Thursday, 28 June 2007

when the lightening strikes

Before it fades, I want to try and sketch down some thoughts about all the dance I've been able to see in the last few days. (I love the free festival season!)

On Saturday I dipped into the Docklands+Greenwich Festival (external events kept me from doing more of it, but - next year!) The theme for the festival this year was 'bringing the inside, out'. Huddling under the canopy of the dock willing the rain to stop, unfortunately, does bring to mind the advantages of the inside ... Actually, the crews did great job of keeping things running and safe, and much kudos to the dancers for working through and around it. I overheard a bit of bitching that we were 'kept waiting' while both crew and dancers mopped down and towel-dried the stage at one point, which infuriated me - a bad slip could end someone's career, ffs!

Down on the riverside, I caught the end of Motionhouse's 'bar hopper' piece. Maybe it's 'cos I wandered up part way through, but this didn't grab me. (Fondest memory is, in fact, watching the next performers, Hofesh Schechter, warming up off to the side of the steps I was sitting on, and seeing two of them quietly taking the mick out of Motionhouse's 'club' music by launching into a synchronised phrase of the Joey Dance ;D )

Hofesh Shechter - who were why I was over on that stage - were the highpoint of the day for me. They were also the closest to getting rained off entirely, and I'm very glad that they persevered. I saw them at the Sadlers Wells Sampled with the same piece, Uprising. I loved it then, and it was fascinating to see it again - this time almost from the wings - sat on the floor, two feet to stage left, so sometimes the dancers 'off' were my view, and I was close enough to see every expression, every breath, hear the foot-falls. (I tried to take a few photos, but didn't want to stop *watching*, so they're not particularly good.)

Les Ballets Grooms were sadly miss advertised. They were really fun, and really talented, (and identifiably *French*), but the comedy was more musical than dance, and it wasn't quite what I wanted to be watching (although you can't really argue with the Nutcracker played by a brass band hidden inside a big pulsating purple sheet ;p) so I bowed out at the transition point where they led a procession off to their second stage.

Frustratingly, I still didn't make it across in time to catch Upswing, as that also sounded interesting, but that meant I did manage to be in the right place at the right time for Sol Pico. Unfortunately, the rain made it too - which did give the fantastic vision of their burning, brilliant orange-clad dancer sweeping across steel grey clouds, but also meant almost all of the ground-based action was obscured by umbrellas. Fortunately, a lot of the action takes place on the bus (a skeletal framework made out of rusted metal) - sort of a Mad Max meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert vibe - and the characters being portrayed were so vibrant and larger than life, it was well worth getting a bit chilly and damp for.

(I did skip the final show I'd planned to go to, though. There's only so much wet and cold I can take in the pursuit of free dance! Although possibly it's better than last year's sunburn...)

Yesterday's dose was part of the City of London Festival:

Steps of St Paul's - √Čtonne moi! - Students and graduates of the Central School of Ballet perform a spectacular concert of ballet and contemporary dance, including the world premi√®re of new work by guest Parisian choreographer, Sir Lionel Hoche.

Thanks to Adventures with Busses I managed to miss most of the first piece, and all that really registered was that the costumes were not to my tastes, but the music was an interesting celtic-ish bodrum-and-chant sort of thing. And I was surprised how few people there were watching. Okay, so the steps of St Pauls are quite *big*, and, if you work, you have to be pretty close to get to these mid-day performances, but still - I guess after the Docklands lot, I was expecting more crowd. Anyway - there were enthusiastic people, but not so many I couldn't see, and then wriggle into better positions as the performance continued.

Second piece was a very cool Handel-inspired piece, with lots of group work. One of the things that really pleased me about it was how they handled the exposed, in the round, outdoors space, switching costumes and roles in full view, and keeping the narrative running in that thread, but completely demarcating the 'performance-performance' space at the same time. They had a 'backstage' in one corner, with a clothes rail that doubled as a barre, and a microphone in another corner, with the 'story' starting with the auction of Degas's Little Dancer - only the statue is revealed to be a real dancer, as the 'auction house staff' broke the statue, so they switch to trying to auction off other dancers as well, and then - I'm writing this and having sudden paranoia that I'm mixing together two pieces - I'll have the check back with the reviews later and see. Anyway - yes - sets of solos and pas de deux, while other dancers in various crazy costumes stepped forward to add bits of spoken word over the music 'Handel repeats a lot' being one repeated phrase I remember. 'Handel rhymes with handle. And candle. And scandal' another. And some very beautiful dance too - I really enjoyed this one. Also they get bonus points for ending with a reversal of several of my-favourite-ballroom-scenes-on-film by having the music by Handel, but the dancers dancing as though they were in a contemporary club.
(This is one of my favourite photos - the 'backstage' bit. )

Third piece was a pair of be-blazered soft-shoe-shufflers, which I think suffered cruelly for being under grey skies and amidst tower blocks - the same interlude down in Docklands in the sun would have felt very different.

Final piece was just lovely - very watery in both movement and costuming - there was a repeating two-person move that I cannot describe, which more than anything made me think of the traditional image of Pisces, with two fish twisted around each other. I know that I will utterly fail to do it justice, and can't remember enough solid facts to attempt a description, but I was entranced. Also. reminded just how beautiful the classic shapes of ballet are. It's a privilege to get to see dancers this close up, with less of the stage lights and razzle dazzle, so you can see the beauty and the strength without getting glitter-pretty in your eyes.

(I tried to take more photos this time:learning from the weekend, I sort of picked my default frame, and then just took shots without looking - lots of missed moments, but a few decent ones, and it wasn't distracting me from *watching*. The link will take you to the set, but if you only look at two, how about this and this?)

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