Posts Tagged ‘Firsts’

Review – ROH2 Firsts 2009 (Nicola Conibere, Mualla, Aurelie, El Toro Theater) – Linbury Studio

November 25, 2009

November! Firsts! This series of performances is a great way to see a wide variety of performers you’ve probably never seen before, at the wallet friendly price of £5 a ticket. I’m a big fan (went the last two years) and was really looking forward to this years series, though I could only go to one show.

Well, alas! The first piece of the evening, “Count One,” was as dreadfully unwatchable and pretentious as I had feared. Picture this: A person walks on the stage, holds their hand out as if waiting for it to be shook by someone else, then turns to the audience (as if about to take a bow), then returns to the wings. This is repeated, only as he is standing there with his hand extended, a second person walks forward, shakes their hand, then turns their back to the first person and extends their own hand as if expecting someone to shake it. They both turn to face the audience and then walk back to the wings. Now repeat with a third person. Now repeat with a fourth person. NOW LOSE YOUR WILL TO LIVE. I did. I realized there was little chance of anything happening I was going to care about in the next thirty minutes (THIRTY MINUTES!) and put my head on my husband’s shoulder and free associated in the dark. The description was sadly quite accurate and lived up to my fears of what the piece would be: something that was a much better idea to think about than to watch.

After this there was a long break where my three companions and I discussed our reaction to the first show while the stage was being prepared for the next. We’d all hated it; comparisons were made to Fram and other notable catastrophes. I’d wished I’d gone ahead and stayed outside for the first piece and then returned for the second and saved my energy and enthusiasm. Three of us decided that we were going to leave at the interval; all of us were put off by seeing a work about football (“An Unorthodox 1-2,” see description belwo), but, I think, in our hearts we’d just lost our faith in the curator’s ability to choose something that didn’t stink, and while Amy was willing to stay on for the fourth piece, all of us were having serious motivation issues.

Then it was time for Ilona Jäntti in “Muualla,” a charming piece in which a performer interacts with a screen that has animations projected on it. Her shadows on the screen morph into strange creatures that follow her around; boxes expand and contract, squishing her inside. Eventually she climbs a rope, chasing a red creature and getting caught in the forms on the screen as they fall apart and reform; eventually she is in a sort of rope trapeze, hanging sideways, spinning, walking on the screen as the images flip into a sort of Escherian reality … it was all very fun and very modern feeling, and while the rope work wasn’t particularly spectacular (got that at my circus performances earlier in the year), it did really fit the piece. Congrats to Tuula Jeker and Ilona for making a really bright spot in the night; it totally justified my attendance.

That said, the feeling of wanting, not just my money back, but to be compensated for my wasted time with the first piece had utterly corrupted my sense of experimentalism, and when the interval came, I went home, as did (as it turns out) the other three members of my party. Hopefully my friends won’t lost their trust in me as someone who can choose a good way to spend the evening; as it stands, I no longer feel compelled to check out anything else in the series after this catastrophe. Well, I would go, but next time I will trust myself and just wait it out in the bar, or get seats on an aisle so I can make a quick escape if necessary.

(This review is for a performance that took place on November 24th, 2009. It will be repeated November 25th.)

Here is a description of the program in case it falls off the ROH website:

Count One uses a simple choreographic structure to organize moments of everyday exchange and interaction through a series of physical motifs that are repeatedly ‘opened’ and ‘closed’ by its four performers. These episodes develop to embrace elements of theatrical spectacle, inviting an array of relationships and interactions to come in and out of play. A lighthearted, evolutionary journey from handshake to costumes and lights. ‘A quietly affecting piece; funny, clever and infuriating.’ Resolution!
Muualla/Elsewhere explores the possibilities of combining animation, circus and dance in live performance. Initiated and designed by naturalized Finnish architect and animator Tuula Jeker and choreographed and performed by the extraordinary Finnish aerialist Ilona Jäntti, the interaction between animation and performer creates a dialogue between the real and the virtual world; shadows morph into new creatures and nothing is what it seems.
An Unorthodox 1-2 was commissioned as part of a residency at Blue Square Premier football club Barrow AFC, and combines field recordings, spoken word and improvised music to explore the aural environment of a non-league football ground. Using live voice processing, video projections and graphic notation, Aurelie capture the unique aura of match day in a South Cumbrian town and present an idea of ‘the game’ as a performance in its own right.
One man’s world crumbles when his girlfriend leaves…Lovedrunk is a beautiful piece of highly visual theatre that fuses together live performance, physical theatre, digital video and emotive music to explore falling out of love. Darkly comic and highly inventive, this is physical theatre storytelling for the YouTube generation. Created with the support of Arts Council East.

Tickets: £5

Review – 2008 Firsts at the Linbury, second program (Compania LA, Chisato Minaminura Dance Company, Albert Quesada and Vera Tussing, Helen Stromberger)

November 19, 2008

Last night I went with my friend Ruth to see the Firsts program at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House. This is the third year of this tradition for me and I really look forward to having an opportunity to get exposure to performers/choreographers etc. that I’d never heard of before (i.e. Hofesh Schecter). It’s a stunningly affordable event at 5 quid a pop, which helps cheer me up when there is (inevitably) mixed quality among the pieces. (I figure just one dud within four short pieces is quite tolerable – what I’m hoping for is just one thing that is really brilliant.) There’s also a problem in that there are several bills during the course of each year’s firsts, and how do you choose which to go to? Unsurprising the series is tremendously popular and as it’s turned out it can be difficult getting tickets to even one!

