Photo © 2009. Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.

looking at the world and challenging our assumptions, definitions and creation of it through the lense of the body, movement, the arts and science.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Holidays

The days begin to lengthen again, today.
Light your candles. Warm your heart-fire. Hibernate if you can.
And enjoy the magic of each moment that is life!

Photo © Ann Moradian 2012.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Baryshnikov & Dafoe in Paris in Robert Wilson's THE OLD WOMAN

IMPRESSION for The Dance Enthusiast by Ann Moradian














Photo (c) Lucie Jansch.

"It is stellar. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe come together in director/designer Robert Wilson's new work, The Old Woman, with stark and brutal brilliance. It is like watching a light so intense and unwavering that you end up swimming in darkness. It is like watching a black hole being born with your eyes wide open..."



"...The Russian writer's (Daniil Kharms) novella has been adapted powerfully for the stage by Darryl Pinckney, with phrases that come at us again and again in English and sometimes Russian. The language is beautiful and cruel. Wilson delves into this domain with assurance. Everything is stamped out with a force, like a printing press that cuts through the paper..."

Photo (c) Lucie Jansch.

To read the rest of this article, click here


Friday, October 18, 2013

MEDUSA: The Birth of a Monster (in-progress), Photos from May 2013 presentation at Centre nationale de la danse in Pantin

by Ann Moradian
in collaboration with visual artist Nannette Bertschy
Written & Directed by Ann Moradian
Lighting Design by Fred Moreau
Photos by Alex Vanagas

Maja Bieler & Lionel Rondeau. Photo (c) Alex Vanagas.

Maja Bieler, Brune Bazin, Jennifer Ferrari & Lionel Rondeau. Photo (c) Alex Vanagas.

Maja Bieler & Brune Bazin. Photo (c) Alex Vanagas.

Solveig Haugen, Louise Denyer, Adrien Binh Doan & Maja Bieler. Photo (c) Alex Vanagas.

Maja Bieler. Photo (c) Alex Vanagas.

Click here to see more!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Path of Yoga in the West

Yoga in the West "has only scratched the surface of the greater yoga tradition," says David Frawley, director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "The yoga community in the West is currently at a crossroads. Its recent commercial success can be used to build the foundation for a more profound teaching, aimed at changing the consciousness of humanity. Or it can reduce yoga to a mere business that has lost connection with its spiritual heart. The choice that yoga teachers make today will determine this future."


To read the rest of this article on Yoga Journal's site click here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reflections: Bolero and the Paris Opera Ballet

In L'aprés-midi d'un faun (1912) choreography Vaslav Niijinsky
Afternoon of a Faun (1953) choreography Jerome Robbins
Firebird (1970) choreography Maurice Béjart
Boléro (2013)
conception Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet, Marina Abramovic
choreography Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet
sceneography/projections Marina Abramovic
at the Palais Garnier
June 1, 2013

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copyright Ann Moradian for The Dance Enthusiast

Nijinsky’s original version of L'aprés-midi d'un faun (The Afternoon of a Faun) was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé's poem of the same name and danced to the music of Claude Debussy. It caused quite a sensation in 1912 when Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes first premiered it. This year marks the dance’s 100th anniversary, and almost anywhere you go in Paris right now you will likely come across one version or another.

Nijinsky’s choreography is supremely minimalistic, almost pedestrian. Only his “Faun”, danced by Nicolas Le Riche, has a starring role. There is a nymph soloist, Eva Grinsztajn, who emerges from the small corps, but the dance seems designed so that we hardly notice her.

Léon Bakst created the costumes and a stunning abstract woodland in a palette of ochre, browns, greens, grays and blues that almost smell of the musky, heathen earth. The fairly overt reference to the Faun's sexual climax at the end of the work certainly contributed to the mix of outspoken reactions at its premiere.

