Saturday, September 27, 2008


Went to see Chris Wheeldon's company Morphoses tonight in their second season at Sadler's Wells. This is a new 'transatlantic' ballet company which takes some of the best dancers in top UK and US companies and makes them work over the summer to produce some of the best stuff ever. In tonight's programme was a new work by Emily Molnar, followed by two by Wheeldon: Commedia (a premiere) and Fool's Paradise (which they premiered last year). The Molnar was a bit of a disappointment. With dancers like those of Morphoses it is hard not to appreciate every movement they make on stage, but by 10 minutes into this piece I was quite simply a bit bored. Despite fairly interesting movement and some nice motifs, it never seemed to go anywhere at all, just movement after movement in solos and pairs without any sort of structure. The endless repetitive Steve Reich music was inoffensive at first, but just as structureless as the piece, and started to grate after a little. At least the dancing was wonderful, with Rubinald Pronk in particular standing out with power and a wonderfully flexible torso.

Loved both Wheeldons, as ever -- I do not think I have ever not enjoyed a Chris Wheeldon piece, from the gentleness of the Tryst pas de deux to the acrobatic fumblings of Polyphonia. Choreographically it seems he can do no wrong! It was nice of him too to come out before the curtain went up and talk to us a little about the evening's programme. Fool's Paradise I had seen before and I had almost forgotten how ridiculously beautiful it is, all golden and shimmering with dancers repeating shape after gorgeous shape, with Joby Talbot's music lending powerful emotional depth throughout. If there is any criticism at all to be made of it, it is that 27 minutes is fairly long to sustain this kind of heart-in-mouth poignant almost-painful slow beauty for. Both times when I've watched it I have occasionally glazed over in the middle somewhere with emotional overload! Still, it is a gorgeous piece, and I'm glad to have seen it again.

The new work Commedia was a wonderful antidote to the seriousness of Fool's Paradise. With harlequin patterned bodysuits and the occasional colourful flouncy tutu, this was lighthearted and athletic good fun, filled with Wheeldon's trademark play with shape. What made it special though, I think, was that it wasn't overdone by any means; there was a magic subtlety to the way it played with the Commedia theme without ever doing anything too obvious and clowny. Leanne Benjamin and Edward Watson danced a central pas de deux which was absolutely brilliant -- there was no pyrotechnics, just immense skill used to make everything seem effortless and fascinating. It could have gone on forever and I would have been happy. Following this there was a fantastic little bit of group work, which was so visually clever I actually can't really describe it properly at all, but played with partnered and solo variations on shapes done in a delicious series of surprising moments emerging from a synchronous whole. Immensely satisfying.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Red cooked pork

Cooking a kilogram of pork in an entire bottle of soy sauce (plus some other things) for two hours results in extremely yummy melting meaty soy saucey goodness.

Plus, it is incredibly easy, and you can do laundry and download videos in the meantime: a pleasing way to spend an evening.


(I think I've been reading too much Douglas Coupland.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008


I spent most of August away in the States, at a big behavioural ecology conference in Ithaca and then a holiday in Boston and New York. Had a packed wonderful day in Boston, whale watching (saw 30 humpbacks!), following the Freedom Trail, and wandering through the North End. It seems an immensely live-able city. Then there was a week in New York. Now that I've been a few times it was great to not feel like I had to do anything, so we simply spent much of the time wandering about, particularly in the Village where we were staying, which rapidly became my favourite part of the city -- it is so filled with quirky cafes, restaurants, clothes and record shops, and perfect for an aimless afternoon. I even managed to go and take a dance class at Merce Cunningham's studio, literally a 10 minute stroll up Bleecker, and thoroughly enjoyed myself carving out those wonderful clean Cunningham shapes with the Manhattan skyline out the 11th floor studio windows. My sister gave us a foolproof list of great places to eat; my favourite was Ippudo (at St Mark's) -- wonderful bowls of unbelievably savoury ramen served in an actually reasonable quantity hit exactly the right spot for a couple of lunches. Although the pastrami on rye at Katz's was pretty darn good too. And parpardelle in ragu and a couple of glasses of vino at Frank's made for the perfect late dinner. And... oh dear, must stop now that I am back in the land of egg mayo sandwiches for lunch!

Now that I am back I am faced with that pesky but rather joyful problem of having signed myself up for too many fun things to do. In the upcoming 3 months I am:
1) Producing, designing, choreographing for and dancing in a full-length 2 night show of entirely new work with our new company Cambridge Contemporary Dance at the Mumford Theatre. Because we only actually have about 10 dancers, it is going to be an interesting exercise in stamina.
2) Also for Cambridge Contemporary Dance, doing long term planning and preprarations for further performances in January, March and November of next year in Cambridge and with luck, London.
3) Choreographing a musical which will run for 5 nights at the ADC Theatre
4) Supervising Trinity second years in the behavioural section of Animal Biology
5) Finishing off analysis from my second field season
6) Planning a third field season for which I leave 24 hours after the dance show
7) Attempting to stay sane