Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stravinsky: A Mortal

I never thought of Igor Stravinsky as a person, a human man.  It was always about the music for me and then a few years back I saw Robert Craft circling the Maestro like a buzzard and when the day came that I tried to download a ringtone in 2006 from The Rite of Spring and it was listed as "composer Robert Craft" I was spitting nails. I have had arguments with people who accuse me of assuming Stravinsky was "stupid enough" to let a "buzzard" around him.  Well.  Years go by, Craft's book about Stravinsky and his sexuality comes out and well well...

I look at this picture and see so much intensity and passion in the face of such a young man.  I am told he was difficult to live with.  I have learned that he kept Ekaterina - his wife pictured - in the loop with his relationship with Vera de Bosset who would become his wife once E. was gone. They say he could not tear himself away from her so he took her with him into his affair (s)?

All these years and it escaped me that he was a regular person, son, husband, friend, father...

As far as the whole "Igor and Coco" thing, this is what I have to say:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chosen One Poker #1

When I first started writing about Nijinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" in 2007, I was studying World War II and reviewing Holocaust Survivor memoirs (not an easy gig). But once I saw the ballet, it was as if I was possessed! So much to learn!  So much to study! Which dancer is this?  What company is that? I dropped everything for a while and went all in.

And all to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring!?   The 1987 Joffrey performance is some sort of spiritual vortex.  Starting your education in a vortex is awesome.  I'm going to write about that.

Of course in the beginning I knew little but blogged my heart out. And in that pursuit, driven initially by love of Stravinsky, I amassed a serious  collection of Le Sacre performances on my YouTube channel.  Next time you see a video of the 1987 Joffrey, it's mine.  I am proud of that. 

Like everyone else, the 1987 Joffrey was my first exposure to Nijinsky. I had to know everything then write about it.  Watch it again, write more, talk people to death about it... but I'll get to that later.

The second Chosen One video I saw was The Mariinsky's Alexandra Iosifidi.  I wrote often that she was not suited to the role and was harsh about it.  I am unforgiving in my opinions but I should keep that to areas where I actually have the credibility to do it (history).  I wrote to Miss Iosifidi this week to apologize and she was glad I made the apology and "changed my mind".  She knew I wrote negatively about her and so wasn't that was very gracious?  As for her dancing - she is prima and lovely in classic performance.   I couldn't get my head around her Chosen One - too graceful.

Of course,  Marie Claude Pietragalla's performance in The Four Variants was outstanding.  My father insisted there could be no better, in love with her synchronicity to the timpani or the low brass.  Being an adoring fan of Pietra's I agreed. Understanding the music, I agreed more!

Until I saw the video of  Teatro dell'Oper di Roma's Gaia Straccamore:

She was it.  There could be no better.  And that horrible orchestra!  Actually, I liked it. It was like a rusty old thing but she did not miss one rusty old note. I felt it improved on the emotion. There is no way to tell from the video that she is a wonderful person, enormously talented and extremely beautiful.

Then came Daria Pavlenko.  This girl is kooky, I know it.  I like her and I like the abandon and drama she forces into those 5 minutes.  She kills the death rattle and drop to the floor.  On the whole, she is fantastic and she bails the Russians out.  They will never be that great. But check her out:

Oddly, in an interview with her, she was very sedate, nothing like the character she BECOMES.  It reminded me of how these dancers transform themselves.

And a seasoned dancer can do that.  But sometimes they do not need to be "seasoned" at all...

A great example  Margarita Simonova, a gorgeous young Polish girl - an artist in her own right and I can see her going deep into performance art - who was born for this role.

There are some nuances that just grab you.  Small gestures that distract you from the ballet for a moment.  I did a lot of going back to see THIS part of THAT part 3 and 4 times. I love her.  The video quality I don't love but here she is :

Now comes Rio's Rachel Ribeiro.  This poor girl's video is such garbage quality that it makes it hard to actually see her. I got caught up in the shitty orchestra.  My goodness!  Tempo all over the place to the extent that it seemed deliberate. Musicians. They hate ballet.   But she hangs in there!  It's kind of shocking that she manages to pick out the precise moments in THE RITE OF SPRING for starters...but when it is played so badly and she STILL does it?  I give her SERIOUS credit for that.  