L'aprés-midi d'un faun’s movement vocabulary is limited to that 'walk like an Egyptian' move that Martha Graham used over 20 years later with greater intensity, expression and variation. Just add an occasional hinge or plié, and then change direction from time to time and there you have it. I appreciate simplicity, but here I was asking myself 'How can you possibly perform those steps and keep them alive?' Walk this way, then walk that way, then smell the scarf. (Ahh -- smelling the scarf -- the only moments with any real life vibrating in them.) I wonder if Nijinsky didn't create the unimpressive movement just to irritate his female cast. No prima ballerina, no fouette turns on a dime, no sylph-like floating bourrées to entrance the audience, and certainly no chance to shine!

While the work's theme is essentially erotic and its medium is the human body, the experience created is cerebral, rather than sensual. The construct of a faun in the woods could imply innocence, but it feels contrived. This is a dance about the idea of sexuality, and it really gets no closer than that. I was happy to see it on film at the Centre Pompidou last year as part of their rich exhibit Danser sa vie, but felt no driving need to see it again.

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Forty-one years later, Jerome Robbins created his Afternoon of a Faun. I confess that, even while complaining about Nijinsky’s work, I loved seeing these two pieces side by side -- two interpretations of the same music, inspired by the same poem, and yet so different. This type of juxtaposition is an education in itself, whatever you think of the works. We can see Robbins' choreography moving more toward the athletic, even a bit toward the gymnastic, and yet the thoroughly upright torso from 1912 remains.

Robbins' forest of 1953 is the New York City Ballet's studio classroom. Jean Rosenthal's set appears through a dream-like haze of scrim revealing the ballet barre, walls, windows, floor, and the light. The studio is inhabited by a young man and is, for the moment, his very private domain. We, the audience, are the mirror. A young woman enters as the nymphs do in the older version, not realizing she is invading the faun’s space. He lifts her gently and she stays.

The two never look directly at each other. Their attention is captivated by their reflections. Whether they are self-centered or simply detached, we don't really know. While the work is elegant in its simplicity and gently lyric, as in Nijinsky’s version, it is all about the boy. There is nothing unique about the girl. Any pretty girl (with a similar technical ability) would have suited just as well. And yet, even in this thoroughly narcissistic perspective, there is a strong sense of innocence and sweet sensuality. The climax is a gentle kiss on the cheek. Clearly this dance was created long before the birth of MTV and the Internet made our children jaded beyond their years.

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I was happy to see Maurice Béjart's Firebird. It seems to me that he always uses his male dancers well, while he often overlooks women or offers them surprisingly ordinary choreography. This Firebird, created for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1970, was born out of a guerilla resistance movement. Set to Igor Stravinsky's abbreviated score, it lasts a fleeting 22 minutes. I would have loved to see Michel Fokine's original 1910 version alongside this one, just for the history lesson. (The Ballets Russes commissioned Fokine, like Nijinsky, for their Paris season.)

Béjart introduces a male “Firebird”, danced here by Florian Magnenet. He also gives us a male “Phoenix”, performed by Jérémy-Loup Quer. These are the only starring roles. Magnenet's performance lacked poetry and any sense of flight, which is a pity, because the choreography demands it. Every arabesque, arch and heart opening leap was lost in a stiff back and broken line through the neck, which was not very convincing as birds go. But the Phoenix, wow - harsh choreography well done! There was not a lot of individuality but, frankly, it’s a noteworthy accomplishment just to get through the viciously complicated sequence of fast, twisting jumps.

The costumes, conceived by Joëlle Roustan, are unisex. The entire corps dance the same steps and everyone wears the same clothes: gray combat fatigues in the first half, with the Firebird removing his, then dancing in a bright red open-chested unitard. The red band of fabric across the chest is far from flattering on a broad-chested man, and I found it distracting. The costume works better in the second half when the Firebird, in his death, joins the Phoenix and a full corps de ballet all wearing the same outfit. They create a beautiful landscape beneath the deep red setting sun that is projected onto the back scrim.

