Category Archives: dance

Trajal Harrell at Barbican.

‘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.

from Caen Amour

Caen Amour

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:


In The Mood For Frankie

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,

This article is a good intro to one of Trajal’s influences, Rei Kawakubo’s fashion, 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

Carmen Amayareturn 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-



Twinkle Toes Walker goes Walken


Watch this GREAT dance by Christopher Walken

“I tink OI’ll do dat dance misen.”

step dancer2

And here’s me old mate Duncan Walker mimicking him.

Twinkle Toes Walker does a Walken.

a tinker sm

Then advises me,

“Nah then lad, tha’s gottu git thar olde buk owt.”

OK 19.4.16

So we all experience self-doubt and of course as I work thru the final prep of the final version for print of the SI sometimes I wonder if it’s worth continuing? My old pal IEPWoolard says, “Yes, you have to Pete”. Another friend, whose opinion I take very highly, talks of the ‘yes to carry on’ but also the need to make sure that when copies are ‘thesis-bound’ that there is also some stitching along the bound end to preserve it for not just 20 years but for 100 years plus when, ‘It’ll be of even more interest (because of its context)’. That’s not to say he’s saying my ‘writing’ is of a great importance, no, it’s the statement/evidence that the work brings with it of a time, a time in the early 1970’s. Now, that time is already gone, it’s history and my ‘book’ is (further evidence) of life then.


I had a nice little fillip today when a member of the staff at Firstsite said of my Outlaw Pete gig, ‘It was an out of body experience.’ She had not watched my whole gig. Said what she saw was very strange. I retorted, ‘That’s good cos I never want to be perceived as ‘normal’.’

20th April 2016

I just laid page 70 into my Quark* layout for my ‘Shrewd Idiot’ (SI) buk. It happens to be 3 drawings I done back in 1971 (December) of the character I had realised that I had just ‘invented/created’ AppleHeadedMan aka Apulhed. Well in fact two of ‘him’ and one of PearHeadedWoman. The sketches fit nicely over the two pages of the SI manuscript which lay over one page of the new version. There’s lots of different links there, including the visual link of the two intersecting on the page. In fact I never again drew Pearheadgirl, never ever even to today, which is fascinating, cos Applehead could have had a constant ‘fruity’ companion thru the past 40 years. In fact in the notes on that same page I am forlornly saying that my then erstwhile girl-friend was not replying to my letters and that when we were to meet up again, as planned around my 21st birthday, it would only be ‘as friends (not lovers)’. In fact we never were to meet up again, not so far anyway. Maybe the slipping away of Pearheadgirl is a living analogy of that aspect or sequence of things which happened then did not happen in my life? [An analogy is ‘a form of reasoning in which one thing is inferred to be similar to another thing in a certain respect, on the basis of the known similarity between the things in other respects’.] The disappearance of Pearheadgirl is synonymous with the non-re-appearance of ‘Rose’ in ma life.

Quark* is one of the two big packages which offer design strategies for print layout. Although I found them difficult to make contact with I went up to their address in London and did find a human being who was very helpful. So much so I have decided to stay with them and move to their new ‘2016’ version despite the fact that my printman’s company uses a rival design package, which will cause some difficulties because one system is not compatible with the other. I am relatively unschooled in ‘graphic-design’ and have a lot to learn but I always did find ‘learning on the job’ my preferred route to skills and knowledge. Creating this new version of my SI buk is arduous, mostly because I insist on using scans of typed script from the 1980’s manuscript when re-typing it into a modern digi-form would be much much easier. All my life I tended to do things the hard way, as my SI buk still shows. Its form & content show an idiot (idjet) at work but he end result he knows will be, well let’s just say, very different. And ‘all me own original werk’.

Let’s dance

Let’s dance with Pina’s lot.

Thanks to Jurgen Fritz for the image de moi in the header! And for the 2,000+ photos he took of all us PA folk at IPA in  the earth spirit centre ( “Just five miles from Glastonbury, on the edge of Compton Dundon village in Somerset, EarthSpirit lies within the ‘temenos’ (sacred enclosure) of Avalon.”

I watched this Wim Wenders’ tribute about Pina Bausch, WOW! It’s one of the best things I have ever seen!

a wim wender on pina bausch sm

I am sure that some of my friends who attended the IPA Bristol fortnight in October must have seen it. There are bits in it that I am sure influenced some movements I saw there. There’s a lovely bit where a woman is walking with a tree on her back which is reminiscent of McLennan’s work. It’s just an incredible programme about somebody who must have been an inspirational leader.

