‘The object of choreography: bodies, time & space.’
When I saw the first day of Harrell’s ‘Hoochie-Coochie’ season at the Barbican I loved him & his troupe of dancers and his choreography. I wanted very much like to take some photos during the dances but of course Barbican has a blanket ban on anyone doing that! I like the way Harrell crosses the boundaries with his art. So I drew them! You cannot keep a determined man down.
Caen Amour is the longest piece at 1 hour 10 mins and his latest creation, it involves 4 dancers (3 male 1 female; Thibault Lac, Alex Roccoli, Trajal Harrell & Perle Palombe) and the audience. In my sketch the head on left shows how incredibly creative the troupe are with simple props, you have to see them to understand, in this sketch he is wearing a ‘tie’ wrapped round his head and dropping down his face. The central figure is totally covered in long garments and seems to have them pulled together at the mouth by hands. The woman uses a dress to cover her arms and head down to her bum, her nose makes the little black mark to left of the word ‘sheer/sheen’ and her nipples make the two ‘eyes’. Of course my rapid sketches do no service to the beauty of the dancers movements and costumes which are festooned with colour and glittery surfaces.
The dance owes much to a range of influences from Japanese ‘butoh’ to Folies Bergère, from Martha Graham to hoochi coochie dancers. All four main dancers have a trademark Trajal style of movement which comes in from his earlier ‘minimalist’ work and they use gyration and arabesque which crosses genders. “We perform as the all-female shows, though we are mixed genders.” They hold their hands above their heads and make hundreds of moves with their fingers, wrists elbows waists genitals knees feet and bum-see-saw daisys. It’s hard to describe. They are all strong, dedicated, muscular lithe they tease with their ‘c’mon in baby’ looks like strippers would if I ever saw any, not that I have, well not that many Mrs Moneypenny. The music is mesmeric and appropriate; it set the pace and the scene. Three dancers, do most of the show then Trajal enters from through the pillow-seated audience and stamps his style on it. The audience becomes part of the show/choreography when the follow the invite to go round behind the set and watch the dancers disrobe and re-attire for their next entrance and they move on and off the stage with rapid frequency. If you click on the link you’ll see 3mins of Caen Amour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h6LURgMoWg
In The Mood For Frankie
Although only 3 male dancers took part in In the Mood For Frankie it turned out as fascinating as Caen Amour. It’s hard to detail the dance, it’s best to go watch it. The dancers moved across the set in twos with the third player sometimes criss-crossing the others. I found it peculiar that when one of them decided to replenish water in a conduit he used a plastic bottle rather than the brass jug which one dancer was dancing with altho’ taking in the ‘minimal’ and ‘realness’ using ‘everyday objects’ rather than things for show. Trajal talks of…”rejection of spectacle, virtuosity and make-believe…, his work ‘uses constructions of gender, artificiality and social roles to critique authenticity…realness operates precisely by blurring the line between perceptions and constructions of the fake and the real.’
There’s a great Guardian article which contains lots of links to more material about some of the wide variety of things which Trajal takes in when he designs a piece, https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/aug/01/trajal-harrell-the-dirty-dancer-voguing-his-way-into-history
This article is a good intro to one of Trajal’s influences, Rei Kawakubo’s fashion,
https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/sep/20/rei-kawakubo-radical-chic and if you watch the video of her boys walking the walk you’ll see how Trajal mimics the walk in several of his works.
The return of La Argentina
Here I have Trajal watching over La Argentina as she danced.
The clothes he wears in his The return of La Argentina are fluted like her dress altho’ he only dons pieces of fabric, one colour on one leg, another on the other, one colour on one arm another on the other. He does dance with a flamenco dress(?) as he enters. He sits on a piano stool and does a ritual with some spoon and bowls. He scrapes the spoon around the Japanese dish which as its made of clay with a heavy grog sounds a bit like chalk scratching a blackboard but music all the same. As he departs he wears two rectangles of fabric folded into square in which he places his hands and motions toward the crowd which sits & stands watching. Is he waving? Maybe. He’s gesturing some sort of call, some of us wave, he smiles and backs away thru the gap between the audience and he smiles and shoots off up the stairs, the dance is done.
See this interview with curator Leila Hasham- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAK_GG4AFrU