Friday, October 24, 2008

Surely I Should Mention Fish

I should be preparing next week's supervision. So much for having escaped the clutches of procrastination.

This week is going well. I get up, I try to work in the office (in reality spending 50% of my time writing paper outlines and the other 50% choreographing in my head at the desk whilst hoping my supervisor doesn't suddenly come in -- desk choreography is very similar to 'train choreography' i.e. in your head on the train whilst plugged into your iPod; the other passengers very Britishly ignore the crazy person muttering "and one and two and turn arms up" while making strange gestures in her seat), I get to my first rehearsal with the dance company at 6pm, I rush to my second rehearsal with the musical at about 8 or 9pm, I get home at 11, I shower, eat, collapse. And then I get up and do it all over again. It is exhausting, but so much fun!

Too many dance reviews to write. This is the pithy version.
Merce Cunningham: Really interesting stuff. A completely different approach to what I am used to, viz. he makes some steps then he adds some music, some rather unforgiving leotards, and some great backdrops. None of each aspect actually has to be related to any of the other aspects. Fascinating outcome, especially with 'Split Sides' where he played this up to the maximum by having the order of two pieces of music, two sets, two lighting programmes, and two different costumes determined by the throw of four dice just before the start of the performance. How the dancers manage to keep their bearings and keep on doing the same dance with a completely different aural and visual environment I don't quite know, but it all worked perfectly. It was all a little bit "highbrow" and hardly crowd pleasing but I enjoyed it very much. I am clearly getting better at the appreciating weird modern dance thing.

Richard Alston 40/60: Much what I expected. Some really beautiful shapes and I always enjoy watching the beauty of these incredibly controlled dancers -- technically wonderful. A couple of absolute gems in "The Men In My Life" which was a collection of bits of choreography for men he has made over the last 40 years. Pierre Tappon the standout dancer (now that Jonathan Goddard has left!) -- small, lithe, physically powerful, a pleasure to watch. Somebody however commented that Alston's choreography can be a little bit soulless and in a way I agree. It was a pleasant evening, but not hugely inspiring nor thought-provoking, much less so than their June performance at The Place earlier this year (which was only 1/3 Alston choreography).

Australian Ballet with Bangarra Dance Theatre: The first Rite of Spring I've ever seen. Fantastic movement, greatly theatrical with sets and costumes galore (at the end they even came out completely whited out as is I think traditional in Aboriginal dance). The Bangarra dancers were remarkable in their grace, it is such a completely different kind of grace to that of ballet trained dancers, but no less beautiful and powerful. Thoroughly enjoyable. The Massine piece that they did before the interval was very clearly dated, but interesting in a very "oh look, they'd already started to use angular arms in the 40s, how advanced of them" kind of way.

Batsheva: LOVED them. Endless, endless inventiveness with pattern and structure, it was like a choreography masterclass. Some incredible performance skills -- all the dancers maintained this crazy intensity for a full hour of performance -- combined with vigorous athleticism and the occasional choreographic reminder of their vulnerable humanity (also helped by the pedestrian costumes) made for a thoroughly fascinating evening. It was a reminder of the fact that if you have enough choreographic material and powerful enough performers you can take it right back to the basics, you do not need lighting gels or swirly costumes or even dramatic music, and yet you can make the audience completely yours. Inspired and awed!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Spent Sunday afternoon in the deathly silent office trying to get my head around parent-offspring conflict and honest signalling, both fascinating huge topics in behavioural ecology which did my head in as a student, and, as it turns out, still do my head in. It was useful though because I think I actually had an interesting discussion today with my supervision students on it. Huzzah, at least that was worth it.

This week I have an overwhelming timetable that on several nights involves rehearsals for both the dance show and the musical in quick succession (so something like 6-11pm), I am not sure dinner is ever going to come into play here, instead there may be quite a lot of cycling up and down Cambridge very rapidly while I try to switch my head round from interesting and quirky contemporary dance with some of Cambridge's best dancers to getting non-dancers to coordinate their hands and feet whilst bringing a dramatic story about anti-Semitism in America's deep South across. Er.

And right now rather than writing this very haphazard entry (rather reflects my state of mind at the moment) I am supposed to be calculating group territory sizes in order to see what sort of spatial effect my removal experiments had on my fish.

My brain cannot seem to turn off and doesn't quite know what to focus on at any one time. Part of me just wants to go 'meep', crawl into a corner and seek escapism in Terry Pratchett and coffee while the rest of the world gets on with all this being productive business. The other part is just masochistic.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


A throat I rather want to rip out, the beginnings of a drippy nose, general muscly yuckiness and a feeling that I just want to fall asleep at my desk -- oh no, can it be early onset fresher's flu? I have not had a cold of any sort since early 2006 post Princeton interview fluiness; put it down to my healthy scuba diving lifestyle training up the immune system of an ox, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Maybe it was simply that I tend to run away from the UK in winter, a season which this week at least is very palpably in the air.

I must not succumb properly because it is most inconvenient to do so this week. The beginnings of the throat came on over a two and a half hour meeting on Tuesday evening in which I spoke loudly and nonstop about Act One of this musical I'm choreographing -- so I thought at first it was merely laryngitis, something that I do get on occasion, usually after too much talking, drinking, or a combination thereof. The beginnings of the drippy nose came on during yesterday's rehearsal for a piece I am making in which I just ignored my throat and shouted out my usual "yes! no! maybe? can you stick your leg up and spin around three times from that position?". Probably this will all just develop slowly over the next 5 rehearsals and 3 meetings I have scheduled over the next 4 days. Not forgetting the supposed 9-5 thinking about fish (ha!). Nor a trip to London somewhere in the middle of it where I will have to control my sniffles as the Merce Cunningham company carve out their beauteous shapes on the Barbican's stage.

Hah! Perhaps my body has gone into pre-emptive strike. More fool it, it should know that it takes more than that to stop me foolishly trying to push my multitasking capacity. Hurrah, ill and rehearsing for two shows at once, this is more like life as I used to know it.