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Wendy Whelan/Edward Watson: Other Stories, London, July 2015


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Foteini Christofilopoulou was at the dress rehearsal for this. The programme features three duets: First and Wait by Javier De Frutos, The Song We Share by Danièle Desnoyers and The Ballad of Mack and Ginny by Arthur Pita, and two solos: Dance Me to the End of Love by Arlene Phillips (Watson) and Short Ride Out by Annie-B Parson (Whelan).

 

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Dance Me to the End of Love by Arlene Phillips: Edward Watson

© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabsFlickr

 

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The Ballad of Mack and Ginny by Arthur Pita: Wendy Whelan

© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabsFlickr

 

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The Ballad of Mack and Ginny by Arthur Pita: Wendy Whelan, Edward Watson

© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabsFlickr

 

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Set from DanceTabs: Whelan/Watson ­ 'Other Stories'

Courtesy of DanceTabsFlickr

 

By kind permission of the Royal Opera House

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I enjoyed programme but certainly would not take a child. You need to buy a a programme. Gives background to pieces. Some looked a bit like improvisations of A level students. However I liked Watsons solo but found Whelans a bit repetitive. I also really enjoyed the final tango section, the semi nudity fitted in well, was part of the piece. I don't think we really saw the best of these two dancers skills but it was an interesting evening. Good to see McGregor, Polunin,Arlene and other familiar faces in audience. Full marks to the amazing musicians, fascinating music. Would love to see Tamara in this programme, possibly Zenaida or McCrae! It is good to see something unusual and new. A challenge for me!

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Some impressions from last night.

 

The first piece - a room with empty chairs and the clock ticking. When Whelan tries to walk past Watson, he - by now sitting on one of the chairs - stretches out his leg to prevent her from passing, and this is repeated a few times with different movements. Halfway through, the pattern reverses into Whelan preventing Watson from passing. And then the interaction changes again when Whelan changes into being utterly disinterested in Watson, and Watson tries his utmost to gain her attention however to no avail. I was surprised to see little dancing however looking back I enjoyed the subtle interaction between the two characters displayed, and the variety of Watson's facial expressions as the piece developed from he teasing Whelan to she teasing him to he trying to capture her attention.

 

The solo for Watson - the piece that I enjoyed most. An intriguing duet with a chair, Watson caressing the side of the chair with his toes, jumping on/ off it, crawling under it, dancing around it and always coming back to it. Interspersed with a flurry of pirouettes and jumps across the stage. The emotional state displayed turning increasingly towards desperation, fabulously performed and fascinating to watch from close up, without the barrier of an orchestra pit. The music a mix of live songs (for the interaction with the chair) and classical music (for the pirouettes and jumps).

 

The solo for Whelan - choreographically not my cup of tea. The music - a drummer playing at incredible speed

 

The fourth piece - I've been trying hard to remember anything however my memory fails me :-(    I hope other reviewers on this forum will be able to close the gap.

 

The final piece - As others said above, not for children. A sense of "hate and can't live without". Hats off to the two dancers for the courage to display what the web site describes as semi nudity, as the audience is so incredibly close. The music a tango.

 

I normally don't watch contemporary dance and it was the casting that attracted me to the programme, and this certainly influenced which pieces I liked more than others.

 

Fascinating however to be so close to the dancers on stage, and very good live music played throughout.

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Hate to say it, but I was disappointed by this bill. Love the dancers, love that they strive to do new things with their artistry, but they've yet to find their Maliphant, Khan or Ek in the same way that Guillem has shown fresh life after classical ballet.

The Javier de Frutos might have looked much stronger closer to, but way up in the gods it just looked slow and fiddly. Liked the originality of set and sounds (ticking clock), wish I had had some tank binoculars.

I love the enthusiasm of Arlene Philips in real life, but I don't think her solo for Watson and a pair of red high heels really took off as plot or amazing movement. The Annie-B Parson solo for Whelan also had red footwear in - this time red slippers, also used as a prop - and with much purposeful patrolling of the stage boundaries. The haphazard movement didn't draw me in at all. Luckily the drummer (it's one long drum solo) was entertaining to listen to and watch.