By casting both Firebird and Phoenix as male roles while simultaneously keeping much of the standard, splay-legged poses often found in classical pas de deux, Béjart highlights the sexual metaphors that are bandied about so blindly in western ballet and contemporary dance. With France having just witnessed its first same sex marriage in May, one could view this Firebird as a celebration of same sex union, whether that was the intention or not.

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The last work of the evening was Boléro, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet to Maurice Ravel's driving, sensual score. (The orchestra, under the direction of Vello Pahn, played all of the evening's familiar classics beautifully, by the way.)

I wonder how Boléro, would come across without Marina Abramovic's projections and scenography. Cherkaoui's and Jalet's movement is a whiplash of swirling spirals in a sea of chaos. The dance is given form and order by the projections that begin as concentric circles. The circles come rippling out from central points all over the stage, with the dancers, whirling and wrapping within them. The waves expand out into what feels like an ocean of existence.

A mirror is suspended above the stage, facing us. It is positioned with a slight downward tilt so that it reflects everything happening on the stage in double. Every image, every movement, every pattern on this enormous canvas draws our focus toward the overall patterns and emerging order of the apparent chaos, rather than toward the detail of any individual performer or coupling.

What a relief to see the dancers move with such abandon and commitment after such a constricted evening. Their physical range –- moving from total control to total abandon, astounds me. I find myself grateful to be breathing again, back in contemporary time, as these dancers claim the space. Witnessing these works from various points in history side by side reminds us how dramatically western dance has evolved.

There is no distinction between masculine and feminine. The dancers start out covered by full-length black capes, but for most of the piece everyone wears nude unitards painted with glowing skeletons (I guess you can't get more gender neutral than a skeleton) and amplified by long sheer skirts. Eventually, even the skirts come off. The costumes are designed by Riccardo Tisci.

Everyone plays their small part in the choreography, but my attention is constantly drawn to the larger universe they exist in. The dancers seem more like atoms and molecules in action than individuals. Abramovic's projections accentuate Ravel's pulsing music. Sometimes we follow the music, sometimes the dancers, and sometimes the relationship between both. Everyone matters, and no one matters.

Boléro is billed under Cherkaoui and Jalet's names, yet I suspect it is Abramovic’s contribution, rich with imagery and symbolic metaphors, which directs our focus and drives our experience of this work. It is not a piece you watch, it is a piece you live. Without Abramovic's contribution to the work, I would have been watching only the steps and the dancers rather than the spaces between them, and the extraordinary beauty of the work would have been lost in something far more ordinary.

The greatest paradox is that this collaborative team (Cherkaoui, Jalet and Abramovic) has managed to create an exquisitely spiritual work to one of Western classical music's most sensual pieces. I sense profound questions driving the work. We look at how things come together and move apart, we think about union separation, about love even. What might love mean in a context beyond human experience?

The entire evening, from the billing, seems to have been devoted to men and their visions or ideas of sexuality. The fact that Cherkaoui, Jalet and Abramovic's work is a collaboration that fully embraces masculine and feminine, as well as spiritual and physical, was glorious. ('We've come a long way baby!') Now we simply need to have the administration catch up so that the billing is corrected to include Abramovic's name. Hers was no standard set design or background projection -- it offered not only a new perspective on movement but a challenge to our ideas of what dances, and what dance is.

That being said, the fact that the Paris Opera Ballet is continuing the tradition of Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, commissioning new and important works for its repertory, is not only laudable, it is critical to the continuing progression of dance, of dancers and of audiences. New commissions are vital to keeping dance alive and relevant.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Interview with Ann Moradian for Make Me Yoga


Who are you?
One human being among many, many others. I have spent most of my life learning through the body -- through dance, yoga, the martial and energy arts. It brings me great joy to share what I love and to accompany others in their process as they claim their own full being and potential.

What are your Yoga classes like?
There is a strong focus on linking the breath, movement and attention together. Over time this link becomes not only habitual both in and outside of class, but it continues to deepen, and we come to embody our being more and more completely. There is an attention to alignment and body mechanics, which provide a safe base from which to grow. When these simple physical elements are united with the breath and attention, we naturally and simply begin the process of unblocking the gross and more subtle knots that disrupt the flow of our energy, body, breath, and mind.

