Monthly Archives: November 2008

Advent

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The Thames, last Sunday

The Thames, last Sunday

It’s that time of year again. I didn’t stir up any puddings on this, stir-up-sunday, much as I would have liked, but I have decided what my advent calendar will be this year.

In my experience, the best choreographers and dancers are much more enlightening, enlightened, insightful and interesting, amusing and quick-witted than any musician. To work in dance, you need to be able to communicate in a split second, and so that’s what dancers do. To celebrate this, my advent calendar this year is going to be a selection of some of the one-liners from the ballet class and  rehearsal that deserve, in the words of Elizbeth from Pride and Prejudice, to be ‘handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb’. This is not just about bons mots, it’s about minds that can grasp situations, complex perspectives and insights in an instant. But rather than try to prove that now, let my calendar be the judge.

Until tomorrow….

The Owl & the Pussycat

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A house near Elephant & Castle with an owl & a pussycat

A house near Elephant & Castle with an owl & a pussycat

On the way to the Tate Modern for tea with Chris got forced down a side-street as a diversion to Southwark Bridge, and came across this wonderfully eccentric house, where an Owl & a Pussycat stand in alcoves either side of a third-floor window. I have no idea what the street was called, and would love to know the story, so if you know, please add a comment.

For those who think I should be doing something less frivolous than having tea and photographing Lear characters, I’ll have you know we bumped into each other in the Theory section of the bookshop – he got Psychogeography & Semiotics, I got Phenomenology and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I don’t know what it is about Tate Britain that makes it all seem so appealing, but I experience something very close to lust in that bookshop (for the books, I mean).

Malta

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A Maltese balcony

A Maltese balcony

It’s been very strange going somewhere without having to play for class, as nearly every ‘holiday’ I’ve had in the last 10 years has had some element of work attached to it. I’d never been to Malta before, and the weather looked nice. Just my kind of place, and completely photogenic – see the Malta gallery. I could get used to this holiday thing..

Circle of fifths

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Me & Maria Somaraki somewhere near Old Street

Me & Maria Somaraki somewhere near Old Street

To the Barbican again to play for Mark Morris & company. He and they are so great to work with, so much fun, such great dancers, so intelligent, so appreciative. The enjoyment from those classes gets me up in the morning, and is so intense that it lasts the whole year until next time. I’d probably self-combust from overstimulation if I did it any more than that.

By coincidence, Maria Somaraki, who graduated from the RAD in 2000, was in London on a flying visit to see the RB, and staying down the road from Barbican so we went to Starbucks and caught up. It’s quite a coincidence that the last time I saw her was in Athens when I was playing for Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes at the Herod Atticus amphitheatre. Well we think it was anyway.

The Barbican’t

A bit of the Barbican. It could be any and every bit of the Barbican. Yuk.

A bit of the Barbican. It could be any and every bit of the Barbican. Yuk.

It’s a good job I had such a good time, because  I have come to hate the Barbican itself with a loathing so intense, it’s almost unhealthy.

It’s not near anything, not even to the station that bears its name. It has no geography; no maps and  no signs (at least, not where you need them); no grace, no contours, no softness, no line, no contrast, no differentiation of tone.

It’s an unkind, unforgiving, ugly, selfish, arrogant, pompous, square dump of a building, though so overwhelming that you can’t see it, because it has simultaneously annihilated and become its own location, a topography without topoi.  How anyone could have consented to such an affront to human worth and dignity is beyond me.

To be lost in it, or be trying to get into or out of it, is to experience being hated, humiliated and taunted by a building, its architects and its administration. Well, Barbican, I hate you back.

There, I feel just a bit better now.

Romeo & Juliet & Mark Morris at the Barbican

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On Wednesday, legged it down to the Barbican to see Mark Morris’s R&J, with the score unearthed by the incredible Simon Morrison – not just ‘a Princeton music professor’ as he’s been called recently, but a superstar scholar of Russian music (see more about the R&J score here). Talking of which, Marina Frolova-Walker was there, too.  If I don’t do this in bullet points, I’ll never write it all

  • David Leventhal and Rita Donahue’s Romeo & Juliet were  like your favourite best friends, whose happiness make you cry. Morally and emotionally noble as people, not just affecting nobility in steps.
  • What a privilege to hear this score
  • How courageous to stage this version, with the happy ending. It’s a much more daring thing to do than to [insert some modern art gag here], which is proved, I think, by all the carping of the critics. Why not at least let’s see what a happy ending looks like?
  • I like the happy ending. I always wished it would end like that.  I don’t get off on tragedy, not when it’s that avoidable. And you could argue that with all the weight of R&J behind you, isn’t it time to riff on it?
  • The speeds were wonderful. Every time it got to the bit where, in someone else’s version, a perfectly nice dance would be slowed down just so the choreographer could cram  half the RAD syllabus on every count, I was jolted out my seat by tempi which made sense of the music. The two mandolin dances and the lily dance, for example, and whatever that one with the tambourines and the ornaments in B flat major is called.
  • Mark Morris’s dancers look like people dancing, not like dancers pretending to be people.

And on Thursday evening, biked it down to the Barbican again to play for Mark Morris & company class, a privilege and a joy beyond anything else I know (see previous entries)