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Year: 2008

Tanz Company Gervasi: Seikes

A splendid mixture of music, choreography and light.

Salvatore La Ferla Kenia Bernal Gonzalez Tiffany Watson
Salvatore La Ferla Kenia Bernal Gonzalez Tiffany Watson

The piece opens in near darkness. The steps develop slowly. Strange metal shades adorn the dancers’ heads.

Individual bulbs hang down from overhead. The dancers push these pools of light and then dance solos underneath.

Salvatore La Ferla Tiffany Watson Kenia Bernal Gonzalez
Salvatore La Ferla Tiffany Watson Kenia Bernal Gonzalez

For the rest of the piece, the dancers form and reform in pairs and groups and solos under these lamps. Occasionally, some of the dancers actually sing with Lars Stigler’s splendid to score – they sing in an incomprehensible language (certainly not English or German).

Salvatore La Ferla Kenia Bernal Gonzalez
Salvatore La Ferla Kenia Bernal Gonzalez

I didn’t quite understand the how or the why of when they broke into song but they sang well. The program notes mention something about Dadaistic – singing in tongues and Dadaism go together.

Leonie Wahl Salvatore La Ferla
Leonie Wahl Salvatore La Ferla

Each of the dancers has quite different technique and attributes, but all are excellent. Each dancer is beautiful in his or her own way, whether the long limbed speed of Leonie Wahl or the concentrated intensity of Kenia Bernal Gonzalez or the cool grace of Tiffany Watson or the incredibly flexibility of Salvatore La Ferla.

dancer Salvatore La Ferla
dancer Salvatore La Ferla

Gervasi’s success in Seikes is again making the quotidien magic. Gervasi takes one ordinary object and makes it extraordinary. This allows us to see the wonderful in daily life. As daily life is the only life we have besides fantasy life – whatever will allow us to see the magic is welcome. It is something like the eye of a child. Remember how incredible a microscope or a crystal ball could be? Elio Gervasi does and he lets us see it.


Bailouts for whom? Capitalist hypocrisy stumbles

Rather amazingly the New York Times, David Brooks manages to argue from both sides of his mouth.

He is against the bailout of the big three auto companies, but he is for the bailout of the banks:

Democrats from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi want to grant immortality to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. They have decided to follow an earlier $25 billion loan with a $50 billion bailout, which would inevitably be followed by more billions later, because if these companies are not permitted to go bankrupt now, they never will be.

This is a different sort of endeavor than the $750 billion bailout of Wall Street. That money was used to save the financial system itself. It was used to save the capital markets on which the process of creative destruction depends.

This just doesn’t make any sense.

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Seven Features of the Perfect Camera for Dance Photography

I’ve just shot quite a brilliant show – Nikolaus Adler’s Oedipus is Complex. I got some good shots but I missed a lot of the most powerful sections while shooting. Was I not paying attention? No, I was paying very close attention and watching my shots go by while withholding fire.

oedipus is complex nikolaus adler
Boris Nebyla lets loose in Nikolaus Adler’s Oedipus is complex
Shot with Canon 20D and Canon 50mm 1.4 1/160 sec f2.2 ISO800

What happened then?

Shutter noise. Oedipus is Complex was a live event and my friend Jörg was shooting a film version. So what we agreed with producer Nicolaus Selimov was:

  • no shooting in quiet spots
  • no rapid fire bursts (not something I’m inclined to do anyway – I pick my moments)
  • minimal number of photos except in very high volume sections

And following this prescription:

  • the performance was not disrupted by my shooting
  • the photographs are quite good

But I did miss a lot of the strongest emotional moments with the performer alone on stage. And some of the sections which I do have could be even better (but I had a choice of three images instead of ten).

So both inspired and frustrated by this evening I went camera browsing for the first time in a couple of years (I’ve been very happy with my 20D, particularly since I put the Canon 50 MM F1.4 on it). I started by making a checklist for the perfect camera for dance photography:

Here are the camera requirements for dance (or classical concert) photography in order of priority:


Oedipus is Complex – Nikolaus Adler

Oedipus is Complex begins like Blade Runner with a dramatic voiceover – full of darkness and light.

