Tuesday, 29 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on the Montpellier Dance Festival – Part 2


My remaining days at Montpellier Dance Festival included more pastis, an excellent curried chicken concoction wrapped in naan bread, street art discoveries and more dance.
Grégoire Korganow’s exhibition, Sortie de Scène (Exit Stage) breaks from dance conventions, capturing the performers as they leave the stage. The exhibition evolved over the course of the festival, depicting in beautiful detail the glow and strain left on the bodies of the performers by the various works. Israel Galván’s Solo of improvised contemporary Flamenco Dance, in the Cours d’Agora was a mix of technical and rhythmic complexity with touches of comedy. While an engaging performer, I would have like to have been closer to the action. The intricate posturing and footwork combined with the performance space would make for a beautiful dance on film work. Belgian choreographer Jan Fabre’s attends, attends, attends… (pour mon père) (wait, wait, wait…[for my father]) is dark. A dance theatre work heavy in French text, it explores the complex relationship between father and son and their perceptions of time. The son (performed with chilling effect by Cedric Charron) represents the ferryman, offering his father coins and guiding him along the river Styx. The monologue swings between nostalgic and aggressive while an inner animal lurks, sometimes beneath the surface, sometimes unleashed.
The festival highlight for me however was Boris Charmatz. His Grandes Leçons at Place du Nombre d'Or - part of a series of outdoor, free morning classes presented by different festival artists – covered material from Nijinsky to Balanchine. Amateur participants followed along as they were guided to pose, walk, stamp and jump and encouraged to interpret a variety of images from 20th century dance works.
The same evening, I attended a performance of his full-length work, Enfant. This work evolved through manipulations between machine, professional performers and children. It was thoroughly engaging, deeply fascinating and explored the relationships between child and adult. Who is ultimately the manipulator? See the show and draw your own conclusion.
This work marked the end of my travel to Montpellier. Next stop: the World Dance Alliance Global Summit, where I attended multiple scholarly presentations, showcases…and a work involving more nudity than the internet.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.

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Saturday, 26 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on the Montpellier Dance Festival – Part 1


Fuelled by pastis and a desire to experience as much dance as possible over 4 days, my time at the 34th Montpellier Dance Festival was a blur of rich images. I rushed down cobbled stone streets in picturesque Montpellier, bright in the summer sun, to various dance performances and activities. Despite strikes which caused cancellations of some performances, I was still about to attend the three performances I was scheduled to see on my first day.
The first show on my list was de marfim e carne – as estátuas também sofrem (of ivory and flesh – statues also suffer) by Portuguese choreographer Marlene Montiero Freitas. Described in the program as ‘a grotesque ball’, it was like the recreation of a madman’s house party. Performers danced with an eccentric physicality, sometimes alone, sometimes like an orchestra composed of found instruments. A bearded man recited an explicit story of a sex encounter on a beach with two boys, revealing over the course of the story that the monologue in fact belongs to a woman. Another performer lip-synced a melancholic song through her fingers, fashioned into a mask covering her face. Two performers observed with frozen, contorted expressions: highly activated and totally passive living gargoyles.
Next was a new work by British choreographer Wayne McGregor, Atomos. I was a little confused to be handed 3D glasses on arrival; isn’t live performance already in 3D? In typical McGregor style, the work explores the extreme physicality of the performers, which is unrelenting to the point of becoming predictable. The eventual appearance on screens displaying 3D images – suspended on stage did little to break the monotony.
African choreographer Salia Sanou’s Clameur des Arènes (Clamour of the Arenas) was performed by five fighters, three dancers and four musician/singers in the beautiful outdoor theatre at Theatre Agora. Bold colours complimented an impassioned mix of West African wrestling traditions and dance. Impressively chiseled bodies made best use of their strength and prowess to demonstrate a ritual that was both explosively athletic and surprisingly tender. A crowd favourite, the auditorium buzzed with excitement.
I rode this wave of energy as I made my way back to my hotel and prepared for the slower rhythm of my remaining days in Montpellier. More performances, an outdoor dance lesson and an exhibition were still to come. But first: sleep.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sport for Jove presents A Doll's House

A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
A Doll's House
Seymour Centre: 17 July - 2 August, 2014
Sport for Jove

Causing immense controversy when it was first performed in 1879, Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House centres around the relationship between Nora Helmer (Matilda Ridgway) and her husband Torvald (Douglas Hansell). Along with their two sons Jon (Thom Blake) and Ivar (Bill Blake), their maid Helen (Annie Byron) and good friend Dr. Rank (Barry French), the Helmer's appear to live a normal, if mundane existence. We see Nora, the doting, loyal, excitable, obedient and slightly insipid wife preparing for her family Christmas. She is spoilt, indulged, mollycoddled and generally patronised by her husband who refers to her repeatedly as his little dove, his little squirrel, his little skylark. Despite all this Nora appears genuinely happy and it is only with the arrival of two strangers that the family's seemingly perfect existence is thrown into turmoil. 

