Thursday 4 March 2010

4D performance using an Archive setting

'4D' was a term which confused me slightly - I wasn't quite sure what it meant in the context of a dance-based performance piece. What it meant was a quite breathtaking show which was a wonderful and very fitting tribute to the Scots-born film director Norman McLaren.

The dancer/choreographer of the show Peter Trosztmer is on stage for pretty much the entire length of the performance (running at 1 hour 40 minutes) which is impressive in itself - well it certainly seems it to a non-dance expert like myself! The show is his tribute to Norman McLaren and the performance is based around a narrative set in the Archives of the National Film Board of Canada. Through this we see and hear the impact that the work of Norman McLaren had on Trosztmer. I'm not sure how it's done but the effect we get is of Trosztmer dancing within and in perfect time with the films, of him talking to people he interviewed about Mclaren (but the people are projected images rather than actual presences). I don't think my description of it are doing justice to the effect of the performance - it's definitely something to see if you get the chance.

The music is amazing throughout, particular favourites of mine remain 'Begone Dull Care', 'Boogie Doodle' and 'Lines Horizontal' (the original music from 'Lines Horizontal', by Pete Seeger wasn't used in the performance but the music that was used fitted the scenario better I think - although I do love the Seeger score!). Having just looked at some letters which McLaren sent home to his parents which are in our Archive here at Stirling I was struck by references to events discussed in the letters. For example the film 'A Phantasy' which is very surrealist in style, reminding me of Dali and also of De Chirico, was explained as being a reaction to McLaren's experience of the Spanish Civil War. I had just read a letter he sent home to his parents in which he discussed the hardships of life for the people in the Spanish countryside where he was staying, he discussed the lack of food and the need for change to the system. However nowhere does he indicate the traumatic affect which the brutality of Franco's soldiers was having on him. He obviously didn't want to worry his parents - a natural instinct we all share! Instead the trauma came out through this work 'A Phantasy' - this was the first time I'd thought of it in this light and it made it even more moving. Likewise 'Neighbours' is a statement against war, I had picked this up, it would be hard not to, but I didn't know it was to do with him having experience the Spanish Civil War, then his experiences of China when the Korea War broke out. The more I watch the film the more moving it is. Here's a promotional sheet for 'Neighbours' from the Norman McLaren Archive at the National Film Board of Canada, taken from their 'Focus on Animation' webpages.

Neighbors : An Academy Award Film. 1952. One-sheet : 1 page : 28 x 21.5 cm
© National Film Board of Canada. Reproduced with permission of the NFB

I feel so lucky to have seen this show at it's only Scottish venue at the MacRobert Arts Centre here at Stirling University.

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