Monday, 14 August 2017

INTERVIEW: Bawren Tavaziva & Lisa Rowley on Izindava

Following a successful tour of Africarmen in Spring 2017, Tavaziva Dance are now entering their rehearsal period for Tavaziva's new work Izindava. In between rehearsals, I met Artistic Director, Bawren Tavaziva with dancer and Rehearsal Assistant Lisa Rowley to talk about the inspiration behind Izindava, Bawren's memories of Zimbabwe and what we can expect from Izindava.

PC: Tony Hay

Maya Pindar: what are you most excited about for Izindava?

Bawren Tavaziva: well, it’s not what I expected! It’s growing into a much bigger idea. It touches on a lot of subjects. It’s different to my usual choreography- the vocabulary is very different. I’m excited to do something that I’ve really not done before.

Lisa Rowley: it's a completely brand new company, so all the dancers are fresh and have never done Bawren's work before. It's a totally different energy in the studio. Seeing Bawren's choreograph on new bodies will be really interesting- I'm really excited to see how Bawren's vocabulary develops on the new dancers.

MP:  Bawren, some of your choreography is inspired by your upbringing in Zimbabwe. What are your memories of Zimbabwe?

BT: I’ve always been afraid of the dark. I grew up with fear. The school I went to was built up with fear- beatings and you know… And church as well; even at youth club there was humiliation. That was scary. Under Robert Mugabe’s regime, everyone was disciplined brutally. That is why Zimbabweans don’t speak a lot. You know, there’s no freedom of speech. So I suppose most of my work is based on my own experiences.

MP: and what are your memories of freedom?

BT: the first time black people were allowed to walk on the street in Zimbabwe. Mugabe stopped the racism and segregation. We were free to go in any shop or restaurant. So when I came to London, I was surprised to see a white person sitting on the street begging for money. Where I’m from, a white person always has money- he’s the boss.

Dancer Lisa Rowley in rehearsal at bbodance. PC: Leah Fox

MP: where do you find your resilience and how do you put this into your movement?

BT: I found my strength in music and through movement. I love making music! And perhaps with dance- I find ways to talk about things I don’t usually talk about- verbally. I’m lucky because I can place those thoughts on a stage and share it. So, I try to find music that matches my idea. If I can find the right music, my body automatically finds the movement. The music is the drive.

LR: at the beginning of the rehearsal period, we'll focus only on the steps, without any emotion. At week five, we'll start piecing in emotion and story line as an extra layer. Bawren totally gives us the reigns though- I usually draw on my own personal experiences, so the movement really comes alive.

Artistic Director Bawren Tavaziva and dancers in rehearsal. PC: Emily Winfield

MP: Lisa, can you tell us a bit about Bawren's choreographic process?

LR: it's very much about Bawren being present in the moment, and how he's feeling in that moment. He generally churns out movement step by step. Everyone learns everything to being with, and then he will select which phrases fit each dancer. 

MP: and finally, can you tell us one thing that we can expect from Izindava?

BT:  so, Donald Trump is part of Izindava as well. What I'm really talking about here is Trump’s behaviour… basically, if he was black, would he get away with it? I'm talking about white supremacy- because it’s still strong and it still exists.

Izindava begins it's tour in the Autumn. For full dates and details visit Tavaziva's website.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

ARTICLE: Bloom Festival - An Evening of Jazz - Dance and Music: "rich, current and relevant"

Fri 4 Aug
Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Bloom National Festival of Dance of the African Diaspora 2017
An Evening of Jazz - Dance and Music

Facilitated by Dr Sheron Way, One Dance UK's biennial Bloom National Festival invites an expert panel of jazz dancers and musicians to open a conversation about the complex relationship between jazz music and dance forms.

With its roots in African and African-American social and popular dance, jazz has transformed throughout the last century. From its emergence in the club scene at world venues like Harlem's Savoy Ballroom and Camden's Electric Ballroom in the early 20th century, jazz dance has been refined, formalised and commodified into Euro-American and European ballroom dance forms, like the waltz, the foxtrot and the tango. Jazz reached the UK through recordings and dance artists that visited Britain shortly after World War I. 

The evening's panel included leading jazz double bassist Gary Crosby OBE; renowned tap dancer and musician Annette Walker; revolutionary jazz dancer Gary Nurse; Jazz Dance Lecturer and experienced jazz teacher Joyce Gyimah; professional dancer, teacher and choreographer Jreena Green; and professional dancer Sean Graham.

