Tag Archives: London

Let’s have a Kristen McNally evening!

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Now you know how I feel about the wonderful work of choreographer Kristen McNally (see previous post), so I’m delighted to see from her just-published  blog over at Ballet.co that she’s keen to put on an evening of her work to date, plus a new piece (yeah, OK, I’m all chuffed that my blog gets a mention too). I’ve told so many people about the Obama piece (if it was on video, I’d make it illegal not to see it on one of my courses) that it just has to have another viewing soon, and I will bring everyone back from their holidays to make them see Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game. There’s an invitation to send suggestions & ideas or join a discussion about it on Ballet.co. Use your democratic rights, make your voice heard and let’s have a McNally evening!

Save the RACS building (and Dadus and the Kastoori)

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The RACS building at the corner of Hebdon Road and Upper Tooting Road

Those of you who know and love Tooting as much as I do, will be appalled to know that there is a planning application to demolish the RACS building at the corner of Hebdon Road & Upper Tooting Road.

This wonderful art deco building is currently home to the Sivayogam Temple, the focus of some of the most visible and wonderful aspects of Tooting’s community life. Remember the August Bank Holiday chariot festivals? They start here. At a meeting held recently to Save the RACS  buidling, we were taken upstairs to the third floor  to look at the temple, which was quite the most wonderful thing I have seen in Tooting. It’s not just the temple itself, it’s the unique views over the local area that you can see from it.

The plan is to demolish this, and the whole block that it’s in – which would include Dadus and the Kastoori. To me, Dadus symbolises everything that is wonderful about this part of Tooting – freedom from big chain supermarkets, opportunity to buy an enormous variety of things  from independent retailers, and shops which are a service to the community.  And Tooting without the Kastoori just wouldn’t be Tooting.

Local MP Sadiq Khan is supporting the campaign to save the RACS building. If you’re a local resident and you want to object, follow the advice here about writing/emailing Wandsworth Planning department. But do it QUICK, as the meeting to discuss the plans is imminent.

Cult status at last!

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Now this is just a little bit circular, but how could I possibly not mention the fact that those nice people at The Ballet Bag has listed my Kristen McNally review as Cult Blog Post of The Week?

What a week it’s been. Not just cult blog post of the week status today, but on Tuesday I celebrated what my dear half-Slovenian friend informs me the Slovenians call an ‘Abraham’, and on the same day, won first prize in a competition  run by the Slovenian Tourist Board (see earlier post), which was a 5-day all-expenses paid trip to South Africa to sightsee a bit and see the England-Slovenia match. Sadly, I couldn’t take it up for family reasons, but the Slovenes still consider me the winner so are sending me something nice as a consolation. I hope the lucky other winner has a wonderful time.

Kristen McNally rocks

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Picture of Horseguards Parade

On my way to the Linbury. You never see this by tube or bus.

And I mean rocks, because if ever there was a choreographer who could make dance the new rock n’ roll for me, it’s her. The last piece of hers I saw at the Linbury Yes we did… choreographed to Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ speech blew me away. The Telegraph called it a ‘tribute to Obama’, but it was more than that. It was a dance that revealed the music of Obama’s rhetoric so artfully, that it could be either adulation or satire. It was funny, sensuous, musical, political and top-drawer choreography and dancing all in one. I was in awe.

So when I went to see the Royal Ballet new works at the Linbury last night, I was excited to see what was next. To describe Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game in words is to insult its brilliance, because what she does in choreography is to say through music and movement what is unsayable in words.

Her send up of clichés of gender, music and movement is so funny, I thought I was going to be sent out for laughing too loudly. Towards the middle, there was a harmonica in the music that began to annoy me. Really annoy me. It whined on and on, and I began to hate what the harmonica stood for as a sound. Just when I thought ‘please stop this’, Tom Whitehead had a real harmonica shoved in his gob by a passing ballerina, and was left to continue his next solo with with it stuck there. It was a moment of such multifaceted comedy, you couldn’t quite work out what had happened. It was as if McNally was saying ‘Ha! You thought I didn’t notice!’ There’s no suitable phrase for the concept of being hoist by your own harmonica, but she just did it in dance.

But just because I refer to her sending stuff up doesn’t mean that this is just an amuse-gueule, it’s humour that withers like a glance, and cuts like a scalpel. Another favourite moment was when three sirens appeared, the equivalent of watching an entire rack of ‘Men’s interests’ magazines in W H Smith come alive like a poisonous figment of the male imagination, a self-induced triple homunculus. Backs to audience in Loaded style, they unleashed their hair with brilliantly choreographed timing to a syrupy, kitsch climax in the music. Once you’ve seen this, you’ll never be able to take such music seriously again, because you know now that despite taking itself seriously, it has all the gravitas of a L’Oréal advert. It was like watching Adorno’s entire critique of mass culture in a movement, and much more successful. I could go on, and on, and on. But you really have to see it.

