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Author Topic: Thin Kilimanjaro air inspires ballet  (Read 5816 times)


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Thin Kilimanjaro air inspires ballet
« on: May 21 2004, 02:09 »

Kilimanjaro has inspired many writers and filmers and now even a Ballet was inspired, although it has little to do with the mountain or climbing .. :P

Ethereal heights of inspiration
(Filed: 20/05/2004)

Ismene Brown reviews Ballet Preljocaj at Brighton Festival
High on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, as the air thinned, the French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj fell into semi-consciousness, feeling his body detaching itself from his senses.

As an inspiration for a dance, this is pretty fantastic, and parts of his new 80-minute creation, Near Life Experience, have a hypnotic ethereality that does indeed make you question the weight of your own body, or to speculate, like a child, whether clouds aren't actually a gigantic soft floor in the sky.

Preljocaj is primarily, I think, an image-maker rather than a choreographer, which may be why some of his pieces are memorably successful (such as Roméo et Juliette and Noces, both penetratingly influenced by male-female conventions in his Albanian homeland) and others so weak (such as Rite of Spring, which desperately needed physically expressive choreography to match the great music).

Near Life Experience, which he unveiled last year, and has been shown at the Brighton Festival this week before visiting London, is half and half.

Some of its images are certainly striking, with a weird disassociatedness. The scene is stark, with two high chairs like tennis umpires' or lifeguards' perches, and two white sidewalls. Into this noncommittal arena pours light in shifting, icy shades, partnered by chill-out music from the French pop duo Air - a cold setting, in which dancers wearing very little play with balls of red wool, or glass globes.

The wool often emerges from dancers' mouths, a compelling image that Preljocaj derived from people reporting near-death experiences, in which they felt that a string had pulled them back into life.

At its most striking, this idea produces a gorgeous scene where four men and four women fashion a formal cat's cradle out of French skipping, ending in volte-face, with the women trussed in blood-red strands standing triumphantly over the collapsed men.
In a more purely lyrical scene, two women skip elfin-like over glass globes, supported by men, as if hovering over a river of soap bubbles.

However, I found it an image too far when a couple with dozens of wine glasses tied to their bodies entered for a very, very careful mating duet. Its intentions might have been unearthly, but I couldn't keep my mind off the missing wine waiter. So much depends, in a hallucinatory piece like this, on making productive connection with the images.

And the choreography must be the weft to the imagery's warp. The attention-seeking opening (a man writhing on a high chair to the loud sounds of a woman's sighs) wasn't reassuring on this front, and the end (possibly the same man lathered in shaving foam being messily born out of the largest ball of red wool) was ridiculous.
There were also dull dances in the middle, too much lying on the back and waving legs.

And yet there was a gamine woman with dainty feet who had a weightless, enchanting session with three men, passed between them with much daring and delicacy, as if they were weaving her dreams; there were sudden heartstopping poses like religious pietàs.

Magic among the torpor, or torpor among the magic. Half-full, or half-empty.
At Sadler's Wells tomorrow and Sat. Tickets: 020 7963 8000

(from the Telegraph website)

"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
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