What is it about Yoga that inspires you?
The breath, really. 'L'inspiration' itself! I appreciate the clarity and wholeness that Yoga offers as our breath and attention begin to flow more smoothly together. I find an enormous strength in this that brings ease, joy, vitality and resilience to my life. And I love how this practice -- that usually begins simply at a body level -- begins to deepen, allowing us to delve beneath the surface of things and recognize the roots that give them birth, in our time and at our own pace.

Do you have a favorite posture?
I love inversions, because they turn our assumptions and habits upside-down. They challenge our perception and assumptions, and clean out and replenish the heart and mind. I love the ability they create in us to feel steady, clear and at ease in any situation, even when the ground seems to have shifted beneath our feet.

A favorite book?
Around 20 years ago I was given a well written and highly condensed English translation of The Mahabharata -- the great Indian classic in which The Bhagavadgita is nested. I have found myself returning to it again and again -- and again. I am continually surprised at the richness of the work, and discover with each new reading insights, metaphors, and wisdom that I had not been able to see on the reading before. It seems to reveal itself according to my readiness, according to how much of life I have lived and experienced.

And music?
I love almost all music -- any music that honors and claims its own inherent identity and character. I especially love layers and textures of sound that seem to converse and dance with each other. I love the sound of the tabla and the pan-pipes.

A film?
Kal Ho Na Ho is an Indian film that has the whole gamut of life packed into its two or so hours: love, tragedy, music, dancing, ridiculous comedy... everything. But I think the added element that addresses the life of our souls (that our conscious being doesn't always recognize or appreciate) and the layers of love we can feel speaks to me the most.

A place?
There is something about nestling into the lush pockets of the Pyrennes in France that seems to nourish and rejuvenate me unlike any other place I have been. The Gorge du Tarn is a close second, with a similar contradiction between its harsh exigence and its generous embrace. But in the French Pyrennes, I feel as if I have returned to my own source.

A teacher?
The Yoga teachings that were passed on to me by Eric Beeler with simplicity and generosity changed my life when I encountered them, and have continued to deepen and merge into all aspects of my life as I continue to explore the relationship between breath, mind and body.

Any remedies?
I lived in India for 6 years and was constantly astonished by how everyone knew at least something about the use of food and spices for keeping the health in balance. I find that I use a few regularly: lemon, honey and ginger steeped in hot water (with or without cayenne pepper) to help clear a cold; the increase of garlic when the immune system needs and extra boost; white rice mixed with 'active' culture yoghurt for diarrhea; fennel or mint for an unsettled or aching stomach...

An animal?
When I was younger, I loved the Rabbit and the Black Panther equally -- the Panther for its beauty and power, and the Rabbit for its sweetness and softness. But for the past 12 or so years, after living in India, my animal has become the Phoenix. The Phoenix gives the strength and courage to face and embrace transformation on a deep and ongoing basis, 'dancing with the Dragon', in an ongoing process of death and re-birth.

A plant?
I feel a strong affinity with all plants, but especially trees. I love how they convert light and air directly into life. I love the beauty and the balance of our relationship with them, as we nourish each other in our shared breath. I had a dream once where I was at a party where everyone was wearing t-shirts with silouettes of all the people they had been in all their past lives printed on them. I still don't know how I really feel about the idea of past lives, but in my dream, when I looked down at my shirt, I saw that it was filled with trees and dinosaurs! It was an "Aha!" moment, when I suddenly understood why I have always been so intense about living this life well.

A perfume?
I love the smell of lemon but more than anything, I love the smell of earth after the rain.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yoga in support of ROOM TO READ

Teachers and yoga centers come together throughout Paris from June 1-8, donating their time and space to help support the work of
ROOM TO READ. This award-winning non-profit organization is focused on improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. Ann will be teaching on June 2nd and June 6th.
To register, click here
.