Evening of Jazz Panel with London Programmer Heather Benson at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Bloom Festival 2017 Photo by Heather Benson

Interjected with brief performances, beginning with an uplifting collaboration between Annette Walker and Gary Crosby, the evening delved into the richness and relevance of jazz today. Discussions ranged from Black British culture, to the social functions of jazz, to the constrictions of european dance pedagogy.

Jreena Green and Gary Crosby alike highlighted the significance and importance of rhythm, alongside the freedom of non-prescribed steps. It is accepted, that as popular and social music and dance forms, there is a looseness to jazz within its structure. This provides a greater emphasis upon rhythm, rather than in codified steps. Jazz dance quite literally 'sits' in the rhythm. Space is given for improvisation- for the dancer to visually exhibit what jazz music is.

Gary Crosby, Annette Walker and Jerry Barry at Evening of Jazz, Bloom Festival 2017 Photo by Heather Benson

Sean Graham spoke of his spiritual resonance with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre at a time when non-European dance forms were not widely taught within British dance education. Jazz dance teacher Joyce Gyimah echoed this feeling, with her thoughts on the codification of dance teaching. While jazz moved from clubs into dance schools, Sean Graham, like many of us, turned to hip hop as an alternative to the European options that were available.

So the question is asked: how can we bring jazz dance back to the social space? With the rise of social media and instant gratification, how can we engage with jazz in "real" social spaces, without the restrictions of a syllabus and prescribed steps? 

Jazz, like many other art forms from within other communities, came from a place of survival. But jazz is also a celebration of the Black British journey- it's an expression of joy. As Sean Graham illustrated, jazz still matters because the Black British journey still matters. It is rich, current and relevant.

Find out more about Bloom Nation Festival and book onto other upcoming events in London, Sheffield and Leicester here.

Maya Pindar

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

REVIEW: THE SPEECH - Lisi Estaras & Irene Russolillo

Fri 16 Jun
The Italian Cultural Institute

Intercontinental Drifts #1
Lisi Estaras & Irene Russolillo THE SPEECH

Curated by TripSpace, in partnership with The Place and The Italian Cultural Institute, Intercontinental Drifts presents engaging dance from national and international emerging dance artists. Beginning the first in the four part series of national and international contemporary choreography, Italian choreographer Irene Russolillo presents THE SPEECH. After her performance, Russolillo joined producer and programmer Betsy Gregory in a short and enlightening post-show Q&A.

Unlike other contemporary dance works, Russolillo created THE SPEECH in collaboration with another artist- Lisi Estaras, long-time collaborator of Alain Platel/ Les Ballets C de La B. As discussed in the post-show Q&A, choreographing in collaboration with another artist is rather unusual. But in its unusual-ness, unexpected discoveries are often made. For instance, as Russolilllo described, a new way of "fitting" a phrase onto a dancer's body, or a more daring accompaniment.

Russolillo begins slow, moving in fragmented steps. She wears a floaty romantic dress- something she apparently wouldn't normally do, another unusual result of creative collaboration. The emphasis is on language and communication; she stumbles and stutters, eventually uttering Carley Rae Jepson's lyrics "I threw my wish in the well". Switching between English and Italian, her Italian rolls off the tongue, tumbling effortlessly compared to her faltering English. 

Irene Russolillo in THE SPEECH (PC: Ilaria Costanzo)

Jarred movement, and a fragmented port de bras, is paired with operatic singing and tinny electronic sounds. There's a vulnerability and a sensuousness about her performance. Heavy- or even orgasmic- panting seems to work in an interesting opposition with feelings of panicked frustration. She sprays the front row with saliva, as her breathing becomes heavier and her stuttering more violent. While this proximity between performer and observer doesn't always sit well with audience members, Rusollilo is effective in breaking the fourth wall. She dissolves the safe division between us and her. We are intimately involved in her performance and connected to her journey.

Rusolillo and Estaras's various journeys seem to meet at a tributary. The broken lyrics, frustrated stuttering, and brief moments of singing culminate in Russolillo's full bodied dancing to Carley Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe. From start to finish, Rusolillo is defiant and rebellious.

Maya Pindar

Sunday, 21 May 2017

REVIEW: Bruce's Ghost Dances returns after 14 years to Rambert triple bill

Sat 20 May
Sadler's Wells
Aletta Collins - The days run away like wild horses
Didy Veldman - The 3 Dancers
Christopher Bruce - Ghost Dances

Rambert's triple bill promises the triumphant return of Ghost Dances, one of the company's most requested works, and triumphant it is. 

