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.

The Great Guthrie

Ernesto and I went to the first show, the Great Gatspy, at the brand new Guthrie Theatre on the bluffs of the Mississippi and the former grounds of the old flour mills. I was really impressed with the architecture. On the outside, there are giant screen prints of the great playrights and Tyrone Guthrie. The view from the “bridge to nowhere” was the aquaduct-style Stone arch bridge, the mighty river, and the Gold Medal flour mill.

Guthrie600On the inside, it felt like a cross between a modern European airport and Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey. I was thrilled to realize that the thrust stage was retained, the best part of the old Guthrie on Vineland Place. The Great Gatsby was well acted, although a bit week toward the end. This adaptation had a few jokes about Minneapolis and the lesser known Saint Paul where the main character grew up. We wanted to explore the place a bit more, so we headed up to the “bridge to nowhere” toward the narrow bar at the end. The ceilings became lower and lower as we approached the bar. We sat at the bar, staring at the others around the bar who were also patiently waiting for the one busy bartender to make eye contact. After ten minutes, we willingly offered our seats to an older couple and wished them luck. We made our way down to Cue, a beautiful restaurant on the first floor. They don’t serve food after ten, so we looked elsewhere. Fortunately we ran into the cozy Spoon River, one of Brenda Langdon’s latest successes. We had a savory smoked salmon salad with spinach and crostini with hummos, red pepper spread, and kalamata olives.

Smoking, the joys of…

marlene_1I recall an episode of Frasier when they had Harriet Sansom Harris as a guest star. Frasier was helping her to quit smoking, without any success. She gave an amazing delivery, talking about the pleasures of smoking. It goes like this:

Niles: There’s no need to be insulting just because you’re wrestling with an unhealthy and disgusting habit.

Bebe: It isn’t disgusting, it’s wonderful!

Frasier: Oh now, Bebe, tell me. What is so wonderful about smoking?

Bebe: Everything. [with actions:] I like the way a fresh firm pack feels in my hand. I like peeling away that little piece of cellophane and seeing it twinkle in the light. I like coaxing that first sweet cylinder out of its hiding place and bringing it slowly up to my lips. [Daphne comes back with a bowl; getting more erotic:] Striking a match, watching it burst into a perfect little flame and knowing that soon that flame will be inside me. [laughs gidily] I love the first puff, pulling it into my lungs. Little fingers of smoking filling me, caressing me, feeling that warmth penetrate deeper and deeper, until I think I’m going to burst! Then – whoosh! – watching it flow out of me in a lovely, sinuous cloud, no two ever quite the same.

She’s cast her spell. Everyone now has a hungry, longing look in their eyes.

Daphne: More potatoes, anyone?