Archive for August, 2007

Review – Bolshoi Ballet triple bill (“Class Concert,” “Elsinore,” “Upper Room”) – London Coliseum

August 14, 2007

I went to the ballet tonight, hoping to be right distracted, but during the Arvo Part music/Hamlet themed ballet I was thinking about costumes, and the job sitch. Okay, let’s be honest, I was thinking about the job sitch all day and was completely NOT focused on doing any sort of work at all. But we’ll skip all that for now and just talk about the show I saw, which was the Bolshoi mixed rep at ENO.

Capsule review: piece one, “Class Concert,” to music of various Russian masters (in the order, Composer, his student, his student, his student) was GREAT, extremely energetic, building to a frenzied head as the dancers worked through harder and harder dance moves. It just felt SO much like members of the corps showing that they were ready for being promoted to bigger roles, and the energy was incredible. The section where the danseurs were THROWING the ballerinas through the air was crazy! (PNB needs to add this to their rep.) Section two, Chris Wheeldon’s “Elsinore,” didn’t really do it for me – the partnering was nice but actually having a story would have been more engaging than just being “atmospheric.”

The third bit, Twyla Tharp’s “Upper Room,” benefitted from some Phillip Glass music (recorded, though I think it didn’t matter), but watching these poor Russian ballerinas attempt to get some urban dance grooves going was painful. They’d absolutely hit these ballet moves (made so much clearer in my mind by watching the first piece), then struggle to shrug their shoulders in any kind of rythmn. One girl was actually “on,” and once ‘d pointed her out to me, I kept my eyes glued on her and enjoyed the rest of it more. But, well, of course, there were always the lovely macaroons my date had picked up from Paul, and great visits over the intervals … so it was a good night out, and I am reminded that I must get my dance tickets purchased for the Sadler’s Wells events and the City Ballet trip to London in the spring.

(Later: PS: The website says, “Completing the Triple Bill is Class Concert, the iconic ballet by Asaf Messerer not seen here since 1965. Using all the Company‘s principal dancers, the ballet reaches an exciting climax which only the Bolshoi Ballet’s legendary bravura can produce.” Um. Just what are they selling here again?)

(This review is for a performance that took place August 14th, 2007.)

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Review – Paco Peña – Sadler’s Wells

August 9, 2007

Last night’s Paco Pena show was quite good, though it was really more about music than dancing (as I had wrongly thought). The first half was more “performance,” with the second half focused on more straight music and virtuoso solo dance. I realized, though, that something that was bothering me about most of the dance was that the dancers were not only not making eye contact with each other, they weren’t looking at the musicians. For me, one of the best aspects of flamenco is the improvisational aspects of it, and I only really saw that twice, once during a “everybody make rhythmn with what you’ve got” piece that looked like it was set in a bar, with everyone sitting down around tables, and a second time during the encore, when the oldish lady who’d been singing got in the middle of the circle of performers and cut the rug.

The other thing that bothered me is that there was a gaggle of teenaged girls sitting behind me that laughed at one of the dancers. I think it seriously broke his concentration, and I would have just stormed off. I don’t know why they were even there if they didn’t like that style of dance. I mean, yeah, sure, he was short, and with his shiny red boots on he looked a bit like Prince, and at one point I did think he looked a bit like a character out of Bugs Bunny, but I ached for him, and I was angry. I did think it was a bit sad that Spain got the Flamenco and England got the Morris Dancing, but we can’t control how things like Moorish invasions will play out in the long run, can we?

(This review is for a performance that took place on August 8th, 2007.)

Review – Anthony Gormley – The Hayward

August 5, 2007

Saturday morning we set out at 11:30 to see the exhibit in Notting Hill I’d read about in the paper a few weeks ago, but were quickly turned back by a call from the curator letting us know we’d missed our entry slot and would not be allowed in (drat). So we made a quick u-turn and headed to the train station and the quick shot to Waterloo and the Hayward, where there’s an exhibit up by Antony Gormley. You know the one: the ads have this sort of foggy room pictured on them, and the bizarre statues that are on top of the buildings nearby are a part of it.

Well. The good bit: the foggy room was really cool. Two steps in and you can’t see the door anymore; inside the walls, the space seems infinite. You can tell other people are there by their voices, but you can’t see them (much less your feet) until they are within a foot of you. Basically you see a dark area, and then it has color, and then it resolves into someone saying, “Excuse me” as they’ve almost run into you.

and I had a great time in this part of the exhibit. Two steps back and he’d disappear, then I’d tiptoe away, giggling, and see if I could sneak up on him. On my own, I tried to see if I was managing to go in the direction I thought I was (is this the south wall? the north wall?). At one point, we were playing Marco Polo, which was making me laugh and laugh. We had lots of fun.

