This is the time of when the dance critics in the national press write their reviews of the year. They mostly choose ballets they’ve seen in London and a few safe, mediocre contemporary dance pieces, mostly by safe male British choreographers. I skim them and feel alienated.
I don’t live in London and haven’t really ever seen a classical ballet performance that I found at all interesting – there may be some but unless you live in London you don’t really get opportunities to see them. But basically I’m allergic to ballet. So here’s top ten dance experiences in 2015, some live, some video, with links.
1.) In early February I went to Cairo at the invitation of Adham Hafez. One of the people he introduced me to is the film maker Kinda Hassan. She told me about her film Cairography, a dance film made with choreographer Dalia Naous. It shows footage secretly filmed of dancers alone on the streets of Cairo doing everyday movements that make up surreptitious dances that are almost invisible to those passing by. It challenges the State’s control over citizens through challenging its economy of shame.
2.) At the beginning of March I went to Berlin to see Adham’s 2065 a piece I had seen in rehearsal in Cairo. It was presented as part of the ‘Return to Sender’ season at the HAU. The season was about the Berlin Conference in in 1885 where western diplomats divided up Africa. 2065 imagines a future where the African continent is the dominant financial and political power while Europe has suffered an ecological and financial disaster, so that in a new Berlin Conference, African nations divide up Europe.
Adham Hafez 2065 BC, part of “Return to Sender”at HAU, Berlin
3.) In April I saw Xavier LeRoy’s Untitled 2014 at the Kaaitheater in Brussels. In three parts, it The first part breaks with the usual arrangement of theatre space which separates stage from auditorium as Le Roy stands in the auditorium just in front of the stage and asks the audience if they remember an untitled piece from 2005. In the other two parts he dances first with a life size puppet and then performs movement material which does not conform to expectations of contemporary dance, or indeed how living beings move.
[photo from Xavier Le Roy’s website http://www.xavierleroy.com/]
Le Roy is almost saying to beholders ‘you too have the potential to make dance’. But he has an extraordinary presence on stage and a commitment to radical performance that was for me a highlight of the year.
4.) In May I saw Pavement by Kyle Abraham and company at the Curve in Leicester as part of LDIF. Beautiful, beautiful dancers, incredibly music choreography, and the pathos of scenes from street life in Pittsburgh (which for me is inseparable in my mind from The Wire and the first series of the podcast Serial).
Trailer for Pavement on vimeo https://vimeo.com/55470300
In August we went to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, as we have the last few years. Highlights for me this year were:
5.) Ellie Dubois’s Ringside – an amazing, intimate, one-to-one performance on the static trapeze. Ellie Dubois’s Ringside trailer on vimeo
6.) Jonzi D’s The Letter about refusing to accept an MBE – I’d seen this at Sadlers Wells a while ago but he’d developed it much more. He’s an amazingly strong, smart, charismatic performer.
Photograph: Jane Hobson Jane Hobson/PR
Preview of The Letter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ERUByxNtkQ
7.) Diane Torr’s Donald Does Dusty at Summerhall.Amazing to see her performing her brother as a young teen performing Dusty Springfield.
An extraordinary piece of alternative queer history, about her brother on the scene in London in he 1970s and 1980s before dying of AIDS.
8.) Claire Cunningham’s Give me a reason to live as part of the British Council showcase at Dancespace.
Tough yet sensitive exploration inspired by the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, precarious in parts, assertive and aggressive in others, and very very angry about what is happening to disabled people under the Tories.
9.) In October I saw Gregory Maqoma / Vuyani Dance Theatre in Exit/Exist as part of the Dance Umbrella festival. I feel really stupid that I’d never seen his work before. He danced with extraordinary accapella singing, quite rough edged yet amazingly rich and intoxicating – I always find live singing with dance movement powerfully affecting.
Maquoma’s story about a legendary ancestor was one of those awful tales of British imperialism yet told without any rancour and from an African rather than a European point of view. And what an amazing dancer!
10.) My last highlight is something my students showed me at our last seminar before Christmas. It is quite an old YouTube video that is probably very well known – The Chinese State Circus dancing Swan Lake, ending up with the ballerina balancing on pointe on her partner’s head. Circus acrobats can do magical things, and it is magical transformations that I want to believe are possible for 2016.