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

October 29th, 2008 § 0

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.

Three Spells - an enchantment by Damien Jalet (TQW Vienna) Continues »

Farewell Jörg | Abschiedsbrief Jörg Haider

October 16th, 2008 § 4

Jörg Haider was the first person I met in Austria outside of my girlfriend’s family.

Anna was dancing at the opening of the Carinthian Summer Musical Festival in July 2003. I had been in Austria for about two days before the festival. We’d had time to go swimming once and then it was off to the lake and Anna’s performance there.

We were both thinking about the dance – the choreography was in order, but we were still concerned about her costume and Anna’s hair. Anna had to get her head shaved for the asylum scenes in Lapinthrope just a week before. Wigs, scarves, hats were all proposed to make hide her shaved head. In the end the bare head prevailed (it’s a lot easier to dance modern without something precarious glued to your head). With a woman as beautiful as Anna that summer and a dancer as talented as Anna, the audience is unlikely to pay too much attention to the length of her hair. And so it was.

The dance went very well.

On the way there, I heard Haider would be there, in his role of Landeshauptmann to open the festival.

Of course, I’d heard of Jörg Haider before. Even in Canada we got news of the Austrian politician who was supposed to be a new Hitler, threatening the rise of a fourth Reich.

Based on what I’d read in the press, I expected to find a brute – either foaming at the mouth and shrieking like Hitler or a portly sadist like Goering.

Instead, an elegantly attired fortyish and athletic man in an immaculately tailored Italian suit rose and spoke for over half an hour. If Haider had notes, he didn’t need or use them much. It was the first time I’d heard a long speech in German, outside of the vituperative extracts from Hitler’s rallies.

jorg haider speaks
jorg haider speaks

Haider’s voice was resonant and clear, the structure of his sentences as well tailored as his suit. Little acquainted with the German language at that time, I was only able to follow the phonetic balance of Haider’s rhetoric.

The audience was as rapt as I’d ever seen at the speech of a politician. From Haider’s end there appeared to be little grandstanding – none of the whipping up of the crowd that so cheapens many politician’s public speaking. Just an engaging speech.

Like most young Carinthian women living in Vienna, Anna had an obligatory loathing of Haider. Later I learned why from Astrid. If you didn’t profess anti-Haider sentiment, you would instantly be blackballed back in Vienna. You would be ghettoized as an undesirable Carinthian.

Wallfrau – a new work from Renato Zanella

October 10th, 2008 § 2

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

Wallfrau - a new work from Renato Zanella Continues »