Three days in Tilburg, and one night of obligatory post-show Australian Dance Theatre getting-kicked-out-‘cos-it’s-closing-time. Twice. Which is how I like to remember my time in Adelaide.
In Tilburg, Daniel and I found today a passable café. It was still of the ‘theme café’ variety, but the wholesome, second-hand, thrown together, earthy, natural, and caringly homemade theme was convincingly well-done so that it didn’t too often feel like we were in The Waltons.
ADT last night were awesome. The usual phenomenal dancers, everything well-rehearsed, and then a moment around 2/3rds of the way through where they all seemed to realise it was going swimmingly and just cut loose. Not as if they were holding back for the first 40 minutes, it was more one of those collective moments when it doesn’t seem possible that anything can go wrong or out of time and they enjoyed the hell out of it.
The theatre is also beautiful, and it turns out some parts of Tilburg aren’t like a strange compulsory tourist town, but I was glad to be on the train out, even though I’d rather have been on the bus going north with the rest of the family.
So, back in Brussels for a few more days, then off east to Berlin. Possibly some Brussels tourism and definitely seeing Hans and Anuschka again before more airports.
By car it’s barely an hour away but by train, north with changes in Antwerpen and Rosendaal, then hard east for half an hour, for me taking four hours – missing the first connection by 3 minutes. And the first leg, I found myself in a carriage full of Tibetans, with delirious children clambering over me. I was thinking of the hundred Tibetans who have self-immolated in recent months from Gansu to Lhasa as I realised this carriage wasn’t just an afternoon outing, as raucous and lively as it was, and discovered just now that yesterday was the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day.
So I paused in Antwerpen, and ran for the train in Rosendaal, arriving in the cold, dim evening in Tilburg to knock on Daniel’s door, where I shall stay for the next couple of days as they bring their 11-week long tour to an end.
And Tilburg (or Tilblurg as I just wrote), what an odd, odd town. We are staying in the old centre, and it’s wall-to-wall tourist restaurants of the international cliché variety. There’s the obligatory Paddy Irish, Señor Mexicano, Papa Italiano and of course Satay Thai, all with forlorn and empty ranks of chairs outside, expensive “all you can eat” menus and disco lights inside. It’s strange because Tilburg is so difficult to get to and doesn’t seem to warrant such an intense tourist strip, and all my interneting and brochure reading hasn’t revealed why all this is here, unless it’s a hangover from the coffeeshop drug era when everyone drove across the border to visit potland and the first city the hit was this one.
In keeping with this year’s winter it’s so grey as to not be worth looking out the window; however, once they have finished rehearsals, Daniel and I shall go exploring.
Neither Gala nor Ivo are in Brussels, which makes this decidedly weird being here; eating Piadina alone, sitting on the Metro alone … Hans and Anuschka are here though, and we had an excellent dinner on Thursday, and at least three coffees in three days, and I saw what they’ve done to their studio in Renold Space: wood-fired heating! It’s really, really beautiful, and I’m very envious as well as inspired. And now I depart for the impossible Tilburg. A mere long hundred kilometres away, it still takes 3 hours to get there. But once there, I get to see Daniel for one more time on ADT’s tour (and maybe Emile, fresh off the jet-lag run from down under).
In the meantime, I’ve slipped in a couple of days rehearsing in a secret location which shall remain nameless. More of the same from me. I think my ‘warm-up’ now constitutes much of the actual rehearsing, and it seems to be useful. It’s very methodical, and honestly if I turned up to a class of this, I’d probably hate it (unless it was perhaps Benoît or it was what I expected). I’m still turning up strange, lingering habits from when I mashed my knee last year, something to do on one side with whimpering meniscus not wanting to go into certain positions, so Gluteals don’t work and Psoas takes over, and a straight line between wonky Achilles tendon and Piriformis really not knowing what it’s doing.
The interesting thing is that all of this is quite small and built up from years of habits, but the process of finding these peculiarities and minimising them requires this methodical, patient workflow – spending an hour just working out what happens in my hips when I’m in child pose and would be about to roll from one side to the other.
And it’s never absolute either. What works in one situation at one speed isn’t entirely applicable to another, or even a different rhythm at the same speed, or different initiation of movement or attention. What is possible though is a phase space for particular movements, for example if I’m walking, there’s a variety of possibilities in how the movement happens, and through repetition I can build up a general representation of this, and subsequently which ones tend towards aberrance.