ROOM TO READ:  Open Level Class
Sunday, June 2, 2013 from 18h00-19h30
YogaYoga, 6 passage de la Vierge, Paris 75007 (M° Ecole Militaire)
(by donation, all proceed go to Room to Read)

ROOM TO READ:  Open Level Class
Thursday, June 6, 2013 from 9h15h10h45
M° Jasmin/Auteuil-Mirabeau
(by donation, all proceeds go to Room to Read)


For additional information, contact Ann at perspectivesinmotion(at)gmail.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reflections: DYNAMO at the Grand Palais

DYNAMO : A Century of Light and Movement (1913-2013)
Grand Palais, Galerie Nationales
April 10 - July 22, 2013

April 17, 2013
© Ann Moradian for The Dance Enthusiast

Wow! This is a knock-out performance, not to be missed. And don't worry, they have sofas to lie down on and emergency staff stationed throughout the exhibit. I ended up leaning against my husband on the metro ride home in a state of complete and utter exhaustion. It felt a bit like the one night I went out dancing nonstop until 4am.

DYNAMO is an exhibit of visual art that explores the relationship between art and viewer. There is no stage or obvious performance space, and the human body is neither the subject nor object of the event - our experience and perception are. DYNAMO is, in fact, one enormous experiential installation. The National Gallery at the Grand Palais is made up of a chain of vast chambers and our movement through that space, along with shifting currents of air and light, creates an unusual and unsettling experience that I would call 'a dance'.



According to the Grand Palais Website:
"Notions of space, vision and light run through the abstract art of the 20th century and interest many world renowned contemporary artists such as Ann Veronica Janssens, Anish Kapoor, John Armleder, Carsten Höller, Philippe Decrauzat, Jeppe Hein, Felice Varini and Xavier Veilhan. By putting vibration along with the spectator’s perception in the centre of their works, they set up multiple resonances with optical and kinetic art, which first emerged at the Movement exhibition in Denise René’s Paris gallery in 1955, but also, more broadly, with what was later called "perceptual art" at the exhibition The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965. This exhibition shows how, from Calder to Kapoor, numerous artists have dealt with the concepts of vision, space, light and movement in their works, often creating installations that the visitor takes part in."



Untitled, 2008, Aluminium and lacquer, 220 x 220 x 47 cm, Artist’s inventory no: AK 12-030; Untitled, 2008, Aluminium and lacquer, 220 x 220 x 47 cm; Untitled, 2013, Aluminium and lacquer, 222 x 222 x 47 cm; Photo © Fabrice Seixas.

Three concave circles of metal hang face-to-face creating what feels like a three-sided room, reflecting a rich, warm light. The beauty is seductive and I enter its territory willingly. These 'mirrors' reflect both sound and light, and my vision warps along their surfaces so that I am no longer sure what is down or up, in or out, near or far. Even the slightest movement sends the world whirling, and sound follows. My voice echoes in my head in one position, then seems to emanate from someplace completely other than where I know I am when I shift my weight. The work seizes my head in its embrace, and violently rocks all sense of orientation out of it. I feel the need to flee, rather than have my feet so thoroughly unearthed beneath me. This is an installation of Anish Kapoor's work, all of which are untitled.

There are many other works, equally violent, particularly at the beginning of the exhibition. Many of them are less beautiful, burning the optic nerves with harsh neon or the clash of the edge where black and white meet. As we continue our journey, our heads throbbing, beauty and gentler illusions return -- thankfully, with less violence. I find myself fascinated by the simplicity of some of them, like the folded paper sculpture framed on the wall by Klaus Staudt that plays softly with shadow and light on its cream colored surface. It shifts color and shape as my feet and perspective shifts (as if it were alive.)

By the time I arrive in the room with the hanging mobiles I know, with certainty and pleasure, that I have been given permission to play. If you walk through Jesus Rafael Soto's hanging strips of thin blue plastic, Pénétrable BBL Bleu, with your arms spread wide like a bird, the whole thing moves like seaweed in the ocean.

