rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
I did lots of different things during the Edinburgh International Festival - I experienced new music, radical theatre, new artists. Much of it was excellent, a little was dreadful.

But it was also the first time I was searched as I went into a ballet performance, and was questioned where and when I bought my ticket; where I had my bottle of water confiscated; and saw a punch up - well, nearly - between members of the audience.

This was because - purely by chance - I had decided way back in July to see Batsheva Dance Company: when I was selecting what I wanted to see, I had nothing going on in the last weekend, more or less, and thought Batsheva sounded interesting.

Much more than I had expected.

Batsheva are an Israeli dance company, and on the back of a comment by the the Israeli foreign ministry that they were "good representatives for the state of Israel" (or something), they attracted the attention of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, who claimed that Batsheva's appearance at the festival was sponsored by the Israeli government. (This was denied by the EIF, though I can't find a link to it!) They are apparently part funded by the Israeli government, though.

By the time I went to the theatre, I was aware of this - I'd seen this piece about an earlier performance on the BBC's website. I even thought the performance might have been cancelled. Since it wasn't, I thought I'd head out there.

I did think about staging my own personal boycott; but having bought a ticket, I'd rather not waste my money. And I was of course curious. But I also believe strongly in freedom of expression, and I wanted to judge Batsheva on their artistic merits.

Some hope.

There was a large picket outside - perhaps one hundred protesters or so, held back by the police. I took a leaflet handed to me - I am largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause (and have been for over thirty years, since I visited Israel in 1979 and was shocked by the Israeli treatment of Palestinians). On the way into the Playhouse, I was asked where and why I bought my ticket, and I was searched.

There was only a small audience inside: the theatre was perhaps a third full, and I thought about moving to a more expensive seat closer to the stage - it was only the idea that my action might be miscontrued by the many security guards stationed around the auditorium that stopped me.

The dance itself was interesting but frankly beside the point. Every five minutes or so, a member of the audience stood up and shouted slogans such as "Free Palestine!", "Palestinian blood in on your hands!" (I wasn't sure if that was aimed at the audience or the dancers), and "Boycott Israel!"

Each time they did, the music stopped, the dancers stopped, the lights would come up and security guards would move to the still-shouting demonstrator and bundle them out of the nearest exit.

Then the lights would go down, the music start where it had left off, and the dance recommence.

The demonstrators were scattered throughout the auditorium, which meant that I spent much of the time wondering where the next disturbance would come from. Other members of the audience were more active, remonstrating with the demonstrators. One non-demonstrating sympathiser got up and remonstrated with a foolish and ignorant remonstrator who had said loudly "What a fuss for a handful of Palestinians"; they faced off to each other, nose-to-nose, hurling insults and punches. I had never seen a punch up at the ballet before.

As each demonstrator was forcibly removed, many in the audience applauded, though I wasn't sure if they were applauding the demonstrator or the security guards. I tried to keep my opinions open. I felt most immediate sympathy for the dancers - the stop-start deanimation must have been hard, especially cooling down for a few minutes before the lights fell and the music started again. They deserved the applause.

At the end of the performance - which even with six or seven disturbances came in at less than an hour (it may of course have been cut short) - we were directed to leave by a specific exit to avoid the protest outside; there were a lot of police about.

I will admit to having mixed feelings about the whole thing. The demonstrators had to buy tickets to get into the theatre to demonstrate, so they were actively supporting the company they were protesting about. It was unclear who they were directing their attack at - the company or the audience. Had they wanted to stop the performance, they could easily have done so (if you want to empty a theatre quickly, just hit the fire alarm - the performance will stop, and won't start again). All they succeeded in doing was pissing off potential supporters - most of the audience turned against the pro-Palestinians. If they simply wanted publicity, they got that by protesting outside - the BBC picked up on that after the first night.

The protest inside the theatre seemed to achieve nothing.

It was all quite bizarre, and I'm pretty sure a wasted opportunity.

Still, I won't bother going along to Batsheva when they perform at the Festival Theatre in a couple of weeks.
rhythmaning: (cat)
Just last week, I was telling a friend how much I liked Brazil, Tery Gilliam’s dystopian movie which features Robert de Niro in a cameo as a terrorist plumber (contains spoilers). It is one of my favourite films – full of splendid ideas and an amazing vision.

I have just heard that Terry Gilliam has been awarded a BAFTA fellowship, in recognition to his contribution to film.

One of my favourite scenes from a Terry Gilliam movie – actually, any movie - is the Grand Central dance scene from the Fisher King – it is just so magical.


(Edit: I thought this video was silent - but actually somehow I had managed to unplug my speakers...!)
rhythmaning: (cat)
Just last week, I was telling a friend how much I liked Brazil, Tery Gilliam’s dystopian movie which features Robert de Niro in a cameo as a terrorist plumber (contains spoilers). It is one of my favourite films – full of splendid ideas and an amazing vision.

