Posts Tagged ‘Russell Maliphant’

Review – Carlos Acosta Premieres – Sadler’s Wells at the London Coliseum

July 28, 2010

Tonight I watched the death of Carlos Acosta as a brand name for a night of brash, exuberant dance as his “Premieres” show at the London Coliseum took me from excitement to horror and then to comedy as I gave in to the ridiculous waves of bad coming off of the stage. We started with a work that must have been choreographed by Carlos himself, because the language of movement he was using seemed incoherent, not just foreign but meaningless. His body moved from position to position, but it never “said” anything, although it seemed desperately trying to find its way into the various spotlights on stage, comically arriving just a few seconds after they came up. The black ottoman on stage that he looked at so passionately, did it represent anything other than an object for him to stare at? The video projection preceding the entire affair added nothing to it and seemed utterly divorced from what followed on stage. I was embarrassed no one had not stopped to question whether or not this piece deserved to be on a stage in front of two thousand people. If this was Acosta’s, I can only say that he is not ready to be doing choreography, and he must up the quality of his game or he is going to lose audience support in droves.

Next up was a solo piece performed by Zenaida Yanowsky, clad in a short dress and tennis shoes. It seemed a better dance, but I’d lost my mental composure because of the first piece and wound up wondering why the choreographer had her flashing her underwear at the audience so much. Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bother me, but I wasn’t able to take it seriously. Yanowsky was much more at ease in this idiom but I remained unconvinced this work was weighty enough to merit a solo performance in such a large house.

The last piece of the first act was another Carlos solo, one which I titled “For the Ladeez” (actually Russell Maliphant’s “Two”) as it was performed shirtless and seemed to be nothing more than an endless series of movements that enabled Acosta to show off his physique. This has become quite the theme in the Acosta shows, making me wonder if he really does have a tremendous ego or if he just feels obliged to give the (heavily female) audience what they paid for. Is it self parody or is it sincere? Because of this element of showing off, I was unable to really enjoy the movement, fearing I was just letting myself have a Chippendale’s moment. (I should have recognized it as Maliphant because of the box of square light Acosta stayed inside, stretching and turning and gliding through its edge – my companion liked this the best and in a better mood I would have enjoyed it more, also.)

Suddenly the first half of the show was over and I dashed to the bar to get started on discussing what we’d just seen (with my friend Ibi). Was it really that bad, or was it just me? And I must point this out to you, potential audience member: how is it that a show billed as being a mere hour and a half even needed an interval? Just what were we paying for? At the price I’d shelled out for stall seats – the only time I’ve ever treated myself at ENO, as I’ve enjoyed my previous Carlos outings so much – I felt like it was thin return on my pound. In fact, I hadn’t seen so little stage time since I saw The Dumbwaiter at Trafalgar Studios (£30 for 55 minutes).

This feeling was solidified in the second half, as we were forced to endure a long “artistic” video involving Carlos and Zenaida: walking in place, splashing and being splashed. Yes, we saw her naked and saw her boobs, but the image of Carlos naked somehow managed to preserve his modesty as neither ass nor crotch were displayed. I noticed that we finally started losing audience members during this bit; the naff levels had been exceeded for the evening. However, it all came together wonderfully as a Python-esque giant foot came down upon the stage, adding a brilliant air of surreality to the event. Ah, well, it was only going to be a half hour at the most, how bad could it be?

The second half did entirely feature all of the best bits of the evening. The highlight was the duet that I’m sure must have been the Maliphant choreography “Two” by Edward Liang (I was too discouraged to buy a program), with Middle-Eastern singing: Acosta was able to show his formidable skills at last. It seemed to me that this was the piece that had been rehearsed the most as well; it just reeked skill and care that Acosta’s solos had not. He had to work with Yanowsky and he was going to do it well, and together they created a few moments that made me wonder what the hell went wrong with this show.

