Archives de Tag: Carbon Life

Un système Mc Gregor ?

P1000939Programme McGregor, Royal Ballet – Soirée du 10 novembre

Wayne McGregor a été nommé chorégraphe en résidence au Royal Ballet en 2006, et la compagnie fête ces 10 ans de collaboration artistique avec une soirée comprenant deux reprises et une création. Le « revival » de Chroma (2006), plusieurs fois programmé lors des saisons précédentes, se pimente de la participation de cinq danseurs du Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, qui a fait entrer la pièce à son répertoire en 2013.

Au-delà du contraste chromatique (on n’a « casté », côté Royal Ballet, que des cachets d’aspirine), les interprètes des deux compagnies – distribués pour les pas de deux selon un principe de croisement – font montre d’une frappante proximité stylistique. C’est moins une question d’extension que d’énergie, mise au service de la nerveuse gestuelle du chorégraphe.

Multiverse utilise deux musiques de Steve Reich : It’s gonna rain (1965), et une nouvelle création, Runner (2015), commandée pour l’occasion. It’s gonna rain passe en boucle la harangue d’un prêcheur pentecôtiste annonçant le Déluge. Quelques phrases complètes, puis des extraits de plus en plus courts dont la répétition crée un effet immanquablement hallucinatoire. La scène est réduite à un triangle, par l’effet de deux écrans découpés en petits carrés, dont l’orientation et l’inclinaison donnent une impression de déséquilibre latéral. L’expérience acoustique redouble ce décalage, auquel fait aussi écho celui entre Steven McRae et Paul Kay, qui dansent la même partition à quelques instants de distance (au début, McRae est un peu en avance, puis le décalage s’inverse). Dans la seconde partie de It’s gonna rain, le jeu sonore à deux voix laisse la place à une diffraction de plus en plus rapide et déroutante : ce grand moment d’entropie furieuse, introduit par la projection d’images également diffractées – imaginez le Radeau de la Méduse mélangé à des images de migrants en mer –, donne lieu à une chorégraphie marquée par la violence des interactions entre les danseurs. C’est le chaos. Dans le programme, Uzma Hameed, la dramaturge de McGregor, évoque intelligemment l’esprit du temps (la peur de l’apocalypse nucléaire dans les années 1960, les incertitudes liées à la mondialisation, la crise des migrants, et… même le Brexit aujourd’hui), mais ce sous-texte n’est ni pesant ni restrictif, et la convergence des moyens – son, lumière, vidéo, danse – laisse groggy. La seconde partie, sur une création symphonique de Reich, est relativement plus apaisée, mais produit un effet moins durable. Comme si le sentiment d’urgence qui habite tout le début de l’œuvre laissait place à une résolution pacifique, presque plan-plan.

J’avais détesté Carbon Life lors de sa création en 2012 : tonitruant, mécanique, épuisant. À la revoyure, je m’étonne d’être plus intrigué qu’agacé par cette pièce pop (musique de Mark Ronson et Andrew Wyatt, décors de Gareth Puck), qui illustre la cohérence, mais aussi les limites, des créations estampillées McGregor. Chaque pièce est une proposition plastique forte, mobilisant des collaborateurs artistiques talentueux (dont certains réguliers, comme la très inventive Lucy Carter aux lumières). À y bien regarder, l’inspiration chorégraphique est plus classique qu’il n’y paraît. Carbon Life démarre par des pas d’école et multiplie les sauts académiques ; les mouvements d’ensemble de la seconde partie de Multiverse sont présentés dans une semi-pénombre d’acte blanc. Le haut du corps est saccadé, le cou fait des hoquets d’oiseau, mais le vocabulaire des pas est, au fond, basique. Juste accéléré et dépourvu de moelleux et de respiration.

Quand toutes les disciplines artistiques convergent pour monter en intensité (Multiverse), et que la pièce bénéficie à la fois d’une dramaturgie serrée et d’une proposition musicale forte (Multiverse encore,  mais aussi la saison dernière Obsidian Tear), ça marche. À défaut, le système tourne un peu à vide.

Rashi Rana, Notions of narration II. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

Rashi Rana, Notions of narration II. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

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On Ballet and Pop Culture Part III: The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Bore The Audience

The ballet season after BS premiered, NYCB and ABT both pricked up their ears and decided it would be an opportune time to perform Swan Lake. They were right, and actually there were sold out performances. Obviously, this is a short-term solution. Natalie Portman is NYCB’s honorary spring gala chair this season and so far the reaction I’ve heard can be summed up as “eh.” This brings us to the big question: can ballet companies take this upswing in interest and translate it into new ballet converts before everyone stops caring? If so, how?