I have just heard that Terry Gilliam has been awarded a BAFTA fellowship, in recognition to his contribution to film.

One of my favourite scenes from a Terry Gilliam movie – actually, any movie - is the Grand Central dance scene from the Fisher King – it is just so magical.


(Edit: I thought this video was silent - but actually somehow I had managed to unplug my speakers...!)
rhythmaning: (cat)
I went to see Scottish Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty.

Much as I love modern dance, I wouldn’t say I am a fan of classical ballet, often finding it pretty but not engaging. But I loved Sleeping Beauty, perhaps because Ashley Page, the choreographer (and artistic director of the company), has a background in modern dance.

The whole experience was enjoyable. The music (Tchaikovsky) was excellent, the set was brilliant and the dancing was captivating.

I have no idea if they stuck to the classical story, but the story was easy to follow from the dance. I was a little surprised by the arrival of Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tale characters (the friend I was with said that other dancers were Goldilocks, Belle [as in Beauty and the Beast], and Snow White – although one of them was Cinderella according to the photos on the Scottish Ballet website…), but they danced well anyway (and Miss Riding Hood had amazing legs!).

The dancers acted – their performances when not dancing were full of telling details (a courtier reading a newspaper; guests gossiping together), and the set was lovely – it worked really well.

I thought it was all excellent. It flagged just a little in the last act, with a string of solos and duets by the company at a celebratory ball, and I was also surprised that the wonderfully gothic wicked witch (actually, the evil fairy) Carabosse was so graciously forgiven by the Queen (but how else could she have danced at the ball with the Lilac Fairy?). And the dancing was all lovely.
rhythmaning: (cat)
I went to see Scottish Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty.

Much as I love modern dance, I wouldn’t say I am a fan of classical ballet, often finding it pretty but not engaging. But I loved Sleeping Beauty, perhaps because Ashley Page, the choreographer (and artistic director of the company), has a background in modern dance.

The whole experience was enjoyable. The music (Tchaikovsky) was excellent, the set was brilliant and the dancing was captivating.

I have no idea if they stuck to the classical story, but the story was easy to follow from the dance. I was a little surprised by the arrival of Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tale characters (the friend I was with said that other dancers were Goldilocks, Belle [as in Beauty and the Beast], and Snow White – although one of them was Cinderella according to the photos on the Scottish Ballet website…), but they danced well anyway (and Miss Riding Hood had amazing legs!).

The dancers acted – their performances when not dancing were full of telling details (a courtier reading a newspaper; guests gossiping together), and the set was lovely – it worked really well.

I thought it was all excellent. It flagged just a little in the last act, with a string of solos and duets by the company at a celebratory ball, and I was also surprised that the wonderfully gothic wicked witch (actually, the evil fairy) Carabosse was so graciously forgiven by the Queen (but how else could she have danced at the ball with the Lilac Fairy?). And the dancing was all lovely.
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
Rambert Dance Theatre were in Edinburgh this week, and since I try to see them whenever I can, I went along.

They performed three pieces, and I liked the first, disliked the second, and raved about the third.

The first was Eternal Light. Danced to a series poems of remembrance set to music by Howard Goodall, this was quite beautiful but studied. There were several different pieces; one – the Margaret Fry words I tried to speak at my mother’s funeral – brought tears to my eyes; others were thoughtful; another – “Belief” – I thought was beautiful. The voices were excellent – a choir with soloists.

The dancing was very good, and I loved bits of the set. The duet in Lachrmosa dies illa (the Margaret Fry setting) was beautiful; using a large mirror in several pieces worked very well, particularly when the effect of the mirror was tempered by the lighting; and the finale – an allegory of the eternal light itself – was quite stunning.

Still, kitsch diamante crosses flying in whilst the dancers interpreted In Flanders’ Fields seemed so camp during what should have been a very emotional moment, and added nothing.

Then came Carnival of the Animals, set to Saint-Saen’s overused music. This was lightweight, gimmicky whimsy; the music sounded clichéd, the dance irritated and lacked energy: at times t tried to literally interpret the music, and it didn’t add much. No, I didn’t like this!

But I loved the third piece, Anatomica 3: this had everything that Carnival lacked: it was fast, energetic and athletic – and the dancers looked like they believed in what they were doing: they quite literally threw themselves into it. It too started with a piece of whimsy – a Mrs Merton lookalike dressed as a pink air-stewardess, moving slowly and precisely, then joined by the whole company dressed in the same way – but this gave way to the company going through a whole set of complex, athletic routines. They filled the stage with movement, throwing each other around with perfect timing and precision, and jumping and falling of a tall skijump-like structure – stunning.