The headline and longest piece, the Arthur Pita with all its nudity, suspenders and flick knives, seemed gratuitous to me. It shocked a little, but the  pay-off of a story you might believe in wasn't there. Again, being a way back might not have helped. I always think of Pita as a trustworthy deliverer of quirky good things, but this seemed cheap. That left Daniele Desnoyers' piece as the best of the bunch - this was about two great dancers coming together and exploring their dance making, which none of the other pieces really did. Trust a woman to not get carried away and deliver a good professional job, I thought. And trust a man to put a woman in suspenders, was the thought that rapidly followed.

Musically I thought Frank Moon did a great job and the Jean-Marc Puissant set intrigued - all very classy. But come the end I counted myself lucky that I didn't have to review it as such (Jann Parry is covering for DanceTabs) because if I did I'd probably end up saying 5 star dancers deliver a 2 star show. Perhaps a little harsh, but the broadsheet reviews to date, while saying many nice things are giving it 3 stars. I suspect we all hoped for more, given the ingredients.

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I'd go with Bruce on this one. Liked the 4th piece, but everything else teetered on boredom for me. Interstingly, some critics slammed that 4th piece, so what do I know.

Great to see Wendy Whelan as close as about 10ft away though - even if that 10ft was largely vertically from above

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Well I hope it worked out nicely for you and, rep aside, just gotta see them while you can.

I enjoyed it.  The rep could, as several have said, be better; and I hope that given the talent of these two dancers they find some better material and continue to work together over the coming years.  I found it all interesting at worst.  Not sure why the fuss about the "nudity"; you just see Wheelan's bare back (while you know, but don't really see, she is bare chested away from the audience) and Watson's bare bum.  

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I like Luke Jenning's attitude: 'let's hope its the start of something'. I can see it being a fruitful partnership, but both have busy careers. I wasn't too bowled over by and large. I did find the sliding flats a clever device but the Linbury sound staff (or the musicians?) had troubles with noisy cables, unplugging noises and other intrusive slips. in addition, I really didn't like the crazy drumming solo Wendy danced to. 'Dance Me To...' and Watson's solo were my favourites, despite the slightly bizarre ruby slippers moment!

Edited by nickwellings
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I found myself, not unlike Bruce and Dave above, quite disappointed if not frequently downright bored - and that at a programme of only one hour and ten minutes in length.  I did not feel any of the 'Other Stories' pieces TRULY honoured the uniqueness of these extraordinary artists or, indeed, particularly pushed them to any level new or exciting.  

 

I found myself just longing to see Wendy Whelan once more - just once more - in The Cage, or in In G Major or leading a battalion in Union Jack or disappearing so mysteriously in La Sonnambula but of course knowing that would never happen again.  I was equally distressed that the rather wan solo for Edward Watson and a pair of ruby slippers was finally set to the poem 'Dance Me to the End of Love'.  Surely they must have known that was originally created to celebrate the retirement of the magnificent Canadian ballerina Karen Kain.  Hers was unquestionably a much more varied affair in terms of its jubilation and I pray that if Whelan and Watson do work together again that the outcome finds some diversity of inspiration just a tad closer to the former's order.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I was equally distressed that the rather wan solo for Edward Watson and a pair of ruby slippers was finally set to the poem 'Dance Me to the End of Love'.  Surely they must have known that was originally created to celebrate the retirement of the the magnificent Canadian ballerina Karen Kain.  

 

??? It's a Leonard Cohen song about the Holocaust, written more than 10 years before Kain retired. In any event, it's quite possible that Arlene didn't know that the same lyrics might have been used for another piece on the other side of the Atlantic.

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????? Oh, I'm sorry.  I must be wrong of course.  It was just that the piece was featured in the Documentary called KAREN KAIN: DANCING IN THE MOMENT. Leonard Cohen not only talks about it there, he performs it.  I didn't realise he had written it ten years earlier.  He didn't mention that.  I will quote the blurb from the video:

 

Profile of ballerina Karen Kain, whose long affiliation with the National Ballet of Canada and continuing dedication to the dance is described by herself and others. She is seen receiving the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in Ottawa in November 1997, and at her farewell performance with the National Ballet of Canada in Winnipeg on October 4, 1997. Performances specially recorded for this program andfootage of past performances demonstrate her special qualities as a dancer, which are described in tributes from her colleagues. The program concludes with Leonard Cohen's reading of "Dance me to the end of love," a poem written especially for her.

