DeKeersmaker me not so crazy

The auditorium grew silent all of a sudden. I’m not sure what triggers this. How do people know to stop talking? Well, there was an older lady behind me who didn’t get the cue, and she continued her conversation for all to hear. The stage was mostly black, with an almost blinding white light filling the space. Then the four male dancers appeared. They danced in tandem, then independently, all in the presence of silence. It was the kind of silence that makes you keenly aware of your fingers making noise against the plastic glass and what seems now to be excessive movements.

The performance is Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker/Rosas’s “A Love Supreme”, an interpretive dance of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. The next part is very explosive when the music starts; very familiar music. I was trying to figure out if the music was driving me or if the dance was complimenting it. I believe they were complimenting each other, as if DeKeersmaker and Rosa were paying homage to one of our jazz greats. I’m not all that familiar with Rosa, but DeKeersmaker has been around the block. Her choreography puts me through so many emotions. There are quite a few of her pieces that rely on long lapses of time where the dancer doesn’t even move. There can be long pauses when nothing really happens. Her performances make me pause, make me angry, and sometimes relieved. I liken it to having to sit through a lengthy Lutheran church sermon, as if I’m glad that I got through it.

I really liked this piece. It appeared that, much like improvisational jazz, each dancer played a part. Each dancer mimicked an instrument in his movements. There was the bass, the drums, the piano, and the lead dancer played the saxophone. The modern movement was a sudden move in the opposite direction, moving with the beat. I like the fact that DeKeersmaker’s choreography is challenging. It’s not meant to entertain, but to be experienced.

De Keersmaeker me crazy

A dance review of sorts: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s
Rosas danst Rosas

It was dark and somewhat warm. The lights slowly came on as each dancer walked toward a point on the back part of the stage. One, then two, then three and the fourth to meet the three. Patience. Several minutes passed as I saw the four dancers from the back in their black tights, freeflowing tan mini skirts and blousey Henley shirts. The music pounded for at least ten more minutes. I knew what kind of performance to expect. It was slow, measured, choreographed to span several minutes in repetitive sequences. It progressively tested my patience as the four dancers moved to the next stage; all of them moving as if they were painstakingly traveling in their sleep. On their backs, the right arm making its way above the head on the floor, sweeping to the side, then pulling over their bodies to start the sequence yet again. They each moved to the foreground to repeat the same sequence. All of them were illuminated by their own spot light. I wondered if they would ever stand after falling and rolling and holding still for such a long time. At last, each dancer made a move toward a standing position, only to fall to the floor and repeat the same sequence.

I get it. It’s almost like going to church as a child and listening to long, tedious sermons that I didn’t really understand. And then there was some movement among the adults as the minister came to a close and everyone stood to releave their back sides and yawned in relief that it was indeed over. But this dance is more zen-like, or shall we say the dance version of Philip Glass. This type of modern dance takes you through so many thoughts and emotions: expectation, pause, fatigue, concentration, annoyance, anger, elation and relief. It IS affective. It tries your patience. The best part is that it doesn’t allow your mind to wander. You are ultimately focused, though fatigued, for the entire performance.

The dancers make what I think is their final movements, until I realize that there are similar patterns coming for the next twenty minutes. They continue to move in a repetitive manner, all in sync, until the last step. The lights go down. It is over. The four dancers bow, leave the stage, and come back several times to a standing ovation. We’ve all experienced this performance together.

Zorn Noir

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017eea0b4f7b970d-800wiJohn Zorn. I was thinking John Cage before I went to the Walker Art Center tonight to hear the first set of John Zorn’s “The Hermetic Organ”. So, since I had heard plenty of Phillip Glass’s minimal, almost meditative compositions, I was ready for just that. Then again, it couldn’t be John Cage since, well, he died in 1992. This was actually the first time I had heard John Zorn’s music. Better late than never, I guess!

The stage was set with a lot of instruments, most of them string instruments like a cello, violin and a stand up bass. To the left we could expect, maybe, to hear Zorn play the piano or the organ. A drum set occupied the back of the stage and a full set of congas to the right, accompanied by a huge drum on its side and a gigantic gong.

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017d42970655970c-800wiA young, 30s-ish dude entered the stage in a black t-shirt with some Chinese characters arranged vertically up the back and green fluorescent camouflaged cargo pants. He waved the cellist, Erik Friedlander, onstage for the first solo performance. The solo cello music reminded me a bit of Kronos Quartet at first, but they took on a very interesting Middle Eastern, sort of gypsy Klezmer sound.

The next set brought the bass player, Greg Cohen, cellist Erik Friedlander, violinist Mark Feldman, and the dude in the camouflage pants back to the stage. The dude in the camouflage pants simply sat on the floor with his back to the audience, alerting the musicians to begin playing. Okay, so now I realized that the dude was really John Zorn who is celebrating his 60th birthday with this amazing composition and fabulous ensemble of master musicians. Later on, percussionists Cyro Baptista and Kenny Wollesen and electric guitarist Marc Ribot entered the stage.

I’ll have to say that I was on the edge of my seat the entire set. I was expecting a musical contemporary of Phillip Glass, but found that John Zorn’s piece was part improvisational jazz, influenced by Klezmer music and taking full advantage of the many sounds of traditional Middle Eastern music. There were a lot of complicated half notes; thankfully no major keys. As the set evolved, It really sounded like a musical score for a Coen Brothers film, Lone Star or a classic spaghetti western. It turns out that Zorn has a twenty year history of musical scores for mostly art house films. I could certainly envision a Zorn musical score for the next season of Breaking Bad.

Too bad we didn’t have tickets for the set at 10pm when the organ and piano will be played and several other musicians will add to the mix. But we will catch the final set at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, across the street from the Walker Art Center. To top off his birthday celebration, John Zorn will be performing a free midnight solo organ concert at the church.

John Zorn became established in New York City in the mid-1970s and has composed and performed with a wide range of musicians working in diverse musical areas. He has an amazing way of borrowing musical influences from many cultures and transforming it his into his own unique mix. He spent this teenage years listening to classical music, film music, and, “listening to The Doors and playing bass in a surf band.” He taught himself about orchestration, transcribing scores and using them in his own compositions, a procedure he calls “plagiarizing, stealing, quoting, or whatever you can call it”, of collage and transposition into his own world, that he has been using throughout his career.

Vieux “Farka” Touré

6a00d8341f7e1253ef00e54f23b3818834-800wiI was surprized to realize that Ali Farka Touré died last year from bone cancer at the age of 67. I always thought that he had to be in his mid-fifties. I guess we expect people to live forever, or at least as long as we do. Fortunately, his son Vieux has followed in his father’s footsteps as another great Malian blues master. Ernesto and I saw Vieux Farka Touré and his band at the Cedar Cultural Center tonight. They are the kind of group, much like a lot of west African groups, that could very well play until the sun rises. Vieux spoke a few words in English, so his bass-playing counterpart filled in here and there. He said that, typically a son is named “Vieux”, or “old”, in honor of his grandfather. The bass player also pointed out that Vieux periodically changes keys throughout the set, assuming that everyone else will follow. I suppose he earned the same nickname “Farka” as his father. “Farka” means donkey. Just like his father, he is stubborn like a donkey; nobody will ever ride him! It was a very good show.