As for what constitutes aberrant movement for me at the moment, I just keep thinking of walking, which is more or less uncomplicated for anyone to do, whereas dancing is complicated, and so keeping in mind the uncomplicated physical feeling or perception of walking (which is not to say walking is simple or easy), I try and find what this is in any dance movement. Which leads me to lie on the floor for an hour analysing whatever is going on when I roll, or endless combinations of arm-swinging, leg-swings, or embarrassingly simple movement patterns.
Mainly I think that if walking is swinging, as in a pendulum movement, then so too must dance be, because it’s done with the same body. What’s come up so far is that it’s applicable across levels of complexity of movement; not just the ‘more things happening at once’ complexity, but the perhaps more interesting edges of movement, the ones where things get weird and awkward and usually get bashed through or otherwise cause horribleness. It also seems to allow for significantly more speed with less effort. All of which is the obsession of contemporary dance, and I don’t really want to contribute to that with some essentialist ‘natural’ movement programme, which is why I’m pointedly not reading or looking at any of the obvious similar techniques, be it release, or Klein, or whatever, even though I can’t escape them because that’s my training history and I can only ever work within what I know, or in reference to what I know.
Maybe to say it’s just me working out how I move, which is curiously something I’ve not done so much of; yes, plenty of thinking about it, but doing has largely been confined to other people’s classes and techniques. So it’s a little like messing around with a musical instrument and teaching myself to play, and it’s really not a technique or a style or a process or any other dressing up of what’s fundamentally me fucking around on my own for hours in a big room.
Which segues into my rehearsals. Which of course was most of my rehearsals. Music! From Abruptum and Gorgoroth and Mayhem to … Pulp! Jarvis Cocker. Oh Jarvis Cocker you are a dirty rocker. And the album is Different Class, which did lead to some useful reconsiderations of what I’m doing with my fingers, and also illuminated how distracting it is to work with popular music. Distracting as in it takes me out of my body, I no longer can feel moving because my ears are too busy. Black metal doesn’t suffer from this so much as it’s pretty incomprehensible and not very melodic. Which then made me think of all the classes I’ve ever done where the teacher puts on their favourite music and we dance to it, and that we’re not really dancing because we’re just doing the equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs drooling response because the music interrupts the physical process of experience of dancing. As nice as it was to dance around to Common People and Sorted for E’s & Wizz, it was unsettling to think that this habit of using music like this actually got in the way of training one’s self in moving.
All of which merits further musing, but I have a train to catch. More rehearsing next week, and quite a bit of going through videos and assembling stuff before then.
Return to Berlin. Six hours in a mini-van tooling along the autobahn at 140kmh or so, on the nod for the last 2 hours after I finished my book, and lack of other entertainment (tinted windows shaded in road dirt) led me to running a competition for what brand of truck trailer was most preferred (the white, rectangular, steel bullbar of Schmitz beating the field by 2:1; anonymous was disqualified). And previous to that, three nights in Düsseldorf with sweet Daniel, one for each year I haven’t seen him (and at least two drinks per night for each, also).
I’d intended to arrive cutting it fine just before ADT’s Proximity started – the reason why Daniel and the score of others are in Europe the coming months in the first place. Almost blizzard dragged me into the Hauptbahnhof late enough that I arrived at the theatre just as they were finishing. Not to worry! I accosted the darling Jaber and continued to do so until the awful hour we had to depart this morning (awful early as well as awful to have to depart). Kimball was also there, along with Jessica, all in an apartment around the corner from Tanzhaus NRW, in Flingern Sud. (Erkrather Str, I thought a good name for a black metal group, Erkrath. Probably with upside-down cross for the ‘t’.)
A late start the next day, so I dragged Daniel off to some place I’d never been where it seemed there might be a good café for breakfast. Yes! Yum müsli and coffee and talktalktalk until he had to go off to rehearsal so I twiddled my thumbs till the evening when he returned and off we go again in the same approximate direction in search of Chinese (food, that is), and success! And infinite multiplication of success! Handmade fucking Lanzhou noodles! I have never seen anyone anywhere outside of China beat out proper Lamian, and oh how I have looked. We got ours in a sort of spicy pork sauce plus naturally Qingdao beer, and I was just wondering how to kidnap the guy or at least would it be possible to buy a bag of the noodles to take away. Out into the snow a couple of hours later and more wandering, talking, on dance, family, everyone I knew in Adelaide and Daniel in Berlin – it’s a lot to try and encapsulate in less than 72 hours.
Breakfast again the next day (that would be yesterday), and much talking about two things we will be doing together (oh yes, we will be doing together), in the coming months. Then me alone for the day while they all got to dancing in the theatre. And then me going to see.
