Monday, 7th September 2009

On the Road: Edinburgh

AUGUST 13-14 2009

Early morning in August, it must be time to head for the airport for my third annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh’s Dance Base to “give dance a chance” as Morag Deyes, Artistic Director, exhorts.  Each year, Dance Base programs a multitude of mixed bills that run at different times, day and night, over at least ten days, giving audiences and visiting curators a good chance to see the work.  It’s really worth it, with tickets at only £5 and a lovely cafe where you can re-charge between shows without having to deal with the crowds (or the rain) outside.

The fare ranges widely each year – this season encompassing dance for children (the delightful Dilly Dilly by Tabula Rasa Dance Company), youth dance (Something About Others by Nottingham Youth Dance in association with New English Contemporary Ballet), contemporary Bharatanatyam (Ring Cycle by Shamita Ray), and everything in between and beyond.  Fearghus Ó Conchúir with Li Ke and Yin Yi reprised Dialogue, a dance conversation between cultures and between dance and sound.  Appel, by Company Décalage, brought street dance and capoeira vocabulary together with Indian flute and tabla.  Company Chameleon’s Rites featured two dancers to watch – Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner.  Watch IT, by Anthony Mills, was a send-up of a man thoroughly obsessed by his television.  Laila Diallo showed The Wayside, a subtle and moving solo and Portuguese choreographer Pere Faura danced with Gene Kelly in the projected film of Singin’ in the Rain in a piece entitled This is a Picture of a Person I Don’t Know.

In addition to Ó Conchúir, Irish artists included Fidget Feet, presenting the energetic aerial dance RAW offsite at Out of the Blue Drill Hall; Rex Levitates’ Unsung was due up the following week.

Among other Fringe dance shows, there was a showcase organized by Jodi Kaplan from New York featuring seven U.S. companies from five cities and David Parker and The Bang Group’s riotous Show Down, inspired by the 1940’s musical Annie Get Your Gun.

Despite the construction of a tram line that had streets torn up all over town, the jostling crowds were generally cheerful as they gathered around clowns, drummers, bagpipe players, fire eaters etc.  Festival fever electrifies the air; you could stay for weeks and still not see everything on offer.  It’s an exciting, if overwhelming, experience.
Two days is barely enough to scratch the surface.

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Monday, 7th September 2009

On the Road: Paris

JULY 22-29, 2009

Everyone knows that Paris shuts down in the summer – especially in August but even July can be fairly bleak with boulangeries, charcuteries et restaurants fermées. Twenty years ago, it was decided that a festival in and around Paris would wake its citizens out of the torpor of summer. Thus was Paris quartier d’été (the neighborhood of summer) born.

The multi-disciplinary festival always includes a lot of music in addition to a bit of circus, theatre and dance. Outdoor venues are used as much as possible. For this year’s anniversary edition, several significant older works were presented and succeeded in meeting the festival’s goal of offering work that you hadn’t even realized you’d been waiting to see. In past years, I’ve seen Merce Cunningham (who sadly passed away while I was in Paris) and Elizabeth Streb on a fantastic stage constructed in the courtyard of the Palais Royal. This year, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Ook, created in association with Theater Stap and Nienke Reehorst, took to this stage on a night when it had been raining up until five minutes prior to curtain time. Theater Stap is a Belgian company comprised of actors who are mentally disabled. Ook, which means “also” in Flemish, encompasses the philosophy behind this company. The images created by Larbi and Reehorst were beautiful and universal. The sight of ten performers riding bicycles around the stage was especially resonant given the diversion yet inter-dependence of their paths.

Cie Retourament | Encore | Credit Laurie Uprichard

Compagnie Retouramont (pictured above) presented Vide Accordé (a hard one to translate, something about a Valuable Void?) in several sites, both urban and less so.  I journeyed via RER to Bagneaux where folding chairs were set up in a semicircle around a green park at the end of a small cul de sac (part of the adventure of the festival is finding the performance locations!).  The 30-minute performance consisted of a trio of incredibly virtuosic women climbing, crossing and spinning on the wires rigged simply via a large crane.  The local audience of all ages was enthralled.

Carlotta Sagna’s Tourlourou, a tough solo set on a small square miked stage, took place in the garden of a library in Saint-Ouen (as well as at two other locations).  Satchie Noro’s point shoes stabbed and pounded the wooden floor; the amplified echo seemed to shake the trees.

