Last Sunday (19th July, 2011), I was invited by Chisenhale Dance Space to come and photograph an event called Oh So Totally Rad.
Here are some pictures:
The event was one big inspiration injection. I am so happy I took part and got to know some of the artists. I will definitely try to create more work in the future with some of the people who were involved making this wonderful day.
From the event quote (I will try to get the full program from Chisenhale and post it here):
“The UK dance landscape is full of artists that are not represented by formal venue structures but make incredible, frightening, brave, radical, infectious, and ridiculous work. We believe that Chisenhale is a place that has a historic duty to push at, pull through or set fire to current aesthetic trends!
Oh So Totally Rad is a day of work from artists selected from across the UK for their sheer guts, unorthodox ideas, use of new technology or ability to focus on the future.
Join us for a day of performance, encounters and discussions as we try to fix the unfixable and provoke the unprovoked-able.
This event is a co-production between Chisenhale Dance Space and avid member Joseph Mercier. The day includes a panel discussion featuring: Andy Field (Forest Fringe), Martin Hargreaves (Dance Theatre Journal), Luke Jennings (The Observer), Bryony Kimmings (Chisenhale Dance Space), Joseph Mercier (independent artist) and Louise Mochia (Bellyflop)“.
Off-radar and unfunded, the Chisenhale Dance Space is the nearest thing London has to an underground dance scene. According to curator and performance artist Bryony Kimmings, best known for her solo pieceSex Idiot (about catching chlamydia), the space is a home for “experimental, brave, queer, inventive, weird and fucked-up new work”. It’s as good a description as any of Oh So Totally Rad, which asks whether dance can still be radical in an age when the transgressive is just one more consumer choice.
In Diaghilev on the Beach, former Boston Ballet dancer Joseph Mercier presents a reworking of Nijinsky’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, set to Debussy’s score. Mercier locates the piece at a balmy poolside, where two cocktail-sipping, harem-panted Nefertitis (Sarah Cattrall and Natalie Clarke) indulge their slave (Mercier), who is costumed in golden briefs and a jewelled dog collar. As Clarke languidly oils her breasts, Cattrall leads Mercier around, occasionally permitting him to lick her feet, and alternately stroking and slapping him. Nijinsky’s 1912 work ends with the faun shuddering in orgasm over a scarf stolen from a nymph, and a century later Mercier references the critical reaction (“filthy and bestial”, according to Le Figaro) by having Cattrall lubricate a butt plug attached to a jewelled animal tail, and insert it in her slave’s proffered rectum. It’s a startling moment, and even among the too-cool-for-school Chisenhale crowd occasions a quiet intake of breath. But the piece works. It perfectly reproduces the timeless languor of the original, it matches it in provocation, and in Mercier’s assumption of the most abject characteristics of the Faun and the Golden Slave from Schéhérazade(another Diaghilev sex-ballet), pitches reverberant questions about the dominant-submissive relationship of performer and audience.
More abjection in Quasi, when Andrew Graham appears in a mid-thigh pink dress and, to Miles Davis’s “Flamenco Sketches”, proceeds to make up his face into a video camera. Discovering an old leather jacket (was it a lover’s?), he begins to worship it. But it soon takes on a life of its own, strangling him and clawing violently at his red-frilled knickers. Before long, in a reverse tribute to the Michael Powell film Peeping Tom, Graham has been erotically impaled on his video tripod.
In Daniel Somerville’s Oh! England, the choreographer appears as Elizabeth I, a terrifyingly rouged and raddled creature who sings in a counter-tenor voice. As the strains of Purcell are replaced by the patriotic swell of Parry’s “Jerusalem”, the Elizabethan robes are torn off to reveal an England football strip, with blood splatters forming the cross of St George. The 16th century is a recurrent theme. Nicholas McArthur’s The Dancing Plague of 1518 references a mysterious outbreak of dancing-to-death that occurred in Strasbourg. Set to Gregorian plainchant and electronic trance music, the piece takes the audience out into the streets, finding parallels between religious ecstasy and club culture, and more broadly, capitalism and psychological distress. In mary queen of scots got her head chopped off… Iona Kewney gives a characteristically extreme performance, hurling her sinewy body into a series of headstands, convulsive back-arches and feral spasms as, amid a blizzard of feedback, Joseph Quimby lays down power chords on an electric guitar. Is Kewney’s anti-choreography radical? Are any of the 10 pieces? Probably not, in that all stem from existing traditions. However, in the age of the upscale corporate-sponsored art event, it’s good to know that someone’s asking such questions.
Last Sunday saw the final performance of the Royal Ballet‘s Romeo and Juliet season at the O2 arena. With its rock concert-style close-up screens, the production was a huge success, and in case the company repeats it, here are my suggestions. Go as a gang, travelling to and from the venue on the O2 Express riverboat, a magical experience as night falls. Eat and drink as you watch: there’s nothing like beer and pizza to get you in that vendetta mood, although spicy chicken wings might be the way to go if they do Swan Lake next year. Feel free to cheer, boo and weep convulsively.
I was moved to do none of these things at Cocteau Voices. Duet for One Voice is a dancework by Aletta Collins, set to a powerful soundtrack by Scott Walker, and based on a Jean Cocteau sketch about a love affair between an older woman and a bored younger man. Here, Collins uses three male and three female dancers to dissect the relationship but the result, while technically accomplished, is over-artsy and ultimately unengaging. It’s twinned with Cocteau’s La voix humaine, an operatic telephone monologue in which a woman (Nuccia Focile) desperately tries to save another dying affair. The orchestral playing of the Poulenc score is superb, but the Italian soprano can’t act, and you end up sympathising with her departed lover.