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How far can a choreographer go in expressing ideas?


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#16 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 05:55 PM

I wonder if underage folks really weren't allowed in the theater in this case. I'm opposed to legal censorship unless the vile behaviour involves children, but not to setting age limits for viewing the stuff.


Thanks kfw, oh I wasn't referring to this particular dance piece, and really probably would never be talking about a dance piece (although can we be sure?). I was thinking of PG, R, X ratings for movies, I guess, and was writing very fast, so I'm now wondering, though, do you also think the movie ratings shouldn't be age-limited. If the 'vile behaviours' are in a movie about paedophilia (which I guess is what you mean by 'vile behaviours'), they should not be censored if the movie is to to honest, but you bring up an interesting point: Should a ballet with all these extreme acts be different in its policy, in that what Mashinka has described to us may be outrageous, but there just shouldn't be any explicit-looking sex things that involve children. If the theme was still child molestation, or whatever kind of vileness, there could be a way of evoking it without being too explicit, which in thinking about it now, it probably ought to be forbidden in ballet choreography whereas some kind of simulation would probably be the norm in a 'realistic film', wouldn't it?

#17 kfw

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 06:18 PM

Patrick, I can't imagine how a kid could be enriched by any work of art dealing with paedophilia or a lot of other vile adult behaviour, or not be hurt by it. I'm all for movie ratings for the same reason I'm all for parenting. I remember as an 11-year old hearing a recording of the pop singer Melanie -- remember her, I know you're old enough? :wacko: -- in which she practically yelled out an accusation in raw pain. It disturbed me.

I wrote a preview piece for a film festival today and in it referred to John Waters' "Pink Flamingos" as

variously decried and celebrated for its outré behavior and graphic perversity.


That pretty much illustrates my philosophy. Let people know what they're in for, and don't let the PC crowd scare you away from "moral judgment." What would they say about a snuff film?

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 06:53 PM

Yes, that's a good thing to say about 'Pink Flamingos', I guess. Sounds fine to me. Don't know what you mean about the 'pc' crowd. They're all different stripes, I think. If you mean 'hipsters', then that might mean more tha type that go along with the pro-Polanski petition, I don't think anybody except the most extreme is interested in supporting a snuff film, so I think that's across-the-board objecionable. Non-violent pornography isn't the same, even if you think it can be art or never be art. I guess I draw the line at extreme REAL violence, or at least the most important line, and I don't know even the 'hippest, coolest' types who would find anything in a snuff film to do anything bot condemn. They need a basically criminal mindset, don't they? I do recall a clip of a man trapped in a midtown elevator that was going around some of the theory/media studies/philosophy blogs a couple of years ago. I thought all these socialist types, who are so deeply concerned with people they don't know more then their own even in many cases, who didn't realize what a monstrously cruel thing this was to observe as a curious spectacle (it was I think on 6th Avenue, oh yes, now I remember, in the McGraw Hill Building, in a car I had been in when I worked there back in the 70s, the elevator banks are still the same even though there's a lot of Morgan Stanley in it) were completely out of touch. It ruined the man's life to be stuck in this elevator and be unable to get any signal for help through all this time. That's a little like a snuff film. Some of these bloggers were making jokes about it, and I protested vehemently. Now, although the ballet of Frutos sounds trashy, I probably would just dislike it or think it was silly and maybe even funny in a low way, but looking at someone suffering is the worse. So I guess I don't quite answer your question, because these same people who thought it okay to laugh at the man trapped in the elevator were among those most involved in the (quite legitimate) protests against Abu Ghraib, the whole issue of torture that has been such an important issue in the last few years. Even so, i don't think even these childish people would support a snuff film, but you may have meant that as an extreme case, so I just answered as best I could.

#19 dirac

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:17 PM

......don't let the PC crowd scare you away from "moral judgment." What would they say about a snuff film?


They would disapprove, I expect.

I note for the record that 'snuff films' as the term is commonly used and understood are generally believed to be a variety of urban myth and legend.

.....I can't imagine how a kid could be enriched by any work of art dealing with paedophilia or a lot of other vile adult behaviour, or not be hurt by it.


I quite agree.

#20 dirac

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:19 PM

De Frutos said in an interview a few days ago:

"Diaghilev always really liked a succès de scandale. He wanted them to happen. Nothing you can do today would be scandalous any more except for annoying the Catholic Church. So that is my target."

(I haven't seen the piece.)


Well, he's forthright about his motivation, anyway. :wacko: If I believed in censorship this piece as described would be a tempting target, but. I do understand how you feel, Nanarina (referring to Nanarina's earlier post, which I'm not quoting). It's certainly not what I come to a dance performance for.

