Thursday, June 29, 2006

Electro Kid Hop

A slight departure from my usual form, but I just had to post this.

In the course of researching something for work, I came across what may be the best kid's show ever (and I know, there are plenty of contenders for the title).

The show is "Yo Gabba Gabba!".

Here is a still.

Here is an insanely catchy video.

The website is

That's all.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Revolution Evolution

I guess it's time to post something on this here blog. And in keeping with my birthname of Born Dancin' (check the birth certificate!) I've spent much of the past week distracting myself from my otherwise fraught and distressing personal life (those biting-down-on-knuckle shuddering existential questions on morning tram rides, WTF?!?! et so forth) by immersing myself in some local dance culture. And being the arty sort that I am, you know I'm not talking commercial dance parties.

Regular readers of this site will be well aware of its regular visits to the Australian Ballet's opening nights (implied: non-regular readers - not so well aware). Briefly, I've been to every opening night for the past year and a half. And I've enjoyed every one.

The reasons for this are simple. This site was initiated in order to assess the catering at opening nights. Not the most altruistic of aims, granted. And it became apparent quite quickly that "mushrooom/fetta arancini balls a plus, olive and chicken pastizzi a minus" wasn't really a Shakespearean sonnet. But the brief still holds. AHFLV is all about the stories behind The Story, and I maintain the belief that there is someone out there who cares about said story (behind The Story). The story being the catering. But clearly: not really about the catering, you know?

The Oz Ballet put on a helluva show.

Catering-wise, anyway. The new AB show, Revolutions, probably isn't flash enough to win over non-ballet folks. It's a decent number which will offer plenty to enthrall ballet buffs, and those with an interest in ballet history will certainly enjoy it, since it's a reworking of three bits by Fokine, big man of modern (read: early C.20th) ballet. Not as spectacular as some recent shows, though. In fact this year has been a bit of a solid, well-drilled season, as opposed to last year's boom crash ballets.

The third piece of the evening is all about the sex. Set in a harem, there's a very Eyes Wide Shut love-in followed by lots of cutlasses to the throat, and it's quite a thrill, if kind of overblown and silly. I bring all this up because during this scene, the older gent sitting to my right was getting...a bit het up. His hands were fluttering and his breathing had become more shallow and at one point he whispered "gooood giiiirl" and I was...worried what would happen next. As soon as the night ended his partner told him he should quickly go now, and he bolted to the exit. I was slightly concerned by all this. Is this what the ballet is to some people? A culturally acceptable way to 'enjoy oneself'?

When the curtain rose for the bows, who else was there with the dancers but my excited neighbour!? He'd been the guy who staged the thing!

Daft me! I immediately felt bad for completely and unforgivably misconstruing the situation.

Not saying that ballet can't be pretty sexy though. I bet there was at least one older fella (or lass) getting an extra kick from the show.

The night before, I caught the opening of With a Bullet: The Album Project. It's great. It's the show you should see if you don't like/get/haven't seen contemporary dance. It's the show you should see if you do/have. I can't imagine somebody not liking it. My plus one for the night called it an adrenaline shot. And it really is.

Curated by Natalie Cursio (one of the best indie choreographers in Melbourne), the show consists of eight choreographers creating a piece around the first song they ever produced a dance number to. As in, dancing around the lounge room with your sister.

So you've got Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Chariots of Fire, the Ghostbusters theme, and much more (I mean five more). There's a response to a psychotropic experience listening to a meditation track (not all of the choreographers were eight when they first began dancing, see). And it's one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. It explores the self-absorption of the New Age scene, the way one's own spirituality can seem ridiculous to an outsider, and the ego required to destroy one's ego. It's almost entirely danced by one man's butt.

Go see this show, for the love of whatever. It's smart and cheeky and fun and accessible.

I also spent this afternoon watching Lucy Guerin prepare her new dance work for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. It's a dance piece based on the Westgate Bridge collapse a few decades back. That sounds like a tough call. I think she might have pulled it off. I probably can't say much more yet. But at this point, at least, it's looking sublime.