I stood beside a mobile of clear plastic squares for a long time, blowing on them to watch the play of the shifting light -- a work made up of almost pure shadow and light, that seems almost not to be an object at all. Julio Le Parc calls his work Continuel-mobile, but if I were a child I would have called it Magical Mobile.


Jeppe Hein, Rotating Labyrinth 2007 Miroirs polis, infrastructure en aluminium, plateforme, rouleau, moteur 550 × 550 × 220 cm, avec l’amabilité de Johann König, Berlin et 303 Gallery, New York

Usually (though not always) when we go to a performance, we as the audience are stationary and the "objects" of our attention move in order to create our experience. Film is similar, of course. In DYNAMO we are asked to move through the works, and in doing so we engage in an experience unique to each of us as viewer, spectator, participant. There is a dance going on here that forces us to acknowledge our being in time and space.

It is so easy to believe that we are the still and central point around which all else turns. DYNAMO powerfully reminds us of the shifting sands of our own living, breathing being. Hats off to Serge Lemoine, Commissaire général de l'exposition, and his team!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Medusa Project, in-progress in Paris



InterAction along with the Bilingual Acting Workshop and Centre national de la danse present Perspectives In Motion MEDUSA PROJECT in-progress:

MEDUSA: The Birth of a Monster
written and directed by Ann Moradian
conceived in collaboration with Nannette Bertschy

MEDUSE : La naissance d'un monstre
écrite et mise en scène par Ann Moradian

10 mai 2013, 20h00
Bilingual Acting Workshop's New Voices New Projects
Le Pavé d'Orsay, 48 rue de Lille
75007 Paris (M° Rue de Bac)

14 mai 2013, 17h30
Centre national de la danse (CND)
1 rue Victor Hugo, Studio 3
93500 Pantin (RER Pantin, M° Hoche)


For Musings on Medusa link here

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Love connects... across many boundaries



Love is the pull that brings us into being. It is the force that connects us, across every imaginable boundary. It demands courage, trust and faith. And yes, the risk remains that one may be torn to pieces... But there is also that beautiful possibility that love connects us... across many boundaries.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

YOGA WORKSHOP: Inversions

FEET IN THE AIR
Sunday, May 26, 2013 / dimanche, 26 mai, 2013
11h30-13h30, €40 (advance booking required)

This workshop will continue an exploration of balance, applying the principles and tools introduced in the March and April workshops to focus on inverted postures, including developing the strength and physical organization needed for headstands and handstands. This is a dynamic practice. Contraindications for inversions include neck injuries, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart conditions, and eye problems. They are also not recommended for women who are pregnant or in the midst of their menstual cycle.

Monday, March 4, 2013

YOGA WORKSHOP: Roots & Sky

S'ENRACINER & ATTEINDRE LE CIEL
Sunday, March 24, 2013 / dimanche, 24 mars, 2013
11h30-13h30, € 40

Foundational balance work, focusing on our central line of gravity as it roots down into the earth and, simultaneously, grows up and skyward. We'll explore breath as it is applied to the relationships between gravity and alignment, alignment and strength, strength and ease, ease and opening. This workshop is dynamic and all are welcome. Enrollment is limited to 8 participants.

YOGA WORKSHOP: Living in the Balance

VIVRE EN EQUILIBRE
Sunday, April 21, 2013 / dimanche, 21 avril, 2013
11h30-13h30, € 40

The beauty of balance is that it isn't just vertical or linear. It also includes balancing left and right, upper and lower, interior and exterior, and harmonizing the different aspects of our being, our energies and efforts. This workshop allows us to explore balance as a living, multi-faceted and ongoing process. This workshop is dynamic and includes inversions. Enrollment is limited to 8 participants.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Reflections: VIDEODANSE

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
October 31 - November 25, 2012

November 15, 2012
© Ann Moradian for The Dance Enthusiast

The brightest light at the inauguration of the 30th anniversary season of VIDEODANSE was the celebration itself, honoring Michèle Bargues, the program's founding force, who retires this year. A sociologist working in the human services department at the museum's beginning in 1977, she knew very little about dance at the time. The opportunity to develop the dance-video program came about by chance, rather than design. She did a lot of quick research and learned fast. And fell in love with dance, she says.