The evening features the premiere of Aletta Collins's The days run away like wild horses, which takes inspiration from 80's Oscar-winning director Zbigniew Rybczynski's animated film Tango. Interlacing repeating mundane snapshots of life, Collin's protagonist sitting in her house becomes crowded by her memories- a boy retrieving a lost football, a woman smacking her head mid-romp, a bored school girl doing homework. Designer Katrina Lindsay's colourful staging and vibrant costuming is reminiscent of some of Matthew Bourne's bright productions.

Ghost Dances is showing in Salford, Southampton, Norwich, Bath and Bradford in the upcoming months. See more here.

Didy Veldman's The 3 Dancers draws upon Picasso's painting The Three Dancers. Veldman ties cubism, love and pain into dance, with it's geometric set design and sharp, clean lines. The dancers knot their hands and arms, creating images of lusty and intertwined relations.

Finally, Bruce's moving Ghost Dances doesn't disappoint. It's known that Bruce handles socio-political issues with sharp precision. So, the revival of Bruce's protest to Pinochet's brutal regime in Chile and the systematic persecution of around 35000 civilians still feels relevant today. 

From the outset, the trio of masked ghouls, who stalk and glide, landing silently out of their muscular jumps, contrasts eerily to the folksy playfulness of the dead. Every tender duet, spirited antics of ordinary people and moments of yearning are interrupted by the slinking ghouls. Nicholas Mojsiejenko's haunting arrangement of traditional Andean folk music drifts off, replaced by the desolate sound of wind, as the ghouls lift their victims from the ground.

Having established himself as a politically vocal choreographer in the early 70s, Bruce's works are excellent examples of how art- and specifically dance- can and should, challenge politics. 

Maya Pindar

REVIEW: Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform

Fri 19 Mar
Wilditch Community Centre, Battersea
Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform
Jayne Port - Pibroch Tales
Helen Cox - double pendulum
Lucid Dance - Living With Sin
Feet off the Ground Dance - The Way They Were Then

Independent choreographers Lucia Schweigert and Konstantina Skalionta present the fourth Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform, featuring work from five emerging female artists in an evening of live dance, installation and post-show Q&A. Schweigert and Konstantina's interest in producing dance in unconventional spaces brings us to Wilditch Community Centre in Battersea. Alongside live dance performances, Elisabeth Schilling presents her exhibition STADKÖRPER; a collaborative project between a dancer and various photographers set in Berlin's architectural cityscape.

Opening the live dance, Jayne Port's Pibroch Tales sees the kilt-clad Gordon Douglas Raeburn mime his way through a series of extracts from the Kilberry book of Ceol Mor. As both presenter and performer, Douglas Raeburn acts out mundane scenes of fishing, a domestic disagreement, and an unlikely encounter between two men and a bear.

Helen Cox's double pendulum

Following the squeal of bagpipes, we are met by the sweeping arms and soft pulsing of Helen Cox's double pendulum. With vaguely Cunningham-esque clean lines and shifts of weight, double pendulum is a carefully constructed exploration of relationships. Dancers Helen Cox and Andrew Oliver orbit one another, threading their limbs through the space. The gentle swing and rebound twists the duo like two corkscrews, which then unravel, sending the pair back into orbit. A deeply satisfying work to watch, which could stand alone without explanation or notes.

Lucia Schweigert's dance film Living With Sin is brought to the stage. Challenging the affect Eve's original sin has on the experience of womanhood, dancer Kathy Richardson progresses through three stages of experience, identified by white, red and black costume. Opening in silence, Living With Sin is pensive with an intense feeling of internal struggle. Shedding her red and black costume, Richardson metaphorically sheds her sins, ending in her white slip dress returning to purity.

Lucia Schweigert's Living With Sin

Finally, the night ends with Feet off the Ground Dance's The Way They Were Then. As always, the collective hit the jackpot. Inspired by Mujeres, a collection of short stories, by left-wing Uraguayan writer Eduardo Geleano, illuminating both renowned and unknown women from around the world. The women rotate in centrifugal spins, as the live accompaniment intensifies, throwing them into their trademark fearless, full bodied and gravity defying contact improvisation. Absolutely every decision is executed with purpose and intention.

Feet off the Ground Dance's The Way They Were Then

Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform showcases exciting emerging female dance work. Regardless of whether you have an interest in contemporary dance or not, there is something to be found for everyone- especially if you're seeking art with a political agenda. Schweigert and Konstantina's decision to set these platforms in unconventional locations is just the twist that sets evenings such as these apart.

To find out more about Kaleidoscopic Arts Platforms, please head over to the website now!