After watching it 3 times, I saw some sweetness in her performance that I hadn't seen before.  A shyness in the "sacrifice".  It's endearing.


I wish to see Magdelena Ciechowicz, Karen Mesquite, and as I am writing this I found a CLEAN copy of the Mariinsky's "new girl in town" and AT LAST a good video of Maude Sabourin, Monte Carlo....and of course, Beatriz "B-Rod" Rodriguez...

I love revisiting the beginning of my "affair" with this ballet. More to say in part deux.

For those 3 of you who read this thing...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pietragalla's History of History

Today is August 10, 2017 in the Pope's month of prayer petitions for artists who have contributed to the beauty of life.  Marie-Claude Pietrgalla has done that. Her show "Conditions Humaines" brought some new hybrid dance and  ran the full mile of the historical tradedy known as the Courrieres Mining Disaster. Pietragalla visited this event and produced nearly everything that was experienced without saying a word.  This is a short clip.

It was thought the majority were overwhelmed and suffocated by coal dust but this would never really be known. The workers were forced to use lamps with naked flames (as opposed to the more expensive Davy lamps), despite the risk of gas explosions.

“ The primary cause of the Courrières catastrophe could not be determined with absolute certainty. This is what generally happens in catastrophes where all the witnesses to the accident are gone.[wikipedia]"

The rescue and recovery effort was ridiculous. The French - no surprise - lacked even the simplest of training for such a disaster and the time it took to even begin the rescue mission was a cluster f*ck. It was (again no surprise) when the Germans were called in that the actual order of the mission took shape and crews began pulling from the rubble severely injured survivors - but mostly they retrieved dead bodies. 

(photo Pascal Elliot)

On March 30th, 20 days after the explosion, 13 workers were found alive, having survived by slaughtering and eating one of the cart horses used in the mine. Finally, on April 4th, the last survivor was found. Though I couldn't find anything about him other than that he was given the Legion of Honor which I find almost hilarious - the country's medal of honor for surviving 24 days in the its own death trap of a mine where the poor were exploited for shit wages and pushed to their own deaths? Does that not sound like some kind of early day hush money to you? 

Anyway, though I found nothing to substantiate it, I imagine this guy was completely out of his tree when they rescued him and would rather have died. At the very least, he couldn't have been easy to live with after that spending almost a month alone in a collapsed mine shaft, silent but for the occasional rumble of the earth and the fading cries of the dying somewhere buried in the dark.

CONDITIONS HUMAINES  pulled at all of the threads of a mining class:  the struggle, the romance, the fears and celebrations, the poverty, the solidarity, the tragedy...and the survival.  W
hen you put the commonality of humanity around it - before it, that is - it begins to reach us as if it is our own memory as it becomes any man's story. Every strange gesture, every moment of sleepwalking in shock feels so real...because we too have walked like that, stood defeated that way, postured this way, felt inside the way that dancer is expressing sexual tension or anger. That it becomes this without a word being spoken is where in my opinion - what brings her to a high level as a choreographer and performance artist.   The mind is not free to wander with her because we are experiencing something on that stage that created.

(clip depicting the suffocation)

I watched the linked highlights clip above when I first found this and for an hour after I thought about what it might have been like in the weeks following the mine collapse and how othe ranks would have closed. That community of mineworkers who were not killed would have survived with each other because of each other and only they would understand the loss. A class of people becomes a culture of resentment and life becomes a task: a task of forgiveness, the burden of getting over anger. 

But you still have to eat so you go back to the mines and you never forget the sounds from that day, the cries, the growing silence that followed, the slow process of digging for your friends, your children, your fiancee, your father. 

The dance clip of the group of men in miners hats at the beginning made me feel the panic as life caves in on you.  These movements were mind blowing and evidence that Derouault would have a major impact on the direction of the Company. 

I went to The Nutcracker once. I kept thinking about how much laundry I had to do.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

You Don't Have To Dance (Roza Puzynowska)

This month the Pope has asked that we pray for artists who have shed beauty on creation.  That leaves 80's hair bands and Basquiat out and I'm alright with that.