The first performance was Compañia LA doing Hambre. I was expecting some sort of circus act (as per the program note), but what I was got was much more so than that; physical performance (in this case juggling) used in a way that illustrated character and told a story. It was two men, one young and bookish, the other bald and hunched over, interacting with each other over a dinner table. The first man gave a clue about what was to come as he balanced a strange, giant-turtle-egg looking ball on a book he was reading, then fought with the other man to keep him from stealing his ball. This led to dinner and some silliness with plates, and, of course, a basket with eggs in it had to show up. There was a bit of a build up to the use of the eggs as items to juggle with, but finally they got going (once they’d established they actually had white balls instead of eggs), and the balls were flying everywhere. There was a regular theme of the guys stealing the eggs from each other, but really it was about them keeping them in motion, finally ending with a PONG like bit where they were bouncing balls off of chairs on top of the table and at each other. And it all ended … well, with a laugh. It was a great start to the night.

After a brief pause, the Chisato Minaminura Dance Company got rolling with “The Canon for Duet,” a piece which apparently made it through the trials of The Place Prize 2008 (something else which I should actually start seeing). The two dancers (Jemima Hoadley, Hannah Shepherd) performed in silence for about 4/5s of its length, with the music being represented as a projection at the back of the stage – basically what a stereo would show of the music at different tones from bass to treble. There was a fair bit of hand flapping and some movement forward and backwards in the center of the stage, which changed the height of the shadows they were casting. However, they mostly seemed to ignore each other, never really making eye contact, and I found the performance not very engaging. When the music – which was specially composed for this Minaminura – was finally played, it did add a tremendous layer of context to what they were doing, but overall I found this only engaged me as a mental exercise, not as interesting choreography.

After the intermission, we moved onto Albert Quesada and Vera Tussing’s “Beautiful Dance.” For this piece, the two dancers instructed us that, “During the performance will weill ask you to close and open your eyes. Please close your eyes.” We then listened to them walking and dancing on stage for a bit (I think – I didn’t take notes because my eyes were shut!). It sounded to me like they were trying to express the music of a song entirely through the beats of their feet (this would, I believe, be Beethoven’s Sonata number 13). When we opened our eyes, they stood side by side on stage, the one marching his feet while the other did what seemed to be arpeggios with hers, still in a bit of a march step. While this music they were making with their bodies continued (and a strange sight to watch it was, too), they started playing with the shadows they were creating on the back of the stage. I actually really enjoyed this, as they made it look like four people were performing, managed to get the shadows to cross over each other while the performers did not, and even made the shadows walk off of the stage so there was not one remaining. It was a really fun lighting trick and the whole performance was actually quite enjoyable, even though they only added the music in for a tiny bit. It really contrasted with the Minamura piece and I think was far more compelling.

The final bit of the night was Helen Stromberger’s “Illuminating Georgia,” which was my absolute favorite. It was less about dance than about creating a look which used human bodies to achieve it – while also commenting on the nature of people (in my mind). The dancers were very tightly controlled in a way that reminded me of “Attempts on Her Life.” Yet somehow, while I felt like the actors’ spirits were being sucked out of them by the highly structured, improv killing set up used for AHL, the work of beauty that was created in “Illuminating Georgia” left me in no way feeling like I’d been short changed (though it’s likely that the dancers weren’t being stretched as much as they could have been).

The piece opened with four women in white dresses standing in the dark, then having projections very precisely aimed on their faces, making for a kind of “Haunted Mansion” effect. They then had fire images (sort of) projected on them, which seemed to very deliberately also hit the curtain at the back of the stage, so that their bodies were faintly outlined, in a way that made me think of the old Kyrilian Aura they showed on “In Search Of.” And then the woman’s bodies, to me they looked like they were representing the swirls of energy inside the human body – the energy of thought, of mind, of emotion, of all the things that make us humans, and the outlines behind were what was visible of our tremendous inner experience. I was completely entranced – in fact, I was so caught up in what was going on on the stage that I forgot to take notes other than, “It’s a giant Nazbatag!” Oops. That said, what a great way to end the night!

Overall, this was a highly successful Firsts evening, leaving me regretting that 1) I hadn’t brought J (the lighting geek) and W (the juggling geek) with me and that 2) I couldn’t see any of the other performances. My other quibble? Too many open seats downstairs, for which I’m assuming people just didn’t bother to show up. I would say charge more – say 10 quid – and maybe people will value the experience a little bit more.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, November 18th and repeats on November 19th – but it’s sold out.)
Description from the ROH website, which I will expect they will take down soon as they don’t really bother to archive their performances:
18 | 19 NOVEMBER 7.45PM

Compañia LA are a young and exciting contemporary circus/physical theatre company. Their show Hambre, which has toured widely in Europe, explores the change in relationship between two characters when their lives, confined to their home, become distorted through hunger and fear. The fusion of object manipulation and physical theatre in this comic yet reflective show, with a surreal twist, will delight.

Born in Japan and deaf from birth, Chisato Minamimura is a remarkable dancer and choreographer whose aim is to visualize a deaf person’s response to sound through choreography. In the Canon for Duet, which reached the Place Prize 2008 semi-finals, she works with film, sound and silence to create this intriguing and thought-provoking work.


‘ This engaging duo mirrored the spirit of the music in their percussive limbs, producing an understated delight.” Metro

Described as a ‘sonata for the body’ , Beautiful Dance explores movement as an acoustic, as well as a simply visual device; to achieve that peculiar sensitivity that occurs when each of the senses is isolated, and only then brought into play with each other. Beautiful Dance is part of an interdisciplinary and quirky project combining music, the science of semiotics, and dance to create a new movement-language.

Questioning the essence of physical existence, Illuminate Georgia uses the performers’ bodies as a projection surface to create a world of illusion where the appearance of the bodies is constantly transformed, abstracted and fragmented. As the dancers move through a series of physical states they enter a realm of an abstract existence where they merge with vibrating shapes and flickering lights.

Warning! Performance contains flashing lights.