It was a fabulous evening, and I haven’t got time to do all of it justice, but I have to mention my three favourite other moments.

  • Robert Clarke’s performance of the Shostakovich prelude & fugues for Samodurov’s piece was so brilliant and beautiful, I’m afraid he ruined it. For however beautifully people moved on stage, there was a body and sensuality in his playing so perfect, I kept having to look over to see how on earth a human being could keep it up so relentlessly. Every phrase in the slower movements suggested shapes and bodies that were bigger and more visible than the dance. It wasn’t the dancers’ fault, or Samodurov’s – but next time, hire someone fallible at the keyboard if you want people to look at the choreography.
  • Alastair Marriott’s duet for Gary Avis & Mara Galeazzi Lieder sent shivers down my spine. I’m no great fan of Brahms, or Lieder, but I could be after this. But only because while Brahms unsettles you and makes you swim through dark, troubled waters, Gary Avis seemed to have all the emotional strength you need to carry you through. There was one moment when you could sense a terrible climax coming up in the music, and – how can you explain it? – Avis took his partner with such assurance and strength, you felt like someone had saved you from falling out of an open window without batting an eyelid. It’s because that moment is so indescribable that it gave a whole justification for dancing at all in the first place. The final position that the couple assume is the nearest thing I have seen in the physical universe to a chord. Beautiful.
  • Erico Montes’ Hallelujah Junction had me wanting to scream hallelujah. I swear if someone had told me to give my life to Jesus or the Royal Ballet in the middle of that piece, I would have done it. It’s probably the best extended dancing I’ve ever seen in my life. I loved the music, which fizzed and popped and bounced like corporeal space dust, and the four main dancers (Bennet Gartside, Kenta Kura, Sergei Polunin, Jonathan Watkins) did the same. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and ears. They were joyfully bang on top of that music for every single one of its kaleidoscopically shifting beats. It had a rhythmic security, verve, stamina, flow and assurance that was as stunning as it was inexorable and I am still wondering how on earth they managed it.

Kristen McNally weblog at Ballet.co

So you think that’s funny, Mr Clarkson?

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Middle class thuggery in print, an advert for Clarkson’s latest drivel

I guess it’s only cyclists that understand just how idiotic and dangerous most drivers are. The reason I’m not dead yet after years of cycling in London is only because I assume that everyone in a car is applying make-up, looking the other way when they turn into a main road, texting, phoning, getting something off the back seat, drunk or drugged, racing to get their kids to school, or racing to get to work after the school run. That’s just the normal ones.

But then there’s a class of driver who actually hate cyclists. They don’t think they deserve to have space on the road. Rather like the person who  said travelling by bus was a sign of failure, cyclist-haters are usually those who are inexplicably proud of owning an expensive car, as if that changed anything about them as a person. They beep at you, overtake you with no room to spare, and act like bullies. They endanger you for no other reason than they don’t think you should be there in the first place.

Cyclist haters are largely made, cultivated by the media. You can almost tell when some drive-time radio talkshow host is having a go at cyclists, because you seem to meet more unforgiving, reckless and aggressive drivers on your way to work. I wish I had complained about the presenter I heard inciting hatred of cyclists. If cyclists were an ethnic group, he would have been jailed.

On that occasion, I didn’t do anything about it. But this advert for Clarkson’s latest book infuriates me. There is absolutely nothing funny about developing a dislike of any group of people, particularly when this dislike might lead them to be treated even more recklessly than they are now. I am going to complain to Penguin about this advert, and if you’re a cyclist, I urge you to do the same.  It’s only because Clarkson is middle class that he gets away with it – listen to what he says as if he had an Estuary accent, and he’s just another thug.

Update: I’ve just complained to Penguin, Boris Johnson & the Advertising Standards Authority about it. I mentioned to Boris that it’s a bit odd that TfL should be advertising a dislike of cyclists below the ground, while the mayor is trying to develop cycle routes above it.

Update on May 21st 2013: My local MP Sadiq Khan was the only person who took my complaint as seriously as I did back in 2010 and referred it immediately to the Mayor of London. Responses from the others could be summarized as ‘lighten up, it was only a joke’. Now a driver has admitted on Twitter to knocking over a cyclist, adding #bloodycyclists as a hashtag. Not so funny now, eh?