Artist.  The strokes to define it get broader and broader...but there is a pearl in every 50 or so clam shells.  Artistry is free to be what it chooses, ask any jazz player who has never played with more than 15 people in the audience.  But that's another story.

Today's Artist is ROZA PUZYNOWSKA.  

I have begun exploring the strong spiritual connection to Le Sacre du Printemps that exists in non-dancers. It's like a barnacle.  It attaches and won't be ignored. So we create from there:  painting, photography, writing, debating on my '87 Joffrey video on YouTube for 7 years....

If you're going to have a barnacle this is the one to have because it pulls something out of you but then returns it to you with another layer.

Artist Roza Puzynowska created something with paint and canvas that was well received and celebrated in Poland and globally.  This happens.  

But her subject was Le Sacre and she returned it to us with that other layer!  And this is something that only the gifted can recognize and embrace.  I look at the scale of her subject and that alone is overwhelming.  Gericault"Raft-of the Medusa" overwhelming.   But a bit more novel.

She used the dancers of  Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa as models and distorted them into something that is as equally  compelling in its stationary existence as the ballet is - or should be - in it's frenetically intense motion.

Are you with me?

Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is a musical miracle, freestanding, dependant upon nothing else but itself.

Nijinsky's "Le Sacre" should spring from the score and reach its own space but it does not necessarily do that.  There is no math.  There is no logic.  It is from the gut or it doesn't come.  As a stand alone piece it runs the risk of derailing anytime the curtain goes up, save The Joffrey which holds the Nijinsky Inheritance (you can read on that here).

Puzynowska's  stationary presentation of Le Sacre is not some paint and canvas installation.  It is startling: a  denial of space restriction, a sporadic saturation, an intimate knowledge of the demand on the body:  bodies she knows personally that releve' this way, constrict that way and she delivers a free standing work of art.  

She thread a needle here because the paintings did not spring from the solidified Rite but rather from the complex ballet that sometimes struggles to solidify itself.

This is the  "layer" that the barnacle returned.  The proof is on the canvas.

Congratulations to the artist Roza Puzynowska for her fearlessness in picking up something that is so alternately strong and  fragile in spirit that its failure would seem a sure thing.

Instead, she has given us another meaningful layer in the mystery of Le Sacre.

It will not go away.


(It should be noted that I have only seen her "making of" series and that's where I found The Artist)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Nijinsky Inheritance (part 1)

The '87 Joffrey debut of Nijinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" was uploaded in three poor quality  installments in January 2010.Seven Years,  one million views and about 1,800 comments later, it remains the most watched and copied video of that explosive ballet - the anti-ballet - that left us in stunned silence. 
(installment 1)

There will be a comment today and tomorrow and I will be notified by YouTube because it was me who posted those crappy 3 installments and have spent 7 years since involved in some way with the mystery of Le Sacre.

This "dissertation" is my take on an aspect that can not be proved nor disproved.  It is ethereal and believable and as essential to the "story" as any fact. At least 80% of the facts.

After a grueling stretch of picking the bones of this long lost skeleton we know as 1913's "Le Sacre du Printemps", Millicent Hodson, Ken Archer with Robert Joffrey presented one of the most defining moments in dance history; one so far reaching that I don't believe anyone really knew in the  beginning just how far it would go. I still find an awe at their commitment to this "salvage mission".  One can not push that long and that deeply into a "maybe" without something outside of themselves doing some of the driving.

So, was it good?

"Was the 1987 Joffrey performance - aside from being historically significant, good?"

It was more than that.  It was alarming.  And then you learn the details:  this performance was a shock of oneness with everything, with all things from composition to libretto to expectation to realization and the resulting burden that would befall any choreographer approaching The Rite of Spring. It takes less than five minutes of watching that video to see that Le Sacre du Printemps and the Joffrey Ballet exist together, fully engaged. I believe this ballet was theirs before it was theirs.  And will likely be for all time.

