Tag Archives: prostie

Sharp as a Tharp

16 Nov

I interrupt this program with an unscheduled but entirely expected aside, a review of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s All Tharp program.  I feel the need to treasure these waning moments of sanity, for I am succumbing to the incurable disease of swan-psychosis.  However, far from visions of lakefaring waterfowl, All Tharp presented a trio of mastermind Twyla Tharp’s works: Opus 111, Afternoon Ball and Waterbaby Bagatelles (okay, it’s possible that last one may have had something to do with aquatic creatures, but not necessarily bird imagery).  Obviously the run of shows is already over, but it’s still worth talking about.

I actually had a tough time with yanking this review out of my head though and I’m not entirely sure why.  After the show I felt speechless and not in the life-altering kind of way…just at a loss for words, even though I knew they were there.  This was weird for me, a perpetual chatterbox whose kindergarten teacher (among others) said I talk too much.  Luckily, I took some notes for myself and I’m good but it was a slightly alarming moment.  Like I like to do, I feel it pertinent to give a brief synopsis of my experiences with Twyla Tharp choreography…I did minor in dance after all.  So the breakdown is, I’ve seen Deuce Coupe on film from my first dance history class so I have some fuzzy images but nothing too clear and of course I’ve seen Hair, excerpts of which were also shown in class.  Interestingly, I have seen Sinatra Suite live, as performed by good ole’ BalletMet in Columbus.  Unfortunately, my oddly brilliant photographic memory happens to be very selective and completely unpredictable and I don’t recall Sinatra Suite at all.  It obviously didn’t make a huge impact on me, but to give you an example of my freakish memory (which I find is actually quite ordinary amongst dance patrons) I distinctly remember a piece called Maquillage, which had female dancers in chiffon dresses of sunset hues (orange, pink, lilac, mauve, etc.) dancing to “the diamond commercial song,” which needs to be known as the Allegretto from Karl Jenkins’ Palladio suite.

Where was I…Tharp, right.  Well, there was definite impact this time around (though I can never guarantee for how long that will last) but I really enjoyed the first piece, Opus 111.  My favorite of the night, it was an arcadian display of buoyancy, like a festive summer gathering.  Set to Johannes Brahms’s String Quartet No.2 in G major, Op. 111, it was by far the most musically linked of the three pieces and just a constant barrage of movement.  The style of it was very free—lots of swinging and drifting without a single pause—a visual feast with almost no relief for the senses.  I couldn’t believe how the dance just kept going and going…the pace never let up, a characteristic shared in the other works as well.  I would almost liken Tharp’s choreography to stream of consciousness but not in an improvisational sense.  When it comes to stream of consciousness, although we may not necessarily form coherent paragraphs, we still think in terms of fully formed words and phrases which was the same in Opus 111; codified steps and organized phrases of movement were what materialized on stage.  On Saturday night, the softness of the piece was perfect on the lovely Carla Körbes but the dance also revealed rare moments of contrast, like when Carrie Imler came charging out of the blocks in a series of châinés turns.  I think the word is “attacked,” and it was almost feral in comparison (in the good way).

Meanwhile, Afternoon Ball was a sometimes sad, sometimes awkwardly funny commentary on the plight of the homeless.  There were three main characters: a sassy drunkard, a ferocious prostie (that’s Australian for “prostitute”) and a forlorn junkie.  The dancing was quite aggressive, to this maddening, minimalist violin score that would build ever so slightly and go nowhere.  It’s a somewhat similar concept that is heard in Maurice ravel’s famous Bolero (which I hate, by the way) in that a constant rhythm is the driving force.  There were moments of whimsy between the three hobos, but you have to wonder if chuckling at a homeless drunkard falling over is…appropriate.  However, what was most intriguing in the way they danced with each other is that these were people who were stripped of the choice to form relationships with other people…in many ways, they could only dance with other paupers out of default, because nobody else would give them the time of day.  This was further emphasized by the introduction of an elite couple, dressed in formal clothing and doing a very formal waltzy pas de deux with the lady on pointe.  The rich couple never acknowledged the hobo trio, who sort of danced around them, in particular the junkie, who is later claimed by an angel of death, shivering as the ghostly figure in white embraced him.  Beautifully danced, Afternoon Ball was a delicious helping of food for thought.

Then came Waterbaby Bagatelles.  I was lost in this piece, literally drowning in everything there was to take in.  The stage was starkly lit in blue, and hanging from the ceiling were rows of fluorescent tube lights, much like in an aquarium, except this was a sad aquarium without a hint of environmental enrichment.  In that sense it’s hard to say what the dance was about, other than imagery and feelings invoked by water.  You had some dancers dressed as swimmers (shirtless guys and women in more modest bathing attire with swim caps) but then you also had more animal-like movements, like Carla Körbes and Batkhurel Bold’s eely pas de deux.  There were also bodily illustrations of water itself, with dancers appearing and receding like waves or pirouetting in swirling eddies.  Even more amusing was when they would vibrate their entire bodies, which you might think would seem out of place, but if you think about bubbles rising to the surface, it’s not a smooth trajectory…they sort of flutter as they wiggle their way upward.  I had to let go of trying to decipher excessive meaning in the piece because if I held on, I’m pretty sure my brain would have exploded when the company broke out into a tango.

Overall, quite an interesting evening…and by interesting I mean intense.  I can’t stress enough the seamlessness of Tharp’s choreography, which can actually be quite taxing, but beautiful in its potency.  I leave you with PNB’s video of images and clips from All Tharp in the hopes that my descriptions of her work do the real thing justice.

