ImPulsTanz 2012: Marten Spangberg and Indigo Hangout – The Beach

August 12th, 2012 § 0

Marten Spangberg in “The Beach” deliberately takes us into an alternate reality. There are enough problems with this world, why shouldn’t there be a different better parallel one.

The first music we hear is dreamy psychedelic sixties music played softly. The stage is covered with technicolour blankets. The cast stroll in slowly, positioning themselves on the blankets.

Spangberg’s “The Beach” is a rich colourful world.

Looking at his stage with reds, blues, yellows, purples and his cast in emerald, ruby, topaz and sapphire clothes, we are reminded about how much colour is missing in our own lives.

Marten Spangberg The Beach ImPulsTanz Heroine
Marten Spangberg The Beach ImPulsTanz Heroine

The movement is centered around a young woman with long dark hair, wearing a red mask with gold glitter on the border. The mask fits her face perfectly and we can see her eyes. It turns out to be makeup. Little details like getting the mask right make “The Beach” special. Other girls have similar masks or cat’s whiskers. A boy wears a small clown nose with just part of his face in white and his eyes made expressive with liner.

The journey starts slowly. Everyone is moving in slow motion for the first hour. The large cast assemble themselves on the blankets in a kind of still life. They move but very slowly. They belong to each other and we are observing their world. All are extremely focused and present. Strangely for a piece with so little action, it’s not boring.

Two of the girls dance some sort of cross between gogo and cheerleading and ballet while blowing chewing gum bubbles. The popping bubbles performs perfectly Brecht’s estrangement (Verfremdungseffekt), not allowing us to relax or become complacent as we observe. The dancers are EXOTIC in the true sense of the word, i.e. unusual.

Marten Spangberg The Beach ImPulsTanz GoGo Dancers 2
Marten Spangberg The Beach ImPulsTanz GoGo Dancers 2

From contemporary music, Spangberg now takes us into the Baroque. His lead dancer with the red mask leads the others in a ritual of prayer with special hand gestures.

Part way through a second set of dancers in long satin evening gowns enter very slowly and take space at the left hand front of the stage. With them, they have shiny packages with presents in them. Are they some modern three wise men or are they Paris Hilton’s cousins. For these roles, Spangberg has recruited Jennifer Lacey and Kroot Jurak (third dancer unknown to me). All three are very strong stage performers, able to carry a show on her own.

This is what is special about Spangberg’s work. While it is about the concept and the moment, he does not think for a moment that a performance can thrive without first rate artists. On his stage along with the workshop performers, there are at least five special recruits, each of whom brings something special. I’m not quite sure how or why Jennifer Lacey assented to this role – as “The Beach” isn’t something I think she’d like from the outside – but as the snobby lady with shiny bags of presents she was excellent. Jurak didn’t give her strongest performance but her physical height and stage charisma made her a valuable addition to the show.

Behind the three women bearing gifts and further stage right were another group of dancers interacting among themeselves.

At this point, Spangberg has three stages running at the same time. The Casino space is perfect for multiple stages. Spangberg was the only one to exploit the space fully with multiple points of performance at the same time. A modern audience is so used to juggling internet, handy and television at the same time that concentrating on three things at once is easy to us and allows a richer experience. Darrel Toulon and Oper Graz worked prolifically for the last two years in Wilder Mann on symphonic wide stage productions. Hopefully next year other choreographers who work in Casino will make such good use of the space.

After nearly an hour of slow motion and ritual, pounding rock hits the speakers now. The girl with cat whiskers and a man in a buddha robe hand out little painted twigs to the audience. The act of giving a gift, just like what we saw on stage.

The dancers put on modern white tshirts with catchphrases like “I love Vienna” and “I love Paris”. They start dancing very systematic but rather mundane steps in a vast cycle. At this point, Karl Regensburger, Rio and others of the ImPulsTanz artistic direction dropped in and walked out within a quarter of an hour. But without the slow motion and colour of the beginning, this section wouldn’t make much sense. It would be wonderful if they would take care to see whole shows, especially when as controversial as Spangberg’s work.

The dull repetitive steps in some way recall modern life, so far from The Beach. Every day we go to work, answer our phone, answer our email, go out for drinks, talk to our colleagues in an endless routine. I’ve done my best in Foliovision to make every day special for the people working there but modern life is a noisy routine. We aspire to get back to the beach.

The repetitive modern steps make a certain amount of sense. Even ballet was a formal expression of the steps of the day, minuet and court dancing. So Spangberg taking the night club and walking steps of our day and ritualising as dance movements makes complete sense.

Spangberg is very politically engaged. We need to break out of the world of privilege. In the sixties for a very short while society managed to wake up to the world we are missing. There was a great deal of seeking going on and questions being asked. Women acquired new rights, many countries were liberated, eventually wars were put to a start, the fight against apartheid began. The journey was spiritual for a few years and not material.

