One of my jobs as library assistant at London Studio Centre is to file away clippings of any dance, musical or art related reviews from the newspapers. This generally means I spend a lot of time kicking myself about the things I've missed. Missing things is something that I'll have to get used to - working til nine pm every week night means I am limited to weekends to catch performances and there is so much stuff going on in London you are fighting a loosing battle if you try and see everything. But I have managed to see some things, so here is a selection;
At the start of the month I went to see Rosemary Butcher's 'Lapped Translated Lines', part of the 'Festival of Miniatures' (also curated by Butcher) at the Lylian Baylis Studio at Sadler's Wells. Rosemary Butcher is a name I have heard often, but I am shamefully bad at research so I didn't/don't know much about her. I just knew she'd been around a while.So when I saw she had work at the Lylian Baylis Studio I decided it was time to educate my self. Any dance artist who survives thirty years should be given some of my time.
The ticket was suprisingly expensive, this better be worth it I thought. Which is ironic, because I find it ridiculous that its hard to find a paid dance job, yet I want to pay minimum amounts for my seat (although I guess this is not really to do with the value I place on the work, but more my financial situation) Admitedly the ticket did include a pre show installation/performance work, that sounded quite good, that I unfortunately missed because I confused the start time. There was also a post performance disussion. In retrospect I guess the ticket wasn't so badly priced, although I still believe it was wrong that there were no concessions.
The piece itself mixed sculpture, movement, sound and video, all of which worked together, rather than distracting from, or intruding on, the other. To craft a piece with this many elements (the movement vocabulary was minimal, but still clearly defined and structured) successfully is no mean feat. As a piece it didn't move me (although I am still debating if this was due to my mood on the day), but I respected all of the artist involved and I really liked elements. Matthew Butcher and Mellissa Appleton's giant installation watched over the performance with a quiet yet imposing presence, whilst Elena Giannotti's powerfully subtle performance transformed the simple movements into something engaging, which pulled me back in to the piece when I least expected, as did Daria Martin's film. Martin's work was sensitive and clever. It duplicated actions we were seeing performed in real time, yet with more intamacy and their own sense of timing. Cathy Lane's musical composition brought everything together and transported me to numerous worlds.
Aouple of weeks after I saw a completely different type of work, One Dixion Road and Eight Graces Road, performed at The Place by Nigel Charnock, who I have decided, is one of my favourite performers. I have only seen one other piece of his work, his solo Frank, which was very similar in structure and style to One Dixon Road - seemingly fragmented, but with a clear sense that there was a deeper meaning was driving it, mixing his signature movement (hyper active, wild but with an obvious under pinning technique) with speech, song (he has a great voice), a diverse sound track, visual imagery and in this new piece his saxophone playing (no end to the man's talents!). But despite the similarities Eight Dixion Road was, for me, still captivating and inspiring due to Charnock's honest and energetic performance. Even if people dislike the work l think it would be near impossible to find anyone who says he doesn't give his all.
When speaking to him briefly after class (he taught a week of technique classes at GDA) I made the mistake of calling his work 'contemporary', I used this term because I have difficulty finding the correct labels for art/dance/things, and so thats what I call everything thats not ballet. Wrong. Charnock visibly bristled, and corrected me. He calls it 'not really contemporary dance, more theatre'. I just think it should be called amazing.
The second half of the evening, Eight Graces Road, was described on the program notes as 'a moving interview'. After the first act there was a brief inteval in which the audience were given the opportunity to write down the questions for Charnock on white cue cards. A large, shiny, black and silver swivel stool was placed in the middle of the stage and Charnock entered the space dressed all in black with a little cordless microphone similar to a blue tooth head set. He preceded to answer the questions on the cards, whilst moving.
For the duration of the moving interview (the play on the double meaning of the title has just hit my brain, whislt writing this) a camera man filmed Charnock and the live footage was projected on to a large screen at the back of the stage. Sometimes it was in black and white, or the camera would zoom in very close to his face while he answered a personal question. Other times it would hang back and capture his dancing. It was a very simple, but clever and interesting thing to do. Instead of the usual post performance talk, that are very often inspiring but dominated by some idiot trying to show of their copious vocabulary and art knowledge (jealous, me? never) it suddenly felt like a better quality version of the Jeremy Kile Show. We were reminded that we were watching a man, a human, who happened to be dancing.
In both post performance talks that I have attended after Charnock's performances he has talked about the fact that he rarely performs in England, preferring to work abroad because artist are treated better, valued more and his type of work is not popular in the UK. Watching One Dixon Place I thought what a great loss this is and really felt that Charnock won't get the recognition in English dance history that he deserves. He has a super sharp brain and an equally quick body, a dry, self depreciatory wit, a wealth of skill and a sense of honesty that I greatly respect. It makes me sad we don't get to see him more in this country.
Finally, whilst my mum was visiting we went to see 'Move: Choreographing You' and exhibition that runs until January 9th at the Hayward Gallery. It looks at the relationship between dance, performance and the visual arts of the past fifty years and includes works/installations by Trisha Brown, William Forsythe,Lygia Clark, Mike Kelley, Xavier Le Roy and Wayne McGregor. According to the booklet they gave us 'the main focus of the exhibition is on visual artists, dancers and choreographers who create sculptures and installations that directly effect the movements of exhibition-goers, turning spectators into active participants - perhaps even dancers.'
One review of the exhibition described it as 'a huge, boundary-breaking performance-art play ground', but I personally didn't get that feeling at all. It felt like an exhibition, that you could touch, but that still had rules. It seemed the only barriers that were pushed were those of the gallery's security staff, who seemed to find it difficult to relax from their usual don't touch policy. I entered William Forsythe's 'The Fact of the Matter' (a installation of hanging gymnastic rings that you must negotiate from one end to the other) at the 'wrong' place and was quickly put in the right place by an unfriendly guard. Perhaps because of the work I did with Lottie Child and Street Training which put me in some very uncomfortable situations involving real interactions with the general public, on the street, climbing on something in an art gallery didn't really have the same effect (on the other hand my mum felt very uncomfortable...so perhaps the boundary pushing depends on where the boundary started in the first place).
Despite this I am intending to go back (but we'll see as it is another expensive ticket), as two of my friends, Alex Hemsley and Helena Webb, are dancing in the exhibition, and I would like to spend a bit more time watching them. Helena is performing Yvonne Rainer's Trio A, is a historical work a would love to see live. Also mum and I didn't finish the whole exhibition, as we left to see Trisha Brown's 'Floor of the Forest and by the time it was over I was too hungary to venture back to Move
Floor of the Forest was another of those works that I felt I needed to see, from a historical context, but while I was watching it I found it hard to stay attentive.The concept was better than the reality. Context is everything, and we live in an age that we are rather unfortunate in that its hard to see something new. I wished I could have seen Floor of the Forest the very first time it was performed, with Brown's dancers (the dancers that performed the version I saw were from Laban and Candoco, performing in duets, highlight how much power, and responsibility falls to the dancers to make the piece 'work').
Floor of the Forest was just one of the works that was performed as part of the Dance Umbrella's celebration of 40 years of Trisha Brown, but it was the only thing I saw, due to the fact my mum was here, and the usual lack of money and time. A few days after the events I was, as I mention earlier, filing reviews, when I saw that Brown's 'Group Primary Accumulation' and 'Spanish Dances' had been performed at the Tate Modern and I had to contain a wail of disappointment and annoyance at myself. I hadn't even know they were going to be shown. Why don't I read things better?! Its doubtful I wil ever get the chance to see those works live again.
But I have a inkling that wail of frusatration maybe a regular occurance in London town.