Saturday, August 26, 2006

Last notes on Last Year

Performances and Collaborations: The Boiler Room – National All Media Improvisation Laboratory (Hobart, Australia) This is a laboratory set up by ex-pat Ryk Goddard. Improvisers from around Australia gathered to share up their practices by teaching workshops and performing in different configurations in curated performances. The most memorable performers for me were Ryk Goddard (physical theatre, text), Clare Bartholomew (clowning, comedy)and Tony Osborne(physical theatre, text) The most challenging situation for me in all of this was on the "Movement Night" curated by Ryk. It involved being placed behind a screen, sitting on a chair, atop a bench, back lit whilst two performers improvised in front of the screen. What made this deeply uncomfortable was that I had no way of reading the audience or the material being created by my 'collaborators'. So when the audience laughed I had no idea why or what I was doing was even being seen. I think I crawled out of the theatre that night. THROW disposable choreography @ the OT301, Amsterdam Dancers: Kristian Larsen, Sarah Sproull Sound Design: Kristian Larsen Sound Op: Andrew Foster Lights: Ellen Knopps The OT301 is a former film theatre that has been developed into a squat/ cultural centre. This was the host venue for my inauspicious 'European Premiere'.The audience was intimate – between 15 & 20. No reviewer was present. Marketing was a thumbnail image on a website accompanied by a few lines of text and an en masse email from Katie Duck to her contact list. I performed a solo approximately 20 minutes in duration using a sound collage made on cool edit pro.2 (using 'found' sound from NZ, Melbourne, Hobart, & Rotterdam)I can’t comment objectively on the quality of my own work save to say I have never performed to an audience in Europe before I was scared shitless. Ellen Knopp's lighting design and extraordinary timing combined with Andrew Fosters empathic sound mixing made this a survivable experience. This was followed by a 30 minute duet between Sarah Sproull and I. We'd decided that Sarah would begin in solo. I came in after 5 or so minutes with a performance energy residue from the solo I'd just done, but my energy was a total mismatch of what Sarah had set up. This made for an interesting and unusual chemistry. Under normal circumstances Sarah and I perform wild and irreverent improvisations. But there was more at stake for me and I was not feeling so playful so I found myself being less trusting. Again I feel I was carried through by the others on this one.
As Guest Artist with Magpie Music Dance Company @ the OT301, Amsterdam on Two Evenings What struck me from the outset was the family / rock band empathy that was prevalent in this groups chemistry. The pre-show warm ups were held at Katie’s apartment where she has a small studio. This involved people doing their own ballet barre, taking bath's(me - my back went into spasm for no apparent reason in Sylvain's class) drinking of wine, smoking of cigarettes, low conversation, stretching, massage, and generally relaxing pre-show. There is something to be learned here. The last night of Magpies 10 year Anniversary was a collaboration between the dancers and a punk band called ‘The Ex’ This band have been together for twenty years and have toured with Sonic Youth. Katie didn't really relax that night so she set up an improveography score whereby there were no more than 2 dancers on at any one time and they had a limited timespan to do their thing and get off. I tended to not stay on for a short burst then leave apologetically and felt like I got in the way.(Later when I met another Amsterdam based improviser - Lily Kiara she said that in that show my timing had been 'a bit predictable', thanks Lily). The band simply did not care who was on or off. “ALSO” @ Dans Centrum Jet, Brussels Dancers: Kristian Larsen, Claire O’Neill Musicians: Herman Martin & Sam Gyselbrecht
This was a duet with Claire O’Neill, in collaboration with two musicians and performed in a single lighting state. This is one of the finest improvised compositions I have ever performed. Claire is an outstanding dancer with acute choreographic skill. Together with the highly accomplished abilities of the musicians and their understanding of the improvisation process made this a high resolution work. That was witnessed by a small group of students Claire and I had been teaching and a couple of their friends. Roxanne, the woman who ran Dans Centrum Jet made sure we all kept the noise down over our post - show wines and got us the fuck out of there by 9.55pm just in case the neighbors complained. Teaching: Improvisation workshop over 2 days (@OT301, Amsterdam) In a truly unusual turn of events out of 8 people who registered for the workshop, 7 canceled. The remaining one failed to show up. Luckily there were three New Zealanders around at the time: Sarah Sproull (dancer), Andrew Foster, (director/writer/actor) & Anita Alexander (acrobat, performer) who cheerfully agreed to let me practice teaching my material to them. I'm grateful that last person never showed up because I would've felt very small. . Improvisation Workshop over 5 days (@ Dans Centrum Jet, Brussels) This workshop was taught with the support of Claire O’Neill (who also got me the gig) and was taught to approximately 11 or 12 twelve people. Claire taught the technique part of the morning. Then the studio provided a meal for all participants. Then I took the afternoons. I felt a little less confident in this environment because A: English was a second language for most of the participants and B: I was acutely conscious my work has been developed largely from the work of practitioners here in this part of the world. I would also have liked to have