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The Triadic Ballet: Eccentric Bauhaus ballet brilliance or is it Germanic Maude Lebowski art shit?


 
To the layman, the legacy of the Bauhaus movement is often unfairly reduced to über-gloomy goth rockers and boxy modern architecture, but my formative years were influenced by a succession of eccentric ballet teachers, so to me, Bauhaus will always mean Oskar Schlemmer’s 1922 opus, “Das Triadisches Ballett” (The Triadic Ballet)—perhaps the least “human” dance performance ever concieved.

Schlemmer was a painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer—that kind of factotum being par for the course in the Bauhaus ethos. When hired to teach at the Bauhaus school, Schlemmer combined his work in both sculpture and theater to create the internationally acclaimed extravaganza which toured from 1922 until 1929, when Schlemmer left an increasingly volatile Germany.

When I showed this video to an ex-boyfriend, he described it succinctly as “some really goddamn German Maude Lebowski art shit,” and that’s not a bad way to put it. The sets are minimalist, emphasizing perspective and clean lines. The choreography is limited by the bulky, sculptural, geometric costumes, the movement stiflingly deliberate, incredibly mechanical and mathy, with a rare hints of any fluid dance. The whole thing is daringly weird and strangely mesmerizing.

Below are a few pictures of original Bauhaus ballet performers, and the 1970 German film production of “Das Triadisches Ballett.” New music was composed for this short, and the orchestral sounds contrast nicely with such an inorganic spectacle.
 
Bauhaus ballet
Performers from an early run of Das Triadische Ballet, 1924
 
Bauhaus
Rehearsal, 1928
 
Bauhaus
Stelzenläufer, 1927
 
Bauhaus
Costume for the Neue Sachlichkeit Party, 1926
 
Bowie and Bauhaus
Triadic Ballet costume and David Bowie’s Kansai Yamamoto-designed Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, for comparison
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Watch Josephine Baker do the original Charleston, 1927
01.15.2014
11:30 am

Topics:
Dance

Tags:
Josephine Baker


 
We have a tendency to perceive long-since-passed pop culture crazes as “tame,” especially in our current, Miley Cyrus-infected times. The Charleston definitely falls victim to that misconception. Beyond the knee-cross, hand-switch move that has become short-hand for old fogies, most people don’t even know what the dance actually looks like. So I insist you watch this Josephine Baker number from the 1927 silent film, La Sirène des Tropiques, which features the dance in an amazing, grandiose routine. It may be her first film appearance (release dates for others are debated), but it is her first acting role.

Though Baker’s talent was never as celebrated in her home country as it was in France, she was beloved for far more than dancing topless in a banana tutu. The consummate entertainer, she could go from glamour-puss to comedienne, from a sweet smile to a smoldering gaze. Her acting was captivating, her singing voice sweet, and she remains, to this day, one of the most bombastic, athletic, and creative dancers ever to grace the stage.

Baker’s title card comes in at 1:50, but it’s worth watching the chorus line number that proceeds her, which provides a dramatic contrast to Baker’s fresh, new moves and unorthodox grace. Don’t get me wrong—I love a chorus line, but the great Josephine Baker blows them right out of the water.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Nijinsky with a mohawk: The edgy collaborations of punk ballet dancer Michael Clark and The Fall


 
Although he and his dance troupe have performed choreography set to the music of Wire, Glenn Branca, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Igor Stravinsky and others, it is his work with The Fall that the work of Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark will always be the most closely associated with.

The classically-trained Clark has said that hearing the manic, rubbery, jagged-edged relentlessly repetitious music of Manchester’s post-punk bard Mark E. Smith was a sort of clarion call for him as a young man to start doing his own work—if punk bands could do their thing, then that same ethos and attitude (and shock value) could go into creating a new form of modern ballet. Clark’s vision of ballet happened to incorporate Leigh Bowery wielding a chainsaw, syringes strapped to his dancers and sets festooned with fried egg trees . Clark seemed touched by the gods. His angular, asymmetrical, yet bizarrely graceful form of movement caused a sensation in the dance world. He was Nijinksy with a mohawk.
 

Michael Clark as Caliban in Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books

The Fall and Clark’s company appeared together on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984 in a provocative performance of “Lay of the Land” that saw Clark prancing around in a Bodymap leotard that exposed his ass cheeks to the nation as the group made a mighty roar behind him.
 

 
They collaborated more formally in 1988 when The Fall provided the live soundtrack for Clark’s ballet “I Am Curious, Orange” at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London (The Fall’s LP was called I Am Kurious Oranj). Some tantalizing looks at what that production was like come from Cerith Wyn Evans videos for “Wrong Place, Right Time” and “New Big Prinz,” which were apparently shot at a rehearsal.
 

 
Below, “New Big Prinz”

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Watch 1950s stag film queen Candy Barr dance in captivating, little-seen footage
01.06.2014
05:47 am

Topics:
Dance

Tags:
strippers
stag film
Candy Barr
strip tease

Candy Barr
 
I never want to make too many assumptions about our readers or their workplaces, but I think it’s only fair to give y’all a warning: this is a stag film, and therefore probably not appropriate for most office environments.