Essentially, these 3 heroic previously mentioned people tossed into our laps not just a shocking game changer of dance, but also the tragic story of a  young man's masterpiece that would be forgotten before it had a chance to be remembered. This horrible moment for Nijinsky who stayed true to Roerich's concept and kept up with Stravinsky's perfect cacophony - is a human tragedy that resonates with us in mysterious ways. It draws us in from spectacle to the wretchedness behind it.  We identify with the emotion of it: rejection, fear, jealousy, many of us identify with the emotion of it. 

Although our first first Chosen One was a corps dancer, no etoille,  Beatriz Rodriguez is as important, historically as Maria Plitz of 1913 for did they not both step onto a stage and perform an outrageous 5 minutes of leaps after an overly long and awkward standing position with no template, every reason to think it would fail in it's outrageous challenge to those seeing it for the first time.  I can tell you nothing about Maria Plitz of the 1913 Ballet Russes and how well or poorly she did.  I can only speak to Beatriz Rodriguez' Chosen One.  There were stand out moments in her solo but it was the "death rattle" that nailed it.  It is from the theory students' comments that it has become fresh again. They did not expect anything to jar them beyond the task of playing THe Rite of Spring when they were assigned to watch this thing.  But they were most definitely shaken by Beatriz.  Example:

Wow.  You can see in her eyes she knows it is over.

Fucking hell this is scary!  Way more than the music.

These comments become - 30 years later - some of the most important "reviews" because  in them, Beatriz Rodriguez becomes "great".  Fresh,  wide eyes, no dance background, dragged kicking and screaming by their music professor to these videos and  left completely mesmerized. SO much that keep returning to it.   That, I believe, sets her in history, As much as she might ever get, I suppose.

Yes, most of us come at Le Sacre through history's  Chosen Ones but it is in the ensemble where we find the impossibility of the anti-ballet's reality.     It is too difficult to examine without first suspending the logical academic thinking so take a breath.   There is an organic component to the Joffrey's place in Le Sacre.  It exists in 1913.  I believe in this theory wholly. 

The Joffrey Ballet is the 101st musician in the pit; they are the woman who sat entranced by the Chosen One amidst the chaos of May 29, 1913;  they are a company of one and that company - I am convinced - has some type of organic existence in that debut.  Yes, dramatic but what explanation is there for a regularly changing group of dancers to exist for 34 minutes as something outside of themselves? To even exist for 4 minutes in that unfettered and almost aggressive space would be a struggle at best. And it is for MANY Companies.  But not for them.

This Company's deep but natural investment in Nijinsky's choreography  is why I have come to believe the greater part of Le Sacre du Printemps is spiritual.  And in its residual form, it has to be Vaslav Nijinsky.

How lucky we are to have had him and to have recovered Le Sacre (I will not debate the accuracy) but how little we think of the price he paid. We received  "Le Sacre du Printemps"  from Nijinsky - perhaps through the same channel that the Maestro "received" The Rite for he stated he did not compose it in the mathematical sense.

Whoever received what and however they received it, the one thing about which I feel most certainly is the abuse Nijinsky suffered over his own greatness.  And his lack of preparedness for that speaks to a childlike disposition.  Or a sociopathic one.  I feel it is the former and that lends itself to the terribly heavy sadness that lurks behind the greatest choreography I think we might ever know.

Denied, cast off, crumbling mentally, no longer dancing, fearing his life is becoming threadbare, he suffered from the cold fact that his masterpiece was not only misunderstood, but deliberately forgotten. Slowly, he became notes left in a drawer here, a scrap there, a memory, a sketch...he was being erased.  He was truly an abandoned man.  A sensitive, boundless artist can not handle that and if they should have to handle it how tragic that it would be alongside a psychotic break to schitzophrenia. 

Now look.  I have said from the beginning I am not classically educated but  I am not spinning this into a fairy tale.  It was a fairy tale before I got to it, a gossamer veil it's only protection from the coming onslaught of scoffers and deniers and  I love a person who makes a challenge on authenticity because the burden of proof becomes theirs. Scoff on, denier for that reconstruction, was almost too little too late, and all of this might have been nothing but a rumor. It would have been as the first 9 centuries of music, lost forever, a gap in history. We have everything that could possibly be garnered from Le Sacre.   It is all we have. It is more than we ever imagined and more than we deserve and to deny it is killing Nijinsky twice.