By the eighties, society had gone back to seeking money and aspiring to drive a Porsche. The world was an empty glam one. It is this world which part two of The Beach reflected.

A third part began with some psychedelic trance music. The dancers took off their white tshirts and dressed differently but colourfully again. Almost all of them began to dance. The audience started to dance too. Many audience members had walked out during part two and missed the atmosphere of joy and love in part three.

Half the remaining audience got up on their feet and were dancing in the tribune in Casino. With just a slight change in the air, everyone would have been dancing. There was this wonderful feeling of having been on a journey somewhere together. Many stayed in the room and talked animatedly to one another after the show.

“The Beach” is a special place.

ImPulsTanz 2012: Benoît Lachambre – Snakeskins

August 10th, 2012 § 0

For years I’ve been hearing about Benoît Lachambre and how splendid and illuminating his work is. From the same crowd who love Jerôme Bel and detest Anna Teresa de Keersmaker and passionately loathe ballet.

Hence Lachambre’s work has always appeared conceptual and fairly painful to me. In the best case, instructive or prophylactic, like a trip to the dentist. The tangy taste I had of his work with Clara Furey at the Franz West Tribute did inspire me to attend a full show. What impressed me there was his intensity. Lila, under Lachambre’s mentorship for the summer, told me that his main speech to DanceWeb was all about intensity on stage. A very good point to make.

Benoit Lachambre Snakeskins photo Christine Rose Divito
Benoit Lachambre Snakeskins: LaChambre is bottom left, Albanese is bottom left
Rowe is on top of the rig pounding a thunder sheet
photo Christine Rose Divito

In “Snakeskins”, Lachambre begins by hanging upside down in a harness under a vast set of cables which dip four metres out to the audience. On the left of the netting is a guitarist with some computers and sound decks. As Lachambre waves his arms and the cables move, he appears to be flying like a giant bird. As he flies the music soars.

Throughout the piece Hahn Rowe’s sound is incredible. The closest equivalent which comes to mind (without Frip’s vocals) would be King Crimson. Or the Canadian band Black Emperor. Rowe for extended passages even plays his guitar with a bow like a classical violinist.

ImPulsTanz 2012: Benoît Lachambre - Snakeskins Continues »

ImPulsTanz 2012: Tremor – Sebastian Matthias

August 10th, 2012 § 0

 When we enter Kasino, the lights are half up, the dancers in place like living sculpture. They are positioned like a right angle triangle each in a corner.

When the door closes, a drum on top of a loudspeaker starts to play. It’s never quite clear what causes the drum to make noise and what part of the drumming is recorded and what part is pulled out of the drum on stage. The sound will be the most interesting aspect of this piece.

ImPulsTanz 2012: Tremor - Sebastian Matthias Continues »

ImPulsTanz 2012: Francis Bacon with Ismail Ivo

August 10th, 2012 § 0

One of the most awaited productions of the ImPulsTanz season includes co-artistic director Ismail Ivo in the lead role. Mesmerising posters and entrancing video previews have worked there magic. The public hungered for the late premiere. Here at last, Francis Bacon is a complex tormented work. The subject is the imaginative world of Irish visual artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992).

We begin in a prison cell with metal walls. There are flashing lights which recall something from the film the Matrix. It’s good to see a choreographic production challenging (if in miniature) the opera productions and the main stage theatre productions in production design. Great to get away from the empty black room at last. Fantastic work from production designer Penelope Wehrli.

Ismail Ivo is naked in a blanket, bare naked. The bottom of his feet are painted red, reminding us all that he and we are made of blood. The other dancers’ feet are also so painted. Mortality visualised on the soles of the feet.

Ivo struggles out of his blanket and against the closed walls. No exit is to be had.

Here a man enters (Giuseppe Paolicelli). Ivo’s Bacon first fights with him and then moves to love. Their love making is violent. Here sex is no gentle caress but a lashing out against mortality, an attempt to subjugate and own the other.

ImPulsTanz 2012: Francis Bacon with Ismail Ivo Continues »

Girl Sleeping, Night Train

August 8th, 2012 § 3

Girl Sleeping Night Train
Girl Sleeping Night Train

The colours of the bottle, the shoes and the skirt fascinated me here. The ordinary becomes extraordinary: normally these trains are banal commuter ferries.

Download 2000 pixel version.

Girl Sleeping, Night Train Continues »

Impulstanz 2012: Franz West Tribute

August 6th, 2012 § 0

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.

Impulstanz 2012: Franz West Tribute Continues »

ImPulsTanz 2012: Ivo Dimchev, The P Project

August 5th, 2012 § 2

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”

August 5th, 2012 § 0

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 »