The former President of the Centre Pompidou, Jean Jacques Aillagon (also the former Minister for Culture and Communication), was at hand to publicly present her with the medal and rank of Chevalier dans l'Order des Arts et des Lettres. Aillagon noted that if dance video is recognized now it is thanks to Bargues' work at the Centre. VIDEODANSE wasn't intended to be an annual event, just a one-off, and now we have not only dance films documenting and archiving dance history, but also dance-video as a new artistic form in its own right, stretching the limits of both traditional dance and traditional film.

Michèle Bargues Founder of VideoDanse with former President of the Centre Pompidou, Jean Jacques Aillagon; photo © Hervé Véronèse

The film on screen for the evening was a dance documentary called Bonhomme de Vent by Iranian filmaker and visual artist Sima Khatami. It follows the creation of a performance piece called La Danseuse Malade (The Sick Dancer) by Boris Charmatz with Jeanne Balibar, inspired by the text of Butoh's founding artist Tatsumi Hijikata.

The camera follows the two performers, often intimately, through an arduous and self-punishing process that leads up to the first presentation of the work. It feels like a real life, raw and 'in your face' version of The Red Shoes to me, with all of the masochistic tendencies of artists invested in the idea that abuse and suffering are integral to the creation of their work. There is something deeply -- profoundly -- skewed here, but the work was so strongly language-based, and naturally in French, that I missed too much to even attempt an analysis. The title of the dance is appropriate anyway.

One particularly satisfying thing about living here in Paris is the relationship between the people and art, which fully includes dance and dance film if you happen to be at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Here, art is not expected to serve as entertainment in order to be valued. It is not required to be financially profitable in order to be recognized as having value. It is okay to be disturbed, and it is okay to dislike a work. It isn't that there is no appreciation of pleasure in art, but pleasure isn't the primary criteria by which a work is valued or assessed.

A couple of years before Anna Sokolow passed away, a young (and very sincere) dancer told Anna how much she "enjoyed the show." Thoroughly offended, Anna bristled, gathered herself into the resolute force of nature she could be and said "We are not here to enjoy. We are here to think and feel."

The exhibits I have seen at the Pompidou Centre, have displayed a knack for stimulating thought and feeling -- and discussion. This evening was no exception. VIDEODANSE has more than 200 films playing over the coming weeks, with a wide array of artists from the classic modern to the avante garde, and all of them are free to the public.


For More Information about the Centre Georges Pompidou Click Here
For More Information about Sima Khatami Click Here

Sunday, February 3, 2013

YOGA WORKSHOP: Compassion

YOGA WORKSHOP: Compassion (Karuna)
Sunday, February 10, 2013
11h30-13h30, 40€

The practice of compassion begins at home. It begins by accepting where and how we truly are, recognizing our expectations and aspirations, as well as our limitations and weaknesses. Through our physical practice of asanas and pranayama, we work from this point of honesty and acceptance to claim our actual strength, become conscious of areas that need reinforcement and care, and to accept our unique gifts. This workshop is dynamic and open to all levels. Enrollment is limited to 8 participants.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reflections on Performance: Aurélien Bory

Aurélien Bory's Compagnie 111
Géométrie de Caoutchouc (The Geometry of Rubber)
Pièce pour un chapiteau (Work for a Tent)
at Parc La Villette / Espace Chapiteaux
October 12, 2012, Paris

© Ann Moradian

Inside of an enormous big top tent on a cold October night I find myself looking onto a smaller big top tent that fills the stage. A huge sizzle of sound begins Aurélien Bory's new work Géométrie de Caoutchouc (Geometry of Rubber), followed by a downpour of rain. A green light glows from inside the tent, casting shadows of 2 bodies swimming within it. I keep wondering if the downpour was part of the soundtrack or not.