I’m not going to write about it, har, no! Maybe just to say I forgot how much dancing goes on in ADT (even ignoring coming from conceptual Berlin), and how fucking amazing they are. And Garry was there, and Libby, and Paul lately of Wuppertal, at least a couple of Scotts. More eating, more beer, more of me kidnapping Daniel (it would be kind of possessive if we hadn’t seen each other for so long), more back in the apartment, with a YouTube party consisting largely of Jiz! (I’ll let you discover that for yourself). And finally plonking into bed to get up horribly early and find myself in that mini-van.
I even got a little sad when I got back to Berlin (grey, cold, sunless), and have partly remedied that by writing this, but know I shall have to head southwards to find the beautiful Daniel once more, in Bregenz, in six weeks or so.
As if four shows in one week in two different hemispheres (well, four really, depending on how you count them) … wait! Four? … I mean three. Here’s the fourth. The beautiful Daniel Jaber who I miss very much (and would appreciate delimiting said missing by arranging rapid arrival in Berlin), has a work-in-progress showing of Nought, at ADT Australian Dance Theatre on … Friday! Now there’s no excuse if you’re in Adelaide to complain there’s nothing to do this week. Two amazing choreographers one after the other (it’s kind of like tag-team wrestling. Well, not really.). I’m hoping he sends a video to me quick.
(Daniel says, “It’s very pretty very dance very silent very awkward and very non stop dancing for an hour and listen to the dancers get exhausted and pant like their enduring a hard very hard fuck.”)
Australian Dance Theatre presents Daniel Jaber’s Nought a work-in-progress showing
September 21, 6pm at the ADT Studio
126 Belair Road
Direction & Concept: Daniel Jaber
Choreography: Daniel Jaber & the ADT dancers
Soundtrack: Brendan Woithe & Thomas Jeker
Costumes: Catherine Ziersch
ADT Dancers: Scott Ewen, Amber Haines, Jessica Hesketh, Kyle Page, Kimball Wong
Secondements: Marcus Louend, Madeline Edwards
Having dealt with the mendacity of ozco for years — and to be clear, I have absolutely no respect for this organisation — it doesn’t come as a surprise they would do something so utterly stupid, shortsighted, ill-informed, and useless.
If there was ever an arts organisation in Australia that is decades overdue to lose its funding, it would be ozco. They have for years single-handedly butchered the arts, promoted mediocrity, mouthed asinine middle-management slogans such as ‘innovation’, ‘excellence’, ‘international’ (apparently now the word is ‘sustainable’), taken the side of church, government, and right-wing pogroms against the very artists whom the purportedly represent, and spent much of the remaining time polishing their media image while making sure the entrance is solidly bolted against anyone unwilling or unable to play their smarmy game. Art?
It breaks my heart Adelaide could lose Leigh Warren. Though in truth, he doesn’t need to be there; he doesn’t need to struggle for years with disgraceful conditions and permanent insecurity. Neither do many of the choreographers in that city. They could all pack up, move to europe and with the same amount of effort they put in there for scant return, have proper support and be part of a huge community that respects art.
But they choose to be there. For whatever reason, they remain and devote their lives to making art in that small city. And having seen an awful lot of dance around the world, I can say — irrespective of my personal aesthetic interest — there is little as good as what comes from Adelaide.
Leigh Warren and ADT should be — should be — as acclaimed as Ultima Vez, Troubelyn, Akram Khan, Rosas, Les Ballets C de la B, names, more names … these companies that touch the firmament of dance, theatre, art. They should be there also, and should have the commensurate support, as should other companies in Australia. They should certainly not be begging for decades at the bottom of the ladder. The work they should be making remains forever half-done because of the parochial support in both dollars and culture Australia affords its artists.
There is no justification ozco can make for this funding cut. It’s a bizarre decision I can only understand if I image the panel completely intoxicated on those aforementioned buzzwords and self-importance. No one in their right mind would make such a decision, and it can certainly not be explained away by their usual dismissals of lack of funds to support everyone, patronising the artists that they should feel sorry for them to have to make such hard decisions.
I can’t even imagine how this could be political. Leigh has done so much for Adelaide dance, for Australian dance. He should be a national treasure. Yes, Leigh Warren is to Australia what someone like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is to Belgium. And had he been given the support he deserved for the past twenty years, this would be self-evident.