On March 22 The Royal Ballet did something absolutely brilliant: they live streamed their entire day of rehearsals. They also included interviews with dancers, musicians, the artistic director and costume/scenery archivists as well as archived rehearsal videos. The interviewers even asked questions from people watching from Facebook and Twitter. THAT is how you advertise. I didn’t care too terribly much about the Royal Ballet until that day. Sure I knew who Cojocaru and Kobborg were (again, guest stars), and Marianela Nunez, of course, but beyond that… not a thing. Now I consider myself a fan. I watched all day, and it was fascinating. Yes, I had to do work at this thing I call my “job” where I get “paid” so I can, you know, live, but the RB was in my ear all day long, even if I was forced to use the computer screen to do other things. I saw rehearsals for Alice in Wonderland, Polyphonia, a new Liam Scarlett ballet, Sweet Violets, as well as Pagoda and Romeo and Juliet. (Now I really want to play with swords.) After seeing the Alice rehearsal I immediately bought the DVD on Amazon and am so excited to watch it. As an aside, it’s been like two weeks. Where the heck is my DVD, Amazon?! The day concluded with an exclusive look at a rehearsal of Wayne McGregor’s new collaboration with musician Mark Ronson, Carbon Life, followed by a Q&A session. The lesson that should be taken away from all this? The program made me sincerely care about this company. And there it is: the key to my generation’s collective heart is, apparently, access. In a world of Facebook and Twitter, the idea that ballet is a world unto itself simply can’t fly anymore. On one hand, this makes me a bit sad. I love the mystical aspect of ballet, the idea that dancers are just so far removed from this world that they could never be touched by something as mundane as YouTube is beautiful, romantic and sad (Sylphide anyone?). But I have to say, Ashley Bouder posting her backstage Instagram pics on Facebook and laughing about her falls on Twitter makes me care more about her; it makes me want to buy tickets to see her, and more tellingly I have. Programs like this make ballet accessible to the unwashed, unlearned (aka uninitiated) masses. They make it far less scary, and they make what seemed to be a boring leisure activity reserved only for rich snobs, absolutely enthralling. THIS WORKS. I want to see almost everything they rehearsed, I want to follow them avidly, and I really hope they tour here so I can see them in person. I would even consider taking a side trip to London if I could get tickets.

That said, let’s talk about attempts to appeal to a new and younger audience that do not work. All of them can be summed up in a single word: pandering. Let’s begin with a general example. You’re a painter and you really want people to look at, appreciate and buy your paintings because hey, it’s art but you still need money to survive. Do you A) explain to people why you paint the way you do, what it means to you, and a bit about your technique or B) start to paint pictures of bunnies because, really, who doesn’t love bunnies? The answer is A, right? So why, why in God’s name would any company try to sell a ballet based on anything other than the quality of the ballet itself? I’m going to start with McGregor’s new piece, since I just finished watching that rehearsal. Now, since I haven’t seen it, I can’t say if it’s good or bad, it may even be great! However, most of the marketing surrounding Carbon Life has been about the costumes and music, so I feel pretty justified in saying that I do not care, at all, that the costumes were designed by Gareth Pugh. Sorry. I also don’t care that Mark Ronson did the music. Since they’ re trying so very hard to be young and cool by using a punk designer and popular music, the audience might initially be large and maybe even made up exclusively of 20 year olds; I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I do know is if the piece is bad overall, no ungodly fashion budget will save it. None. Because here’s the flip side to this social media thing: if something is bad, everyone will know in a matter of seconds. Personally, I don’t want to see this ballet. The choreography looked like everything McGregor has already done (and everything that Forsythe did before that).

Another great example of really obvious pandering is NYCB’s recent flop Ocean’s Kingdom. Music was by Sir Paul McCartney (they got a freakin’ Beatle!) with costumes by Stella McCartney. Choreography was by Peter Martins, of course, but somehow no one cared about that part. To very quickly sum up: the music was obvious, the costumes were cracked out, and the choreography was utterly forgettable. I wrote a review if you’re interested which you can see here, but really, all you have to do is watch this and you’ll have an idea (fair warning, I will use literally any excuse to show that clip because it makes me laugh so hard I cry… I am apparently 5 years old. However, it really does work here if you check out Daniel Ulbricht’s outfit ).

To be clear, I’m not against costumes, and I don’t think that every ballet should be danced in a black leotard and pink tights. If I thought for a second that I could get away with it, I would wear a tutu to go grocery shopping, or more accurately, just never take it off. I spent weeks looking for Sylvia’s dress for a special event (still looking, if you find it please message me. I will love you forever). When costumes (and music and setting) actually enhance the ballet and not distract from it, those extra details can make a production go from good to absolutely magical. Take the Paris Opera Ballet’s recent production of La Source: Jean Guillaume Bart’s choreography was riveting on its own, but when you add Christian Lacroix’s costumes and the set design… just wow. Every aspect of the ballet, choreography, music, costumes and scenery merged beautifully to create the finished product. You don’t even have to stick with tutus! Look at John Neumeier’s version of Sylvia: You can dress your nymphs in leather vests and helmets and put your goddess in a tuxedo; it gets the point across without being flashy and the dancers can move. Costumes are important and ideally help tell the story and set the mood, but they should never be the point. We have fashion shows for that.

So finally, here’s what I think needs to happen if we want to keep this ballet wave going: education. If we can show why ballet merits attention, I honestly think people will go and appreciate it, but once there’s an audience there has to be great ballet to watch. Essentially: explain why ballet is awesome and then prove it.

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