had musicians to work with. However one thing that set this workshop apart from any other I have done as a participant is that the dancers got the opportunity to test their skills in front of an audience before the workshop finished. Classes and Workshops Magpie Workshop (Improvisation/Composition) Teachers: Day 1 Sylvain Meret (France)/Masako Noguchi. Day 2 Martin Sonderkamp. Day 3 Michael Schumacher. Day 4 Sharon Smith (UK)/Vincent Cacialano. (@ The OT301, Amsterdam, Nederlands) This workshop was formatted into 4 days with 4 sets of teachers. There was a warm up followed by skill building work and exercises. The musicians would also be work shopping in the studio next door. After a short coffee break the latter half of each day was devoted purely to jamming sessions between dancers and musicians. The floor was concrete, I hurt my back. Sarah hurt her knee. Katie Duck is by far the most gifted teacher out of all of them. Frey Faust (Contact Improvisation Workshop) @ Espace Catastrophe, Brussels, Faust is a highly competent teacher, dancer, and thinker. Creator of the ‘Axis Syllabus’, an accessible method of organizing information in order to facilitate deeper efficiency in movement Faust has a remarkable understanding of the body in movement. Faust unfortunately has an unusual edgy aggression that surfaces in his teaching and transforms him into an egocentric asshole. Sigh. Another one. David Zambrano (classes in his Flying Low technique – a rigorous approach to floor work) @ Michele Anne De May’s studio This was the cheapest 'workshop' available (5 euro per class for 5 classes) with this man who is in demand all over the place as a teacher and as a performance improviser. His hybridised work is rigorous, tricky, and fun. Peter ? A 23 year old adept from Slovakia. Taught a class using focussed improvisational exercises, acrobatics, and a lot of floor work. An unpretentious class from an unpretentious & talented man. Conference on Improvisation Panel: Mary O’Donell (USA) dancer, choreographer, academic, creator of Release Technique Jaap Flier (Nederlands) founder and former director of Nederland’s Dans Theatre George Lewis (USA) a professor @ Columbia University Vitor Garcia (Portugal) former member of Frankfurt Ballet and Pretty Ugly Kristian Larsen (New Zealand) etc A 3 and a half hour conference / forum / debate attended by about 40 or so people that was chaired by Mary Fulkerson O’Donell. Organized by Magpie this occasion was a remarkable dialogue with intelligent people fielding relevant questions about the practice of improvisation and where the arts are heading in the current macro economic climate. (This conference will be addressed more explicitly in future writings, it was too important to just be allowed to slip by) Performances Witnessed: Studio Showing @ Dancehouse, Melbourne Duet with Jacob Lehrer and David Corbett Two improvisers from “State of Flux” (a group that uses contact improvisation in a performance setting) have been away in Canberra at doing research together and came up with an impressively rigorous duet that showed contact as a primary technique but didn’t use it as a compositional tool. That sentence means ‘I liked it’. Danceworks, Melbourne "The View from Here" choreography Sandra Parker, Composer/Performer: Steven Heather, Text/Performer: Siegmar Zacharias Minimal. Relevant. Under rated and overlooked.( I believe their funding has been recently cut also) Magpie Performance(s): The gig @ the Muiderpoort Theatre, Amsterdam Dancers: Katie Duck, Sylvain Meret, Eileen Standley, Martin Sonderkamp, Vincent Cacialano Lights: Ellen Knopps The opening of Magpie's anniversary week offered some blistering moments of genius and energy. In particular the drummer, Michael Vatcher astounded me again and again with his choices and timing, and an opening provocation from Martin Sonderkamp. A spectacular example of virtuosity came in the form of the group working a highly integrated ensemble of explicitly diverse material whilst maintaining an extraordinary awareness of each other. Six dancers, three musicians all working on solo like material - but together. This kind of 'telepathy' is rare and extraordinary. The gig @ the Bimhuis, Amsterdam Dancers: Vincent Cacialano, , Martin Sonderkamp, Eileen Standley, Katie Duck, Michael Schumacher, Sylvain Meret, Sharon Smith, Masako Noguchi, and guest Vitor Garcia. Muialano, Masako Noguchi. Musicians: Mary Oliver, Yannisicians: Han Bennink, Mary Oliver, George Lewis Lights: Ellen Knopps This particular evening was made up of 3 half hour sets. Magpie have never before worked with all of their dancers together in one constellation. This performance although providing a broad swathe of stimuli seemed to speak more openly of incoherency and diversity of ideas within the group. There was a standing ovation at the end of the show at the Bimhuis. In my own view I felt that there was some kind of incongruence between the spirit of the group and the energy and psychological impact of the structure and atmosphere at the Bimhuis. My concentration was admittedly lacking as an audience member on this particular night. That’s because I kept going back to the bar to get more wine during the show and would kind of forget to go back in. “Desh (the second part of the night)” Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker & Salva Sanchez. Kaaitheatre-Brussels-Belgium The wings of the stage had been removed revealing two men whose job it was to fly the backdrops. When the first 2 dancers entered they did so in a state of affected nonchalance that was a consistent performance quality throughout. In this choreographic collaboration with Spaniard Salva Sanchez, DeKeersmaeker danced in different groupings of solo, duet, and trio with one other female (Marion Ballester). Her