From a crashed and cutup Volvo on the right hand side of the stage runs a red carpet across the full stage. Three austere single beds each under a single flourescent long hospital bulb. The bare brick walls of the Odeon distant in the dim light. A ruin of time.

A rich and jaded male voice intones a monologue scattered full of such phrases:

"I am a rat"
"The filth of the city"

In the distance, the sound of black rain.

Homunculus Theater 2008 Oedipus is Complex
Homunculus Theater 2008 Oedipus is Complex: opening dance

A beautiful young woman in a white blouse and black skirt drifts on and stares at the audience. A sixties Rolling Stones type song – think Paint it Black – starts to play and the woman begins to fling herself to the rhythms. She is gradually joined by another six dancers all convulsing with equal force.

At the end a blond man (Karl Schreiner) with the dangerous looks of Billy Idol at his prime remains alone with the young woman. The narrator tells the story of their love, as Laius bends Jocasta over the bed to take her crassly from behind. An ironic contrast to the narrator’s beautiful final phrase "the earth moved" – a moment full of truth concerning the origin of children and the nature of love.

Oedipus is born from between Hein’s legs as she sits on the right front bed with Schreiner. Plop, Kun-Chen Shih flops to the ground. A prophetic voice intones about how he will kill his father.

Kun Chen Shih born as Oedipus with mother Anna Hein
Kun Chen Shih born as Oedipus with mother Anna Hein

Two of the dancers (Karin Steinbrugger and Amadeus Berauer who alternate between dancing and observing, like a miniature Greek chorus) take the young Oedipus away and raise him.

When Oedipus returns, quickly enough a mass fight between the full cast starts to a soundtrack of soaring 80’s pop. The fight ends in a head butt from Kun-Chen Shih to Schreiner, with Schreiner sprawled dead at the front of the stage.

Homunculus golden girls Martina Haager Anna Hein Karin Steinbrugger
Homunculus golden girls Martina Haager,
Anna Hein and Karin Steinbrugger mourn the fallen Laius

Three Spells – an enchantment by Damien Jalet (TQW Vienna)

Man or beast. Where is the boundary between us? This is a theme that Damien Jalet often explores on the boundary of his larger pieces with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

On stage Damien Jalet live on the boundary between man and beast. His contortions on stage have a sinister aspect. He rolls and crawls, often ending in a fierce growl.

Tonight he took this theme and devoted the evening to transmutation between animal and human.


The opening piece began with two mythical creatures with grasping mouths doing some strange dance of love and combat, kissing and biting one another. The movement was front lit throwing up macabre shadows on the wall behind.

Eventually one of the white furry animals perished and the remaining animal attacked a supine young woman, who gradually struggled back against the beast and stood up. She was wearing a black veil and jewellery. Her translucent black silk top revealed a gorgeously proportioned body.

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Wallfrau – a new work from Renato Zanella

Margaret Wallman had a strange and wonderful life. Where others would have seen curses, she found blessings. In 1938 where she was the very popular ballet director, the Direction of the Vienna Staatsoper summarily dismissed Wallman on the grounds of her Jewish origins.

Wallman hardly missed a beat. She emigrated to America but ended up in South America running her own dance company for some of the happiest days of her life. When Europe had stabilised after the war, Wallman returned in 1948 to Milan. Her prolific career as an opera director took Wallman regularly to Salzburg and Vienna.

Between times she found time to choreograph Greta Garbo’s dance scenes in Anna Karenina.

For the Berührungen festival, choreographer Renato Zanella, another former Staatsoper ballet director, decided to tackle Wallman’s not uncomplicated life story. Zanella’s path through Wallman’s life is impressionistic, sketching out what Zanella believes are the key moments of her spiritual and creative path.

margarete wallmann tanzerin
Margarete Wallmann in her days as a dancer