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|About the Change|
Edinburgh Festival Report
Edinburgh, various venues
As usual with the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, you have to take the rough with the smooth. The highs were very high and the lows very low indeed. I try to see as much dance and physical theatre as possible; basically if advertised in the program as containing dance I will go and see the show. Hence this will be all about dance, but with a couple of other shows thrown in along the way.
Giannandrea Poesio 'Swan Lake' talk
"Empire of the Senses" is performed with video projections, which are both scenery and an actual piece of the work. The equipment is at the front of the stage, so some of the image is visible on Shakti's costume and body. The projections divide the work into five sections; clouds, stars, the desert, lightning and a volcano. The musical score is almost Vangelis like in parts, very lush with lots of electronic organ and melatronic vocals.
As you enter, Shakti is standing at the back of the stage, on a dais clad in a white chiffon robe. There are four long side drops in two colours, directing your gaze towards her. Later, these fabric drops form an integral part of the performance. The white robe is a wonderful image; she floats through the projected clouds. Similar use of related colour is used in the other images; a black barely there bikini for the night sky, a red coat for the desert.
She takes the side banners, and wraps herself in them. She also lies on them and winds them around her feet. The images do not describe well sadly.
The piece represents our affinity with nature. We are part of it. I didn't think this was as vibrant a piece as some of her previous works, such as "Swan Lake" and "Women Of The Dunes", but I was entertained and I would be prepared to see the work again (a good measure of the success of a work).
Emio Greco PC
If you like your dance without movement, then this is a work you will adore. Clearly most of the audience like to see people doing nothing on stage, judging by the thunderous applause at the end.
The work opens with a woman in a long white sack cloth robe. This was the same costume that the other 5? dancers wore. She spends 5 minutes walking to from upstage left, to a light globe hanging in the centre of the stage. As she nears, this illuminates and the house lights fade. She mutters some unintelligible words. A couple of chaps wander on. They wave their arms wildly, pretending to be aeroplanes, playing the old children's game of rubbing your tummy and patting your heard.
From then until the end, I spent most of the time reading my magazine. Luckily the all white backdrops, costumes and lighting provided enough illumination for me to do so. Very inspired design! Like I said, I would have walked out, but I don't like to disturb people. Interestingly the lady next to me was also attempting to read my magazine.
There were a couple of balletic movements, all on demi-pointe. A single, double and triple finger pirouette and later 48 fouettés. Overall it lacked structure, the music was tuneless (lots of sirens) and a waste of time. At one point during the performance, Mr Greco bangs his head on the floor, as if expressing my opinion at being stuck in the theatre.
Listening to the conversations in the audience as I was leaving was the most entertaining part of the performance. I heard things like "pure genius" (maybe he was describing his beverage?), "stillness is the future of dance" (didn't Doris Humphrey explore this?) and "bollox, complete and utter bollox" (a view with which I fully concur!).
Having totally depressed myself, I had two choices. Do I go back to the hotel or see something else to cheer myself up? Well Shakti was on in 45 minutes, so the decision was made.
The work is viewed largely through three venetian blinds. Some have suggested that this is like watching a stripper in a peep show. Well yes, the lighting is mostly red (incredibly subtle design!) but the blinds are there to show that desire is secret. We all catch a peep into the world of others desires. Shakti says to get your desires into the open; we are, after all, animals.
The work features all usual sexy Shakti magic. We get the powerful foot stamps of the kathak dancer, the kneeling side lunges with the arched back and the whirling dervish-like long back hair. This is a very intense work. She performs with two other women dancers; I have seen them before, sometimes in the audience, sometimes on stage with her. They are demurely clad in black leotards (with a leather top), leaving Shakti to display her usual acres of flesh.
The music is very intense too, full on 160 bpm techo. Not exactly my cup of tea, but is works well with the piece and it is not annoying. One of the nice things about seeing Shakti at The Garage is she and her dancers stand by the door as you leave to thank you for attending. If you are lucky, you can speak to her, which I did. Exclusive to ballet.co (from Shakti's own lips).... her "Swan Lake" will be back one day; this is a must see (IMO). She held my hand as she told me this; I still haven't washed it!
Imagina Dance Theatre
The second movement consisted of one of those new-fashioned non-moving pieces. A chap sits in a chair and eventually stands up. Excitement being provided by him dribbling some water and opening an umbrella filled with flour.
Finally we get to the good bit, a duet between a girl and a life size adrongenous puppet all in white, controlled by a person in black. The puppet was beautifully simple; a head, an arm with hand and a long robe. The other arm was there, dangling. The piece starts with the puppet performing the same movements as the girl. Later they interact, whisper things to each other, dance together and leave. I wasn't sure if this was a chance meeting between two lost souls or a meeting of two friends. The piece is very simple, but unbelievably effective.
The final two movements had the whole company (8 I believe), dancing firstly around a red door, with a large hole in it, through which arms and heads were thrust. Later we had them holding up sheets, wrapping themselves and waving the sheets about. One looked a little like the Frankenstein monster.
The relevance of the title? Well the Angel part is obvious (the puppet). The ape reference appeared to be the song "Misery Is The River" by Tom Waits; His vocals make the word "misery" sound like "monkey".
