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.