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Category: Dance

ImPulsTanz 2012: Francis Bacon with Ismail Ivo

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Balet Bratislava: Czech In

A prolific season for Balet Bratislava: tonight saw the third full evening of new choreography from Mario Radacovsky’s young company.

The opening piece Slovanské Dvojspevy (Slavonic Duets: Czech choreographer Libor Vaculik) tells a playful tale of Slovak courtship. The long white skirts and the white shirts of the men gave the stage the lightness of spring and early summer. The music is much heavier though Antonin Dvorak’s Slovak Dances opus 46 and 72 and one of the Moravian dances too). Sadly the sound system in Novaj Tsena is simply not adequate for classical music: played too loud Dvorak descends into cacophony.

While on the subject of the theatre the stage seems too small as well for this piece. With ten dancers forming two groups at the same time, you did not have the feeling of observing Slovak courtship rituals in fields or the countryside but rather a kind of back urban alleys version. Basically, too much furniture in a room. Whether Slavonic Duets would be any better on a larger stage is an open question: I believe a catastrophic Ivan the Terrible I once saw in the SND was also the creation of Libor Vaculik.

The performances were evenly adequate with one exception: Klaudia Bitterová stood out for her radiance, her poise and the lyricality of her movements. There was no Katarina Kosiková to share the stage with and Bitterová took full advantage of her opportunity to shine. Andrej Szabo as the lead among the men presented himself an ideal partner to Bitterová.

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Volksoper Ballet: Carmina Burana – Afternoon of a Faun – Bolero

Afternoon of a Faun, Bolero and Carmina Burana are Volksopera’s dance corps chance to shine outside the shadow of the main ballet.

Afternoon with a Faun immediately brings memories of Nijinski, the famous photograph. It’s a dangerous standard to lance against. Choreographer Boris Nebyla has never lacked courage and plunges straight in. The stage is spare with just four white ceiling to floor breaking the all black stage, light slips through from behind. At the front of the stage, Mihail Sosnovschi poses front foot under him back leg extended. His powerful physique impresses right away. Sosnovschi strikes a series of poses to Debussy’s music, sometimes balletic, sometimes more from a bodybuilder’s show.

Faun2
Faun: Mihail Sosnovschi

At this point, one is optimistic about the duet to come. Lovely Brazilian Tainá Ferreira Luiz creeps across the back of the stage between the columns. Her hair is dyed a flaming red and she is clad in a flesh toned body suit.

The pair now pose together and interact in some sort of flirt. It’s all strangely sexless though. From here Afternoon of a Faun just meanders. There’s a hint of hope for some flames when Luiz with her legs extended backwards and on her stomach with Sosnovoschi above juts her hips into the floor three times, as if making love but it’s just a tiny spark in a very tasteful but too benign Afternoon of a Faun.

Faun1
Faun: Tainá Ferreira Luiz & Mihail Sosnovschi

Bolero is the creation of András Lukács, Hungarian wunderkind of the Harangozo’s regime. Lukács is almost all grown up now and toils no more for choreolab but for the main stage. No excuses now.

In tackling Bolero, once again the choreographer is taking the measure of a musical work greater in the imagination than anything he or she could create.

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