The music was a series of percussion pieces, which worked very well in the setting. Yes, I just loved all of this last performance: it was entertaining and exciting, making up for what Carnival lacked.

* * *


The whole performance was accompanied by a signer for deaf dance fans. This I found quite odd: as well as signing the poems in Eternal Light, he also signed the music in between and in the other dances, and the silences. I didn’t know music could be signed: he beat out the time using different gestures for loud or soft beats, he gestured the increasing and decreasing volume, and he indicated the instruments being played by the movements of his hands – piano-playing, violin-bowing and so on. In Anatomica 3, his intense movement meant at times he was almost playing air-drums.

I’ll admit I found it a distraction – especially in Eternal Light, which had several quite darkly lit pieces (the signer was spotlit, and hence stood out). But he also kept my interest during Carnival, which the music and dance didn’t!
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
Rambert Dance Theatre were in Edinburgh this week, and since I try to see them whenever I can, I went along.

They performed three pieces, and I liked the first, disliked the second, and raved about the third.

The first was Eternal Light. Danced to a series poems of remembrance set to music by Howard Goodall, this was quite beautiful but studied. There were several different pieces; one – the Margaret Fry words I tried to speak at my mother’s funeral – brought tears to my eyes; others were thoughtful; another – “Belief” – I thought was beautiful. The voices were excellent – a choir with soloists.

The dancing was very good, and I loved bits of the set. The duet in Lachrmosa dies illa (the Margaret Fry setting) was beautiful; using a large mirror in several pieces worked very well, particularly when the effect of the mirror was tempered by the lighting; and the finale – an allegory of the eternal light itself – was quite stunning.

Still, kitsch diamante crosses flying in whilst the dancers interpreted In Flanders’ Fields seemed so camp during what should have been a very emotional moment, and added nothing.

Then came Carnival of the Animals, set to Saint-Saen’s overused music. This was lightweight, gimmicky whimsy; the music sounded clichéd, the dance irritated and lacked energy: at times t tried to literally interpret the music, and it didn’t add much. No, I didn’t like this!

But I loved the third piece, Anatomica 3: this had everything that Carnival lacked: it was fast, energetic and athletic – and the dancers looked like they believed in what they were doing: they quite literally threw themselves into it. It too started with a piece of whimsy – a Mrs Merton lookalike dressed as a pink air-stewardess, moving slowly and precisely, then joined by the whole company dressed in the same way – but this gave way to the company going through a whole set of complex, athletic routines. They filled the stage with movement, throwing each other around with perfect timing and precision, and jumping and falling of a tall skijump-like structure – stunning.

The music was a series of percussion pieces, which worked very well in the setting. Yes, I just loved all of this last performance: it was entertaining and exciting, making up for what Carnival lacked.

* * *


The whole performance was accompanied by a signer for deaf dance fans. This I found quite odd: as well as signing the poems in Eternal Light, he also signed the music in between and in the other dances, and the silences. I didn’t know music could be signed: he beat out the time using different gestures for loud or soft beats, he gestured the increasing and decreasing volume, and he indicated the instruments being played by the movements of his hands – piano-playing, violin-bowing and so on. In Anatomica 3, his intense movement meant at times he was almost playing air-drums.

I’ll admit I found it a distraction – especially in Eternal Light, which had several quite darkly lit pieces (the signer was spotlit, and hence stood out). But he also kept my interest during Carnival, which the music and dance didn’t!

Dancing

Sep. 29th, 2008 10:10 pm
rhythmaning: (Default)
Last night I put on Sco's Bump (much to my surprise, you can hear the whole thing free - legally - on this link).

It is so damn funky that it was impossible to sit still: so I got up and was dancing around.

And then I watched Strictly Come Dancing.

Magic.

Could someone explain how those women don't get cold?! ;)

Dancing

Sep. 29th, 2008 10:10 pm
rhythmaning: (Default)
Last night I put on Sco's Bump (much to my surprise, you can hear the whole thing free - legally - on this link).

It is so damn funky that it was impossible to sit still: so I got up and was dancing around.

And then I watched Strictly Come Dancing.

Magic.

Could someone explain how those women don't get cold?! ;)
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
I like Matthew Bourne’s choreography: when a show he has choreographed appears in Edinburgh, I make an effort to see it – which means in the last few years I have seen his famous Swan Lake (famous not least for having an all-male chorus of swans – mute swans, obviously), Play Without Words (his magical take on “The Servant”), Edward Scissorhands (his, er, magical take on, er, “Edward Scissorhands”, using the original music from the film), Highland Fling (his beautiful, disturbing take on “La Sylphide” – one of the few times I have experienced a whole audience in shock during a dance performance), and, just a few months ago, The Car Man (his brilliant, murderous take on Bizet’s “Carmen” – a cross between Carmen and West Side Story, if you like).

(By the way, have a look at the videos on those show websites. Bourne’s company, New Adventures, seem to have high web production values.)