facial expression seemed incongruent with the technical flow of movement vocabulary. At times she seemed to be commenting on the piece, sometimes disinterested, at other times she looked simply pained. Partnering work was all but absent from the choreography, floor work was relatively unexplored. The movements were executed with a technical thoroughness that became both tedious when it took precedence over the performers humanity, and insincere when the pretension of DeKeersmaeker. Salvas solo caused me frustration. Here was a work that was improvised but in a way that was too safe to be satisfying to witness. The audience was highly appreciative but I was bewildered by that. It was a feeling that persisted the next two times I saw work in Belgium. ‘05/06 Opening” Charlerois / Danses (Michele Anne de Mey, Pierre Droulers, Thierry De Mey) Charlerois / Danses is a company & a choreographic centre. It makes the states ib its promo blurb publicly that it is representative of Belgium’s French community. It currently has 4 artistic directors. Three works were presented this particular evening. The first by choreographer Pierre Droulers was a solo for a male dancer who came on stage with a piece of chalk. Working from the outside of the stage into the centre he then marked off sections of the stage using parts of his body as measurements. After completing this task he removed his clothes and made completely inexplicable movements. The second work was by composer Thierry De Mey. It featured the man himself playing with expensive software. He placed his hands into beams of light that crossed the stage and the movements were processed & projected onto a wall behind him. Also the movements created sounds. I felt like I was watching a children’s show by Jean Michele Jarre’. The third work by choreographer Michele Anne De Mey saw groupings of young dancers in “rehearsal gear” outfits throwing themselves through space using partner work reminiscent of Wim Vandeybus but without that level of imaginative flourish. Their group work looked reminiscent of De Keersmaeker’s Rosas but here again just looked poorly rendered and assimilated. I came away from this evening feeling as if my intelligence had been insulted. “Chunking” Needcompany/Grace Ellen Barkey. Kaaitheatre - Brussels - Belgium Needcompany is a popular physical theatre group in Belgium. In this work a man in overalls entered making Chaplinesque movements. The set he performs in is a whole lot of freestanding upright plinths covered in wallpapers of gauche and childlike design. Similarly these wallpapers covered the back wall. He fumbles with 5 microphone stands and sets them downstage front.. A woman appears wearing black lingerie and sings lines of a song into the different microphones. Variously she is interfered with by new characters that appear on stage. One who moved in a permanent forward bend appeared to be obsessed with her ass and crotch,burying his face in it repeatedly and placing his hands there. Other characters hump each other. Commonly the movements look sexually infantile and so do the facial expressions. Sections were given overlong durations in the performance. These characters exited after an hour. A projection of children’s drawings appeared on the screen behind. Eventually new characters emerged in brightly crocheted costumes that make them appear like human sized sock puppets. The 1st threw the plinths harmlessly offstage, then 3 more made appearances consecutively, repeating childlike movement motifs to a Sonic Youth track. Before the 5th entered and the work finished I left the theatre to listen to Radiohead on my mp3 player and drink wine. “Catastrophie Communication Combinatoria” Caroline Hainaut & Palle Dyrvall (Part of the Klapstuk International Dance Festival #12, Stuk – Leuven - Belgium) In this solo work a man in a suit (Palle Dyrvall directed by his partner Caroline Hainaut) made clear gestural choreography and established a character very early on in the work. After a time he came up to the audience and looked as if he was going to speak. To my relief he did. And he made sense. His words were bound to specific gestures. The ending was both intense and somehow comical. I felt like the whole thing worked. “Tongue Tied” Sacha Steenks, Dansateliers, Rotterdam, Netherlands An interesting feature of this work in progress showing was that it was the third of three showings in as many days. This allowed the choreographer to try different ways of presenting the material. Two dancers, a story teller, video projection and pre-recorded original music were the primary elements. The strongest idea of this work was in the way it was presented. The choreographed section with the dancers and sound and projection was performed first. Then after a break the storyteller (who also featured in the 1st section) came in told the story of Rapunzel. Her movements were minimal. As she told the story memory of the 1st section began to resurface for the audience causing them to find new meaning and associations in retrospect. A potent but simple device. This writing is an oversimplification of a multi layered and complex work. Sacha Steenks

Larsen/Magpie at the OT301Amsterdam 2005

These images were taken over a year ago at the Overtoom 301 in Amsterdam. The occasion was Magpie Dance Music's "10 years in a Blink Anniversary." In a stroke of cruel irony this was also the year their funding was cut. Pictures from top to bottom 1. Masako Noguchi(foreground) Sylvain Meret(lying on floor, background) 2. Musician from Dutch punk band "The Ex"(foreground) and Kristian Larsen 3. Sharon Smith & Vitor Garcia 4. Martin Sonderkamp and Sharon Smith 5. Vitor Garcia 6. Sharon Smith backlit very nicely thank you.

WHAT I WROTE

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