Swimming in Swan Lake: Fifth International Dance Gala in Graz

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 »

OntarioDances.ca but no website

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 »

Laura Marling is just the start

If you've read uncoy before or worked in the offices at Foliovision, you'd know I have a penchant for female singer songwriters and good taste in the same. One day I was looking for Charlie Fink, I needed his profile picture for a project. And ended up with the peculiar frontman from Noah and the Whale on the Guardian.co.uk. I was looking for a different Charlie Fink but read enough of the article to hear that the wrong Charlie Fink had dated an amazing songwriter/singer Laura Marling. Go to the clouds now with some of her tunes off of Once I was an Eagle.

Laura Marling is just the start Continues »

Celebrating Sacre in Graz

In Graz the 2013 season was dedicated to the work of Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes. The crowning achievement is a three piece full evening of Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky with full orchestra.

A sumptuous rendition of Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis & Chloe opens the evening. As substantial a stage as is the Oper Graz, the orchestra pit is full to bursting while the female voices take up the the left upper lodge. The male singers are in the wings backstage. The musical performance is worth the price of admission on its own. Combined with ballet director Toulon’s complex visuals, this is an extraordinary work. Majestic dancer Bostjan Ivanjsic takes centre stage as Daphnis. The role is a complex one, exploring a young man’s sexuality – first timid, then more aggressive. He throws himself into a pool on stage and comes out soaking wet and fully nude, challenging the slightly bourgeois Graz Opera audience with full frontal male nudity.

Celebrating Sacre in Graz Continues »

In Greece, they are dancing in the streets

Amazing image from Christos Lamprianidis. Who would have thought in times like this the Greeks would be dancing in the streets?

Christos Lamprianidis Dexim
Christos Lamprianidis - Dexim via 1px

Dance retains the power to make banality go away, to lift us into the air and out of the prose of everyday life. How we've forgotten to move and become glued to our desks and computers never ceases to astonish me.

We just need to step out into the world and into our bodies to really live again.

In Greece, they are dancing in the streets Continues »

Impulstanz 2012: Franz West Tribute

Franz West died July 25. West was a conceptual artist who collaborated often with the dance creators at ImPulsTanz. Karl Regensburger moved quickly to put together a tribute by many of the dance makers who had worked with West or were influenced by his work last night.

Franz West by Ludwig Koeln
Franz West by Ludwig Koeln

Moderator and hands on organiser Jennifer Lacey did her best to keep the program on track but at two hours without a formal break and some real trouble moving the performers on and off, momentum was uneven. Had Lacey known how many pauses there would be, she could have passed on the introduction and done that in forced breaks. She told one joke which made me laugh while waiting what seemed like half an hour for Philip Gehmacher to get out of the back and onto the stage. Gehmacher’s equipment in the end was moved out onto the stage by force by Intendant Regensburger himself.

“As dancers we learn young to come on time or ahead of time and to be ready. Visual artists don’t ever seem to get this message – they are almost always late and badly organised – so collaborating with them is always an adventure for us.”

To open there was a beat poetry reading in the upper foyer of Kasino. Then the doors opened and a blonde transvestite in the most amazing electric blue platform heels pranced out.

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ImPulsTanz 2012: Ivo Dimchev, The P Project

The word on the street is that this Ivo Dimchev guy is unpredictable, even dangerous. You just don’t know what will happen when you enter the auditiorium. Mystery and danger, powerful human aphrodisiacs. It starts calmly enough.

Ivo Dimchev The P Project
Ivo Dimchev The P Project:
Projection of the cancelled verbal game
Readable 3456 pixel version

A guy walks onto the stage half naked shaved head and gold chains. Sits down at an electric piano. Holds his hands solemnly in prayer. Looks good and safe so far. First sign of trouble: Dimchev pulls out a little vertical jar, holds up to his nose and takes a couple of big snorts. Poppers he says.

He plays the piano rather well and then starts pounding on the keys so hard and so randomly you wonder if he knows how to play the piano at all. But then his fingers find the keys again. Dimchev stops occasionally to laugh maniacally, shaven head and UR-slavic features like some James Bond villain prototype.