That being said, you have to see Candy Barr dance. She’s positively hypnotic, with a seemingly instinctual control of her own body. Although her skills were certainly enough to earn her a place in pop culture history, she’s famous for far more than her serpentine shimmy.

“Candy” was born Juanita Dale Slusher in small-town Texas. Her childhood wracked by trauma (the death of her mother at age 9, and sexual abuse from both a neighbor and a babysitter), she ran away at 13 to Dallas. She was married at 14, but the union ended when he went to jail (he was supposedly a safe-cracker).

The next few years of Candy’s life yield conflicting accounts. It’s known that she worked as a cigarette girl, and eventually an exotic dancer, but sources vary on whether she worked as a prostitute or not. She did, however, appear the early “smoker,” Smart Alec at the age of 16. Broke and hungry, Candy (who was still Juanita at the time) made the film under extreme stress and coercion, regretting it for the rest of her life.

Candy’s life should not be reduced to tragedy. Shortly after the release of Smart Alec, she got a well-paying job at a strip club, adopted her moniker, and established her trademark cow-girl routine—complete with cowboy hat and boots, holstered cap six-shooters, and not much else. Though she shot her violent second husband (non-fatally), it was a marijuana possession charge that actually threatened Candy—a fifteen year sentence for four-fifths of an ounce. (Oh, Texas…)

The case dragged on with appeal after appeal, and Candy’s star rose all the while. She went form city to city, made fantastic money, was hired by Fox studios to choreograph Joan Collins for the movie Seven Thieves. She also dated gangster Mickey Cohen. Smitten, Cohen wanted to marry her, and as the appeals of her case began to wind down and the threat of imprisonment loomed closer, he sent Barr and her young daughter to Mexico. Candy, never one to hide, eventually returned to the states and broke it off with Cohen.

Shortly after, she married Jack Sahakian, hairdresser to the stars—the same hairdresser, incidentally, that Cohen arranged to dye her hair so that she could live incognito in Mexico. A few months later, she lost her final appeal and was sentenced to fifteen years. She spent over three years in jail before being paroled. Perhaps agog at the obviously overly punitive sentencing of a “scandalous woman,”  Texas Governor, John Connally, pardoned her in 1968, and she resumed her very successful career.

In 1972, she published, A Gentle Mind . . . Confused. a collection of 56 poems she wrote while in prison, revealing a rich internal monologue and a deft utility of words belying a woman who dropped out of school at thirteen. An excerpt.

“Hate the world that strikes you down,
A warped lesson quickly learned.
Rebellion, a universal sound,
Nobody cares, no one’s concerned.

Fatigued by unyielding strife,
Self-pity consoles the abused,
And the bludgeoning of daily life,
Leaves a gentle mind . . . confused.”

From my perspective (that of a failed ballerina), Candy Barr stands out among her stag film peers, first and foremost, as a natural dancer. I mean, Bettie Page was darling and charismatic, of course, but like a lot of stag film dancers, she was known more for her charms than her craft. After retiring, Barr moved back to the small town of her birth, living comfortably and quietly, choosing not to bank off her cult status. She always said the male attention was never really the thrill for her; she just wanted to dance. 
 

 
The Wall Breakers

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Holy Watusi, Batman! The Bay Area Batman-themed nightclub from the mid-1960s
12.06.2013
02:31 pm

Topics:
Dance
Music
Television

Tags:
Batman
Sly and the Family Stone

Wayne Manor
 
From the start of 1966 to the late spring of 1967 (if not longer), a period coinciding with the run of the groovy Batman TV show we all know and love, one of the hottest nightclubs in the Bay Area was a Batman-themed joint called Wayne Manor in Sunnyvale. According to the Chicken on a Unicycle website (love the name), “The club was decorated like the Bat Cave, and dancers were dressed like Bat Girl or Catwoman.” LIFE Magazine mentioned Wayne Manor in its March 11, 1966 cover story on the Batman-mania sweeping the nation.

The owner of the club was named Joe Lewis, and after attempting to run the nightclub as a South Bay branch of LA’s Whiskey à Go Go, took the advice of his 11-year-old son Garth—an addict of the DC comic books—and went with the Batman theme for the venue. Some have presented the two events as a mere lucky coincidence for Lewis, but I’m skeptical—the Batman series debuted on January 11, 1966, and the music listings on the Chicken on a Unicycle website go back only as far as February 1966—smells like good old-fashioned opportunism to me.
 
Wayne Manor
The (Fremont) Argus, Feb. 16, 1966
 
Musical acts would usually book for an entire week at a time. The roster of performers included such notable musical acts as The Music Machine (who played there in Oct. 1966), Dobie Gray (Dec. 1966), and—this will blow your mind—Sly and the Family Stone (a week covering the end of March and the start of April 1967 and virtually every day in May 1967).

Chicken on a Unicycle has an exhaustive collection of ephemera about the club, although most of the images are frustratingly small. However, it’s still very valuable in persuading people (me, for instance) that this actually happened.