So I was really looking forward to seeing his new production of Dorian Gray - another adaptation, this time of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was looking forward to it so much that I accepted a late offer to the opening night, when I already had a ticket for later in the run (the offer fell through due to illness, but I would have gone). This production broke records for a dance production at the Edinburgh Festival, selling out over eight nights.

It shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise than when I was disappointed. It looked beautiful; it was brash and loud, and sexy (there was a fair concentration on sex in the production); it was smart and clever, and the dance was good.

Indeed, it is hard to identify quite why I felt disappointed: perhaps it was a bit too clever – a bit too knowing. It was also a bit too loud: the music – I think performed live (five guys in black tie were brought on stage for the curtain call) – was over amplified for the relatively small space of the King’s Theatre.

All in all, it just didn’t work – there was a little something missing. I hope Bourne finds it before he next brings something to Edinburgh.
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
I like Matthew Bourne’s choreography: when a show he has choreographed appears in Edinburgh, I make an effort to see it – which means in the last few years I have seen his famous Swan Lake (famous not least for having an all-male chorus of swans – mute swans, obviously), Play Without Words (his magical take on “The Servant”), Edward Scissorhands (his, er, magical take on, er, “Edward Scissorhands”, using the original music from the film), Highland Fling (his beautiful, disturbing take on “La Sylphide” – one of the few times I have experienced a whole audience in shock during a dance performance), and, just a few months ago, The Car Man (his brilliant, murderous take on Bizet’s “Carmen” – a cross between Carmen and West Side Story, if you like).

(By the way, have a look at the videos on those show websites. Bourne’s company, New Adventures, seem to have high web production values.)

So I was really looking forward to seeing his new production of Dorian Gray - another adaptation, this time of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was looking forward to it so much that I accepted a late offer to the opening night, when I already had a ticket for later in the run (the offer fell through due to illness, but I would have gone). This production broke records for a dance production at the Edinburgh Festival, selling out over eight nights.

It shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise than when I was disappointed. It looked beautiful; it was brash and loud, and sexy (there was a fair concentration on sex in the production); it was smart and clever, and the dance was good.

Indeed, it is hard to identify quite why I felt disappointed: perhaps it was a bit too clever – a bit too knowing. It was also a bit too loud: the music – I think performed live (five guys in black tie were brought on stage for the curtain call) – was over amplified for the relatively small space of the King’s Theatre.

All in all, it just didn’t work – there was a little something missing. I hope Bourne finds it before he next brings something to Edinburgh.
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
Sitting in the auditorium waiting for the show to start, the ushers suddenly move through the aisles asking everyone to leave quickly. There is a lot of confusion - not least from the number of non-English speakers. Thoughts quickly turn to fire or terrorist bomb – although being asked to wait in the foyer imples something less radical. Either way, everyone leaves as quickly as requested; the foyer gets crowded as those streaming out of the auditorium meet those rushing to get in.
Not a good start to the evening. )
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
Sitting in the auditorium waiting for the show to start, the ushers suddenly move through the aisles asking everyone to leave quickly. There is a lot of confusion - not least from the number of non-English speakers. Thoughts quickly turn to fire or terrorist bomb – although being asked to wait in the foyer imples something less radical. Either way, everyone leaves as quickly as requested; the foyer gets crowded as those streaming out of the auditorium meet those rushing to get in.
Not a good start to the evening. )
rhythmaning: (cat)
I have been to my usual quota of Festival shows, although I can't help feeling they haven't been up to my usual standard. Most of the things I go to I go to because I expect them to be good, and I'm not often disappointed. It is true that I have sat through a few turkeys - but it is a very few. (I think the Pina Bausch "dance" performance Nelken - "carnations" - is the one that really sticks in my throat: it was sold to me as being the best dance show around. I sat there for more than an hour, waiting for it to get better, and then the curtain came down. As far as I was concerned, it had no redeeming features. Not even any nudity.)

More Edinburgh culture... )
rhythmaning: (cat)
I have been to my usual quota of Festival shows, although I can't help feeling they haven't been up to my usual standard. Most of the things I go to I go to because I expect them to be good, and I'm not often disappointed. It is true that I have sat through a few turkeys - but it is a very few. (I think the Pina Bausch "dance" performance Nelken - "carnations" - is the one that really sticks in my throat: it was sold to me as being the best dance show around. I sat there for more than an hour, waiting for it to get better, and then the curtain came down. As far as I was concerned, it had no redeeming features. Not even any nudity.)

More Edinburgh culture... )
rhythmaning: (bottle)
For some reason, I felt like dancing this weekend; repeatedly.

It started on Saturday... )
rhythmaning: (bottle)
For some reason, I felt like dancing this weekend; repeatedly.

It started on Saturday... )

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