It is said people are ahead of their time but Nijinsky was ahead of the orbit of the earth for how else could an 80 year lost ballet become the current-day yardstick by which we measure contemporary dance?   Imagine (now you have to suspend disbelief)  Nijinsky fading from his own "fade".  Each year he became less until he had no voice at all, no lingering presence and it became less likely that he would ever realize his work or be realized for it.

Someone is reading this thinking "oh man all that's mising is dry ice and a soprano hollering Italian at us".  And one can think that, absolutely.  They would be missing the biggest piece of this undefinable salvage of dance and spirit and the mystery of human nature but stick with the probable if you must.  And I will take the possible.  Like Jerry Lewis at a Mariinsky reception, I'll take it.

If Stravinsky's own words hold sway on the concept of receiving Le Sacre,  - and we are talking about a man about to be proclaimed a genius for all time though he did not say it in that particular year - then the logic would follow that there was, indeed, a deep spiritual event taking place that spring in the months leading up to May 29, 1913.  Of course "Spiritual Event At The Rite" doesn't sell like "Riot...".

But it was never achieved.

The cord that connected the Roerich the librettist to the Stravinsky the composer to Nijinsky the choreographer - and that was the only connection those two ever had - snapped.  With the first whistle or yell or shout from the audience, it ended. Unknowingly, there was an undoing of what should have been done and by a "riot". A French riot.  When you examine our own human nature it is likely that these people railed against themselves and their own inability to see, hear or process what was going on.  It was a sensory overload and when we do not understand something or we are disturbed by something that feels strange, 
we lash out.  We do not, in all cases, stretch ourselves to meet the strangeness. These Parisian patrons of the arts were stuffy, entitled and living in an era where it was acceptable to be so and their money dictated the stage.  Wrong people.  Wrong era.  And there would be no stretching.   

But there would be an effigy.

Stravinsky was flush and Nijinsky never even got to pick up his last card, it was obvious the first moment the curtain went up and he would shortly lose everything to a world where you are easily forgotten, left behind by "the out of sight out of mind" mentality which had to have been so thick in that time bomb of experimental art (now I'M stretching!).  And it still exists in the dance world.   From  my obstructed spot on the periphery, I can clearly see it.

But this was the Great Nijinsky! The dancer whose leaps were known the world over,  a beloved Russian dancere!  How could it happen?  Because he did something wrong - at least according to that era.
He took that (metaphorical) leap into uncharted area - which is high risk stuff - and he was likely unaware of it:  by breaking so hard with tradition he broke ground and opened the door for everyone who couldn't or didn't and it came at great cost that I am certain he did not forsee.

Most ground breakers are not recognized as such in the immediate but seldom are they dismissed and laughed out of their careers, I mean this was dramatic.  And I am leaving the love/sex exchange-for -goods Diaghilev angle aside for too many reasons to list the greatest of which is "so what?".

Millicent Hodson in congress with forces she may have suspected brought something of a perfection to the stage with the 1987 Joffrey ensemble.  I will say it again:  they were perfection and have remained perfection while other companies Hodson works with equally range from "meh" to "eh".

Why is this? This is what I believe:

When The Joffrey Ballet rescued Vaslav Nijinsky and brought to fruition the thing on which he staked his reputation, he left to them , in exchange, his Inheritance.  There will be no other Company to understand the "cord" that connects the pit to the stage,  the narrow past to the wildly adoring present, the judgment of artistic risk  to the crown of genius.  Nijinsky experienced only one side of this in his lifetime. And the other glorious side he left for the Joffrey Ballet to experience, forever.

If you think I am some philistine with a little bit of Le Sacre in her pocket I am not hurt by it.  There was a time when I didn't consider listening to the opinions of others on anything if they were not on my level. I am not embarrassed by my lack of credentials.
 There are at least 900,000 more of me on YouTube, watching my 3 low-def installments unceasingly for 7 years now and I find that as gratifying as any clinical knowledge I might have had.  I also find it very mysterious.  

