Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Stravinsky Project

My friend Dan very kindly gave me some tickets for a dance performance at the Barbican. It was called The Stravinsky Project and choreographed by Michael Clark, who apparently is an iconoclast, although that's a bit meaningless if like me you haven't a clue what the icons looked like before he broke them.

I took M, who knows about dance, and my sister N, who knows Who People Are in the Arts.

I have absolutely no notion about modern dance. If there's no story, I have no idea what to watch for. It was in three parts and this is what I remember.

Part I
After some thought I decided that I should listen carefully to the music and put the dancers in my peripheral vision so I could see them as dancers making musical shapes rather than as specific human beings making apparently meaningless gestures. This worked very well for everyone except Extra Tall Woman, who was too compelling. It started with a woman waking up and doing some yoga. Then there was a man in a plastic box, who was interesting to watch, and some visually fascinating things with reflections. I liked the way the audience got reflected in the mirrors as a wall of darkened shapes, and it gave me another way of watching the dancers as well. There was a beautiful pas-de-deux at the end.

Part II
A couple of people who know these things had advised us to skip Part II, but I like The Rite of Spring as music and I said I should form my own opinion. "Don't worry," said N, "you will!"

The Rite Of Spring started in the dark with no dancers. I was happily imagining insects and dripping icicles and whatnot to go with the music, then the dancing started and I lost it a bit. I think the first thing was with everyone in leather kilts. I enjoyed Purple-Suit Woman and her slightly erotic dance with Purple-Suit Woman's Man, the only bit that included any specifically meaningful gestures, apart from the bouquet-throwing in Les Noces. The animated loos were odd, especially the one with two swords or ski poles. The brief confrontation between Loo Man and Green Man was mildly intriguing but didn't last long. Green flower people appeared and did something ingenious, then I think the Loo Man took off the loo and reappeared in black shorts and did a long, powerful solo which was interesting to watch because you could see all the muscles in his back; I kept thinking it would be very instructive for an artist or anatomist.

Part III
I really enjoyed Les Noces, perhaps partly because I get vocal music a bit more. The music is loud and dramatic and sounds a lot like Russian church music. This was the bit that Dan was in, hidden away under the stage playing one of the four pianos that do the job of an orchestra. The choir was on stage, the soloists in front of the stage, and the stage was done up like a black-draped One-Party meeting hall.

A sort of giant art-deco striped egg appeared, which I took to be symbolically a limousine, and Extra Tall Woman got out very ceremonially with her toes sharpened and a fur cape on. I suppose she was the Bride. Then most of it was with the dancers all in nude-suits with lines on that vaguely suggested things wedding guests might possibly wear, and they did a lot of things that vaguely suggested interdependency. Some bridesmaids threw small bouquets rather dismissively into the audience, or in one case the orchestra pit.

At the very end Extra Tall Woman reappeared right at the back dressed in a really interesting Aran-style textile that I think was supposed to represent either a Russian wedding dress, or a giant penis, or more likely both. Looking at the picture on the programme, it seems more like crochet than the knitted Aran pattern I thought it was when I saw it, but I'm not convinced the picture on the programme is the same costume. On the other hand, why make two?

And then the bells went bong for quite a while with her standing there en pointe, and that was the end.

M said it was absolutely wonderful, and N seemed to like it too. I think we were very lucky to get tickets as apparently Michael Clark is very important and lots of people want to go. I was glad I'd gone, it would never have occurred to me to go without being invited, and a lot of it was interesting and beautiful.

Just in case you're thinking of going, the website says "contains nudity", but it doesn't. This is completely false advertising; there's no nudity at all. What there is, is lots of beige lycra. But don't let that stop you if you're into modern dance.


Anonymous said...

In case you didn't notice I was asleep on your shoulder through most of part two and dropping off towards the end of part three. I think 'liking' it would be an exaggeration. 'Wishing I were watching it on telly in the comfort of my own home with the possibility of pausing it indefinitely' would be more accurate. Part one was quite fun though. N

msHedgehog said...

I know darling. But I'm taking you to Spamalot on your birthday.

Jo A said...

Sometimes the description of an event is much better than seeing it!

msHedgehog said...

I was told yesterday that the long solo at the end of Rite of Spring was normally done by an equally-topless woman, which would answer the nudity question.

Anonymous said...

I fear I am a philistine, no matter how much I try.
PS I love your little hedgehog picture! N