And now back to the regularly scheduled programming…Swan Lake Month…

More on Manon

19 Jul

It’s been almost a month since I saw the Royal Ballet do Manon in DC, but I’m still kind of basking in the afterglow.  This is encouraged by the fact that the RB just wrapped up a historic stint in Cuba, as that was their maiden voyage to Cuba and they are the first major ballet company to perform there since the Bolshoi, which was 30ish years ago.  Oh and there is that guy…Carlos whatshisface who’s only making his debut in his home country where ballet is somewhat respected.  And what I really mean by that is according to theballetbag on twitter, the Cubans are crazier than the Japanese fans.  And trust me when I say the Japanese put the fan in fanatic.  They love their girly-girl princess stuff like ballet and figure skating, and I actually went to the figure skating world championships when they were in Tokyo in 2007 (I was living in Tokyo at the time) and can confirm that the fans were certifiably nuts.  But mainstream popularity is good (NHK, one of their major networks regularly shows ballet competitions and documentaries…can you imagine if NBC did the same?) so long as the stars are safe.  In fact, Marcelo Gomes of ABT fame has a Japanese stalker who travels to see him perform, but he seems to appreciate that he was able to touch her with his dancing.  Meanwhile, I read about Marcelo in “The Advocate” and if I know Japan like I do, stalker lady has a blissful relationship with that river in Egypt if you know what I’m sayin.

Anyway, RB did Manon in Havana, of course starring Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta (by the way, what is it with the weird nicknames fans give him?  The ‘Flying Cuban’, the ‘Beast of Ballet’ and my personal favorite the ‘Cuban Sex Missile’), and I reflect fondly upon my experiences as an audience member.  I didn’t realize at the time how much I loved the score, and now that I do, I can’t get over how exquisite it is.  I was kind of biased when I saw it because I was confusing Jules Massenet with Jules Mouquet; both composers with the latter having written a piece I once played entitled “La Flute de Pan,” which quite frankly is kind of sheety.  This is why I so often second guess myself though, because half the time I have no idea what I’m talking about.  Jules Massenet on the other hand, does happen to be the composer of one of my favorite pieces of music, Meditation from his opera Thais.  This is a part of my “relaxing music” playlist that soothes the inner beast.  It’s also known in the ballet world for a pas de deux choreographed to it by Roland Petit, as well as track 16 on the CD “Ballet Technique.”  Have I digressed?  Anyway, Massenet is massively fabulous and I am now dying to get my hands on a CD of the score.

In other news, does anyone even know how “Manon” is actually pronounced?  Is it MA-non or ma-NON?  Every time I talk about it with people it seems like they say the opposite of what I say, and I end up feeing stupid, but even Tamara and Carlos don’t seem to agree, as seen in this studio footage and interview released by Royal Opera House:

I really loved hearing what Tamara had to say about Manon…I find her insightful in such a way that tells me this kind of ballet is right for her, as opposed to the flashy classics.  A lot of youtube commenters complain about her being a little stone-faced as a Kitri, and maybe Don Q isn’t the best role for her, but every dancer has their niche (although if you watch her do Don Q, there’s one video where she does triple fouettes while manipulating a fan.  MAD skills people…MAD skills).  The following was broadcasted on NHK (told you the Japanese love their ballet!) and she tells us more with an oh so subtle dig at the Soviets. (the brief statement in Japanese in the middle I can translate for you…the narrator just says “Act I: The Bedroom Pas de Deux.  Des Grieux and Manon express their deep, burning love for each other)

So I’ve been on this youtube kick to find as much footage from Manon as I can, and I already posted the bedroom pas de deux in my initial review (in “The Royal Ballet kicks royal Boo-tay“), and have now found a video of Carlos performing one of the “mandagges” I was talking about in addition to the pas de deux they’re rehearsing from the footage I posted above.  I think that one might be my favorite, and certainly the music is choice as that’s probably my favorite melody in the ballet.  Meanwhile, if you read my review, you may also recall that Tamara has the most freakishly flexible feet, and if you would like to see for yourself, pause the following video at 3:52 and take a moment…and consider what it is you’re really looking at.  Take another moment if you must…it’s a lot to process.  But she sure knows how to use them.

And now…a video of the SWAMP pas de deux.  The climactic, tragedrama ending, which still gives me goose bumps, unlike the person who left a comment on this youtube video.  (By the way, why is it that people who comment on ballet videos are some of the most toxic, vicious and overly critical people out there?  To call Tamara boring is just nasty.  Not even my dad, who knows zilch about ballet was bored, and tell the woman 2 seats down from me who was sobbing hysterically that Tamara was boring.  Mm hmm!)

There’s also a part 2 to the above clip, but it’s just the curtain call.

So, my little chicken pot pies, Manon was truly an epiphanous revelatory “eureka!” moment for me, because it completely changed the way I look at ballet.  I’m actually kind of mad at myself for having initially been more excited to see the Bolshoi do Le Corsaire, but aren’t the best moments in life the unexpected ones?  I mean hello, I still can’t stop thinking about the whole experience, and am dying for it to be released on DVD soon.  So to close, I give you a trailerish clip, where you can see more of the RB’s fabulous corps, lots of comedic moments (including a lot of slapping), and a bit from the “drunken variation.”  Not to mention the third act when Manon is sold into prostitution…reminds me of the little girl in the audience who after reading the program asked her parents “what’s a prostitute?” (or “prostie” for short, for anyone who happens to be a trendy Australian)  And there goes the prize for the most awkward question ever…bet they wished they were at the Nutcracker instead.  Oh the scandalosity!