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Société Auguste Vestris - One Plummy Voice, raised in Dissent
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One Plummy Voice, raised in Dissent
December 2006

Printable version / Version imprimable   |  908 visits / visites

"He boasts that he has never attended a ballet class in his life and is happier on a Harry Potter film set than in a crowd at the barre. Yet when McGregor, 36, was announced this weekend as resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet not one plummy voice was raised in dissent (...)"

Norman Lebrecht, writing in this week’s The Stage

Well, here is one plummy voice raised in dissent.

From the Rambert Website - the sample of its aggressively-commercial writing, reproduced below is how - thanks to Lady Thatcher - artistic enterprise in England is now encouraged to self-promote. The idea is to give the punters a foretaste (foreplay?) of the Thrills they’ll be buying for their £.

Or, as our American friends would say, "More Bang for your Buck".

"Detritus" (title of ballet)

"Overall Impression

"Fast and athletic, this work pushes the boundaries of what is physically possible. Limbs are hyper-extended and bodies are contorted as the gap between classical and contemporary movement is explored. The dancers (some of whom are en pointe) skid and dart across the stage in a precise, yet chaotic way. This is a real spectacle. One audience member at its première described the opening sequence as ’the best five minutes on stage I’ve ever seen’.

"Music

By Scanner, it is an ambient electronic, sampled score. It is very upbeat, influenced by club music, but more subtle than pounding techno music.

"Designs

The dancers wear skin-tight red costumes. The set contains a huge suspended mechanical ’limb’ that moves through the space, disrupting the choreography and eroding the space - hence the title detritus, which means ’the matter produced by erosion’.

"Presentient" (title of ballet)

"Overall impression

"An assault on the senses. This is modern dance at it’s most thrilling and daring. A blast of sheer physicality that leaves you wanting more. 12 dancers, performing in unison or in quartets, dissolve into seductive and sensual duets, all the while, mirroring the tempo of the music. This is a technically demanding work that the dancers rise to admirably.

"Choreographic Style

"Very fast, dynamic and energetic movements that push the dancers to their physical limits. The work continues McGregor’s concern with extending human movement into a kind of alien neo-classicism. Angles are taken to extremes, body sections are isolated and every muscle is mobilised.

"Music

"Triple Quartet by Steve Reich. Performed live by London Musici. The score combines driving rhythmic grooves with sections of meditative tranquillity, to create an overwhelmingly powerful piece of music. The opening section is performed to the electronic sound-track - Another Soft Helion by Zoviet France."

Clearly, what the Rambert Webpage describes, is a Techno-Disco event, to the currently-fashionable Noise Soundtrack, performed by classical dancers.

But Forsythe has done it, and there is nothing more to add.

A thousand standing ovations at Covent Garden will not change that fact.

No-one asks the question, WHY?

WHY must the body be "pushed to its physical limits"? Classical dancing is already the most difficult form of movement known to man. The audience may not realise it, but the people on stage do.

WHAT does "body sections are isolated and every muscle is mobilised" have to do with dancing? We do that in physiotherapy every day.

WHAT, if anything, does all this twitching and jerking have to do with the VALUES that we in the Western world allegedly, and I do mean allegedly, represent?

And WHAT injuries can we expect from asking people to do this kind of thing?

WHY are we pandering to fashion - techno music, groove, chaos theory (that has nothing to do with the way the universe is actually structured, soit dit en passant) in the person of Wayne McGregor?

We have painted ourselves into a corner with this "non-narrative" track. The search for ever-newer, ever-weirder movement, for SENSATION, is a DEAD END - as dead as the careers of the dozens of dancers who have been wrecked by repeated injury.

Most of the lifts that the men are now called upon to perform, should be ILLEGAL - causing unnecessary harm and suffering to a fellow human being.

When one reads on a slip of paper "cast change", it’s just a line on a page. Try suffering that injury yourself - especially if it’s your fourth or fifth major one in five years. The body never forgets.

The only way classical dancing will progress, will be through dealing with great subjects - historical, dramatic - precisely as Noverre explains in his reputed Letters. In the search to express new and important ideas through the music and the libretto, new forms will arise, that will be anatomically sound.

The search for bizarre new lifts, and in general, new forms as such, is vacuous intellectualising, a search to impose a linear Bauhaus or Cubist construct on the human frame, that does not happen to be built that way.


K.L. Kanter