07 October 2010

7 octobre, 2010: Paris Opera/Étude Perdue et Trouvée

7 octobre, 2010

Paris Opera/Etude Perdue et Trouvee

The best news of the day is that I’ve reconnected with pianist/composer extraordinaire Thollem McDonas (click here for his website and access to his CDs). Thollem is presently in my place of birth, Detroit, Michigan, working on music for a Matthew Barney spectacle being staged there. He has approved of the Paris Acceleration videos in which I feature his music, and he has given me his blessing to further beg, borrow and steal for future works!

Last night, I attended my very first performance of the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris and experienced the grandeur of the Palais Garnier. I had  great seat in a side box at stage level, and we just able to see the entire stage. I engaged in conversation with my neighbors before and between the acts, and squirmed with pleasure, feeling like I was in a Proust novel. (This squirming thing—usually accompanied by fits of giggling and a shiver or two-- is getting out of hand. It overwhelms me at least once every day.)

The overall quality of the dancing on the Roland Petit triple bill was exceptional, in particular the work of Nicolas Le Riche, who danced the central role in Petit’s 1946 tour de force of existential angst and suicidal glory, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. I’d grown up seeing photographs of the original cast and known of numerous later casts. So to see it live was like history unfolding before me. I think this is the essential magic of dance, in that the act of embodiment and of witnessing become one, obliterating boundaries of time, memory, of being at once inside and outside one’s body. Very Proustian, I suppose. So that seeing a dance work over many years, with different casts, accumulates the semblance of lived experience, and carries with it heightened memories that are encapsulated and sealed in the form of the work itself. But again, it was Le Riche’s totally committed performance, from the instant he stood up from lounging on his back, on his meager bed in his grim Paris loft, to confront his paranoia and fear of death. It was a great lesson in being in the role before the curtain goes up, and of being able to plug oneself into the electric socket of that life to instantly be charged with the inevitability of the character’s fate. As in many Petit ballets, the role of death is relentlessly personified by a femme fatale with stiletto point shoes and ruthless, cold demeanor. It’s a strange kind of eroticism, a tease, (like Barthes’s concept of French striptease?)…  Was this the rage in 40’s Paris (and in Hollywood movie musical a la Cyd Charisse), or was this a (gay?) man expressing his castration complex, his fear and loathing of women?

Let me backtrack a bit. Earlier that day, I finished a video version of a solo I’d completed this summer. This is the work I write about in an earlier journal entry (August 23) that I was intending to manipulate and transform with inserts and diversions once in Paris. This is the preliminary “studio” version, taped mostly inside the Micadanses long space, framed by images shot near the building entrance. I’m hoping for a sound score…perhaps by a resident of Cité whom I met a few days ago. Broche is from Brussels and composes with “natural” sounds collected from the immediate environment. She is here for one month, drawing from this city’s rich sound palette. She and I are planning on spending a session next week improvising together. She also plays electric violin!

So Étude Perdue et Trouvée (Lost and Found Etude) is “through-choreographed” in that it is set in my body memory and can be repeatedly re-created in its same basic form. Because of this, I am allowed to shoot the same materials from different angles and to compose in editing with multiple tracks. Sometimes I want to create the illusion that it is the same “take” caught from different perspectives. Other times, I find it interesting to make known that there are many different “takes” or interpretations of the same material—often slightly “off” re. synchronization-- being referenced at the same time.

What is lost? What is found? Built into the work are moments of relative stillness I depart from and return to that act like markers in time and space. I think of Charles Baxter's wonderful essay in his collection, Burning Down the House, entitled "Rhyming Action". Sometimes I imagine looking back into memory or the past… or am I looking ahead, anticipating something or plotting my next move in my mind? So I suppose I’m always losing something, leaving it behind, then finding it again. By the end, am I exactly where I began? Or have I been changed? Was the entire solo a flashback, or a premonition? It’s up to you to decide. Click here!