Kristine Linde (Francesca Savige) is a childhood friend of Nora's who has fallen into financial difficulty after the death of her husband whom she did not love. While Nora is kind to her friend, securing her a position at her husbands bank, she is also boastful of Torvald's recent promotion and their elevation into wealth. The second visitor is Nils Krogstad (Anthony Gooley), a recently dismissed employee of the bank. While it becomes clear that there is a connection between Nora and this stranger, it is not until later that the nature of the connection is revealed.   
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
To save Torvald from a nervous breakdown Nora borrowed money to take her family to Italy but she told him that it was lent to her from her dying father. As women could not take out bank loans, Nora orchestrated a deal with Nils and now that his own job is in jeopardy he decides to blackmail her. 

When Torvald does find out the truth he is horrified, his first thought is of his reputation and the safety of his children. He forbids Nora from seeing the children and appears completely repulsed by her. Nora had genuinely thought that when confronted with the situation her husband would come out in her defense, his complete rejection of her prompts her to realise that she does not love him, neither does she know herself. She describes herself as being a doll in her father's house and now a doll in her husbands. These men played with her as she now plays with her children, with no depth of feeling or substance.    
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
Matilda Ridgway is exceptional as Nora, her emotional range and physical presence make her perfect as the neurotic and lost wife. Swiftly moving from happy and indulged to desperate and resolved, her overwhelming sense of calm as she explains why she must leave is powerfully moving. Her strong resolve is perfectly contrast against Torvald's growing hysteria and confusion. He simply cannot see where she is coming from and cannot understand why things must change. But change they must and as the final act comes to a close we hear the slam of the front door reverberate around the theatre as Nora leaves her husband and children to establish a relationship with the one person she has never considered - herself. 

Once again Sport for Jove have thrown together a wonderful cast that, despite the seriousness of the subject matter, manage some laughs from the audience. The two young boys, Bill Blake and Thom Blake (brothers perhaps?) are surprisingly good as the young sons, their interaction with Nora and the maid Helen entirely believable despite Thom shooting cheeky glances at the audience every time he scored a laugh. In typical Sport for Jove style, the set was minimal but effective with the acting taking centre stage, as it should.

A Doll's House is a lesson in the importance of independence and a testament to the original work of Ibsen, a man who believed that "a woman cannot be herself in modern society," since it is "an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint." [Ibsen, "Notes for a Modern Tragedy"; quoted by Meyer (1967, 466)]  
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi
A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi

A Doll's House, Sport for Jove. Photo credit Seiya Taguchi

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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Keiko Goto


Photographer Keiko Goto uses a 1938 Leica camera that her father bought when she was born to create her striking black and white images. Using traditional dark room techniques, Goto captured the inhabitants of Sakhalin Island where her husband worked for four years, and the extreme climate in which they lived.

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Omar Chowdhury

Omar Chowdhury, Locus II (still), 2014, single-channel, 1.33:1, 1080p ProRes 422 (delivery H.264 MOV), colour, stereo, 1:25:45. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art with the assistance of the Keir Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts, Dhaka.

Artist Omar Chowdhury doesn't just film events, he experiences them. This is evident in every shot, every frame, every angle, so carefully orchestrated yet surprisingly devoid of any cliches. The first floor of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art houses a three channel video installation, Vastness in Eclipse (2014), is the result of two years observing the workings of a plantation in India. The artist himself has childhood memories of such plantations and this familiarity is accurately portrayed through the narrative of the farmer. 

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Sport for Jove present All's Well that Ends Well

All's Well That Ends Well, Sport for Jove, photo: Seiya Taguchi.

All's Well that Ends Well is not the most cheerful or well known of Shakespeare's plays. Set in France, Helena (Francesca Savige) is in love with Bertram (Edmund Lembke-Hogan) but Bertram doesn't love her. He heads off to serve in the crippled King's court, Helena follows and using the powers her late father bestowed on her, heals the King. As payment she asks he approve of her marriage to Bertram, which he does. Bertram is furious and flees to war swearing he won't return to France until he has no wife. He tells Helena that until his family ring is off his finger and a baby of his making is in her belly he won't be her husband. Challenge accepted.

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Saturday, 12 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on France in the name of dance part deux


Paris Opera Ballet: Notre Dame de Paris on until 16 July 2014.

Paris Opera Ballet’s current season of Notre Dame de Paris is a smart choice for the first-time ballet goer: high energy, a touch of comedy and a clear narrative ending, all set within one of Paris’ most popular tourist attractions.