There was also a solo Yanowsky performed with candles on stage that looked nice but didn’t do anything for me, and a last, bad solo in which the ottoman returned as a place for Acosta to sit and sulk, presumably unhappy about the end of his career as a ballet star. In a last moment that did not redeem the evening but which provided a pleasure I clung to desperately, the Pegasus Choir came onstage until they surrounded both Acosta and Yanowsky, filling the stage with lovely music (“O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen) while a bit of smoke wafted toward the ceiling. I imagined it as Acosta’s career dissipating into the sky. He’s been brilliant with the Royal Ballet but after tonight, I can’t help but thing he’s really going to have to rethink his plans if he’s wanting to keep in the game and succeed at making the switch to modern, because after tonight he’s going to have a hard time ever getting an audience to see him simply based on his name.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, July 28th. The show continues through Saturday, August 7th and I would be happy to include the names of the pieces from someone who got a program. You can also see the Bolshoi at this time which I highly advise you to consider if you’re debating which of the two you spend your hard earned money on. Or you can see Eonnagata at Sadler’s Wells, it’s going through the 31st and is a very pleasant way to enjoy more of Maliphant’s choreography. For alternate views, see The Stage, the Independent and the Guardian.)

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Review – Eonnagata (remount) – Sylvie Guillem, Robert LePage, and Russell Maliphant at Sadler’s Wells

June 24, 2009

Last winter I spent a frustrating two weeks clicking F5 over and over again, hoping that a pair of tickets would be released for Eonnagata. I had read about this strange story – based on the the Chevalier d’Éon, a French swordsman and spy who was rumored to be both male and female (and pretending to be the other) at different points in hir life – way back in November, but found the concept rather too vague to commit to what with pantos and Nutcrackers occupying my attention; but as the first reviews (and more detail) came out, I became rather frantic to see the show – Japanese ballerina transexual samurai kung fu dance show! It was like every cultural thing I am interested in all rolled into one, and it was desperately, desperately sold out. Fortunately, they announced a second production of the show, and as it seemed to not quite hit perfection (per a critic whose opinions I value highly), I crossed my fingers that while I wouldn’t be able to see the premiere, I might be able to see an improved version of the original without the trouble of the pesky first viewing polluting me. (Really, I was just trying hard to grasp at straws about not getting those tickets.) It was a long wait until the June showtime rolled around, and last night was the great unveiling. WOOO!

Now that I’ve finally seen it, I’ll summarize the evening as “like Guillermo del Toro directing a gender-fluid, Japanese Dangerous Liasons, with fight scenes by Yuen Woo Ping.” It’s not so much a dance show as a production with movement that is just as much about costumes, lighting, and music as anything else. In fact, the dancing was rather thin. Ms. Guillem did do some great things in which her lifted legs looked like extra swords; but it was more as a part of creating a spectacle than dance. I didn’t mind, really. I was hypnotized by the gauzy kimono floating around the performers and hovering behind the creamy scrim (for a sort of human shadow puppet scene), by the strange Lincoln-log pannier skirts, by the stripey fencing pants and knee-high white boots (or stockings), by the dancers slipping across tables, duetting with mirrors (and then with each other) … I was amazed by the way they melded into each other and then were themselves again (especially when a man crawled into the shadow kimono and emerged a woman). Yeah, sure, we weren’t really sticking to the correct culture, but I was completely happy with the use of Chinese/Japanese martial arts weapons and clothing alongside 17th/18th century articles – it looked great and that was good enough for me.

And the lighting design! It helped the performers slip into and out of shadows, it let them end a scene in one spot on the stage gracefully as another “thought” started somewhere else … but my favorite bit was when all three performers were doing staff fighting in little bands of light which changed shape as their staves (or were they swords?) hit the floor – it was like something out of The Matrix or even a video game. It was, in a word, gorgeous.

Was the performance just perfect? Well, no. Russell Maliphant had a horrible clunky moment in which his microphone kept picking up the sound of his clothing dragging across it, and most of the spoken bits seemed completely superfluous and a drag on the evening. The bit where Ms. Guillem was reading letters from the Chevalier’s mother actually made me long for the end to come at last; I was getting tired. And, in the end, I’m afraid it overstayed its welcome. While I was with it for at least sixty minutes, I think around seventy its energy started to flag – and I slid downhill with it.

But, in the end, who cares how historically accurate it was or how much of a dance piece it was, it was a treat for the eyes and engaging and well worth burning a sunny evening indoors. Who knows, maybe it’s in the summer that the best theatre really happens, because that’s when only the most devoted can be convinced to spend their time this way. Overall, it was a very good evening and I’m pleased as punch that I finally got to see it.

(This review is for a performance on June 23rd, 2009. Eonnagata continues through June 27th.)