Gigs, dance, art

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 30th, 2011: Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Divana

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I’m always interested in hearing instruments I don’t know, so Vishwa Mohan Bhatt‘s Mohan Veena was a treat. I thought it sounded close to the usual slide guitar, but with a far richer sound. I was also impressed by how rich a simple instrument like the khartal turned out to be in the hands of Gazi Khan Barna. I’m not much into the virtuosity that is so common in Indian music, and this was very much on display again. But on the other hand they played a bunch of folk songs, and that helped me by not requiring as much knowledge as the more classical stuff. So I wasn’t totally lost and could enjoy the music more.

It’s not my favorite kind of music, as it remains a little too sophisticated for me, but I enjoyed that show, and after a while even the virtuosity faded in the background and didn’t bother me anymore. I won’t go hear this regularly, but I would certainly enjoy something like it once in a while.

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , | 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

April 5th, 2011: Jan Fabre – Prometheus-Landscape II

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I’m so late I’ll be going with a burst of short notes. Sonic Protest was taxing, then I kept busy and got mildly sick.

For the past few years I’ve liked Jan Fabre‘s solo pieces better, and I’m sticking to that position. This was really theater though, there was only a couple token dance segment, and not all that interesting to me. Visually it was quite striking and potent, if sometimes over the top. I quite liked the Oceanus segment, speaking through water was a nice idea. But there were too many words for me. There wasn’t much of a story, just a parade of mythic characters, but that in itself wouldn’t have bothered me. It’s just that I can’t help being bored by the whole Greek mythology thing, and to me Prometheus clearly isn’t the potent figure Fabre kinda seems to be relying on. Being out of tune on that point, I was left with the visuals, which are usually worth seeing in his work. This time too, but that was not enough for me, I wish I had seen L’Ocelle Mare instead.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Theater | , | Leave a comment

April 4th, 2011: Shashank

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Maybe it’s because Sonic Protest melt my mind since then, but I don’t remember that show as being as confusing as I expected. I have a hard time getting Indian music usually, but this time went OK. Maybe that’s because the flute was so close to voice to be more accessible to me. The rhythms are still beyond my ability to follow but at least there was something I could hold on too.

I really enjoyed that show, which is probably entirely inappropriate but is all I can do. There were still a lot of things I could just feel I was missing, but the flute wasn’t too intimidating, yet challenging enough to keep me focused and attentive. I missed a lot, but I got some, I think. It’s a process that I fully expect will take years before I really get something out of it, but this show gave me enough for me not to give up altogether.

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Music | , | 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

February 2nd, 2011: Debashish Bhattacharya – Ganesh Rajagopalan – Subhasis Bhattacharya – Satish Kumar

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A big part of the appeal of this concert was supposed to be the meeting of southern and northern tradition. As I understand neither, I’ll ill placed to comment on that. I was less obviously lost than usual within that music, but I suspect that’s because they were somewhat tentative, or that the music was deliberately watered down. It might be high time I give up altogether on Indian music. I’m just not willing to study it enough to get it.

The concert itself was enjoyable, if a bit flat in my opinion. The two headliners were Debashish Bhattacharya and Ganesh Rajagopalan, and they’re definitely good, as were their supposed sidemen. But when they were alternating playing, it felt flat, as if each was holding back. It was much better when they played together, and sometimes it got great when it was clear even to me that one was playing part of what the other or someone else should have been playing. There it got really interesting.

I probably would have like some voice, though the violin took up that part nicely. The slide guitar felt a little too pure to me, but there were some very nice moments when they played together and something felt like up in the air as to the division of parts.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment