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Remnants of Hapsburg Pressburg

July 8th, 2015 § 0

One of the great things about having a dog is that he will take you off the beaten track. Sometimes far off the beaten track. In this case on a 37 degree day, Thor insisted on going through the woods. I ended up crawling through bracken in shorts with low rise socks (very cool looking invention until crossing berries and vines in the woods).

Pressburg Pionier Oberleutenant Karl Hoper L
Pressburg Pionier Oberleutenant Karl Hoper (L)

In this case, Thor led me to a very old memorial tableau from 1909, reminding us of some unfortunate Pionier (in German) who were blown up by a mine. Until I saw the date I couldn't understand why the Russians or Slovak would write in German, as the Russians also had Pioneers. But no, this was a trace of Hapsburg Pressburg, when Pressberg was probably about the fifteenth city in the Austrian side of Austro-Hungary.

Bratislava Castle Danube boats postcard 1
Bratislava Castle Danube boats postcard (L)

While I was there I took a photo of the castle with boats passing. This photo has the feel of old postcards for me. Technically it's shot on a Leica R 50mm f2 mounted on a Sony NEX-5T. With the NEX-5T you can mount all your amazing old manual lens. Aperture exposure mode works great (unlike on the Canon 5D Mark III and other Canon DSLR). 

Presburg Mirror

January 20th, 2015 § 0

So this is how Hans felt
before the war. Hitler's voice drones
on the radio. A toothbrush in his hands,
his eyes in the mirror. Surely,
he thought, it won't come to this.
Level heads will prevail. Not twenty years
ago the cannons went silent.

But this time my bleary eyes admit,
it's been seventy years. Three generations
lived and died with just whispers
in the jungles or Balkan piano clatter.
An inconsequential hundred thousand
Arab children may have starved.

Nothing real, nothing like this. Slow heartbeat,
the distant boom of the end, absolute.
Hans' wife pooh-poohed the menace then
as mine now. Take Gretta with you my love
while you're out with the dog. Fresh air
will do you all good.
She smiles, urgently
rubbing cream into her forehead. A furrow
across her brow, dismisses any other care.

Real men do not fret about
what they cannot change.
Children
to be taken to school, cannons to load.
Duties to be discharged equally.
Centuries alter not man's destiny, woman's
insouciance. Accept the force. Indispensable
nation. Sieg Heil!

Swimming in Swan Lake: Fifth International Dance Gala in Graz

May 10th, 2014 § 0

In his Fifth TanzGala Graz the director of the Graz Ballet, Darel Toulon decided to finish off dance critics once and for all. At half time, it's already almost ten o'clock. We've seen seven excerpts and one full miniature already. The non-writing public is delighted by this cornocopia of choreography. Animated chat and high spirits reign.

The evening began with a short extract from one of Toulon's own most ambitious works, Swan Trilogy (Schwanentrilogie). I saw the full piece at its premiere in 2009 and Swan Trilogy has aged well. The giant eggs with cracks in them create impressive atmosphere while Dianne Gray looks fabulous as the Swan princess. Michal Zabavik is in great form. The live orchestra give the performance the feel of one Europe's great cultural capitals like Moscow or Paris. It's a pity the excerpt was so short.

The next pas de deux came from Roland Petit's Proust ou les intermittences du coeur. Two men dance naked to the waist as equal partners. Beautiful shapes, tender movement. Gabriel Faurie's Elegy for Violoncello and Orchestra provided a deeply moving acoustic background for what Toulon correctly noted as a masterwork. 1974 is like today. Rainer Krenstetter and Marian Walter's communication via movement will be the best we see tonight. A perfect performance of Petit's perfect piece.

Marian Walter und Rainer Krenstetter in Roland Petits Duett aus Les intermittences du Coeur
Marian Walter and Rainer Krenstetter in Roland Petits
Duett from Les intermittences du Coeur

Swimming in Swan Lake: Fifth International Dance Gala in Graz Continues »

Ballet Graz: Die Liebe Einer Konigin or A Royal Affair in Dance

March 8th, 2014 § 0

One of the the more peculiar and exciting stories of recent royalty came out of Denmark. In 1766, the quite mad Christian VII ascended the throne at just seventeen years of age. He remained in power for an astonishingly long time, considering his limited facilities. A young and beautiful wife from England was brought to him Caroline.

After the birth of an heir, Christian took a trip abroad and came back in the care of a Danish-German physician Johann Struensee. Struensee became both confidante and friend of King Christian, later the lover of Queen Caroline. Together they ruled in Christian's place for almost two years, before the Dowager Queen led a palace coup in favour of her own son. Result: Struensee executed, Caroline exiled.

In 2012, the Danes themselves made a majestic film version starring Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Struensee called A Royal Affair. Both sensual and intellectual, idealistic and cynical, Mikkelsen is thorougly compelling in the role. His queen is a fascinating and contradictory Caroline, divided between duty and passion.

Ballet Graz artistic director Darrel Toulon's instinct to treat this story in ballet is unerring. Dance thrives on passion and emotion, love and death. The Struensee affair has all of it.

How did Toulon do?

Ballet Graz: Die Liebe Einer Konigin or A Royal Affair in Dance Continues »

Review: Ballett-Hommage Forsythe | Horecna | Lander at Vienna Staatsoper

December 15th, 2013 § 0

The evening opens with Forsythe’s The Second Detail. When we see works like this, it’s clear Forsythe is such a great choreographer and his current strange experiments become even less comprehensible and more astonishing. But few people cared for Stravinski’s music in the 1920 so perhaps it’s we who just don’t understand.

Horecna Contra Clockwise Witness 1
Horecna Contra Clockwise Witness 1

The Second Detail opens up with a huge bright grey rehearsal space with just the words THE at the front. Thin white horizontal lines dividge the strange into precise grids. The dancers are in the same grey as the floor. I’m not quite sure why Apple is getting away with suing Samsung for packaging as Forsythe had the iPhone and MacBook Air boxing under control back in 1991 in Frankfurt. This is an early great work.

Vienna State Ballet company looks great dancing Forsythe these days. Under Legris, they’ve acquired both the élan necessary and the discipline necessary to put it all together. Strangely, the men have improved more than the women (who have been excellent as along as I’ve been in Vienna). Particularly notable is strongman Vladimir Shiskov but Mihail Sosnovichi also delivers an imposing performance while Eno Peci and Alexis Forbasco look good too. All of the men have developed powerful lower bodies and are a joy to watch.

Review: Ballett-Hommage Forsythe | Horecna | Lander at Vienna Staatsoper Continues »

OntarioDances.ca but no website

November 25th, 2013 § 4

How governments allocate and manage arts projects is a mysterious science.

pouquoi je danse
splash image for pourquoi je danse - see video at bottom of post

This week the Ontario Arts Council announced OntarioDances.ca a program to connect dance companies with dance presenters.

For some reason there are only nine theatres included:

OntarioDances.ca but no website Continues »

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry – Assange’s Chinese Shadow

November 23rd, 2013 § 0

Imagine being a world famous artist. Imagine designing national monuments. Imagine thinking that you are invulnerable to repression. Imagine speaking out against human rights abuses at your country's Olympics (Olympics for which you designed stadiums). Imagine being warned to shut your fat trap. Imagine you keep talking. Imagine that a few months later they come to arrest you and lock you away for 81 days. Imagine you come back with the strict warning that if you continue to make an international media spectacle damaging to the regime which is buttering your bread, you will go away not for three months but forever.

If your imagination is rich, you will have just lived the three years of artist Ai Weiwei's life who for many years had a blessed position as Lear's fool in Beijing. His nonsense answers and ironic commentary on the regime probably even amused the higher party bosses. A useful fool.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Assange's Chinese Shadow Continues »

View from Konigswart

November 13th, 2013 § 0

Where the Austrian emperors came to greet their Hungarian armies. Ironically, it's one of the last great NATO listening posts now, still fenced and guarded with now unneeded and obsolete gigantic satellite dishes. The woods stretch off in all directions for miles. From the watchtower one can see in every direction, from Hainburg to Bratislava to Kittsee and further to Hungary.

Konigswart NATO Kittsee full
Konigswart NATO Kittsee full

View from Konigswart Continues »