Royal Ballet of Flanders 'Swan Lake'
AD Robert Denvers and choreographer Jan Fabre wanted to put a new slant on the Swan Lake story. Fabre was given free reign, but told not to touch Acts 2 and 3. His reworking is limited to the introduction of some pointless characters who wander on and off set and do nothing else (with one exception). We get a chap having a perpetual epileptic fit, a man in armour with antennae, the Plague Doctor (who for a long time I thought was Rothbart, due to his beak) and the dwarf (who butchers the swans). As a reworking this is pointless; there is no new slant on the story. It is all there, as per usual. Act 1 does contain the Queen telling Siggy to get married, Act 2 does have the swans arriving at the lake and turning into young women, Act 3 is the party, with the six princesses and the arrival of Odile, and Act 4 is the fight at the lake with Rothbart, and the subsequent demise of the couple.
Mathew Bourne's reworking is more radical, and that production still has the lake, the queen, the swans, and the arrival if the stranger to besot Prince Siggy. The most radical reworking I have seen is the aforementioned one women version by Shakti, in which she is Odette/Odile, and a wild swan all at once. The choreography and staging in this (Fabre's) production are quite tame.
All the "good" bits of Swan Lake are present; we get the three big swans (but they don't do their series of backward travelling temps levé), the four cygnets (whose linked arm bit has been moved to Act 4, and is performed to a slow piece of music, and thus contains no batterié), and we get 32 fouetté en tourant (but to the wrong music).
Across the back of the stage is a large trough of water. The knights mentioned in Lynette H's review wring their hankies out in it. I was very much hoping we would see the corps in the water. It would have been nice to have seen perhaps a series of pas de chat by the cygnets across the stage, splashing away merrily. This may sound silly, but no sillier than lowering mounted skeletons on stage.
The corps did a splendid job with uninspired choreography. They are very together and move as one. At one point we get six knights in full armour performing tour en l'air. Well done chaps!! There was no music for this sequence, the clang of the armour providing natural percussive accompaniment. The other highlight was the Jester, a role generally consigned to the bin. He is a very strong dancer, and we really did stay in the air during his ballon.
One final comment. Since when does Bottom appear in Swan Lake? Oh yes, the work needs an interval too; many of us need a comfort stop in a long ballet. Others may well need some Dutch courage to get through the second half! One final, final comment. I found the squawking owl a pleasant distraction.
College of Fine Arts, Uni of Nevada, company
Robert Denvers and Donald Hutera in conversation
Apparently Shakti ran a masterclass in her techniques the previous week. I wonder if I could have gained a place? I would love to learn the secret of the fast lie backs. I've tried them and I can't get anywhere near her speed. Mind you I am Mr Inflexible.
Just for a change I was back at The Garage for Shakti in "Empire Of The Senses". There was a minor technical hitch at the start; the projections didn't work, leaving Shakti standing there holding her arm up for a good five minutes. Never trust technology. Watching this performance really brought home the dramatics of the piece. The effect is stunning when she walks into the desert and into the volcano. I will be purchasing the video of this, assuming she releases one.
Pocket Musical Theatre Company
Presented by Gyles Brandreth (former MP) and four others this is a show to die for. To quote Kate Copstick of The Scotsman "Apart from Gyles (your life is incomplete without delighting in Mr Brandreth’s interpretation of Mame and Dolly simultaneously), we have Claire-Marie Johnson, a willowy soubrette with an amazing top end to her voice that only labradors can enjoy, Amanda Symonds, a siren so sassy she makes other red-hot mamas look like popsicles, and the little butterball of musical joy that is Andrew C Wadworth. Linda Lovelace may have had her clitoris in her throat but Wadsworth’s voice is truly orgasmic. Stuart Barr is at the piano and occasionally in a paper bag. I am still looking for my socks, which he blew off with his vocals in Jesus Christ Superstar." (Linda Lovelace is a reference to another show that was on at the fringe.)
The complete works of Andrew Lloyd Weber in 60 seconds, a great reference to "The Vagina Monologues" and a song from "Bombay Dreams", what more can you ask for? I laughed till I cried. I want to see this again.
Iestyn Edwards - Madame Galina
She demonstrates her skills in the dance, and then auditions three unlikely pas de deux partners. She selects one and performs some finger pirouettes. She can get doubles without being turned out and without being pulled up. I reckon I saw a triple too; perhaps there is hope for me yet (who once managed a 1 1/2). She dances the mad scene from Giselle; it is seldom madder than this. We are also treated to a potted version of Swan Lake and Le Bayadere. Not bad eh? Three classical ballets for a fiver. Finally she bedazzles us with a full 32 fouettés, again without turnout. What would Miss say? I am going to have words with my teacher next class! After all if the great Madame Galina can get away with no technique, Trog can too.
The second piece is a duet with the dancers in red. A very typical contemporary piece, it started, went nowhere and stopped. Finally another piece for the four dancers, investigating things; a flower pot, a water bottle, a radio etc. Again went nowhere.
In all three pieces the promised flamenco was nowhere to be seen.