One Night of the Year

Last week, for D’s birthday, to the Sydney Theatre to see the Sydney Dance Company.

In previous years, we’ve been to the ballet.

This year, when I suggested either ballet or the dance company, D chose the latter. Too soon to go to a balletic version of Madame Butterfly when we’d only just seen the opera. D has slightly schizophrenic taste. If it’s ballet, he wants it to be a traditional work performed by the book. It it isn’t that, he much prefers modern dance.

At the box office (a last minute/day-before cycle down to Walsh Bay) I learnt that the only pairs of seats available were $60 or $40 each. The $40 ones (upstairs at the side) were actually closer and arguably better. D said he’d take the closer ones. He’d seen the raunchy publicity shots and thought there was a chance of some anatomy. “I want to see the details“, he said nudge-nudgingly. Call me cheap, but I’m all for this modern dance caper!

The vantage point was good and we missed very little on stage (apart from the hoped-for details, which didn’t live up to the publicity). The only disadvantage was an extremely bright exit lamp which distracted us, especially when the stage was less well lit.

I can’t say much intelligent about dance. The first half, Jacopo Godani’s Raw Models was techno-ish with a specially-composed digital score by “48nord,” a German duo who in the program notes are described as “a formation for experimental electro acoustic music.” I enjoyed this piece most (dancing and music) when things started to get a bit funky and the dancing responded to that.

The second half was Land Forms, choreographed by Rafael Bonachella, with music specially composed by Ezio Bosso, who played it as pianist in an amplified ensemble with violin, cello and, at the end, Katie Noonan singing. A lot of the music was ostinato-based (there was a kind of C minor “Heart and soul” thing going at one stage) worked out with varying textures and patterns. It wasn’t particularly delicate or subtle or even intricate, and there were a few moments where I cringed at a bit of coarse pianism, but it was very effective.

The music and the choreography were more lyrical and flowing than in the first half. Towards the end there was a striking lighting change which cast the whole stage in a kind of dappled chequerboard pattern. On one level it was a simple idea, but of course it depended for its effect on where it fell in the work as a whole, including in the arc of moods which the music and the dancing worked through. At the end, rain fell. Once that happens, you know the dancing will have to stop soon, if only for safety reasons.

The audience was younger than that which the ballet attracts, with a higher quotient of (from my perspective) attractive and rather funky younger gay men. That’s partly the art form and its following, but the ticket prices must help. The flip side of the ticket prices is that generally the dance company works these days on recorded music alone – the live musicians in the second half were a special treat. For my money, it was palpable how the live music drew the audience in to a rapt kind of attention in the second half. Maybe it wasn’t really palpable, but sitting up on the side balcony I had a special sense of the warmth of shared engagement which can give live performance its particular thrill. I was heartwarmed, and part of that heartwarming was the feeling that others were, too, with me.

We are social beasts, after all.

2 Responses to “One Night of the Year”

  1. Ezio bosso Says:

    B-Minor and lots of modulations (in 5)
    G-Major (4Th and 6th)
    A-Minor F-Major
    CSharp Minor

    Aria is in a minor. modulate in D

    What a stupid comment about the music… Improve your knowledge if you wanna be a chritic…

  2. marcellous Says:

    I’m not a critic.

    The C-minor heart and soul-ish thing I meant was the minor ostinato which started i-VI (H&S is I-vi-IV-V). If you say so it wasn’t in C minor but the exact letter isn’t really here or there – save that it shows my youthful perfect pitch has wobbled away into unreliability. Probably from not playing regularly enough.

    As to the rest of the comments, I stand by them, but you have to read them in the context, which includes that the music was effective and that the effect (I can’t say wholly as a result of the music though I suggested it had a big part to play) was to nurture a kind of rapt attention which was very special. OK, there was something in there about “coarse pianism” but some of your bigger gestures weren’t exactly Chopin Nocturnes, were they? And nor did they need to be.

    Do you also play for the very short Canberra season? [I know, that assumes you would reply to this. As you please.]

    I realise saying “I am not a critic” is a bit like a talk-back radio host or opinion columnist saying “I am not a journalist” – it’s little comfort to somebody who is rubbed up the wrong way or insufficiently or inaccurately noticed by anything I have written. So even if I said something stupid about the music – not that anyone else on the web at least has said all that much more or better – I’d just like to emphasise that I’m actually the one who is saying he really liked it.

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