Laura Marling is just the start

June 22nd, 2013 § 0

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 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

June 2nd, 2013 § 2

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 »

Review: Maria Yakovleva as La Sylphide

April 8th, 2013 § 1

As some of you might know, I recently wrote a long front page article about the struggle to be prima among the ballerinas at Vienna’s Staatsoper, started by Ludmila Konavlov (print edition for now, will appear under my profile Alec Kinnear). In that article I wrote about Maria Yakovleva and it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Yakovleva in a leading role in a classical ballet since her first years in Vienna. I’d recommended her as an ideal Sylphide and decided to test my recommendation.

Yakovleva is now in her prime as a ballerina at 27 years of age. It’s always a joy to see a dancer with all the strength and beauty of youth, but with solid experience. The non-ballet public often makes the mistake of going to see celebrated dancers when they are past their prime. The time to see Yakovleva is now.

Maria Yakoleva, Masayu Kimoto and Andrey Kaydanovsky in the tragic final scene
of La Sylphide at Vienna State Opera 7 April 2013: 
Yakoleva’s final moments are truly touching

Returning to the young Yakovleva, her early faults were too much attention to her footwork and not enough attention to her emotions, as well as too strong a reliance on what is indeed a charming smile. In modern works, recently she’s overcome her urge to charm with strong expressive dancing. Yet in the title role of La Sylphide, Yakovleva continues to charm but without entirely bewitching. There’s some secret part of her which she does not give to the stage. This is not to say Yakovleva is not entirely delightful as she effortlessly dances through even the most challenging sequences.

Review: Maria Yakovleva as La Sylphide Continues »

In Greece, they are dancing in the streets

February 1st, 2013 § 2

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 »

Vienna’s New Nutcracker

January 3rd, 2013 § 1

A new production of Rudolf Nureyev’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s classic at the Staatsoper with a fin-de-siècle set, a child army, and fake moustaches; plus: a guide to opera etiquette for kids.

The Nutcracker. Author: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Staatsoper

Nussknacker Konovalova
At the Vienna State Opera, Liudmila Konavlova as Clara holds the
nutcracker, surrounded by the giant heads of the grown-ups

Photo: Wiener Staatsoper

Every child should see The Nutcracker at least once. But if you want her to remember and him to treasure the occasion, best to be very careful which Nutcracker you choose.

Thus the new Nutcracker at Vienna State Opera is not a bad choice. It’s a Russian version, from Rudolf Nureyev, one of his first grand evening ballets in the West. The costumes are very traditional and very Russian: fancy officers’ uniforms, the grand gowns of the 19th century. The soldiers are Napoleonic and numerous, there are Hussars on horses (well, convincing enough). The decorations are as rich as the costumes, with photorealistic drawing rooms and massive grandfather clocks.

Vienna’s New Nutcracker Continues »

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 »