Gestation in the womb of a white circus tent. That is how I interpret the moving images before me. And later, an oozing birth out of the tent's bottom edges into a theatre-in-the-square. Four different couples perform, one on each side, depicting a similar but different progression, evolution, along the bottom edge -- caught up in the tent's stabilizing wires and in the beautiful, often uncomfortalbe contortions of relationships. I can't see what's happening on the other sides. I cushion my curiosity and content myself with what falls within my field of vision. (This takes an active effort.) I am relieved they are wearing coats, it is so chilly in here.

The top of the tent becomes a slick white mountain for the couples to climb, slide down, bounce on, fall from, aspire to, reach and attain. A rooftop trampoline. The canopy reverberates with every step they take in this unstable world. It becomes a nightmare of a cliff they finally surrender to, falling open-hearted, arms spread like angels to be caught on a single, thin horizontal wire. Bory doesn't exploit this, urging us to burst into applause for their gorgeous, heart-tugging daring. Instead, he continues on with the flow metaphors and movement, letting them evolve, almost non-chalantly.

The performers in Compagnie 111 are amazing. They list their work under "Circus," but it would be unfair to say they are not full fledged dancers that have learned to defy gravity and paint the space in three dimensions. Shadows of couples on the other sides sweep across the ceiling and fly over the walls, partially satisfying my curiosity to see and to know everything that is happening. And finally all 8 of them arrive at the top.

Bory creates physical environments with sets or props that he explores rigorously, like a study, a research project, a process of questioning. In this, he doesn't fail us. In the four works of his that I have seen over the years here in Paris, at his best, he strikes a magical balance between mechanics and poetry. (Plus ou moins l'infini and Sans objet, being excellent examples).

In Géométrie de Caoutchouc, some things don't work for me visually -- like the attempt to incorporate some of the clunky technical transitions of weights and counterweights that hold the "big top" in place, or the swimming embryos in the beginning. There just wasn't enough in these parts to keep my attention. It felt like they just went on too long.

The transition collapsing the tent, however, works beautifully. The base that creates the sides and the canopy are separated, and the canopy rises up into the heights as if it were alive. The perfomers use all of their weight to pull it back down, but it insists on floating back up, like a helium balloon. It will ascend. The performers are determined, but even when they work together as a team they can't keep it down from the sky. I love how sound of the falling weights clunking against the floor is integrated into the soundscore here.

I try not to think about how dangerous it is, as one man climbs onto the the tent top just before it flies up, skyward, once again. We follow his shadow on the ceiling and walls when the floating tent hides him from view, anxious to keep track of how he is doing. Plato's world of projections comes to mind, of course, as a gentle but not overbearing reference.

And finally, they do manage to collapse that living canopy, standing on the sky they have brought to earth, stamping it down -- its magic lost as it rejoins the mundane world of tangible carbons. But even then, it pulls itself up one last time -- four enormous, smooth white walls. We see one man facing it, like a giant blank piece of paper, or an indecipherable mystery. I am disappointed that Bory does not develope the possibilities here. It felt as if he had run out of time. It is hard to imagine him letting such a powerful image dissipate as the performers simply crawl underneath, all of them, and we are left with a white landscape, like a winter graveyard.

Funny that they never even took off their coats...


Performers:
Mathieu Bleton, Raphaelle Boitel, Olivier Boyer, Pierre Cartonnet, Sarah Cosset, Cécile Fradet, Nicolas Lourdelle, Marlène Rostaing / Claire Cordelette-Lourdelle

Conception, scenography and direction: Aurélien Bory
Lighting Design & General Manager: Arno Veyrat
Music: Alain Kremski
Additional mixing: Joel Abriac
Artistic collaborations: Pierre Rigal, Albena Dimitrova, Olivier Alenda
Assistant Director: Sylvie Marcucci
Décor: Pierre Dequivre
Costumes: Sylvie Marcucci