the stage were out of sight. And of course it did matter as a lot was going on, and I missed part of the action. Another drawback was that I could not see half the musicians. There was a small ensemble on stage playing medieval music, and my curiosity about the instruments was thwarted. Not a big deal, as there was a lot to see anyway, but still. He’s been using a lot of live medieval music, and I share that fondness.

Overall, I liked it. I was more into it at the beginning than at the end, but that might be overload after two hours, reinforced by my not being able to see part of the action. Or maybe it was because the first chapter struck a bell. A lot of dancers dressed in black, hugging the ground around actors like their shadows at times, but more often moving of their own accord. Their movements were on the fluid side, a quality that disappeared as the show progressed. I usually like harsher stuff more, but here there was something about these shadows that I really connected with.

I couldn’t help thinking it was ironic how there was a spoken part about the wizard of Oz and finding a home. As I felt the overall mood switch from the early shadows to more light — and light can be harsh and violent — I felt like that comfortable place was drifting away. My home is in the shadow. I acknowledge my shadehood. It’s both a blessing and a curse, this connection. It does mean I’m missing the point, seeing myself there means I’m not seeing what was actually there. On the other hand, I’ve come to rely on dance for these insights. I don’t like it as much as I need it.

September 29, 2007 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment