Vienna Panorama from Graf-Starhemberg-Gasse

A week in Vienna and no photos until today. Two years ago, Dasniya and I stayed in Mayerhofgasse; this time, we could see our old apartment from the rooftop garden of our new one. Yesterday seeing Ivo in the morning, then Hans at Café Prückel, and Guido for dinner. Today, after returning my bike to Arsenal, lunch with Hans, Giacomo, Dasniya, and Florian, at the café around the corner with the vomiting man fountain. Yesterday also was expressions ’14, where we made some strange shibari performance thing for 6 1/2 minutes. After lunch, finishing packing and off to the airport with Jared and Angela. In Berlin, unpacking, and dinner with Emile who is making AMG sounds while blasting through town: the shortest measurable duration in the universe is the time between us seeing each other and laughing. We also agreed next year shall be us at Nürburgring 24h in Mayhem t-shirts.

And so, one photo from Vienna: the view from the rooftop garden, all 360º (plus a bit of overlap) from the chimney cleaning platform above the terrace. North is slightly to the right of the circular blue table. I spent less time here than I wished.


Some Vienna Train Photos

Cleaning my camera out and found these from the day I left Vienna, catching the train from Wien-Meidling to Berlin it passed Arsenal where I’d been the day before returning my ImPulsTanz bike, and then trundled over the Danube. I decided to stop photographing after that, and just stare out the window.

Fest — 8

Four hours into the train journey north and slightly west from Vienna to Berlin, and I feel reasonably confident I haven’t forgotten anything. The endless blue sky of the past weeks (all but the first in fact, which was massively wet) is being replaced by ever-closer clustering and darkening layers of cloud, though languorous enough to know it’s still summer and the heat remains. Yesterday, today, this week we all variously depart, only Ivo remains in the Festival, calming down to be a proper DanceWEB coach and workshop teacher. Giacomo went to Brussels yesterday (relieved of his Breaking Bad habit hawhaw), Mirko goes shortly, and Annina tomorrow. Nicola also still in Vienna and now the satisfied bearer of two large supermarket bags full of the contents of my kitchen shelves and fridge. As much as I would have loved to take some of those delectable curry pastes and chutneys with me, it’s simply that any comestible space freed up in my suitcase by eating was rapidly overfilled with books. Definitely heavier than when I arrived.

What have we done. then? A premiere, a second show (combining second night blues and closing night into one), both more-or-less sold out, several walk-outs in the obvious places – more from discomfort than moral outrage – an amount of what seemed genuine applause, and so far a pretty good response from all those who have talked to Ivo and the others. Both shows were at 11pm, finishing around 1am and having dinner between then and 3am, so the last four days have been on an abruptly altered rhythm. The first show was also during the apex of the heatwave, nudging onto high-30s outside, airless and hotter in. Much sweating took place and dealt mortally with the microphones.

Now that what we’ve done is public, I can talk somewhat more freely about the piece. This was in part keeping the scenes which will be talked about and which Fest will be remembered for somewhat private until we opened, as well as more generally not exposing everything that goes on each day. It seems the best way to do this is to write about the performance itself, a kind of review of the most subjective kind. I spent each show sitting vaguely where the stage manager might be if it was a proscenium stage, though not, so wedged slightly in the side of the seating tiers, keeping pace in the script with everyone in case there was a complete failing of memory and prompting was needed. It wasn’t, and there was also very little that occurred which deviated from the script.

There have been several people who came in and watched runs over the weeks, Christian while he was here, a friend of Ivo’s from Sopia came a couple of times, Guido also, Dasniya, a handful of DanceWEBers, and of course we who sat on the other side of the stage, Giacomo, Emilion, and myself. It was particularly interesting listening to the ‘WEBers who spoke with Ivo in a group on Friday night, and this got me thinking about how I conceptualise the entire work. My tasks in the final days in the practical sense have been very much of the rehearsal director kind, clearing up lines, documenting changes, giving notes, all the usual. Along with this have been many meta-conversations with Ivo about the overall structure of the work, how choices of music, character, timing can change entirely the meaning of a scene and therefore the work, all of which has given me a reasonably fine understanding of Fest.

So it felt for me, while listening to everyone talk about it, agreeing in places, disagreeing in others, surprised by new and unthought-of readings, that it would be a worthwhile project to write about the piece from a critical outsider perspective while sitting with the script in front of me and all my insider notes strewn on laptop screen. This in part also because Fest goes to Amsterdam and Brussels in the next six months and if time permits there will be a period of re-writing. Anyway, all this for a subsequent post.

We went to the Afghan restaurant up the road last night and naturally I had lamb. Also a couple of cardamom-infused coffees which were sublime though light on the caffeine. This morning the last movements of packing, getting 30+ kilos of suitcase organised along with bike (absolutely the best decision to bring that to Vienna) and satchel (seems to weigh more than bike), and off to Wien-Meidling where I saw Dasniya off only two days ago, and now pulling into Praha, just passed half-way home.

Much later. The train from Děčín hlavní nádraží to Pirna was as breathtaking as ever. Home. Unpacked, filled a whole shelf with new books, Iftar was had with water as I have no dates, then quickly downstairs to see Dasniya and a room of 15 happy Yoga & Shibari people, half of them friends I’ve not seen for months, and now fallen over in my dearly missed bed.

Fest Premiere


Saturday night 11pm sold-out premiere pushed to 1130 and closing in on 1am before it was all over, then off to the ImPulsTanz Lounge for eating, drinking and my one post-premiere cigarette. Besides “underwater microphone” problem (sweat-soaked, that is), everything went gloriously. And now I feel I can talk about all the things as they are no longer rehearsal-room goings-on, I’ll blog properly, and with pictures. One more show tonight, also.

Fest — 7 (and various things)

The last week we spent back in the Volks Oper rehearsal studios where we remain until later today when we retrace our steps to Kasino Theater for two probably gloriously chaotic days of setting up, rehearsing, and on Saturday night, performing. In the meantime, Giacomo arrived from Italy (and has been occupied watching Breaking Bad until the early morning hours) and the coffee intake has naturally increased.

Back one week. The bike ride in +30º late-afternoon summer warmth from Währinger Str to Wien-Meidling train station turned out to be somewhat longer than expected, and Dasniya’s train was early. We met nonetheless, on the platform, she with a suitcase bearing a blackly iridescent travelling companion, some kind of tenacious flying beetle that had accompanied her and refused to depart. We left it in the grass on the Gürtel as we made our way homeward, me still to return to rehearsal.

The weekend for me was split between rehearsing and Dasniya’s workshop, with a beautiful group of women in the Shibari Dojo, off Mariahilferstr just the other side of the Gürtel. A came along on Tuesday evening also, and found myself tied and slapped by Klaus, the physicist who came to our ImPulsTanz workshop last year.

Rehearsals, then. It’s a little like writing code. When one part is touched up, it shows how another part can be made more elegant, which in turn shows often unexpected inconsistencies and oddities in completely unrelated places. By the end of last week we’d more-or-less found an end and much of the work has been going back and forth the length of the work, rewriting, cutting, editing. Switching rehearsing from Kasino to Volks Oper also has changed it; the latter is very much a rehearsal space.

From my point of view writing here, having seen so many times those very disturbing moments in the first two acts, and how they sit within the text, it’s difficult to say much without giving things away. The Saturday is a 11pm, and the day will be around 36º, which means Kasino will be an airless oven, somehow appropriate for the ghastly eighty-minute goings-on of the three acts.

We seem to have come to conclusions in the work, in the text; every pass through and run becomes a more fine stitching of things. Decisions are often on the most detailed level now, how a person moves, turns their head, pauses solves the problem or gives the meaning on the larger scale. Still things to decide though, music, costumes, lights (Giacomo runs a lighting desk on his laptop and spent yesterday programming some broad ideas – much better than having to wait for non-existent access to the theatre and having to tangle with a new board), how to shave off various minutes from the acts. Returning to Kasino I think will answer a lot of this, and obviously make a hash of things we thought were sorted.

And perhaps some photos on Sunday, after the premiere.

Cie. Ivo Dimchev — Fest, at ImPulsTanz

What brought me to Vienna several weeks ago back to ImPulsTanz and Ivo has its premiere tomorrow night:

Cie. Ivo Dimchev — Fest

It’s an exciting game that is determined by various kinds of human relationships. The name of the game is “Festival”, and Ivo Dimchev knows it very well because his radical works have enthused and been hotly disputed at all major European festivals for more than 10 years. Now it’s his turn: to stage his own festival, beyond the limits of conventions and with his unique, magic flavour of presence.

Dates: 27 & 29 July, 2013
Time: 23:00
Kasino am Schwarzenbergplatz
ImPulsTanz Performances 2013

Concept & Direction: Ivo Dimchev
Performers: Ivo Dimchev, Annina Machaz, Nicola Schössler, Mirko Feliziani
Light Design: Giacomo Gorini
Sound Design: Emilian Gatsov
Dramaturgy & Assistance: Frances d’Ath

Fest — 6 (and other things)

Another week gone, into the fifth week in Vienna, and yesterday it seemed we found the show, Ramadan is into the second week, and I discovered Orphan Black. Yesterday was also our last day for the moment in Kasino Theater. The ImPulsTanz party is there tomorrow, so we’ve scooted back across town to Volks Oper for the next days, hopefully moving back to Kasino early next week as it’s empty and it makes much more sense to be using that space seeing we’ve arrived at set-costumes-lights-sound stage (and with that, Giacomo is also arriving).

Today Ivo veers off to rehearse X-on, which is being performed on Sunday, so my morning and early afternoon is unexpectedly free. Another arrival later this afternoon, is Dasniya, who is teaching Yoga & Shibari this weekend and next week. Hopefully rehearsals will fit that I can turn up also.

The last week in Kasino, then. We’ve made and discarded so many scenes, found several endings and similarly discarded them. Sometimes an idea would work sublimely once and then each subsequent time become more and more forced. The script has been progressively hacked shorter, though still sits around eighty minutes, but for the moment it’s only one part of the third act that falls over. Still, it’s a reliable occurrence that when we get one problem scene sorted, it affects other scenes, usually in different acts requiring more surgery.

Yesterday, Christian Bakalov arrived and watched us run through the whole thing. We’d been working on some ideas all day for delivering the text in the third act in an especially grotesque manner, and somehow – perhaps the desperation of an audience of one – caused everything to fall into some kind of order that for the first time looked like a performance. A very intense, occasionally hysterical performance.

And speaking of performances, Tuesday I got to see Ultima Vez’ What the Body Does Not Remember. Twenty-seven years since its premiere and not looking dated, which is a marked rarity in dance. It was well-impressive also, much throwing around of selves in the way Garry Stewart does at ADT — actually it reminded me of his stuff quite a bit, though more if it was mashed together with mid-’90s Frankfurt Ballet. It was also not infrequently annoyingly heteronormative, which I expect from Wim anyway, but it’s still tiring to watch. I did wish though I’d had that kind of training when I was at VCA in Melbourne, instead of the American Modern (and occasionally Post-Modern) Dance fixation, which never interested me and has had no bearing on what I do (other than avoiding it). Oh, and the dancers were fucking insane, just bloody brilliant, and keeping up that relentless intensity till the end … most impressive, especially from the front row.

Another event in the week was running out of books to read. I finished off Iain Banks’ last one, The Quarry (haven’t blogged it yet), which led to the discovery of Orphan Black. This came about on Sunday courtesy the wonderful Charlie Jane Anders on io9 (yes, I somewhat regularly read this site, but to be fair, mostly I look forward to what Charlie writes), and in the comments was a mention of this series, referencing Torchwood, and seeing I’ve already worked my way through Arrow, I thought, OK, perhaps just one …

Ten episodes later (and four of them last night), and this is now my favourite show. The science is mostly accurate and well-done – far better than most – the ethical and moral issues are handled very cleverly, and the script, the acting … it’s not Game of Thrones, the  universe isn’t that large so it doesn’t require such a monstrous budget, but really it’s the best science-fiction show I’ve seen since Firefly. Better than recent Doctor Who episodes also (and filmed in Toronto!).

I’m especially enjoying it because the lead role goes to a female which is still – especially in science-fiction – depressingly rare, and the main supporting role to a beautiful, makeup-wearing, femme-butch gay boy, Felix. I don’t think I’ve seen a role like his that hasn’t either been written as a caricature or as tragic, especially in the last few years when everyone ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ on TV is trying so very hard to show how very much ‘just like you’ they all are, desexed and only interested in marriage. And he even has sex with a large, black bear of a man; he’s the best bent role since Captain Jack.

Back to Sarah/Beth/Alison/Cosima/Helena/Katja/Rachel/etc, she’s a clone so that explains that, and all the clones are played uncannily by one actor. It’s disconcerting, especially when one plays another, which happens often. Obviously I have a thing for Cosima, who is the best queer-ish female I’ve seen on TV, super smart and so sexy (and her lover Delphine also, and yes, this is the second decade of the 21st century, we see bed action!), and maybe it’s just me, but somehow I think her character, dress, mannerisms, glasses, is based a bit on Lana Wachowski.

Anyway, Ramadan is into its second week and I’m still performing it in a pretend way, fasting as much as I can, doing Iftar, reading some about Islam, and yes, it’s basically Christianity (in any of its forms) or Judaism with the names changed, and the adherents behave in much the same way, mindless fixatation on social policing, obsessional literalism, hegemonic absolutism, the usual amounts of misogyny, heteronormativity, xenophobia … religion, basically. Amidst all this pathetic dross is something beautiful, an attentiveness to life, to self, the people around one’s self, to the physical world, to the philosophy of being, to restraint, humility, care, to pleasure, to joy. Ramadan carries this within it precisely because it’s an act that’s been performed in a codified manner by billions of people for thousands of years, which is why just doing this at any old time doesn’t have the same weight; it’s the sense and awareness of social participation that makes it such a profound personal experience. It’s also caused me to cook far more diligently, seeing there’s only one chance in the day to stuff my mouth.

Off to rehearsal now.


Fest — 5

We moved on Monday to the Ring, into the late-19th century Italian Renaissance Burgtheater Kasino am Schwarzenburgplatz, bringing our total rehearsal space experiences to a total of four, and where we’ll remain for most of the coming weeks. All this moving combined with my bike has let me see a little more of Vienna than I normally do, and perhaps now, applying my usual ‘head in general direction and take streets at random’ biking method, I’m starting to get a sense for patches of the city.

ImPulsTanz started on Monday evening also, performances begin tomorrow night, and the DanceWEBers I saw toiling down Burggasse on Sunday on the pink and blue bikes, looking like a slightly nervous family of ducklings. Ivo is their coach this year, and from now rehearsal times get shuffled across the day.

Rehearsals, then. A slow-ish run of the three scenes yesterday left us with almost two hours of scenes and much incredulity, cries of, “No! It can’t be!” and “But we stopped and the first two scenes were slow…” but yes, it is, and even forgetting the stopping and speeding things up we’ve still somehow shoved together over 90 minutes of things in the last three weeks – and that’s not even mentioning everything that got thrown out or is mouldering in the archives.

To go along with that, we seem to have fallen over the ending, one not requiring an Act IV, nor an introduction of a fifth protagonist (both good things to avoid), and one that as of yesterday evening could even be called beautiful – all depending on how making other necessary changes to the first two Acts affects what comes after. If the entire script doesn’t get rewritten, there’s still masses of stitching together, pulling tight, packing down, binding, lashing and otherwise making secure the vast pile of words, but we have seven proper rehearsals left before Ivo flips into X-on mode, and after that a week before opening; plenty of time to fit in some last minute serious doubts, panicking, unforeseen crises and other useful, performance-enhancing stuff.

And for lunch, we have possibly the best rehearsal balcony I’ve ever sat on, certainly the best I can currently remember, running half the length of the façade above the Schubertring overlooking Schwarzenbergplatz and Straße, Kärntner Ring and all things generally Viennese.

Fest — 4

Another week gone. That makes three. We spent this week in Volks Oper Wien studios, where I rehearsed with Hans for Settlement in 2008 on the same street as the hostel Ivo and I along with all of DanceWEB stayed in, in 2003. Tomorrow we move to Kasino Theater for a week or so. Rehearsals are going well, by which I mean steadily; every day we make progress, and there has been none of those airless days where it feels the work is a vast, empty husk. Progress towards what, I’m unsure; there’s enough made of Fest, and enough ideas for it to become many different works. Sometimes in trying things it loops back on itself and spits itself out into a previous line or scene, sometimes repeatedly until we get slightly lost. Other times old ideas that came and went within the space of a single rehearsal, quick enough to have been written into and erased from the script, get remembered and resurrected – or remembered and discarded.

There’s three scenes now, the first is the shortest and for the moment the most certain, it hasn’t changed much in the last days (we’ve also been working mostly on the third this last week) except for some detailing, blocking and choreographing, working on the delivery. The second is still in flux. It also hasn’t changed so much in the last week, though there have been some large cuts of bits and pieces, rearranging of things, and it feels like for both scenes there’s more of this coming up.

The third scene though, that’s where all this looping and concentrating on things has been going on. I can’t really say if any of this is what Ivo wants or imagined it would look like or if any even will remain. Perhaps we’ll get to the last week and in a frenzy he’ll rewrite it into something we’ll all agree was inevitable to happen in what we’re working on now and assuming will remain to be performed, and the rewrite is in fact the work it always had to be. For what’s there now though, some stuff I thought was pretty good turned up late yesterday (I occasionally clap at things when I think they’re convincing). There’s still some explaining to do, in order to get to that stuff – if it even remains tomorrow – and how and what that explaining is will determine how what happens subsequently is interpreted.

Yes, still being somewhat vague and ambiguous. Perhaps some photos in the coming days …

Fest — 3

A day off today and tomorrow, though not for Ivo, who is westwards towards Switzerland bound. A couple of days ago, we saw the Kasino theatre, where we’ll be performing, apparently the seating has been rearranged. It’s still quite massive. Yesterday we moved to a new studio in Thaliastr, right around the corner by the Wochenmarkt, so no mad bike rides across town for me now. I think I’ll have to perhaps circle the Gurtel once; go the long way, so to speak, in order to enjoy the suffering of Vienna hills.

Yesterday also, Guido came into rehearsal, so we went through the currently three scenes out of order. It was worthwhile to force them to coalesce for someone and to find out how it feels when being watched. It’s very long so far, but this is not such a problem, as it’s also fairly coherent and should yield easily to the sharp knife of editing. Little else to say, then. Dinner also with Ivo and Guido, and much meta-conversation about the piece, which I enjoyed a lot.

Shall continue reading …