Tag Archives: Nederlands Dans Theater

The Last Post

I have a small suitcase of letters from years gone by that I’ve dragged from one house to the next. They’re almost relics, these letters, written by hand and posted, in a letterbox! How quaint. One day I decided to put sentences from the various letters together, just out of curiosity, to see if the people who had written to me would make up a ‘composite friend’.

The resulting letter had its own strange and beautiful logic and although I knew who had written each line, the letter now seemed to have been written by the universe, to itself and to everyone who lived there. So it is with good stories and good art. They seem to have always belonged with you.

A year has passed to the day since I decided to join the world of online scribblers. It’s also the day that I call it a day. I could tizzy up my reasons for stopping but the reality is I’m getting too lazy to want to write it anymore. I figure it’s better to call time rather than post every six months or so like a stalker with chronic fatigue.

Strangely, the year of blogging ended with exactly the same weather conditions as it began. The rain started as I began writing my last post as if it was just popping in for a quick cuppa. Before I knew it, that rain had settled in with its feet up on the sofa and proceeded to turn on the TV. Then it just stayed the night. Unlike last year when the rain was this relentless, this year I was not doggedly (and dumbly) determined to get to a muddy bog of a music festival. Maybe I’ve learned something. But probably not…

Given this is The Last Post, I’m going to do a recap of some ‘Travels in my mind’ posts. It may be nostalgic indulgence but when was it anything else?

I wrote my first post about my annoying and unwelcome habit of needing to go to events that are sold out and difficult. ‘Travels in my mind’ began  with ‘Shine On, you crazy diamond’ in November 2010, when I shared the fab experience of driving to the inaccurately-named ‘Shine On’ festival in driving rain with my friend K. (who thankfully came to her senses and decided we should leave within minutes of our arrival). On the way home, we were attacked by birds.

The weather also played a significant role in ‘Man on plane, I am sorry’, December 2010,  in which I was returning from a visit to my Dad who lives in another state (physically, not metaphorically). I was on a plane which had been delayed due to storms and it was unsurprisingly, a rough flight. At some point during my visit Dad and I had had a conversation about what kind of funerals we would want – we like to keep the conversation light.  That conversation combined with the bumpy flight had made me quite skittish. I got into a weird and awkward conversation with a salesman sitting next to me, causing me to conclude that (a) sometimes I would rather eat my own arms than talk about work and (b) you shouldn’t talk to strangers if you can’t get away from them.

In February I visited Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art, better known as MONA, and embraced its underground architecture and Scorpionic themes of sex and death. I loved the intensity and fun, and intense fun of it. But on a second visit not long ago I realised you never get that giddy first date feeling twice. While there were works I didn’t see the first time, some of which I found confronting and some moving, there was little from my first visit that I found compelling on second view. And on a rare sunny day in Hobart, with a wedding party on the grounds and a new admission fee generating the same old gallery demographic, MONA seemed already bereft of its rock ‘n’ roll patina. Possibly I just wasn’t in the mood. I preferred my friend G.‘s exhibition I went to on Saturday. She had made the most delicate drawings of her old Mum and Dad sleeping, drawings that were softly loving and made you ache with the inevitability of old age and its cousin, death.

For Valentine’s Day, I told a love story – a story of my longest first date. I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was one of the most popular posts. Everyone loves a love story. (Or was it the KISS video? I admit, I watched that video a few more times than was healthy and had to get ‘I was made for loving you’ surgically removed.)

A friend asked me the other night what had been the most popular post. Right up there was the one about my visit to the Tutenkhamun exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. But as I explained to L., my blog must appear in search results when people are looking for information about the exhibition. My Tutenkhamun post continued to attract hits long past the date I posted it – and as I said to my friend, I feel a bit bad because my post about ‘What I’d learned from the Tutenkhamun exhibition’ was fairly glib. As King Tut’s family history featured some intensive interbreeding and he had a cleft palate and a club foot, I wrote that one thing I’d learned was not to horizontal folk-dance with the siblings. To all those students and foreign tourists searching for actual information, I can only apologise.

The dance films ‘Pina’ and ‘The Black Swan’  inspired curiosity about the history of the pointe shoe and ballet, in the case of ‘The Black Swan’ (‘Shall we dance? Or just pointe?’, January) and my return to dance class (‘Minding the pees and queues’, August). Going to a performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater was just a visual feast that reminded me of the variety of permutations possible within human movement and all that is good about watching people move through space (‘An assault on the senses’, July).

There was the post about my sensitivity to people’s voices, inspired by the Southern Gothic baritone of Tony Joe White (‘Tony Joe White’s Sonic Boom’, May), in which I pondered whether a person’s voice is merely a product of anatomy or whether a voice reflects a person’s inner being. A Cat Power gig inspired a conversation about the evolution of stage fright and what it must be like to make music (and a living) while being scrutinised under the spotlight (‘A year of the Cat’, January).

In June, I was preparing to head to Bali and Cambodia.  A simple Google search: ‘music in Cambodia’ led to hours of reading about that country’s music scene now and in its 60s heyday. The contrast between the energetic spirit of contemporary bands in Cambodia with the silencing of musicians under the Khmer Rouge was so compelling that I decided to make a radio documentary while I was on holiday. Returning to Melbourne, I wrote another post about the trip, mostly about the first night of the Kampot River Music Festival and a motorbike ride through the hectic streets of Phnom Penh with Jan, German music producer and ex-soapie star (‘Holiday in Cambodia’, July).

A post about the differing recollections that my friend and I had about how an ex-housemate’s life was saved touched on the elusive nature of memory itself (‘Two of these things are true and one is a lie’, September). Yet the best things about writing ‘Travels in my mind’ has been the triggering of memories, however truthful they may be, and the perennial challenge we all share: trying to communicate something of our experience to someone else.

Thanks for reading; thanks to those who talked back. Your comments and encouragement have been so very welcome.

Yep, that’s all there is.

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Filed under Art, Dance, Music, Travel, Uncategorized

An assault on the senses

I remember having a pillowtalk conversation about attendance at the arts versus sport in Australia, as you do. My view was that the arts are as popular as sport in Australia – it’s just that people aren’t going to arts events  en masse all the time and they’re going to lots of little events, so arts folk are less visible. ‘If everyone’s going to at least one gig a week, that’s… a lot of people,’ I said, being both too lazy and maths-challenged to actually come up with a number. ‘But most people aren’t like you. You would be statistically (something or other that means abnormal),’ my then-partner said. ‘I’d say most people would go to about one gig a year, maybe two.’ I made various snorting and chortling noises indicating disbelief. What could those people be doing with their time? And what do they do to fend off reality’s nasty side?

‘Coffee?’ I offered. Naturally, while waiting for my favourite morning noise – the merry gurgle of coffee into pot ­- I consulted the Interweb for evidence that I was right. I was wrong. He was spot on. MOST PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIA ONLY GO TO ONE GIG A YEAR!! (Cue very quiet snorting and chortling noises indicating disbelief). Return with coffee and a change of subject. ‘Goddamn, that yeti’s been in the garden again.’ ‘I was right, wasn’t I?’ he said.

All this is by way of saying that I have seen a fair number of performances.  So when I saw Nederlands Dans Theater recently, it was gratifying to know that I’m not jaded by my accumulated years of arts consumption. Far from it – during the show, I thought I might have some kind of beauty coronary. Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, a dancer would assault me with some other divine combination of limbs moving through space, or the train of a dress, a grand swathe of blue silk that covered the entire stage, would suddenly billow in sympathy with the Phillip Glass score. (You can see the beginning of this in the YouTube footage at about 5:05)

Also enjoyable was the post-show, breathless, high camp/Valley Girl-type conversations with people who’d also seen this performance. ‘Oh my God! Did you nearly DIE?’ ‘I think I was shallow panting the whole time!!’ ‘It was like…Oh my God’. ‘My friend kept making little squealing noises.’ ‘I want them all to live at my house. I want them to run the country!!’ The next morning, I was on the phone to a dancer friend, telling her she must sell her child if necessary to get to the final show.

At the end of the third and final work, Silent Screen, choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon, my friend and I joined the rest of the audience in applauding the company until our hands hurt. Other audience members shouted and whooped as the company returned again and again to receive the love. When a performance has moved me, I try to store as many images in my memory as possible but inevitably before I’ve left my seat, much has disappeared into the ether. But then, the ephemeral nature of performance is also part of its magic. We left the theatre, somewhat dazed after being so roundly assaulted by beauty, to join the ‘Saturday night in the city’ world outside, where the next performance we encountered was a busker with a long mullet playing a bad rock solo outside Flinders Street Station on his electric guitar. All aboard the Reality Express!

For a peep at what I loved so much about the Nederlands Dans Theater performance, this promo features excerpts from two of the works I saw:

 

And a question to ponder, if you’re so inclined: if writing about music is like dancing about architecture, what’s writing about dance like?

 

 

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