#21 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:24 PM

Snuff films are sometimes said to be 'urban legend', and probably mostly are, but I find it difficult to believe that they have not been actually made in various vicious circles, and simply never circulated. There are hardcore sadists who have killed people in their cruelty, so i can't imagine they've never filmed any of it. All that stuff with Crispo back in the 80s has a 'snuff aura' to it, although it wasn't filmed. I can't imagine that they haven't been, although I admit i don't know anyone who has ever seen one.

I just think that if Gilles de Rais and Erzbeth Bathory did what they did that it's not a very far leap in the modern day to capture these secret sadistic rituals on film. Come to think of it, there are very famous photographs that Georges Bataille has reproduced in one of his books of a torture to death of a Chinese man, I think it's called 'the thousand cuts', I have seen these horrific photographs, that's not substantially different from a snuff film, just not a moving picture.

#22 dirac

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:31 PM

Snuff films are sometimes said to be 'urban legend', and probably mostly are, but I find it difficult to believe that they have not been actually made in various vicious circles, and simply never circulated. There are hardcore sadists who have killed people in their cruelty, so i can't imagine they've never filmed any of it.


I do see what you mean, and I don't want to send the thread too far afield, but part of the definition of snuff film as commonly used is that it is a movie made for circulation. Murderers have filmed murders, I believe, but it's not the same thing. I mentioned it only to clarify matters for those relatively unfamiliar with the term and to make sure we didn't spend too much time discussing hypothetical views of the nonexistent, to borrow a phrase.

#23 Simon G

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 03:08 AM

I went to see the In the Spirit of Diaghilev programme last night because of the De Frutos, I wasn't going to as those kind of evenings are always much of a muchness, contemporary choreographers reimaging classics very badly, but once I read about the booing etc I thought I'd give it a go. I have to say it was a very very strange evening all round.

Wayne McGregor was his usual self, a rather pretentious concept backed up by his dancers doing their usual funky chicken movements, completely inoffensive.

Cherkaoui again, his usual self, very overwrought, reimagining the "faun" for the umpteenth time. I think there should be a morartorium called on all reworkings involving swans, fauns, sylphs, princesses etc etc The thing is it was completely inoffensive and passed the time a bit, but you came away thinking "blah, so what?"

Russell Maliphant again a choreographer I do like, but this didn't really extend or build on his style and rep and I think this was the crux of the problem with evenings like this when commissions are obviously linked to a theme all that happens is real creativity gets lost behind the concept and slavish adherence to the concept or "spirit" of the event.

And then there was De Frutos and all I can say is wow. Yes, Mashinka is right it was most definitely in your face, offensive, not great De Frutos, gratutious and provocative in a vile and scatalogical way and all I can say is Thank God. I mean, yes, De Frutos is obviously very angry, not just at his own background but I get a feeling he's angry with the dance establishment at the moment (for good reason), the thing he chose to focus on in terms of Diaghilev's spirit was precisely I feel Diaghilev's absolute indifference to social mores, conventions, his relentless purusit of self expression at the expense of acceptability and his love of scandal, sensation and provocation.

Finally in a rather inispid and tedious evening this was a piece in Diaghilev's "spirit". And I'm not saying I enjoyed the piece or thought it was particularly good, but by the same token it was wonderful to see someone so established just not care about delighting or entertaining the punters, for all the reasons that Mashinka rightly criticised the piece, and I'm not arguing with her assessment, but I was happy to see it on stage. (Does that sound schizoid of me?)


For our American friends a bit of back story: Javier De Frutos has been choreographing for years and his work has always been provocative, but he is a very great choreographer who does know what he's doing and has created some phenomenally beautiful work.

Phoenix Dance Company is based in the North of England in Leeds and has been around for over twenty years and for most of that time has been rather mediocre, a second/third tier company at best, with variable dancer quality, not great choreography but funded by Leeds Council. It's always received polite and friendly and rather patronising reviews, crits etc from the London based media who viewed it as a bit of a parochial cousin from the backwaters. It's also had a very chequered history regarding it's artistic directors, no one has ever really given it the "face lift" they promised they would and have left after a few years. Though it has had some very good people at its helm.

In 2006 Javier De Frutos was appointed AD and in the space of a couple of years he turned it into a world class company. Because it was him, he attracted a totally new batch of dancers from top companies, he revitalised the entire rep, bringing in amongst others, Jane Dudley's Harmonica Breakdown, Limon's The Moor's Pavane, Robert Cohan's Forest and he choreographed several beautiful beautiful works. He also had one stinker and that stinker was later used against him. In his very short tenure Phoneix became a company which toured internationally and to London and was ranked under him as being world class, with good reason, it was, bloody wonderful.