Josef Nadj, born in the former Yugoslavia, is the prolific Artistic Director of the National Choreographic Center in Orléans.  His work, Le Temps du Repli, was seen in the 2004 International Dance Festival Ireland (now Dublin Dance Festival).  Within Paris quartier d’été, he was given a special residence at the Maison des Métallos at which he showed two performance pieces and exhibited a series of drawings.  Les Corbeaux is a work created in collaboration with composer/musician Akosh Szelevényi. Without giving it away, the transformation from man to crow was fascinating.  Petit psaume du matin, created in 2001, is a duet with Dominique Mercy (a long-time member of Pina Bausch’s company).  Consisting of a series of somewhat surreal vignettes, the impact of the piece is heightened by the power of the two men commandeering the stage.  You don’t want it to end.

And, of course, one wishes that a week in Paris would, likewise, never end…………

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Monday, 7th September 2009

On the Road: Montpellier & Madrid

JUNE 22-28, 2009

Festival los Veranos en la Villa/Matadero Theater, Madrid (ES)
July 2, 2009

Montpellier Danse combines the blissful weather of the south of France with an excellent swath of dance companies from young and experimental through experienced and traditional (not necessarily in those pairings!).  Originally confined to a few theatres in the old centre, Montpellier Danse now programs in venues around the Languedoc-Rousillon region (thankfully providing bus transport for professional visitors).  In its 29th edition this summer, it was laying a little low in order to spring a grand 30th anniversary event in 2010.  Nonetheless, there were plenty of performances and a good number of colleagues with whom to discuss them afterwards over a glass of the regional rosé.  As the website says, Montpellier Danse is “Un paradis pour les amoureux de la danse.”

Among the artists performing that last week of June were a number of French companies. Local choreographer Didier Théron teamed up with former Trisha Brown dancer Keith Thompson on Democratic Combine, shown outdoors.  The two are somewhat hampered by costumes filled with air – kind of fat suits – that provide comical balance problems.  The high winds at the opening performance added to the challenge.  Yet the piece has a deeper layer, an investigation of teamwork and collaboration.  The Bagouet Studio in the Choreographic Centre is an excellent black box space (when its skylights are covered – a light-filled rehearsal studio when they’re open) that seats about 150 and has a stage that is more than 15m deep (green again…).  David Wampach and Héla Fattoumi/Eric Lamoureux presented work there that questioned identity – Wampach’s Auto looking at gender issues and illusion while Fattoumi/Lamoureux’s Manta explored the role the veil plays for Muslim women.
Angelin Preljocaj (whose Empty Words, parts 1 and 2, was seen at DDF 2008) performed a tour de force solo for himself inspired by and incorporating the text of Jean Genet’s Le Funambule.  At the intimate Opéra Comédie, a stunning set and gorgeous lighting enhanced the work’s power.  American choreographer Stephen Petronio (seen at IDFI in 2004) created Tragic/Love, a full-company work for the Ballet de Lorraine based on letters written to the Juliet Foundation, in Verona.  Yes, people actually seek advice on love-related problems from Shakespeare’s famous character!  Brazilian choreographer, Bruno Beltrão, and his company, Grupo de Rua, presented H3, an astounding and sophisticated piece, which was based on but not stuck in hip-hop vocabulary.

Of course, there were many more I missed – Emanuel Gat, Raimund Hoghe, Vera Mantero, Mark Morris, Filiz Sizanli and Mustafa Kaplan….  I always leave vowing to stay longer NEXT year!

The following week I took an overnight trip to Madrid to see an exquisite programme presented by the Baryshnikov Arts Center that had been touring in Europe.  Three Solos and a Duet were performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna, both riveting.  Two of the four pieces (the duet, Place, and Solo for Two (danced primarily by Laguna with a cameo by Baryshnikov) were choreographed by Mats Ek.  These works brought out both the depth of the performers’ technical virtuosity and their confident and elegant stage presence.  The other two solos, performed by Baryshnikov, were Alexei Ratmansky’s Valse-fantasie and Years Later by Benjamin Millepied.  The latter charmingly incorporated film of the young Baryshnikov, ebullient in his adolescent physicality, observed by his older persona.

The Teatro Matadero, on the grounds of an old slaughterhouse just a few Metro stops from the centre of Madrid, is part of a fascinating cultural facility.  And the 38° sunny weather was a real treat for 24 hours after the thunderstorms in Dublin the previous night!

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