So I’ve been wanting to write a post about shows that I’ve watched in the last few months… but, as usual, things come in the way!
And because I’m trying to overcome the dreadful feeling of my latest posts, I’ll start with the worst and evolve to the best examples…
So the prize, by far and without any possibility of doubt, of the worst I’ve seen in a long time (the second would be a performance I watched about 4 years ago) goes to the production of Faust with the, I believe, National Theatre Ballet of Prague, choreographed by Libor Vaculík. It is set in the period of World War II, with half of the ballet being Nazis and half of them Jews (yep, it is pretty much that simplistic…), and Fausto being a very old cabaret performer that makes a deal with a sort of hitlerian Mephisto to be young again. The rest, I guess, you can imagine. But what you probably cannot imagine is how awfully choreographed it was, how deeply insulting to so freely use a horrible historical time and make it light and cheap… All the effects available to cover for a lack of interesting movement, and all the possible clichés to use the feelings of the audience. Well, it didn’t work for us, that’s for sure. So disgusted we were that we left during the interval… I’m surprised too that this was done in a place that has so much history relating to that period. Can you really get away with the amazingly original idea of creating a svastica with the arms of two dancers and repeating this movement over and over again? And still being called a choreographer? This same country is the birth place of the great Jiří Kylián, it seems surreal!
Right… so after that bit of anger is done with, I can be back to being constructive! And I was lucky to see, pretty soon after this disaster, The Forsythe Company and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Christopher Wheeldon for Royal Ballet). And there is probably no way to comparing this two, except there is: they’re both inventive and entertaining pieces and they stay faithful to their purpose. Ok, other than that, nothing to do with each other! Forsythe’s piece is about the moment when you realise that you’re going to die, I would say, however, that it is more about fear in general, or that’s what it looked like to me. It has amazing moments of genius and it’s in general a very impressive choreographic exercise. Alice is much lighter and more family friendly, (though I have to say that I laughed as much with Forsythe’s), and it’s witty and has references for ballet lovers at the same time as being accessible to people that is never been there. I do think the first act was a bit too long, but that will be getting better the more it is performed I think.
To go on with the ballet world, I then saw Giselle and Manon (this very recently as you might know). This were two examples of amazing performances with really great story telling too. Contemporary dance seems to have forgotten that to tell a story and talk about emotions you don’t need to stop moving, you need to move people with movement. There is a fashion now in which you either have movement without meaning, or meaning with very little movement… There the Place Prize having to defend themselves against accusations of there being very little dance on it….
And here comes the savior.. Last thing I went to see was Pina, by Win Wenders. I was literally stuck to the seat. I knew Pina’s work, of course, but this was such an insight into the way they worked… And the film itself was such a lesson in dance making! How did they gave us their accounts of working with Pina? Three ways, each of them closer to what Pina herself was doing: they talked, explained it in words; they looked to the camera, or they were just there, exposed, probably thinking about their work with her; and then, of course, they moved (us).
So yes, there are performers that give you hope, pieces that tell you how things can be done…
And as long as someone can (or could) take the ugliest of emotions and turn it into beauty (and not necessarily obvious commonplace beauty), then there is still hope.