Note Number 79. . . Reading, Writing,Watching. . .

Closeup of Workspace with Modern Creative Laptop, Cup of Coffee

My everyday: pencil, computer, notebook, textbook. 

Just keeping up with everything really. Still slogging away my dissertation work. I’m creating a portfolio of poems based on dance and I am writing an essay entitled, Stress Behind the Creative Arts of Poetry and Dance — this may change as I read and research but you get the idea?

 

yuli 2

Last week The Man and I watched the film Yuli, the rags to riches story of Carlos Acosta. It’s directed by Icíar Bollaín and the screenplay written by Paul Laverty — a magnificent team.  Even though it’s about ballet it’s a film that anyone could enjoy (The Man did, and he’s not a ballet fan). You can watch the trailer here

No Way Home

I had bought the book, No Way Home, on which the film is based, and settled down to read it the day after watching the film. The book provides far more insight into Carlos Acosta’s personal journey, and sticks more to the facts than the film. It has given me a wealth of material to use in my essay. Of course I will have to be careful it doesn’t turn into an essay just about Carlos. The book was the twentieth book that I have read since January this year — not including text books and poetry books. I have found reading during Lockdown easy, although I know some people have been unable to concentrate. What has helped you pass the time while being stuck at home?

I’ve also been keeping a journal during lockdown, paying particular reference to the stress of creating poetry. Luckily for me, so far, I haven’t found the process too traumatic but perhaps you should ask The Man what he thinks!

Also for research, I am reading Poets on Prozac written by Richard M Berlin. It’s a collection of essays by poets who suffer from mental health problems and have had counselling and/or taken drugs or alcohol to help them. Because of the nature of the content — it’s one-sided; nothing about poets not on drugs etc., — I began to think that I could never be a good writer or poet unless I suffer some kind of breakdown. I need to find a text that shows the other side. Which of course there is, because writing/art/drama/dance are all encouraged to help people relieve stress and tension. 

I have also attended three masterclasses through the Arvon Foundation : Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sebastian Faulks and this week I’ll be joining the poet Kate Clanchy for some tips and advice.  I also watched an evening reading by Tania Hershman. It’s the most exciting experience. There can be up to 200 people in attendance, but we all have to turn off our microphones and cameras so the only person on the screen is the tutor. I can assure you that two hours with Sebastian Faulks made my week!

I can highly recommend the Arvon At Home readings and Masterclasses so do check them out here. Arvon at Home When things are back to the “new normal” I’m definintely checking out their residential retreats.

I’ve added links to all the writers and poets even though I’m sure you know them all. It just makes it easier if you want to find out more information.

 

Tania Hershman: Kate Clanchy: Cathey Rentzenbrink: Sebastian Faulks

Note Number 25…A Visit to the Ballet…

Programme ENB

I’m not a ballet critic nor a balletomane to the fullest extent but I do love a good, live ballet performance and it’s something I missed out on a great deal when living and sunning myself in the region of Le Marche Italy. I was a dance teacher in the UK for twenty-five years and during that time, for four years published a dance magazine called The Youngdancer,  a financial disaster but artistically and personally quite an achievement. I think I know a little bit about dance after that experience.

A trip to London last week and I booked tickets for Sadler’s Wells to see The English National Ballet’s triple bill. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Adagio Hammerklavier and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). I knew a little bit about all three ballets but was a bit worried about The Man, who is not a great lover of ballet but does appreciate the ability of the dancers and has grown to like it more, since he’s been hanging about with me. I had told him beforehand, ‘if you don’t like the dancing at least you can close your eyes and appreciate the music.’

In the Middle

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated

Well, the first performance began with a blackout on stage and an almighty electronic crash that made my heart jump out of my chest and my nerves endings tingle with fear and that’s how the accompaniment  continued. I was regretting my comment immediately. I sat through the dance and for me the whole thing was overpowered by the loud discordant noise of the ‘music’. The dancers could not be faulted and the choreography ‘interesting’ though I’m not a fan the beautiful classical motif being abruptly finished, then a casual walk off stage completely out of character as though to grab a coffee and light up a fag. I’m sure that William Forsythe had his reasons but it’s just not for me. Thom Willems, I did try to like your music. So, basically, jury still out on this one for me, but The Man? He loved it, especially the music. Well, you never can tell…

Adagio Hammerklavier

Next was Adagio Hammerklavier, music by Ludwig van Beethoven. This time music I could not fault you, it was medicine to soothe my damaged drums and lull me back into the world of beauty. Choreography was slow and absorbing, though Hans Van Manen (choreographer) still managed to throw in an unessessary flexed foot every now and then. Why must they do that? Costumes, flowing and fitting. Dancers, technically and artistically striking, bodies working together with a unity and completeness that only comes from rehearsal and hard slog. A joy for me to watch.

Last in the triple bill was Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) choreography by Pina Baush and this was the one I was looking forward to. My daughter had been raving about Pina Baush a couple of years ago and I had not had the opportunity to see any of her work so this was a treat.  Before the performance began, a team of stage assistants, (or they might have been dancers) came on in brown coats and spread the whole stage with peat. As I understand, from the programme, the idea of this was to ‘ground’ the dancers, it’s not a pretty classical dance but, it is to be danced as yourself, to give yourself up to the dance and the music.

rite of spring

The music is by Igor Stravinsky. Pina Baush said that the music was the dance and the dancers are the music. Jo Ann Endicott, who was the rehearsal director for this performance and had worked with Baush in 1996, said that if you weren’t exhausted at the end then you hadn’t danced properly. Well, I can assure you, I was exhausted at the end and I didn’t dance a single step but I was captured and on the edge of my seat for the whole time.  The women’s dance was frenzied, panicky, desperate. They danced in unison, sometimes repeating the same phrase over and over at a frenetic pace, moving huddled together in mesmerising rhythmic, earthy patterns, like animals cornered. They would split apart, running and moving everywhere, then return to the safety of the herd. The feeling of terror and desperation as each girl thought she might be picked out was tangible.  The costumes were simple and cream coloured and were soon covered in the peat from the floor. The men’s bare torsos, heaving and pumping with energy, were quickly dirty and smeared, rendering them, (the men that is) basic and primal.

Passing from one girl to the next was the terrifying, red dress. Though tiny and inert,  it seemed to be the most powerful presence on stage.    The young girl who finally became the ‘chosen’ one in said, red dress, danced herself to death with an outstanding performance. What a sacrifice.

The Man’s verdict on Rite of Spring? ‘Well, what was all that about?’ You just cannot tell what a person will enjoy when it comes to the arts can you? It’s all so subjective.

Next performance visit will be American in Paris  Watch this space.

All photographs used in this post are taken from the English National Ballet programme. Individual photographers were not credited so I cannot credit them here. I hope they don’t mind.