Sunday, May 15, 2011

Culture... Part I

I always mean to blog about cultural events that I see immediately after I see them. Especially the ones that I like. However, I am not nearly on top of my various charges as I should be... and thus I have been storing up performances and museum outings for the past six months... and mulling over them silently for good measure. But, I mean to change. And to start that.... I'd like to offer up the first of three posts with notable experiences from the past six months.

I plan to talk briefly about the things that I loved/I might borrow from each of these experiences... as, the more and more I think about it, the more and more I think that innovation comes from borrowing techniques from other mediums [re: video, of course]...

Though, I do warn you... I never know where I might actually go with these posts.

Anyway. Let's begin with November and December, 2010.... 

James Thiérrée's Raoul

I loved Raoul-- a one man show with James Thiérrée (clown, magician, trapeze artist and decedent of Monsieur Charles Chaplain) which was at BAM Next Wave last fall. I thought it was whimsical and magical and also thought provoking all at once. ... I also thought it was a little long.
But! My main takeaway here was from a moment towards the end. James Thiérrée "flies." Not "flying" like Peter Pan... Thiérrée glides above the audience, and then does circular flips through the air. He was dancing in the air...and the experience of watching began as such:
The background was black. Thiérrée came out and started doing collosual circles through the air-- like
hands on a clock moving at 50x speed. And this was magical.
But then...
One of the things about theater that always bothers me is when you can see the mechanics of a stunt and no one ever acknowledges that you can see the stupid trap door... or the wires holding up the man who is suspended in mid air.
So... when Thiérrée turned and  the men who were manning the crane on which he was "flying" came into the light... I knew I was watching something special. The crane-dance lasted for a few more minutes with Thiérrée gleefully acknowledging the mechanics of his trick, flying up and over the audience while the crane occasionally took the spotlight. And that's when he really had me.
Not only did I recognize how the trick was done-- but I recognized how good a trickster he was. Because in the beginning it felt like magic... and then he had the temerity to show me that, not only was it not magic... but, the entire time, he had the upper hand. And that's when I started to laugh. ...

The Hard Nut  
What struck me most about The Hard Nut (Mark Morris' reinterpretation of The Nutcracker set in the era of disco) was, actually, the way that the ballet played with gender. In the scene depicted above (which was astonishingly beautiful), every single member of the cast was a "sugar plum fairy." Men and women alike dressed in the same tutu. This was following upon the opening scene- the Christmas party scene, in which men were dressed as women and vice versa. While, at first, I thought this would be distracting, I think it instead forced me to focus on the dance as opposed to... everything else. The androgyny that was created by putting everyone in the same place encouraged me to look at all of the dancers simply as dancers-- and I ended up enjoying the performance more because the dancing was all that I was looking at. I suspect that the uniformity created by this masking, if you will, was a contributing factor. When everyone looked the same, I saw past the person and to the action.

Also- a note on the above scene-- the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. Each time that the fairies would leap- the would throw 'snow' from their hands. There ended up being a constant cloud of snow in the air, which created a really magical feeling against the plain black backdrop. Even though we could see the source of the snow (from the hands of the dancers)--which would seem to demystify the scene--it felt more like a blizzard than any other movie or play I had ever seen because the snow appeared to be truly hanging and swirling organically in the air.

There will be a brief interruption... and then, tune in at the end of the week for Part II--Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera from The Brooklyn Museum and The Nightengale and Other Fables, again from BAM.

Photo 1:
Photo 2:

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