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NaNoWriMo Kick-off

NaNoWriMo 2011

Fabulous NaNoWriMo 2011 kickoff at the Central Amsterdam Library (OBA) today.
NaNo veteran Nico Janssen sketched a bit of NaNoWriMo history for newcomers and pointed out that by last year, 2.8 billion words have been generated through the NaNoWriMo community that has grown to 200.000 writers!
The challenge is personal. It is no problem if you don’t finish or manage to get 50.000 words in by the end of the month. It’s about being productive all the time, every day, writing during the month of November with 200.000 fellow writers spread out over the globe.
Lisa Friedman introduced freewriting to the assembled NaNoWriMo wannabees. “Just Do It, Don’t Think, Outrun the Critic.”
Some of her tips on how to be productive during NaNoWriMo include “Train yourself like a dog to write on command; don’t re-read (as of yet); replace self-criticism with encouragement; forget about Facebook.”
Are we ready?
I am.

Marvelous Molière

There is a chair in the museum collection of the Comédie-Française in Paris, which is displayed in a corridor right off the theater’s main lobby, encased in a glass cabinet like Sleeping Beauty. It is a simple armchair on casters, upholstered in tattered leather. The chair is old, at least some 350 years. Legend has it, that the playwright-actor Molière practically died in it, on stage, when he had a coughing fit during the fourth performance of Le Malade Imaginaire, playing Argan the Hypondriac (or Imaginary Invalid). He barely made it through the last act and died at home shortly after the performance. (There is a parallel here with the death of the great British actor Edmund Keane, who almost died onstage in the arms of his actor-son Charles who was playing Iago to his Othello).
An untimely death at 51 for the playwright-actor-manager Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Molière, who had spent many years touring France, making people laugh in a period of grime and mud and sky-high infant mortality rates, with Commedia dell’Arte-type plays that unmasked the abyss dividing rich and poor, the uselessness of the medical profession and the hypocrisy of the clergy.
But it was not an entirely unforeseen death, as he suffered from tuberculosis – most likely contracted during a stint in debtor’s prison.
When Molière had returned to Paris he was eventually incorporated in the entertainments at the court of Louis XIV. His breakthrough at the Sun King’s court was greatly engineered by another Jean-Baptiste, the naturalized Italian composer Gianbattista Lully. Alas, after some splendid collaborations, Lully got tired of playing second fiddle to Molière’s words. Lully had ambitions to create his own operas, so the two were estranged by the time Molière staged Le Malade Imaginaire in 1673. The musical interludes were written by another composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This all to the chagrin of Lully, who had claimed a solid monopoly for his operas and had managed to get a royal edict passed to the effect that theatrical performances were only allowed the services of two strings and two voices.
Why am I telling all this?
I never cared much for the staid interpretations of Molière’s biting, satirical plays, until I saw De Ingebeelde Zieke performed last week in a staging by Jos Thie at the municipal theater in Utrecht.
Building on a tradition that was perhaps set in motion by Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1978 film Molière ou la vie d’un honnête homme, Thie renders the play in a way that neither wants to be excruciatingly contemporary, nor wants to forget about all the layers built up around such a classic in terms of its (performance) history and its underlying socio-political context. An extra gift is, that the long-lost music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier has been incorporated in this incredibly funny, superbly acted and beautifully designed performance. Finally we can see Molière the magnificent, who registered all the wrongs of his times, and may have been biting the hand that fed him, yet it didn’t stop him to speak his mind with mastery, insight and an enormous dose of humor.

A Moving Monument

Is it Dance
Is it Theatre
or is it LIFE
the trailer announces PINA (Dance, Dance, otherwise we are lost…), a film by Wim Wenders that just opened in Amsterdam.
The 3D film is a loving monument to choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on June 30 2009. Here space, such an essential part of dance, is a character/actor, as is the camera, not registering the movements and emotions frontally, but amidst the dancers.
The result is a mesmerizing, totally tension-laden feature film. Full, rich fragments of Rite of Spring turn into moments filled with ominous suspense as heavy as any good cliffhangher scene in Hollywood movies.
In the sparse moments that Pina herself appears in person in the film, she speaks with utmost love of her dancers, a motley crew of well-trained, daring and above all extremely imaginative dancers. It becomes clear that Pina Bausch searched and collected shards of the collective unconscious in her dancers, who arrived in Wuppertal from all corners of the world. What they shared with her and us, the spectators, constitutes a gestural idiom from all nations, resulting in the creation of a universal language of longing.
I’m less interested in how people move
than in what moves them
she simply says.
Wim Wenders’ film zooms in on Café Muller and Kontakthof, both dating from 1978 and Vollmond, a newer piece created in 2006.
Thrilling sections tilt the dance out of the theater and rehearsal studio onto the streets, into industrial spaces and woodlands of Wuppertal. Its famous suspended monorail serves as a location and becomes a character in and of itself.
Wim Wenders gave the dancers the opportunity to give Pina a last message, much in the way she herself poked them with questions like: “What does it mean to you, love, joy, pride?” They are short glimpses into their souls and shed light on the process.
One of the dancers says: “For 22 years she watched me from behind that table. That’s more time than my parents ever watched me.” Another dancer relates how the only direction Pina ever gave her was “Keep searching.”
They were willing to go deep, her dancers, for her, for themselves, and for us. It is real, their exploration, never a coquettish play with ideas. At the beginning of the film, Pina Bausch says in voice over: “It is not about the words, it is about what it invokes, that’s where the beginning of dance is.” Signature movements with arms floating up and hands fluidly following each other like fish in a stream, are repeated over and over until something stirs. Not unlike Sanford Meisner instructed his actors to repeat the words UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENED. Pina’s eclectic choice of music is always a joyful surprise. She uses anything, from Dido and Aeneas, Edith Piaf, popular, traditional and folklore music. As long as it enables to evoke feelings and invoke what Germans call Sehnsucht (longing, yearning, desire, nostalgia). She dared, they, the dancers, dared in ongoing commitment and with an intensity that gives the chills, touching a universal chord.
Wim Wenders captured this with a deftness that defies any of the blockbuster movies made in 3D sofar, giving dance and art in motion a depth it has longed to match with the experience of live performance.

Be sure to watch Die Klage der Kaiserin (The Empress’ Laments, Pina Bausch’s personal moving snapshot album (filmed on video in 1990 and blown up to 35mm for distribution) and
Un Jour Pina m’a demandé, Chantal Akerman’s documentary in which she follows the company in rehearsal and on tour in 1983 – both available on You Tube

MakingOf PINA – 3D from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

Laurie Lives

Was that fabulous last night?
Those of you who were there must agree.
Laurie Anderson.
Delusion.
Finely worked jewels of personal short stories sprouted from the back of Laurie Anderson’s mind, interspersed with shards of music played on her electronic violin, backed up by arrays of sound bits.
Laurie Anderson – in real life of small stature – on stage larger than life, moving between folding and draped objects that function as reflecting screens. Behind her, a huge back projection spitting out an avalanche of delicious images mixed live.
The stories go deeper than ever. About time, space, and loss. The bind one finds oneself in, realizing that the death of a beloved dog causes more pain than the death of the mother.
Sometimes the deep chords of her music made the walls of the theater vibrate and my body with it. A pleasant sensation. Her voice, and her Fenway Bergamot’s voice, which never ages, soothingly, sagaciously and whimsically drove home some truths to think about during sleepless hours.

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