Mark Baldwin Dance Company
I'm not sure I'm fully 'engaged' with Mark Baldwin and his company yet. Baldwin's choreography is applauded by so many professionals itís hard to ignore and yet I don't really warm to it or feel I understand it. I recall a similar situation with Mark Morris where I was in a distinct minority - and then suddenly it all clicked and I now wouldn't dream of missing a show. Perhaps it might go this way with Baldwin at some point?
The Baldwin pieces I've seen have mainly been for other ballet companies - the Royal Ballet and London City Ballet - and I was hoping that seeing his choreography fitted to his chosen dancers would somehow unlock his work for me. It certainly confirmed an idiosyncratic style which throws the hips and bum into great prominence! While some people praise his musicality I find the unexpected oddness of much of the movement makes for disjointed, if lively, viewing. Somehow he constantly seems to do the opposite of what you expect. It's fresh but can be wearing and a wee bit too clever.
The main reason most were there was to see the London premier of 'The Bird Sings With its Fingers'. Not being a particularly rounded arts person - something I don't revel in but don't apologise for either, it has the type of pedigree, background and presentation to make me wince. The inspiration for the piece was Jean Cocteau's film Orphee (you are all knowingly nodding already I can tell!), which itself was a modern re-telling of the Orpheus myth.
There are some notes by Julian Anderson who especially composed the modernist score but little is conveyed other than more strangeness. If it matters or not I'm not sure but I do know I don't know anything about Cocteau or Orpheus - except that he was in the underworld. Anyway it was all a bit of a challenge, both musically and to decipher any fragments of what may have been a story. But inventive movement abounded and the mix of such very different dancers - all shapes and sizes - made for some wonderful contrasts.
The State, to a bleak, loud and contemporary minimalist score by Louis Andriessen ("On political grounds, Andriessen is suspicious of the conventional orchestra.." says the programme rather ominously) is similarly hard to fathom. I fancy I saw images of regimentation, conformity and the odd free spirit. But oneís mind was constantly bombarded by the music and it should have been much less long.
I was happier with Danses Concertantes to the Stravinsky. Good music and nice to see other Stravinsky interpretations besides the 'usual' Balanchine. This work opened the evening and I really enjoyed the wit and panache of it as it played with and distorted my classical images. More of that please.
While I don't know quite what it is, Baldwin has something - just wish he would make it more accessible. On the other hand non-accessible might just be what he has.