We are the fringe, the oddities, who seem to grasp fully, in a curious way, what this ballet means.  And, like I did,  they come back again and again with new information, new appreciations and questions.  I would say more than 50% of the viewers are repeat offenders if not habitual.  I think I moved a little faster into it but it was Stravinsky- driven, my hero. I learned so much more about him through the current day existence of Le Sacre du Printemps and all that went with it, before it and after it. I was perpetual in my need to learn more and as I learned and wrote insanely emotional pieces and started to stalk live performances and began archiving the Chosen Ones I spoke with people I never imagined would want to speak with me. 

And I was given crucial advice by a very big player.  She said "Fatova, if you don't have a degree, the doors will not open."  She was right.  I do the best I can with the few former dancers who wish to work with me on projects about their "Chosen One" experience but I remain plugged in to those videos and the people who are reacting to it for the first time. 

(Ok, its not for everyone and they are not always accurate but it is emotional and compelling and they are answering each others' questions.)

These are my people.  THIS is my Le Sacre.

The resurrection of Nijinsky goes further than the community of dance, the academia of dance history, the music theorists, the painters like ROZA and it lands on the computer keyboards of  unsuspecting students or people who like dance and are tooling around YouTube for something cool. I believe the fact that this is even happening  is the hallmark of something spiritually significant.

A man posting to the video that Le Sacre was nothing more than "senseless jumping", was encouraged by a young student to listen first then use his eyes and he will see the absolute sense of it. This was a kid offering the suggestion not in judgment but almost in a familial way and I felt so proud of this stranger.  And he was dead on.

There is of course the guy who wrote "the motherf*cker at 2:54 looks like a bird".

But...BUT...he watched 2 minutes and 54 seconds of Nijinsky's ballet that we nearly lost to the vagueness of time and the inclination to forget which that propels. This crass kid watched Le Sacre du Printemps and it got to him enough that he weighed in.  
 He commented.  

From 1913 Paris all the way to this goof, Le Sacre du Printemps is a continuing thing. 

Think about that.   And think well.  Because so much more is yet to come...

So much more is yet to spring from it. 

-Fatova Mingus

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

She Too Is Elastic

Finally talked with dancer/performance artist Andrea Ladanyi.  Look at this:

Cool no?  She is far more Hungarian than me.  I do not even remember languages there or Ukraine but I am fluent in nonsense and pig latin.

Andrea, like me and like these wild comment kids on my Le Sacre YouTube Clips, feel some sort of resonating mysterious thing, like a residual memory or echo of Nijinsky's voice that lingers in us.  I am reminded of Pietragalla's "theater of the body" but she uses the French version now nonetheless...it holds water.  There is an elastic body memory that allows us to identify with past events, recognize them not cognitively but spiritually.  

Beatriz is the big key here.

All of these new people finding the '87 Joffrey Le Sacre seem to freak out over the end of Beatriz' performance and I see why!  She has exhausted herself not only in the role but in her own body!  The line must become blurred - am I an exhausted dancer making history on live tv or am I "becoming" her?

As I wrote earlier, Beatriz is the first.  She and Maria Plitz are equal firsts.  The difference is Beatriz was on live television and flying blind.  Again...

The Nijinsky Inheritance

comes into play. That performance was frightening.  You can look for vapid faces, disengaged Russians, dancers trying to count The Rite and mistakes all over....you can.  You can look for that.

You will not find it.  

Beatriz is one heroic chick.  I feel she needs more recognition, always have felt that way.  There is some mystery I recall over her leaving the company?  No matter...she is having a resurgence of appreciation and adoration in these young peoples' comments and I want to tell her!

Andrea and I decided to hunt for her but I would be doing the work because I am a blood hound. And she is creating.  

It would be corny to say "Nijinsky intervened" because in the end he was a crazy Russian and let the poor thing rest also it would sound too crazy.  Like I'm Stevie Nicks.

Life intervened.

I find 11 photos online and Millicent wrote her and I feel like I have almost found Waldo...