If I could spend another life following the same footsteps, twists and phrases I've used in this one, I don't think I'd be any closer to understanding them.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I've long been harshly critical of the use of the word "surreal" in reviews, especially theatre reviews. Admittedly, I do have a vague anxiety which suggests that I may have used the term myself once or twice, but rest assured that this is only because I am lazy and/or sometimes have too much on my plate (I write on plates - nothing like the lustre of cool porcelain to fire the creative spirit). But too many reviewers fall back on "surreal" when they really mean something else. Sometimes, when they drop the S-Bomb, what they really mean is:
WEIRD: Surreal doesn't mean weird. A grownup dressed as a bunny rabbit playing with an assault rifle isn't necessarily surreal. It's weird. It may, perhaps, be more than that, but on its own it ain't surreal.
UNCANNY: If something smacks of the supernatural but isn't squarely in that camp, still maintaining an ambiguity of origin or a familiarity despite its strangeness, then it's uncanny, not surreal. A ghostly bunny telling our protagonist her future is not surreal. It may be uncanny. Depending on what the bunny says.
UNREAL: If something is fantastic, and blatantly not real, it is definitely not surreal. It is in fact the opposite of surreal.
REAL: If something is realistic, it is not surrealistic. I shouldn't need to explain this.
FUNNY: Don't even start me.
IMITATIVE OF CANONICAL SURREALIST ART: Dripping clocks etc don't make something surreal. Ohhh no.
UNINTELLIGIBLE: Just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean that you can slap it in the surreal basket (what would such a basket look like, I wonder).
POSTMODERN: Definitely not surreal, but I wouldn't advise using this term either, unless you really know what you mean by it and are fairly confident that your reader knows as well.
There are plenty of other adjectives which better describe a thing than 'surreal'. Look them up. It's been very very rare that I've seen a performance I would describe as surreal. In fact, I can't even think of one from the past few years. But the show I saw on Saturday night is the closest I can think of.
LALLY KATZ AND THE TERRIBLE MYSTERIES OF THE VOLCANO is an amazing piece of theatre, though it takes a while to really draw you into its net. It's written by, well, Lally Katz, and follows a male detective (also named Lally Katz) as he attempts to unravel a particularly dense and layered plot centring on a volcano, a childhood friend and the relationship between the two. Beyond that, it gets pretty hard to describe, but making sense of things is part of the fun.
Lally is accompanied by a lion named Lion as he returns to his childhood town of Canberra, an island under the dominating grip of the living volcano at its centre. This imagined "Canberra" is the home to all kinds of odd folks, including a Spanish club owner obsessed with the missing girl, a prostitute with burnt-out eyes, woodland animals, a young man who is constantly rooting but can't bring things to a natural climax, and a plenty more. As Lally becomes personally implicated in the enigmatic crime, he disappears into the volcano itself, and Lion must enlist some assistance to save his good buddy.
The play alternates between three timeframes: Lally's childhood, his return to the island, and Lion's rescue attempts. The intermingling of the three is expertly achieved, and Chris Kohn's direction is outstanding, bringing out an arresting array of theatrical techniques (including, in the second half, some which I suspect he picked up during his time in New York), and the pace never flags. But most importantly, despite the massive amounts of non-realistic imagery and narrative drama which are delivered at a bewildering rate, everything seems to follow a kind of internal logic. And it's this which causes me to feel that the piece can deservedly be called surreal. It's not unreal, but offers a reality which seems to exist beyond our normal levels of perception or linear thinking, and seems to tear at the fabric of reality to suggest a more profound but no less real something beyond.
In a way, it's one of the most 'true' shows I've seen in a long time. There's a lot of autobiographical stuff in there, but it's not delivered in a conventionally autobiographical manner. It produces 'Lally Katz' but is also reflective of the lack of distinction between author and text. I could waffle on at this theoretical level for a while, but I'd rather just encourage you to see it and we can discuss it from there. Class dismissed.