They’re coming to Sadler’s Wells in February. I never go there but this is one time I shall be there.

os I am never going to match all them greats. But, you know me, I can’t stop trying!

baltic cowpokeCowboy Pete at BALTIC ctsy of Gary Malkin

Here is a link to the ‘talk’ I did in July this year at BALTIC in which I do a couple of ‘dances’. I enter dressed as a cowboy and do the first gallery private view ‘dance’ to ‘Outlaw Pete’ which must have been written for me cos it tells a tale so similar to my dragging up in Glasgow. Bruce has just changed the names of places for legal reasons. Then at about 10 mins in for 3 minutes I do my now famous (at least on our street) ‘Killer’s Are We Humans Or Are We Dancers?’ dance: 

This is the dance with which I also introduced myself at IPA Bristol. It was great there cos they asked me to repeat it in the evening relaxed session and they all joined in copying my moves which are a bit like me in these drawings.

a shado o'pete dancing sm

I next did ma Outlaw Pete (Jurgen’s Hoss) Dance at firstsite in November. A friend filmed it on her iphone but it’s in two parts make 30MB and I need to edit them together and upload them in a smaller form, so you’ll have to wait, cos I don’t yet have the skills to do them tings.

What am doing now in ma blog and ma PA is the culmination of my almost 50 years adult study in ‘art’. a study which has many stages; oils, prints, books, sculptures in many differing idioms. When folk clap my PA I realise that I made ‘art’ for reaction. I love to glean your reaction, your joy, your love, your muse, your amuse…

I think I made art to get noticed. Have you noticed…me?

Let’s Do It, Live Art…

‘Whilst Live Art remains elusive to most mainstream commentators its influence is pervasive, and intriguingly the concept of performativity – its central tenet’ from an article by LADA (Live Art Development Agency) Director Lois Keidan that appeared in Guardian Online on 22 October 2015 when I was half way thru the two week course led by Jurgen Fritz which has totally re-aligned my thinking on what my art is, was and forever more will BE. I am so determined to do Performance Art in my future and have just come across a conversation involving a friend I made (Andrea Pagnes ) at the IPA fortnight with a man whose work totally blew me away when I discovered it in a book that I saw at the bookshop in the National Theatre (I’ve yet to see anything other than photos of the man), Ron Athey. Their conversation gets to the hub of the issues in PA and altho I am a novice by comparison I felt so privileged that both Vest & Page said such wonderfully constructive things to me about my efforts. I received so much encouragement to carry on. Recently I have heard it said that ‘art’ is a minority interest (but today on Anglia BBC morning news they tell me “Creative Industries are worth £76 billion per annum to the ‘Economy’- why don’t i see any o that?), well it may be a minority interest to some but it’s been my obsession now for 48 years. I still have some more to say and it will be thru PA/Live Art which is so much more demonstrative in its appreciation than the ‘art world’ [sorry art-world but I been trying to make a dent on you fer 48 years and the door won’t budge! At least when I do Live Art they clap and cheer (when I get off)]Hee Hee.

v & p latex dancers

That’s Andrea in the mask on right hand side.

Some words from Andrea Pagnes in conversation with Ron Athey,

AP‘… the richness and uniqueness that can emanate from personal experience, lived life and the consequent artistic research which arises directly from the deepest inclinations and existential urgencies of an individual.’

‘…when performance art intersects life directly and uncompromisingly, and draws on the most basic instincts, processes and transforms the deeper reasons and urgencies of Man’s presence in the world … it is revelatory: a sincere, transformative experience on human scale.’

RA says, ‘…How, in any medium, to bring something esoteric to

life, how to disturb a given, how to represent the super natural.’

AP you have … challenged conventional bourgeois mores, tastes and expectations

…by addressing viscerally emerging social hypocritical worries…’

RA performance art today… is not populist. Why not do benefits/write for funds/self produce in an amazing site-specific place? Cuz it is so much work but so worth it!

 I love the bit about ‘the richness and uniqueness that can emanate from personal experience’ and that underpinned what 3 of my course leaders said to me. Andrea saw the natural clown/fool in me in two settings which he commented on. I see from the vids on V&P website that he has done much work with clowns.!the-smile-at-the-top-of-the-ladder/c1orh

They all encouraged me to use my life experience in my PA, something which comes easy to me I must say as I’ve reached a point in my life where I treasure every moment I have lived and I am ready to go out there and bring my stuff to folks in a variety of settings. At IPA I used some of my Ashtanga Yoga practice in some of my pieces, particularly the Jug Dance but there were other ‘moves’ and references too. Ashtanga Yoga is a fairly vigourous form which emanated from the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya thru his pupil K. Pattabhi Jois. Another of his students B K S Iyengar popularised his Iyengar form in Britain from the 1960s. The main difference as far as I can see is that Iyengar encourages the use of aids like cushions to ease the new student into the forms that can be somewhat excrutiating for a long time for starters. I for one have massive difficulty trying to do a lotus position but no matter, you do what you can and you gradually move towards perfection.The good thing is people do yoga into their 90’s which is fortunate cos I never started til I were in ma 60’s!arnolfini outside jug dance smPhoto by Nicole Murmann (thanks!)