Earlier this year he was fired. Reasons cited included his "destruction of the spirit of Phoenix" (ie destroying a 20 year reputation for abject mediocrity); also as reported in several newspapers people in Leeds council felt his direction was "too poofy" and his one choreographic failutre a piece called "Cattle Call" was used against him to block out his remarkable achievements.

He was fired, all the great dancers immediately left, the rights to perform all the great work he brought in to the company, (including his own) were rescinded. Now Phoenix is doing very silly student pieces reminiscent of bad 80s student dance workshops, the company is new and made up of very inexperienced dancers, they no longer tour to anywhere of any real note and when they do it's mainly University theatres etc It's a real crying shame.

#24 Mashinka

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 04:53 AM

I am horrified that de Frutos has lost his job at Phoenix, Simon's assessment of that company's chequered past is quite accurate and I seem to remember one AD in particular being a spectacular failure: firing de Frutos sounds like a classic case of shooting ones self in the foot. I am sorry also that reference was made to his sexuality, although certain critics have been guilty of that too. Under those circumstances he is justified in feeling angry, I just hope he falls on his feet and returns to the quality work that I know he is capable of.

:wacko: Simon, did you figure out the significance of the Eskimo who stood at the side of the stage and then fell over at the start of the McGregor work? I presume he was a metaphor of some sort, but have no idea what.

#25 kfw

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 05:23 AM

De Frutos said in an interview a few days ago:

"Diaghilev always really liked a succès de scandale. He wanted them to happen. Nothing you can do today would be scandalous any more except for annoying the Catholic Church. So that is my target."

(I haven't seen the piece.)


Well, he's forthright about his motivation, anyway. :wacko:

It's a rather adolescent motive, isn't it? Constructively criticize the Catholic Church would be one thing. To just take pot shots for the sake of irritating it is another.

#26 Jane Simpson

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 05:40 AM

Apparently the BBC is filming this programme for airing in December (as one of a series of 3 Diaghilev-inspired programmes) so we shall all (all of us in the UK, that is) get a chance to see it.

#27 bart

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 05:43 AM

Simon, thanks for giving this a context. Thanks also for your neatly expressed thoughts about the other works on the program.

#28 Simon G

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 07:10 AM

Mashinka,

That was no eskimo, that was Ernest Shackleton, that great pioneer of the Ballets Russes. Indeed, what can one say?

For our American chums and those who didn't see Dyad, the piece was about Shackleton's expedition to the South Pole. What does that have to do with the Ballets Russes, you might ask? Well it was in 1909 the same year the BR was founded. Why he chose to commemorate Shackleton, considering all the other things that happened in 1909, - (including the canonisation of Joan of Arc and the US prohibiting interstate transportation of game birds) and what exactly that has to do with the Ballets Russes is beyond me.

But I'm sure he had his reasons. If anyone would like to know what a minor brain haemorrhage feels like there's this article from last sunday's observer in which McGregor talks... and talks... and talks... about the piece and his reasonings behind it.

http://www.guardian....d-sadlers-wells


kfw,

The thing is yes, on the surface, De Frutos' piece sounds adolescent, but throughout his work, his great work he's really explored the theme of Catholicism in relation to his heritage, he's ARgentinian, sexuality, he's a gay activist and the oppression of women by the Church and he's done so with far greater subtlety and wit - so I'm prepared to give him a free pass.

And really, I was so happy to see such a nasty piece of work that actually wanted to provoke on such an insipid evening.

#29 kfw

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 07:44 AM

The thing is yes, on the surface, De Frutos' piece sounds adolescent, but throughout his work, his great work he's really explored the theme of Catholicism in relation to his heritage, he's ARgentinian, sexuality, he's a gay activist and the oppression of women by the Church and he's done so with far greater subtlety and wit - so I'm prepared to give him a free pass.

Thanks, Simon. It's not just the dance itself but his stated intention to "annoy" the Catholic Church and to do so in order to be scandalous (not to be scandalous for some good societal end) that strikes me as adolescent. But you have explained why he hates the Church, and thanks for doing so.

#30 Mashinka

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 07:49 AM

Apparently the BBC is filming this programme for airing in December (as one of a series of 3 Diaghilev-inspired programmes) so we shall all (all of us in the UK, that is) get a chance to see it.


The problem of putting something like this on the box is that the impact diminishes when viewed next to the horrors shown on the news on a daily basis, but whatever the intentions behind its creation, for most people this work will leave a bad taste.


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