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
 
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Stelzenläufer, 1927
 
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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
 

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
Get some culture, you bourgeois ingrates! (With some revolutionary Chinese communist ballet, 1971)

Red Detachment of Women
 
Efforts to create a new, post-capitalist artistic culture are fraught with peril. First of all, the tendency to dismiss pre-socialist traditions (artistic or otherwise) as “bourgeois” inevitably leads to a backlash. The impulse to preserve the past and retain one’s history will always prevail (science fiction Christmas cards in state atheist Soviet Russia immediately come to mind). Secondly, the artistic genres of “communist” states can sway overwhelmingly nationalistic, often at the expense of the art itself; propaganda can be art, but when you live in a totalitarian state, stuff can get stale real quick (then again, certain American gaffs remind me totalitarianism isn’t a prerequisite for banal propaganda). And then there’s that rare example of artistic achievement that falls victim to both of the aforementioned pitfalls—fails at relinquishing ties to capitalist culture and politically problematic in its nationalism—but still reaches the height of brilliance and beauty.

Enter Maoist ballet. As an avid ballet fan and former dancer, I’m slightly offended at the notion that I must reassure readers, “this is no ordinary ballet,” but it is an exceptional interpretation, and those who might otherwise be averse to ballet can take heart that this the style is uniquely dynamic and athletic. China’s Cultural Revolution dictated that the bourgeois culture of capitalism just be replaced with a new proletarian culture- hence the radical choreography and patriotic imagery. Of course, it’s still recognizable as ballet, and while a few Chinese instruments pepper the score, it’s primarily performed by a European-style orchestra.

Below is my favorite, “The Red Detachment of Women,” one of the so-called “Eight Model Operas,” (which were actually five operas, two ballets, and a symphony) all designed and organized by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, intended as the ambitious forefront of China’s new revolutionary culture. Though I tend to watch it in pieces, isolating different acts and numbers for their stand-alone value, the libretto is epic and elaborate. The ballet is actually based on a famous novel that pulled true stories from the all-women Special Company of the 2nd Independent Division of Chinese Red Army, who had over 100 members. When Nixon visited China in 1972 to repair diplomatic relations, this is the ballet they took him to see—there’s no way that wasn’t a backhanded gesture.

In many ways, “The Red Detachment of Women” was a total failure. Even if we ignore the fact that the terrible politics of Communist China were being extolled en pointe, it’s intellectually difficult to argue that anything engineered by Mao’s wife could even be populist. And of course it’s a failure as all cultural revolutions are a failure; art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and no amount of communist shellac could purge the fingerprints of the Western progenitors of ballet. Still, the beauty and the innovation of the project are undeniable, and while “The Red Detachment of Women” wasn’t the dawn of a proletarian artistic movement, it was most certainly, well… revolutionary.
 

 

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
Lindsay Kemp’s ‘Flowers’: A legendary dance production inspired by Jean Genet’s novel

Lindsay_Kemp_Flowers
 
Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers while in prison in 1942. It was published anonymously the following year, and sold around 30 copies. It wasn’t until after the Allied Forces liberated France in 1944 that the bulk of the copies were bound and sold.

Due to its sexual content Our Lady of the Flowers was sold as high class erotica, but Genet never intended it as such. It would take until the book had been revised and reprinted by Gallimard in 1951 that Our Lady of the Flowers received the critical accolades it richly deserved - even if Jean-Paul Sartre described it as “the epic of masturbation.”

It was an over-the-wall conversation with a neighbor that led Lindsay Kemp to create and produce his now legendary dance production of Flowers in 1974. As Lindsay recounted to Dangerous Minds last year:

‘I’d just rented a little cottage, a country retreat, in Hungerford in Berkshire, and my next door neighbor - it was one Sunday morning and we were listening to Round the Horne, we all did on those Sunday mornings - and my neighbor across the fence leaned over and said.

“Oh hi, I think this book might interest you.”

And it was Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers. And I began to read it, and as soon as I began to read it I could already see it on the stage, and I could see myself as Divine, the central character. And two weeks later, we opened it.

Only someone of Kemp’s incredible talents and vision could have produced Flowers, and the production put Kemp and his dance company literally “on the map.” Since then, Kemp and Co. have performed Flowers all across the world to incredible acclaim.

In 1982, a video was made of the Lindsay Kemp Dance Company performing Flowers at the Teatro Parioli, Roma. It is rarely been seen since, and the video is a incredible treat for anyone interested in dance, performance and theater.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Lindsay Kemp is on the ‘phone: Scenes from his life from Genet to Bowie

 

Lindsay Kemp: Seldom seen interview about his production of ‘Salome’ from 1977

 

David Bowie and Lindsay Kemp’s rarely seen production ‘Pierrot in Turquoise’ from 1968


 
With thanks to Lindsay Kemp’s Last Dance
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Gorgeous deep-sea octopus ballet
05.16.2011
11:27 am

Topics:
Animals
Environment

Tags:
ballet
white octopus


 
Here’s a soothing white octopus ballet set to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” performed by Bryan Verhoye. Simply beautiful. 

 
(via Unique Daily)

Written by Tara McGinley | Discussion