Saturday, October 15, 2011

Clouds, water, paper

"Water Stains on the Wall" was not quite what I expected: I had somehow (unrealistically!) imagined this Taiwanese dance piece that promised to mix up calligraphy and tai chi and ballet and all sorts of other things would capture exactly the magic of something else I saw at BAM in the spring, the ombromanie of Philippe Beau. At any rate, it was nothing like that: it was worthwhile, but I found it frustrating to have so little sense of the separate idioms that are being combined. I am really too much an academic, but I found myself with all sorts of questions I could not at all answer: most pressingly, were there specific postures or movements that would be known to the well-informed viewer as allusions to individual calligraphic characters or sequences? The dancers are interesting to watch (they are extraordinarily athletic), but no cumulative meanings emerge from the patterns on the stage; I think my favorite short sequence was one where the music went silent and the projections across the white sheet-of-paper stage suddenly went much more quickly and more really and truly like clouds across the sky - there were a few other moments that really captured my attention, and it was enjoyable to gaze upon throughout, but it withheld significance from the outside viewer. Also: why, oh why do these top-quality companies think it is OK to perform to recorded music? Really all you need is a couple of excellent people and some good equipment and a sense of what to do: Nico has of course spoiled me for this sort of thing, but the canned music is not convincing to me (it is mostly by this guy, it is not an idiom I know well either but it's the lack of a responsive live sound rather than the actual music as such that strikes me as irksome).

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