Well my goal of writing every other day has failed but nonetheless I’m happy to write a few days late but certainly not a dollar short. It’s been a ride here in Paris and I’m loving it!
Since I last wrote I’ve taken in two museums, attended what would be labeled a three day workshop in the US with a former Pina Bausch dancer, and seen two other shows. Our days are busy but worth every second.
The first museum was Le Musée de L’Orangerie. We saw Monet’s famous Les Nymphéas which were simply stunning! I found it so interesting that when standing close the paintings the details of the brush strokes and their thickness was textured and so varied. And then as you stood further back, three dimensional canvases erupted full of light, color, and depth. We had a group assignment to choose between the three of us which one to study and discuss. Although each of us liked a different painting we were all happy to discuss any one. Our group chose to discuss, Soleil couchant and Le Matin clair aux saules I liked how each of us noticed something different in the paintings and how we did not look at the titles of the paintings until after our own impressions were developed. Although we had not planned to omit looking at the titles, it made for some interesting and independent evaluations of the works. I wondered how this might work in choreography. Maybe we have the audience interpret the movement and then give them the title? I think there might be something poignant to that.
A second part of the assignment was to find another painting throughout the museum that captured our attention. I set some boundaries for myself just to make things interesting. I told myself that I would pick the first image that struck me. The first one to grab my attention. I also purposefully did not look at the title of the painting or who painted it because I liked that we hadn’t looked at the titles for Water Lilies in our group assignments. I wanted to go in with no preconceived notions.
I ended up choosing Picasso’s Nu sur fond rouge. I’m not well versed in painting or painting techniques so this may sound quite ignorant but finding out that this was a Picasso was somewhat intriguing to me. As an amateur in painting and visual art, when I think of Picasso, I think of cubism and his later works. But this was part of what the museum called, his Neo-Classical period, where he was heavily influenced by the Catalan region of Spain called Gósol. The painting caught my attention because of the woman’s beauty, serenity, and timidity. The movement of her hair was striking. It appeared to be long wavy locks. The background although predominately red did fade towards a burnt orange color towards the foreground, lower right hand side. I also liked that the center of the painting was the xyphoid process and that her solar plexus was shaded. As a dancer I find these two areas to be quite vulnerable so perhaps this is why I really liked the painting. Also her neck appeared to be completely shaded, another vulnerable area. I really enjoyed the assignment because each person in our group picked completely different paintings that struck them. It was nice to be able to articulate our ideas about the paintings without actually being well-versed in the subject matter. I find that these assignments could help tremendously to articulate our ideas, thoughts, and perspectives on dance much the same way that we were assigned to do so at the Center of Creative Photography in Douglas Nielsen’s choreography class in Fall 2014.
Overall the Musée de L’Orangerie was a wonderful visit and as our program director noted, “the perfect size for a museum.” I really felt I was able to see everything without feeling overwhelmed or rushed.
The other museum we navigated was the Musée D’Orsay. Equally as impressive although bigger with much less time to wander and explore. We had a guide for a little over an hour and a half and her knowledge of the paintings and art was of course excellent. Before heading to the museum, we learned that the Musée D’Orsay was originally a train station and opened for the World Exhibition in Paris of 1900. Looking at the museum you can certainly tell that it was a train station. The glass top building and the ornate detailing of a gigantic clock that in times past surely helped those passengers to board their trains on time. Over the years, as trains became longer the train station became less useful. There was threat to tearing it down but because it was a National Monument there was public outcry. The building was saved and The Musée D’Orsay opened its doors officially in 1986.
Here our assignments were to look at the architecture of the building and then to find one Monet, one Manet, one Renoir and discuss them. We were also to pick one Marie Cassatt, which my partner chose, and one Bethe Morisott. For Monet we chose, La Cathédrale de Rouen, Le portail et la tour, soleil du matin also known as Harmonique blanche. For Manet we chose, La Lecture. For Renoir we chose Jeune Fille Assise. For Morisot we chose Jeune Femme se Pourdrant. I cannot remember which Marie Cassatt my partner chose. Of all these paintings we were struck by something very different. For Monet, we were obviously aware of his water lilies and landscapes but we were not aware of this paintings of the church in Rouen so this really intrigued us. For Manet, we had been told that he was sort of the father of the impressionists who sided with them but never really wanted to be a part of any movement, and of course seeing paintings that have some aspects of impressionism was as though looking at a foreshadowing of things to come. For Renoir, whom I though I really didn’t much care for because of the darker tones he usually employed, I really liked the girl’s eyes in the painting. They were inviting and glimmering. For Morisot, I really liked the hints of the background without them loosing attention and the fact that the mirror never reflected what was actually there, in essence an impression of an impression. Here are the photos below.
Although I enjoyed the Musée D’Orsay, we simply did not have enough time for exploration afterwards. The guide ended with La Petite Danseuse de 14 Ans. This was just stunning, and her story (which I simply can’t go into or I will literally never finish this blog post), is tragic and insightful too. I took a moment and remembered a trio that one of my ballet teachers choreographed for us, Les Danseuses de Degas. I still remember those tea stained tutus and beautifully corseted tops. Now Susan Stroman has created a musical theater piece entitled, The Little Dancer with Tyler Peck staring as the Little Dancer. Part fact part fiction, here is a link if you want to learn more.