Time to talk. Inspiration for the show: playing games with the word “pussy”. Word game works like this: adjective (fervent, macrobiotic, powerful, interrupted) plus “pussy” plus preposition (in, to, of, from, without) plus noun (airport, future, foundation, university). For some reason this word game doesn’t satisfy Dimchev’s requirements for interaction with audience. Too abstract.

ImPulsTanz 2012: Ivo Dimchev, The P Project Continues »

Impulstanz 2012: CIE. I.D.A./Mark Tompkins – “Opening Night – A Vaudeville”

Sometimes one is just blown away by a theatre piece. This happened to me last night with CIE I.D.A. and Mark Tompkins last night. Their piece has a rather silly title “Opening Night – A Vaudeville”. Theortically it’s billed as light entertainment and performance art, two of my least favorite genres. Normally performance art is under rehearsed claptrap by imperfect and sloppy technicians of modest charisma who are convinced the world rotates around their navels.

In other words performance art is an unadulterated fiasco which has poisoned the dance world and taken it over, as the less capable outnumber and outvote the properly trained as conteporary dance slips down a long greasy rail into ramp amateurism.

At least that’s what I thought until I saw Tompkins and his French partner Mathieu Grenier perform last night.

Mathieu Grenier Mark Tompkins as mother in Opening Night
Mathieu Grenier Mark Tompkins as mother in Opening Night

Both gentleman are gifted singers and very capable actors. For much of “Opening Night” they sing a cappella together. In the Broadway or musical genre which provided the basic for their performance piece, both would likely be able to find and hold serious roles. These men take their craft seriously. Both are very funny but they do not camp it up with sniggers to the audience as so many of our new “funny” performers do. No Tompkins and Grenier pack their material thick with meaning and absurdity and power through it relentlessy, leaving audiences a bridge deck of questions to solve.

One of their songs includes throwaway lines which are not so throw away – “how life ebbs and flows”. A Vaudeville turned out to be a matter of life and death, the fragility of life.

Impulstanz 2012: CIE. I.D.A./Mark Tompkins – “Opening Night – A Vaudeville” Continues »

Sarka Ondrisova’s Voda na Vode in SND

Voda na voda starts with a woman lying in a chalk body circle, surrounded by suitcases and clothes scattered across the stage.

The ruins of life.

The beginning is the end, like a film. How did she arrive here?

As we all do by living life.

Voda na voda is a series of associative tableaux, focused alternatively on travel or on the relationships between men and women.

Men don’t do very well here. We’re either brutes, or dependent winos. Easily seduced, easily duped. Better controlled on a short leash than loved.

It’s a dark look into the heart but not an unmerited one. Most women do feel hard done by.

Along the way we are treated to elaborate work with bathtubs, high heels, climbing gear, skipping ropes, suitcases, suspended rope.

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Oper Graz: Deal.West.East

A trip to a Graz dance premiere is always a challenge. Graz Opera ballet director Darrel Toulon has been either dancing or creating dance for a quarter century, ever seeking the grail of the new.

Once again we are in the extraordinary studio theatre Wilder Mann. What makes Wilder Mann different from almost any other space is that there is no depth to the stage and it is enormously wide. Dance works horizontally instead of vertically. Alas neither of tonight’s choreographers took full advantage of the space this time: to take advantage of the space, one needs to program opposing important actions on either end of the stage. The effect in when used properly is almost like Mike Figgis’s Timecode film with four frames of action taking place at the same time.

In Deal.East.West, the something new involved bringing together two young choreographers from the two far extremes of the Eurasian continent: Shanghai native Jie Dong and James Wilton from England. Both are dedicated national artists, working respectively in their native lands, rather than from the European melting pot of choreography (French in Belgium, Spaniards in Paris, Russians in Germany).

I can think and dream about it

To be fair, Dong’s work is very much in the Western tradition of modern dance and has very little to do with Oriental movement: his masters studied in the tradition of Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan and Pina Bausch. Dong is as Chinese (or not) as Hong Kong action films.

Jura Wanga Jana Drgonova Daphne van Dooren Ruo Chen Wang Dianne Gray
Jura Wanga, Jana Drgonova, Daphne van Dooren,
Ruo Chen Wang, Dianne Gray

Dong collaborated with long time Toulon stage designer Vibeke who onced again offered us one her extraordinary minimalist environments in white. On the left there was an enormous three meter high white chair. Later a smaller white chair is passed among the dancers. Small elegant details which worked.

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