Maya Pindar

Saturday, 25 March 2017

REVIEW: Tavaziva in Africarmen: compellingly seductive

Tue 21 Mar
Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Tavaziva - Africarmen

Tavaziva's Africarmen returns on tour this Spring. Beginning the evening at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Zimbabwean-born Artistic Director, Bawren Tavaziva, and founding member of The Place, Namron OBE, is joined by Marie McCluskey OBE in a pre-show talk. Tavaziva discusses Zimbabwe's restricted freedom of speech and his and Namron's passion for youth work. Tavaziva and Namron's shared desire to pass on the inspiration they received as young men is particularly striking.

After two heart warming works with boys from north London, we dive head first into Tavaziva's sexy recreation of Bizet's infamous Carmen. Bawren's interpretation swaps the original setting of southern Spain for an African oil rigging village, alive with military corruption. The shadow of an almost-phallic rusting oil derrick looms threateningly on stage, a foreshadow of what's to come for our tragic love triangle.  

Dancers Lisa Rowley & Carmine De Amicis in Africarmen (PC: Dillon Rose)
Flexed wrists, percussive qualities and polyrhythms point towards Tavaziva's Zimbabwean roots and his training with Tumbuka Dance Company. Neatly tied up with contemporary and ballet, Tavaziva fuses his Zimbabwean heritage in Africarmen, to comment on political and challenging themes- many of which cannot be spoken of in Zimbabwe. 

The pace is unforgivingly fast; each act brims with energy, the tension builds a notch higher with each change of scene. Rolling hips, undulating spines and Composer Fayyaz Virji's throbbing score make for a very very sexy Africarmen.

Dancers Theo Samsworth & Lisa Rowley in Africarmen (PC: Manoj Nair)
The cast of Africarmen (PC: Joseph Bisat Marshall)

Tavaziva's dancers carry the choreography with strength. Carmen, danced by Lisa Rowley, is seductive and powerful. Her presence consumes the stage, as she sinks into deep lunges and plunges into bottomless second pliés, indulging in the gentle fall and rise. Equally, Theo Samsworth, dancing Mhondiwa (Tavaziva's lascivious answer to Don José), is compelling and tempting in his delivery.

We follow Carmen exchange one man for another, slipping between her desire for love and lust, until her story comes to its destructive end. Africarmen is an explosion of pulsing sensuality and energy- the strong cast do not hold back in their attack. While there is room for a tighter fusion of styles, Africarmen is breathtakingly exciting.

Maya Pindar

Read Maya's interview with Bawren Tavaziva here.
Africarmen is showing next in Poole, Ipswich and Bath. Visit Tavaziva's website for full dates and tickets.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: With Ballet In My Soul - an Autobiography by Eva Maze

With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario is set to be released this spring, published by Moonstone Press LLC
Hailing from Romania, Eva Maze's story begins in Bucharest 1922. After a brief battle with scarlet fever, Maze knew from the outset that she would unlikely become a ballerina. But her affection for dance didn't disappear with her dreams of dancing. Following the rise of fascism in Romania, Maze's family made their first move- to America.  

From here, we travel to New York, London, New Delhi, Frankfurt, Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Munich, Corfu, Paris and finally, Florida.  

Maze recollects amusing anecdotes, weaving intimate details about herself and her family into the narrative. Halfway through the memoir it feels as though I'm sat down, talking to Maze myself- there is something personal and honest about With Ballet In My Soul.

The autobiography steers us through pivotal historical moments, including the aftermath of World War II, Indian independence, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Greek Military Junta and the rise and fall of Pan American World Airways. Maze's depiction of these events, through the lens of her pursuits, brings her story to life. 

With Ballet In My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario by Eva Maze

Maze's long and illustrious career as a producer is distinguished by her affiliations with diverse artists such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, José Limón Dance Company, Kathakali Dance Theatre and Kabuki Theatre of Japan, to name a few. The changing cultures of each country Maze has traveled to seems to have inspired much of her work. However, towards the close of the autobiography, Maze explains that moving from place to place can feel like a curse:
Because your identity is often put into question. [...] There are times when you feel you belong both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. [...] You find yourself wondering who you are. [...] Many of us still continue to struggle with where we do, in fact, belong.
In addition to Maze's evident strength in coordinating successful productions, her ability to embrace diversity and variety in her work is striking. Maze lived through a time of significant political and social change; a time which saw great changes in the arts. It seems that Maze's experiences of different cultures and societies shaped her both personally and professionally.

For more information, please visit Moonstone Press LLC