The rest of the exhibit was … let’s start by saying odd. There were all of these casts of his body, some of them sort of stapled to walls, other hanging from the ceiling upside down by iron cables. Then there were sort of these negative casts of his body, but set up so they were cages with an open space where the body would have been, like African fetishes, or a reverse iron maiden. To be honest, they all looked a little pervy somehow, like giant bondage toys – suspension bondage mummy cases and giant mesh prisons in which a body could only find one way to contort itself.

But the more I looked at these things, the more I thought they were some of the most pretentious, egotistical twaddle I have seen in twenty five years of looking at modern art. Gormley’s exhibit, at its heart, is about ME me ME me ME ME ME, my body, my nose, my butt, me in a ball, me standing up, me stapled to the wall, me standing outside, ME ME ME. It really got aggravating when I realized that it was simply impossible to see it as being a generalized human form as there was not a single female figure represented in the entire exhibit. No, really, I might as well have been looking at casts of Antony’s penis, because his self-obsession was so utterly and puerilely focused on his own magic self. I would have found it so much more honest if it had really been a bunch of SM toys and not such an altar to his own vanity.

But wait! There were other people represented in the exhibit, in the work called “Allotment II.” The exhibition pamphlet said of it, “The individual units that congregate to form Allotment are derived from the vital statistics of real people aged between 18 months and 80 years. Besides the height and widgh of their bodies, thirteen other precise measurements were taken from each of the 300 volunteers.” And what did he get out of these? Little cement blocks. Yep, that’s right, Antony Gormley is represented by anatomically correct body casts; the rest of us, in his art, are little faceless rectangular blocks of cement, with holes for our eyes and mouth. It was really pathetic.

I left in a hurry to escape from the pretension and return to the world of people and light, where the sun was shining and people from a hundred different cities were walking down the banks of the river and beer and friendship and laughter were waiting for me. We went to the Borough Market, bought venison sandwiches and a delicious slab of cheese (and nice cider), had a sit down at The Rake, then trotted off to Walthamstowe and the lovely company of . We napped, we ate, we drank, we enjoyed a walk in the forest and sunset in the garden, we played Cartagena (I’ve apparently lost a pirate), we laughed a lot, we pondered the great mystery of Relationships then had more wine. It was great, one hundred percent Live Life Now, and a wonderful antidote to the art exhibit as well as the rest of the week. Rah!

Review – Bolshoi Ballet’s La Bayadere and Le Corsaire, London Coliseum – Matthew Bourne’s CarMan, Sadler’s Wells –

August 4, 2007

Four shows in four days means I didn’t have a lot of time to write these up, but here’s what I did make it away with.

La Bayadere, which in English means “The Rubber Snake,” is set in a fantasy version of India or Burma or some such, and featured SEXXY MEN COVERED IN GOLD PAINT AND A LOIN CLOTH. Well, there was only one man primarily dressed in gold paint, but there were lots of loin cloths and not much else on the other dancers. And then there were the female temple dancers. Hot damn. I go to ballet because dancers are sexy. I mean, that’s not all it, but … WOW. Er, plot: boy meets priestess, boy breaks religious taboo, boy attempts to recreate Orpheus. (I thought La Bayadere was called “Dances in Jammie Pants” in English, but J corrected me.) The end scene is super cool, set in the Land of the Shades, one of those classics of 19th century ballet, with all of the girls in white skirts. Very cool.

CarMan: Boy meets girl, boy meets boy2, there is sexin’, then someone winds up in jail, and someone winds up dead. There were honest to God naked man willy on stage for this one, and apparently from the balcony seats there are PILES of naked boys during the shower scene. And there was a group sex scene, with, um, rude things happening. And there was a fair amount of boy on boy action. Count on Matthew Bourne to take the stick out of ballet’s collective butt and find something else to put there instead. I suspect this was a good show but I was feeling too crap to really enjoy it.

Le Corsaire (or “The Pirate Ballet”): Boy meets girl, dad sells girl to the highest bidder, boy improves girl’s life by being shipwrecked with her on a desert island. There are swordfights (including one on a boat), there are dancing flowers (not sure why a pasha would have a fetish for ballet and ballerinas, but this one did). Highly recommended for its Busby Berkely-like qualities, and awesome shipwreck, and horribly messy interpretation of what “eastern” cultures are like.

(Le Corsaire was seen July 31, 2007. CarMan was seen August 2, 2007. La Bayadere was seen August 3rd, 2007. The fourth show was The Drowsy Chaperone, which should get its own post as I loved it to bits.)