Edited by Bruce Wall
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????? Oh, I'm sorry. I must be wrong of course. It was just that the piece was featured in the Documentary called KAREN KAIN: DANCING IN THE MOMENT. Leonard Cohen not only talks about it there, he performs it. I didn't realise he had written it ten years earlier. He didn't mention that. I will quote the blurb from the video:

 

Profile of ballerina Karen Kain, whose long affiliation with the National Ballet of Canada and continuing dedication to the dance is described by herself and others. She is seen receiving the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in Ottawa in November 1997, and at her farewell performance with the National Ballet of Canada in Winnipeg on October 4, 1997. Performances specially recorded for this program and[/size]footage of past performances demonstrate her special qualities as a dancer, which are described in tributes from her colleagues. The program concludes with Leonard Cohen's reading of "Dance me to the end of love," a poem written especially for her.[/size]

Wouldn't be the first time the discription of a video online contains factual inaccuracies. Don't believe everything you read on the interwebby. [Dance me to the end of love was released in 1984, in case you're interested.] Edited by bangorballetboy
Correction of spelling mistake
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I saw the final performance of this yesterday, and I must say I largely agree with Bruce in post #15 above, so I won't repeat what he said.  My quick reactions....

 

The opening de Frutos piece bored me rigid because there wasn't enough variety.  The real-time ticking clock on the wall served the function of me looking at it over and over again to see how long this piece had been going on;  at about 12 minutes it was way too long to sustain the nothing that was happening onstage.  Five minutes might have been cute;  12 was just a bore. 

 

Ed's big solo piece imagined him remembering a lost love.  We were able to see flickers of Ed's dancing talent here, but there could have been more, much more, choreography that showcased what he can do.  And much as I am a fan of Ed both technically and dramatically, I'm sorry, but there is only one person who should ever wear ruby slippers, and she is on a farm in Kansas somewhere.

 

The main reason I wanted to see this show was to be able to see Wendy Whelan dance again.  Her solo piece provided snippets of dance to remind us of what a great ballerina Whelan is, but was more a parade of facial expressions attached to a wonderful body that was trying to find interesting things to do but not quite succeeding. 

 

The Daniele Desnoyer piece was my favourite;  fluid dancing, emotional, meaningful, with both dancers engaged with one another on all levels.  This is a pas de deux that could clearly be developed into something more, and I wish it had been longer.

 

The final piece, based on Brecht/Weill's 'Threepenny Opera', did catch some fire, not least because of the lovely tango dancing and wonderful arrangement of Brecht's tango from the play.  There were moments of humour as well, but also moments of cliché that you find in many dances based on Noir:  the femme fatale with the cigarette, red lipstick and the blade, the jealous, macho male who humiliates the woman when she gets beyond herself with the flirting, the retribution of the female on the male...and so it goes on.  I liked that they both killed each other at the same time;  ultimately death is the great leveller and these two showed that there is equality when everything else is (literally and metaphorically) stripped away.

 

I liked how the whole production ran from one piece into the next.  It was very smooth and the transitions of music and set were very well done.  I was standing Middle Gallery Left, and sticking out from that level was a big bank of lights, which blocked the left side of the stage quite badly.  I had no idea that Ed had been at the piano until I read a review this morning.  Most of the orchestra was totally blocked, as was the singer.   When Whelan/Watson were on the left side of the stage I had to peer through lighting just to catch an arm or a leg.  This was very annoying;  the tickets cost more to stand for 65 minutes than for a whole three-act ballet on the main stage, and I wish that they had been sold as restricted view so we would have known. 

 

Was it worth missing most of the Wimbledon men's final for?  Just, as it wasn't a classic final.  Was it worth all the hype about Ed's bare bum?  Errrrr.....yes.  Was it worth seeing these two great dancers onstage, despite the lack of meaty choreography?  Definitely.  One needs to see them every chance they get, and I hope, as others have said, that this is just the start of something great.

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Try finding me any review where Macaulay has been "kind" to Watson ...  Although I *am* considering bookmarking it for easy reference next time I need my memory jogging as to all the things he hates about him.

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Sadly I'm also in the 'somewhat underwhelmed but hopeful for future ventures' camp. A small part of me wonders whether 2 quirky individual accidentally cancel each other out and their combined choices end up being the dance equivalent of suburban humdrum.

 

I thought the music for the last piece was quite clever, contemplated whether the drummer is always barefoot, spend about 6 minutes intensely hating the snare drums (I've had hangovers that sounded like that drum solo) and marvelled at how good they looked despite some of the material.

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