Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Private Dance

I had a big weekend of high culture.

First, I went to see John Vanderslice at the Great American Music Hall.
John is an SF musician, and a great song-writer. He runs the tiny telephone studio in SF. What made this concert special was that he played along with a 30-piece orchestra comprised of members of the Magik*Magic Orchestra.

They're a local groups trying to shake-up the music scene by including contemporary classical music and rock music in the same concerts. I'd already seen their first concert at Herbst theater, where they played Johnny Greenwood and John Adams, and at a show where they did some modern miniatures and then backed-up 2 Foot Yard.

I have no video of Friday's concert, but here is a clip of Sufjan Stevens doing something similar in Berkeley a few years ago. It is one of the few songs of his that I really like. The rhythm in this piece is pretty complex, borrowing ideas from Philip Glass and others.

Instead of a video clip of the show, I give you an mp3 of They Won't Let Me Run. This song worked really well with the orchestra. (The mp3 link is from JV's website. He's remarkably open about sharing his songs.)

Going to a concert alone can be tricky, but I got lucky. I found a perfect seat in the rear balcony, and had a nice long conversation with a composer from Berkeley who shares many of my musical biases. (No, not John Adams.)

Saturday, I went to see a ballet at Zellerbach.

Back in grad school, I would always sit very near the stage for ballets. At that theater, those were the cheap seats! The idea was that you couldn't really appreciate a ballet if you were too close. At Zellerbach they don't do that. This was a full-price ticket. I thought I was getting a fifth row seat, but it turned out to be front row (because of the orchestra pit.)

Imagine my shock when the lights went down and this is what was right-up in my face:

The video shows the girls wearing shorts and tops, but this piece starts with them spread-legged in nothing but bra and panties. And only 10 yards from my face! I felt like I was getting a private dance I hadn't even asked for. Well, it was worth it to sit through that because then the men come out in their tighty-whiteys and do the same thing. But, sadly, on the other side of the stage! It was a dance full of simulated sex of all sorts, becoming a bit more sedate as they slowly put on clothes and prepared for a wedding. (The music was Stravinsky's "Les Noces".)

As exciting as that may sound, I much preferred the two pieces after the break, both set to music of Ravel. The first, set to "La Valse", goes back to Ravel's original meaning of the piece, to show the decadence of Vienna before the war. It was great. I'll never be able to hear that piece again without seeing it in my head. Then there was a great, mostly abstract, dance to "Bolero". It is amazing how that piece, while apparently so very simple, never loses its power.

I haven't sat that close to a ballet since grad school. But it was great. I'm going to try to do that again whenever I can.


Anonymous said...

The closest I've come to that is a dance performance i went to years ago at yerba buena that featured men in their underwear crawling around on all fours and barking like dogs. Very sexy, but i was way in the back :(

Lisette said...

I'd certainly have rather been on the mens side of the stage too! Whoa Nelly!