There isn’t any video of Wayne Manor on YouTube (why would there be?), so instead we offer you all 14 window cameos from the original TV series:

 
via Messy Nessy Chic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The all-singing, all-dancing contortionist Ross Sisters will blow your mind
12.02.2013
09:07 am

Topics:
Dance

Tags:
Ross Sisters


 
It’s next to impossible not to use Upworthy-sprach in the title for something like this, so please bear with me and meet The Ross Sisters—Vicki, Dixie and Betsy—an all-singing, all dancing trio of contortionist siblings who were most famous in the 1940s. Among the amazing talents of the extremely flexible Rosses, they were able to touch their ass cheeks to the back of their heads.

“Solid Potato Salad” has already been an Internet sensation once (if not many more times), but the quality here is the best I’ve seen of this astonishing performance. They’re just singing for the first minute. Beyond that, there’s nothing to say but hit play.
 

 
Thank you kindly, Michael Simmons of Los Angeles, CA!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘John Travolto’: Italy’s very own FAKE John Travolta!
11.14.2013
02:56 pm

Topics:
Dance
Movies

Tags:
John Travolta
John Travolto

The Face with Two Left Feet
 
In 1977 Saturday Night Fever came out and the Bee Gees and John Travolta ruled the world. Probably the most intriguing and risible effort to cash in on Travolta-mania was Neri Parenti’s 1979 Italian movie John Travolto ... Da Un Insolito Destino (the title is a pun; in addition to including John Travolta’s name almost exactly, it translates to something like “John Overwhelmed ... by an Unusual Destiny”). The movie, released in the U.S. on DVD as The Face with Two Left Feet, pulls off a neat trick: ripping off John Travolta by concocting a plot that’s all about ripping off John Travolta.

The ace up Neri’s sleeve was Giuseppe Spezia, an Italian actor who indeed resembled Travolta—one commentator is convinced that Spezia underwent plastic surgery to supply the needed trademark Travolta dimple on his chin, and I’m in no position to disagree. The movie also featured an actress who would later garner world renown for different reasons—the female lead was Ilona Staller, AKA “Cicciolina,” the X-rated actress who would marry Jeff Koons and get herself elected to the Italian parliament.
 
John Travolto da un insolito destino
 
As far as I can figure out the plot of this movie, Spezia plays “Gianni,” a hotel cook who’s a bit of a sad sack; he sits in the disco while all the sexy people get it on on the dance floor. The DJ of the establishment, hilariously called “John’s Fever,” is played by La Cicciolina. His co-workers notice that he looks so much like Travolta that he might be able to parlay that resemblance into success at the disco. There is the inevitable makeover (which is awesome), and then he returns to assume his rightful place as the king of John’s Fever. I think there is also a side plot in which rumors spread that John Travolta himself is in town or something.
 
Travolto/Travolta
A coworker uses a magic marker to convince Gianni of the possibilities that await him
 
Here’s the makeover scene, which is silly and campy and everything you would imagine such a thing to be. The tone reminds me a bit of La Cage aux Folles, which had come out a year earlier.
 

 
Here’s the climactic scene in which Gianni recapitulates the legendary dance scene of Saturday Night Fever. The pre-closing credits bit where the entire cast assembles on a fountain and ostentatiously either does or does not wink at the camera to signal the end of the movie is a perfection all its own. Both of these scenes are well worth watching, but you can buy the full movie too.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Danse Macabre’: The twitch of death


 
The multiple award-winning 2008 short film Danse Macabre is the work of visual effects director Pedro Pires and the celebrated Canadian theatrical artist Robert Lepage. In it, a death sets the stage for a dark choreography:

For a period of time, while we believe it to be perfectly still, lifeless flesh responds, stirs and contorts in a final macabre ballet.

Are these spasms merely erratic motions or do they echo the chaotic twists and turns of a past life?

The original idea and the choreography are by AnneBruce Falconer. Pedro Pires and Robert Lepage have collaborated on a new feature length film, Triptyque, based on Lepage’s ambitious theatrical project Lipsynch.

Nothing particularly lurid here, still you might not want to watch this where you work…
 

 
Thank you, Christian Rivera!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Do the Jellyfish: The 1960s dance-craze that never was
10.16.2013
11:57 am

Topics:
Dance
Movies
Music

Tags:
Neil Sedaka
The Jellyfish


 
Sting Of Death is a Z-grade monster flick directed by Florida schlockmeister William Grefe. It’s good campy fun for fans of such things (of which I am one) and features a never was dance-craze dance called “The Jellyfish” sung by Neil Sedaka to a ska-like beat.

Monkey, don’t be a donkey.
It’s nothing like the Monkey.
It’s isn’t funky or anything that’s junky.
It’s something swella!”
The jilla-jalla-jellyfish!”

Turn it up and dance the Jellyfish!
 

 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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How the 1% twerk (NSFW)
10.15.2013
08:48 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Dance

Tags:
twerk


 
The 1% be twerkin’ it up in style to “Butthoven’s 5th Symphony.”

In actuality, this is burlesque performer Michelle L’amour who has amazing capabilities with her buttcheeks. I mean, amazing!

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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