This is not Yoga it is Performance Art, why? cos PA is what the artis says it is, Jurgen told us that, didn’t he?

I discovered a book on yoga which I’d recommend to anyone who wants to know its benefits, it’s called, The Reluctant Yogi by Carla McKay

I have been doing yoga once or twice a week and now I am so glad I began as it’s obvious it has so many astounding benefits.


Yes am lucky

iepw clematisclematis (c) by IEPW

Yes am lucky being alive!

Cos am nearing sixty five

My generation has been able to strive

Cos our fathers were able to survive

That heinous conflict known as the second world war

And in a way we owe it to them to do a bit more.

When we were young, in our 20’s at college, we all thought we were bullet proof, we never thought one day we may get older and prone to all the challenges a human life will put in the way. Now I look around at the friends I made in college in the early 1970s and I see some have had strokes, one had a massive one, several have had heart attacks and some have fought cancer whilst I battled a nasty disease called rheumatoid arthritis. Most of us who have survived did so as a result of help from the much maligned NHS and in my case I’ve gotten so much better that I can grace the world with my dance(s). One  northern contemporary of mine was heard to exclaim on seeing my recent performance filmed at BALTIC, ‘I thought he had r. a.?’ Well he did too and you wouldn’t want it my old friend. It’s a basterd bhugga I can vouch for that. Constant medical intervention by my consultant and G.P. pulled me thru the worst part and came early enough to stem its development. My wife was astounding in her support she never stopped paying attention to my needs and she altered my diet so I ate no crap. Then at Benton hall I began to swim a length a day, then two, then more and now am quite a good swimmer but not as good as Erica. Add yoga with Gareth Chandler, tai chi with Gareth’s Master Ch’n and Zumba with the Townshend Twins, Frances, Laura and last week with Lou to the mix and that’s what has made me able to do my dance. Add to that my natural gall, my attitude that if it’s hard I want to crack it, if it can be done then I can do it has brought me through. But this blog’s not about my small discomforts I want to celebrate my old friend Ian and his battle with recovery from the big old stroke he had.

IEPW delphiniumgladiola of the most beautiful shade of peach (c) by IEPW

Ian is one of life’s obsessives, he did everything he chose to do to excess. He never drove a car in his youth then when he got one he had to strip it down to bits and rebuild it himself, most of us would have taken it to a garage or sold the thing. He abstained from sport for let’s say ten years from around age 18 to 28, then he started doing marathons and swimming hundreds of lengths. Most of us would have walked and maybe dipped our toe in the sea.

IEPW delphinium2creamy yellow gladiola (c) by IEPW

It’s OK swimming many lengths fast when you’re young but not so good as you approach your sixties and you got high blood pressure so most of us wouldn’t challenge a youngster to a race in the pool but Ian did. When they pulled him out they thought he was dead. He’d had a massive stroke. They took him into hospital for over 10 weeks and did what they did and he began to recover, then he added his natural inability to give up and his recovery has been quite remarkable even though he can’t feel the left side of his limbs and his leg feels real heavy he’s learned to use mind over matter to make them move. And he gets by. He used to run around his adopted town training for marathons and all the bus drivers and taxi men knew his face. When he didn’t turn up on the roads for months one bus driver turned up at his house and asked after his health. He did try to runs slowly around the streets again but it proved too danger-full so now he pushes his limbs on a bike machine to do more miles in a week than I would do, and I’m nearly normal! ‘Life is for living’ is his mantra.

iepw autumn leavesspringtime acer leaves (c) by IEPW

It was Ian who taught me to take and process photos, in the day when you had to do it wet. I got quite good and took some lovely photos of people but Ian did the best.

john st Field smmy sketch of john st field world’s fastest guitar slinger

Have you spotted Apulhed? He sneaked in everywhere.

His photos of a man we knew in the early 70s as John St Field that I did the drawing above from, who later became known as Jackie Leven, are astounding and one of the last things Jackie said to me was ‘tell Ian I want to pay him for those photos cos they were great’. Recently he photo’d prima ballerinas from Japan and wild animals at London zoo and the flowers photos are his from the flowers he grows, with the help of a strong young man who digs the earth for him.

tut close up specs smauthor artis bloke when he were studying intensely for his first degree

In about 1972 when I used to work into the night to create my early comics, something outside my college work, he came round and photo’d me with my comic of Tutankhamun reflected in my specs! It took him hours to capture the image which he had seen in a flash but had to work to capture as I continued scribbling with my rotring pen. I find a mention in my notes from back then which I am re-presenting now for my new Shrewd Idiot artisbuk.

I guess I am lucky too cos this blArt gets folk coming to visit every week and this week i had some hits from Russia, Georgia and even from Kazakstan.  I wonder how they find my stuff?  And in the first hour this one went up we had visits from Greenland, Morocco & Russia. I know who it may be in Greenland, and in Morocco but have no idea who it is in Russia. Namaste to yez all.