Given the record of ozco and Australian culture over the last ten years or more, I am sceptical of a happy outcome to this. My opinion is that once a company and choreographer has established itself, it should be exempt from the humiliation of annual and triennial funding applications; there should be an expectation as an artist working in performing arts that at some point you can concentrate without distraction on making work, secure in knowing that provided one doesn’t make a complete mess of things, the bare minimum necessary to keep the company going can be depended on to be there. That it isn’t is yet another failing of the responsibilities of ozco to Australian artists.
Getting stuck in Ghent at 1am after missing the last train from Brugge, talking in the kitchen till 330am and waking at ten past ten realising rehearsal was at 11, forgetting to recharge my camera battery yesterday so having nothing to show … I shall gladly suggest reading Andrew, reading Andrew, watching Andrew.
“Well, the train station isn’t so cold, but what should we do?” says Dasniya, as we wonder no more about the possibility of a train or bus to Brussels. So we find a taxi driver who’ll take us the distance for €60, “No, this is my second job, I teach educationally difficult boys, I have two loves, my mother in Ghent, my wife in Brussels, I live in both cities, no I only sleep four or five hours a night”, turns up the techno, lights a cigarette, one hand on his iPhone making calls, the other on the wheel, “51km to Brussels”, Dasniya says, “Ah, so that will be about 20 minutes”, I say. Home in time for a cup of tea and long chat into the night.
We were in Brugge, fleeing after an early finish to rehearsals, to see ADT perform, Be Your Self, and mainly me to see Tara, Kialea and Kimball. Much excitement after the show, it’s been two and an half years since I last saw them. Perhaps a visit from one of them to Brussels?
Today I am as incoherent and silly as the narrative path above. We made it 5 minutes late and greeted by knowing smiles, we all looked like a bunch of Saturday night drunks, bags under our eyes. Lucky no ropes or suspensions, just working our the spacing for the beginning of Act II. Now it’s the same but completely different.
We are reaching the logic closure of the piece, where decisions rest upon the structure around and the set of options within diminishes. Without completely overturning what is already here, the context concerns finding workable answers. This took not much time at all, and we were left to act the goat and discuss tomorrow’s workshop.
Yesterday, missing photos and all, was a short spacing and tech-ing that unexpectedly fell into a run of the first parts of Act II. I suppose that’s what happens when you ask if you can go through the beginning. It’s getting much easier, especially as I’m in a side suspension so I can swap from arm to arm whenever one becomes too tenderised.
The anticipation is becoming tangible, a little under two weeks till premiere, and though much to do each day with little time, it is progressing, things are getting done, sorted out, set. For all of us there is the sense we are doing something special, not knowing much about opera it’s difficult to convey … but I think we each have personal reasons that transcend the obvious list of la Monnaie, Wagner, Parsifal, Hartmut, Romeo … that bring something particular, emotional, into the piece.
Tomorrow Dasniya, Gala, and I are having a Shibari workshop for various cast, crew and others from la Monnaie. Yes, it’s Monday, the day off, and tiredness is competing with nervous energy, desire for more suspensions with bruised flesh, but shall be really nice to be teaching this again. We have had not so much time to play in the last couple of weeks, though we’ve had many long discussions about what we’re doing, and we have way too many ideas for a four hour workshop.
(Shall spend the evening listening to Burzum, Solti’s Parsifal and doing as little as possible.)
Witch/Red was for me easily one of the best pieces of performance, theatre, dance I saw in all my time living in Australia. I should qualify that also by saying one of the best of any local or international performances. I think it was her first collaboration with Luke Smiles, who I think is the singular most talented composer for performance in Australia (and I still remember his beautifully strange installation with tape reels and other digital, mechanical devices in the basement of RMIT (or somewhere central Melbourne)).
Gabrielle is performing her new work in Melbourne in a couple of weeks. For those of you in the antipodes… well, I have no idea what she is doing in this piece, but Gab is one person whom I’d always want to see what has emerged.
I left my shoes on warm concrete and stood in the rain
Dancehouse’s Housemate Residency Program presents the extraordinary new work of Gabrielle Nankivell.
I left my shoes on warm concrete and stood in the rain is a performance that examines struggle as an inherent quality of being human. The audience is invited to experience intense physicality and haunting words framed by Benjamin’s Cisterne’s (Bluebottle) design and a striking soundtrack by Luke Smiles / motion laboratories.
Harnessing the imagination as a physical force, I left my shoes on warm concrete and stood in the rain is a visual poem for anyone who has taken the enchanting qualities of their broken world and built a fairytale as inspiration to survive.
Text, Physical Content & Performance – Gabrielle Nankivell
Original Soundtrack – Luke Smiles / motion laboratories
Design – Bluebottle Benjamin Cisterne
50 minutes no interval.