Last Work

What we didn’t want to miss that night was the latest work by Batsheva Dance Company, choreographed by Ohad Naharin, making its NY premiere in BAM. I was prepared to be impressed and I was – by the dancer at the back of the stage running on a treadmill for the entire duration of the show! According to reviews, and as you can see below, it was supposed to be a woman (dressed in blue) but on the evening we watched she had been replaced by a man. Still standing, drenched in sweat at the end of the performance, he deserved – and received – a warm round of applause. The work itself was a barrage of beautiful, intense moves and ideas, so much so that the audience was left with no breathing space; no chance to absorb and truly appreciate the scenes. On the way out, we agreed that Last Work was aesthetically stimulating, but bringing so many elements and people on the stage together, all at the same time, resulted in cancelling out emotions it was supposed to evoke. Indeed sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing.

Images courtesy of Batsheva Dance Company

February 4th, 2017

“Whenever people see birds flying through the sky, it is said that they get the urge to go on a journey”

”At the Hawk’s Well”, W.B. Yeats’ dance play premiered in 1916 with Michio Ito at the role of the hawk. In its 2016 re-incarnation, the dance was co-choreographed by Javier de Frutos.
Noh no Tenkai (The Evolution of Noh), 1954. By Jiro Nan’e (1902-1952).

Simon Starling: At Twilight
(After W.B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation)

A multimedia installation by Simon Starling to mark the centennial of W.B. Yeats’ staging of the Noh-inspired dance play ”At the Hawk’s Well”, in 1916. The project aimed to illustrate the influence of Noh on Western Modernism by pairing newly created masks, costumes and a video (from which the above stills) with Modernist works and archival material connected to Yeats and his circle.

It was on show at the Japan Society until mid January 2017.

*Title from Kino no Tabi – the Beautiful World anime series (2003)

January 6th, 2017

Letter to a Man

Letter to a Man is the third collaboration between two icons from the world of performing arts – Robert Wilson and Mikhail Baryshnikov. I had the privilege to enjoy all three, in three different corners of the world.

Video Portraits came first in 2013; hosted by Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens Greece, it was an audiovisual feat unlike anything we’d seen before – in that part of the world, at least. A few months later and some three thousand kilometres north of Greece The Old Woman came to town, with William Dafoe joining the party in deSingel, Antwerp’s centre of contemporary arts. And, finally, three years later, a performance at the source, with Letter to a Man marking our initiation to the theatre world of New York at BAM, Brooklyn’s leading performing arts venue. We didn’t know it then but BAM would become a regular ”hangout” where we would enjoy many an entertaining weekend night out.

Letter to a Man is based on autobiographical texts by Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950), with extracts from his diaries, written in less than six weeks in 1919 when Nijinsky was already succumbing to madness and trying to record and understand what was happening to him.

In Robert Wilson’s play, each passage is repeated many times in English and in Russian by Mikhail Baryshnikov alone on the set, assisted only by Wilson’s masterfully minimalist – yet grandiose – mise-en-scène on which light, sound, props, movement and text are all of equal importance; and staged to perfection by the Director himself.

Now, I will readily admit I had never been a great fan of Baryshnikov, tilting toward the ethereal grand jeters of the likes of Nureyev rather than the solid, precise movements of Mikhail. Despite his extraordinary leaps, which apparently were higher than Rudolf’s, Baryshnikov always gave me the impression that he was somehow heavier, earthbound.  And I have to take Nijinsky’s brilliance as an establish fact, since none of his performances were ever recorded.

But watching Baryshnikov alone on the stage channelling a lifetime’s worth of earthbound precision, mastering choreography and pantomime, being almost seventy years old and unstoppable, the least I can do is concede admiration. For Baryshnikov rendered Nijinsky’s descent to insanity with the brio and gentleness, compassion and deep understanding, as only another great dancer could.

This is how it began:

”I understand war because I fought with my mother-in-law,” he repeats several times while confined to a straitjacket.

”I am a beast, a predator. I will practice masturbation and spiritualism. I will eat everyone I can get hold of. I will stop at nothing.”

”I am God’s plan, and not the Antichrist’s. I am not the Antichrist. I am Christ.”

Letter to a Man, BAM, October 2016.

It will run in Barcelona on 29 June – 02 July 2017. Details for this and other productions can be found on Robert Wilson’s website.

Photo credits: all, except the last two, photos are by Lucie Jansch.

October 23rd, 2016

A Revelation

Well, it was about time I discovered Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and why it is so popular. I did so  thanks to the stunning, heart warming performance the dancers gave in front of the most expressly adoring audience one could ever hope for.

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”Untitled America” in world premiere opened the evening. Choreographed by Kyle Abraham, it examines the impact of the prison system on African-American families. Performed by a large ensemble of dancers to an ambient music interrupted by spoken word, narrated by former prisoners. The audience was blown away and I thought it was the best possible introduction to Ailey’s eclectic, humanistic style, a style that combines classical ballet with modern and traditional dance moves creating fluid, light yet strong, convincing silhouettes.

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It was followed by ”Awakening”, a ritualistic piece choreographed by the company’s Artistic Director, Kyle Abraham.

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”A Case of You” came next, an intimate, sensual and intense duet, danced to Diana Krall’s version of Joni Mitchell’s song.

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The evening closed with ”Revelations” Ailey’s upbeat signature work which ”using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, it fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul”.

It closed to a standing ovation and made me want to dance again.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater are performing until December 31st at the New York City Center and their repertory varies depending on the date and time booked. For more info click on the link above.

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At this point, it would be an omission not to mention that our evening was enhanced by an excellent dinner at the renowned Greek restaurant ”Milos”, just two doors away. Although the exorbitant menu prices are prohibitive to those of us with small to medium-sized pockets, an occasion like Christmas eve is always a good excuse for a splurge.

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Image credits:
Different productions, from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater website.
Milos New York, from the restaurant’s website.
Last two images of the performance, from The Humble Fabulist’s archives.

December 24th, 2016