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20 April 2009

Toumani passes on praise & Merce’s velvet suit

merce(photograph via The New York Times)

It was arts & culture weekend at Bemis HQ, beginning with two pieces you might call dance, a practice for which I won’t claim to have any intuitive feel. The subtleties are somewhat lost on me, raised as I was on provocative alt-rock and the adrenaline urge of punk rock. But I’m trying. And this seemed like a perfect opportunity for cross-training, given the fact that the particular auteurs whose works I chose tend to see the world of dance as one with porous borders.

Saturday afternoon at the Guggenheim came my first live taste of theater artist Robert Wilson’s work. Highlights were the stark quality of the stage lights (frequently marked by use of silhouette, occasionally by a kind of epilepsy-baiting flicker effect) as well as the Butoh-like intensity of movement (punctuated by a handful of solos featuring individual performers carrying a short stack of long wood planks across the stage, dropping them to dramatic effect). For my Sunday matinee, I took in my first Merce Cunningham dance at BAM. I was drawn in by the music (Sonic Youth with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones) but once there found myself more riveted by the frequent push toward physically impossible movement and, during the curtain call, by Merce’s velvet suit. (See photo, above.)

By far, however, the highlight of the weekend came last night, Toumani Diabate at Le Poisson Rouge. A Malian musician, Diabate has collaborated with pop stars (Bj√∂rk, Damon Albarn) and world-champion instrumentalists (Roswell Rudd, Bela Fleck, countryman Ali Farka Toure), but he is less a sideman than a master in his own right. More after the jump… Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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