Then the classes we have taken… Oh my gosh! What a treat and what a truly blessed experience. For the past three days a few of us have been taking classes with Nina Dipla, former Pina Bausch dancer, at Menagerie de Verre. It has been simply the most surreal experience of my time here. She has been so giving, so invested in her teaching, it has been so joyous to take her classes. She’ll be back in town our last week here so I’m hoping to attend further classes with her. The class was a solid 2 hours of constant movement with breath being the initiator above all things. Feldenkrais warm ups and a wonderful mixture of technique and humanity. She taught some excerpts from Limòn’s Choreographic Offering as well as what we believe to be some of the gestures from a show that is currently running at the Opéra Bastille, called Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen. Even her class description would make me question why anyone would not want to take her class. “Être tout simplement à l’écoute de son corps et de sa propre nécessité d’abord.” It is simply too difficult to really discuss what went on in her classes because she was just a presence and her delivery of the material made the movement simply happen without added tension or fight. She was so generous in fact, that after class she walked us to Rue du Marché Ponpicourt, actually a block away from where an ex-pat friend used to live, and told us where to get good, wholesome, inexpensive food! We only had time for a juice the other day, because our dance clothes were craving laundry, but yes it was delicious! Pamplemousse et menthe! Magnifique!
Then… more shows. You would think by now that perhaps I would need a break. A moment of rest from the dance world to really take everything in. But truly, having gone through the existential crisis of deciding to pursue dance instead of physical therapy has made me more focused, more engaged, and more ready to experience everything on a visceral level. I’m aware that I literally couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. And I’m happy to know that I needed to experience the opposite end of the spectrum to really know in my heart of hearts that this is where I need to be! So no breaks, no slowing down, and more filling the well!
I was able to see two shows this past week. One at L’Étoile du Nord and one at Théatre de La Ville.
The first was part of the Jet Lag Series 6 called Fais ce qu’il te plaît. The first piece was called Héroïne choreographed by Phillippe Ménard with Asha Thomas, former Ailey Company member, and danced by Asha Thomas. It was a virtual progression of womanhood and the hats we wear as females. The praying mantis/new born faun, the Betty Boop/shy but coy girl, the cheerleader/strong but not always mighty, and the diva/sometimes desperate. I enjoyed the almost 1 hour solo in the intimate theater. It was after eating a delicious and might I add almost entire pizza! EEKS! And it was right after leaving the Musée D’Orsay so it should be noted that I could certainly have stayed longer at the museum instead of attending the performance but dance won out in the end.
Back to the performance… I was floored by Thomas’ ability to access her provisional Y-axis at the knee joint when she was portraying what I am calling the praying mantis. There was something eerie about both her performance quality and the mixture of sharp and direct intricacies to smooth and fluid ones.
The second piece was called Riz Complet, a play on words and an interesting means of choreography. The piece was choreographed by Sandra Abouav and performed by both Abouav and Alexis Morel. The piece was amusing and really did get my attention within the first few seconds. It began with the couple drawing a perfect circle in white chalk on the black stage. Abouav acted as the fixed point while Morel was the arm of the protractor. Funny and a multiple award winner, it was downright hilarious at some points! My only complaint was its length. In choreography class this fall we spoke a lot about how long a dance ought to be and when a dance is over, how to tell, and whether audience perspective should be a point of interest in this question. Obviously no right answer was found because it is so subjective. But I found that this particular piece made it’s point and then dragged. Interesting yes but perhaps a bit too long. Audience members fell asleep or left entirely.
The second show I saw this week was another Pina Bausch spectacle, Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen. We had been exposed to some what we believed to be the gestures in Nina Dipla’s class and it was just incredible. Again, I had to wait outside with my sign, “Je cherches une place. Je suis danseuse Canadiennes. Merci.” And low and behold it worked for a second time! Thank you to the wonderful teacher who couldn’t find one of her students so sold her ticket to me!
In this show, Pina’s work simply gives you a kaleidoscope of human experiences from childhood to adulthood. Before this trip I had only seen Pina Bausch on film and there simply is no comparison. A sandcastle, a first kiss, a suspended moment in time. Everyone no matter the age or race can relate to her work and whether they like it or not, it illuminates that person’s past. For me, some of the memories were stored deep in the vault of my memory bank. Others were simply right there, beckoned by an image, or sound, or word from the performers. Just before the entreact, the performers were building a sandcastle. Just as in Nelken, again I was struck by the memory of spending summers in Wildwood, NJ with my family, building sandcastles with Uncle Bill, and hating the feeling of sand bewteen my toes. Now, i love that feeling, digging my feet deep within the crystals, naturally exfoliating my calluses I’ve worked long and hard to keep. Is this a consequence of desiring to return to that place in time? That I’m not sure, but I do commend Pina’s ability to reconnect me with memories that I have not thought about in many many years. I feel hopeful after her shows, I feel that I have not sat in a theater for three hours but instead been teleported to a specifically chosen memory, captained by Pina Bausch and her crew, and am better for it. It gives me insight into what the world was, what it is, and what it could be.
And the sets and dancing! Oh the sets and dancing. Truly incredible! The ability to transform space and time. And do it all for three hours! Thank you, to the cast and crew for never tiring or showing a moment of disengagement. I cannot thank you enough for the experience!
Tomorrow, I head to Notre Dame for mass at 10am.