Created by Roland Petit in 1965, based on the book by French author Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris follows the story of Quasimodo (Stéphane Bullion), the hunchbacked bellringer of Notre Dame; Frollo (Audric Bezard) the Archdeacon; the gypsy Esmeralda (Alice Renavand) and Phoebus (Florian Magnenet). The narrative unfolds to music by Maurice Jarre and strikingly graphic costumes by Yves Saint Laurent: when Esmeralda enters the lives of Quasimodo and Frollo, she inspires a passion and obsession that challenges Frollo’s commitment to the church and Quasimodo’s position in the shadows. As Phoebus and Esmeralda find love, they unwittingly draw all four closer to tragedy.

At the performance I attended, it appeared that tourists had discovered the appeal of this quintessentially French experience: languages other than French created an excited buzz in the foyer. This same energy resulted in rapturous applause during the curtain call, with one audience member stating that the show alone made the trip to Paris worthwhile. For anyone other than the regular ballet or dance attendee, I recommend that you take his endorsement and stop reading here.

Notre Dame de Paris requires performers to be technically strong and able to inject highly stylised choreography with dramatic truth. Paris Opera Ballet is home to arguably some of the strongest ballet technicians in the world; however for whatever reason pirouettes and tours en l’air were frequently off balance. Alice Renavand (Esmeralda) was the rare exception, although she suffered from slightly inconsistent partnering.

While the corps de ballet performed energetically, they appeared to struggle with the required characterisation, resulting in the work appearing well constructed and rehearsed but ultimately dated. Stéphane Bullion as Quasimodo did an admirable job of emulating a hunchback; however there was no real love felt between he and Esmeralda. Unfortunately for Florian Magnenet, Roland Petit’s Phoebus is a crudely drawn character. It was difficult to sympathise with a character whose most striking feature was their hair.

Both technically strong and dramatically committed, Audric Bezard was the only performer to transcend the choreography; to find breath and meaning within each gesture. Through his efforts alone, I was able to connect to the performance and feel an emotional attachment to the final climax. Choreographically, Notre de Dame de Paris appeared both stylistically and choreographically a little dated on this outing. I would be curious to see the performance again with a cast that were as dramatically adept.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.
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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier takes on France in the name of dance part un


Over the next few weeks, I will be travelling around France and the UK – partially in the name of dance and partially for pleasure. I wasn’t expecting to have the energy to see very much on my first day in the City of Lights. On the train from Charles de Gaulle into the city however, the violinist playing from car to car made for a romantic one-man welcoming committee and an early reminder of the ever-present beauty of this city.


For this portion of my visit, I’m staying near Metro Barbès - Rochechouart, where a large immigrant community colour the streets with beautiful pastry shops and seedy street selling: a heady mix of high and low. Arriving at my hostel, my first impression was that I had walked into a cramped brothel-cum-hairdresser. The lovely receptionist and a fabulously coiffed, surgically enhanced lady warmly welcomed me to the building, which sports a kitsch courtyard decorated by brightly coloured chairs and Italianesque statues, framed by street art portraits of Salvador Dali and The Pink Panther. A message is spray-painted onto the wall: ‘Enjoy Paris!’.

Dropping off my bags, I acquainted myself with the nearby area, walking along Boulevard de Rochechouart. Starting with the low brow, I stumbled across The Sexodrome, which offers sex paraphernalia of every description across multiple levels, including a dildo in the shape of the Eiffel tower called ‘La Tour est Folle’ (literally; the Tower is Crazy). This is not what I had in mind when I read the spray-painted sign. Further down the road, the Moulin Rouge doles out generous portions of sequins and high kicks to busloads of tourists. As much as I was enjoying the brief jaunt into the seedy, I moved off the main strip, fully aware of the more discreet and charming allure of nearby sights and sounds.

The entrance to the nearby metro station designed by Hector Guimard is a stunning example of Art Nouveau. Off the main boulevard, a myriad of cobblestone streets offer the smell of chestnuts and tantalising strains of accordion music. At the Visual Arts Biennial run by the Republic of Montmartre, a cross section of artists from the area are on display: beautiful paintings and sculptures, each an explosion of life and colour. A woman inside tried valiantly to coax her dog away from its new, plaster canine friend. Outside at the Paris Flea Market, an accordionist played Padam Padam, a classic chanson made famous by Edith Piaf. I could actually feel my heart simultaneously swelling and melting.

The afternoon continued with walks along tree lined pathways and gardens and ended with some people-watching at a tiny boulangerie, where I seemed to be the only foreign customer. I revelled in the opportunity to unashamedly people-watch, in the way that only seems possible while travelling. The first espresso and a handful of experiences under the belt, the next few weeks will be an exploration of the French dance scene: shows, the Montpellier Dance Festival and a talk at the World Dance Alliance Global Summit in Angers. Stay tuned.

Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts. All images taken by the author.
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