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 Post subject: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2003 3:44 pm 

Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2001 12:01 am
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"The great thing about imaginative dancemaking is that it reminds
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 Post subject: Re: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2003 6:56 am 

Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19616
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
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Both Talking - An Interview with Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
by Donald Hutera

Both Sitting Duet is a wonderfully intricate, precisely timed sharing of stage space by long-time collaborators , choreographer, and Matteo Fargion, composer. Like the title says, it is a (mostly) sedentary performance in which the pair occupy two chairs close to the audience and each other. Each has a thin notebook at his feet containing a ‘score’ of actions which, as extracts from a post-show interview conducted at last May’s Nottdance Festival reveal, have a secret source.

Donald Hutera: How did this piece come about?

Jonathan Burrows:When we decided to work together on this piece we had no preconception of what we would do. Because previously I had always been the boss, commissioning Matteo to write music, we decided that this time we would work equally.We wanted to find something that we could place between us that was neither too much Matteo nor too much me, but which could be an arbiter of our process.We looked at many different possibilites – text, films, music, concepts – and found nothing.

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 Post subject: Re: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2003 3:53 am 

Joined: Tue Sep 05, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 3602
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Article from The Telegraph.

Jonathan Burrows is probably Britain's cleverest, most stimulating choreographer. William Forsythe describes the former Royal Ballet man as a "truly great, instinctive choreographer". But where Forsythe is lionised, Burrows, 10 years younger at 43, is obscure to vanishing point. The contrast between them is exemplified by the fact that where Forsythe's company, Ballett Frankfurt, is performing a large-scale, technologically complex, dramatically dense full-evening work that marries film, literature, theory and almost anything else that comes to hand, at the Place a week earlier Burrows will present a sparse duet for two men sitting down, called Both Sitting Duet.


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 Post subject: Re: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2003 7:04 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 23
Location: York, UK
Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion's "Sitting Duet" at the Place, October 2003

Two chairs, angled slightly towards one another. Two identical but well thumbed
notebooks open in front of them on the floor. Burrows and Fargion enter from the door
at the back. They're wearing jeans, solid boots, Burrows has a dull coloured, round
necked, short sleeved t-shirt, Fargion a blue, broad checked short with the sleeves
rolled up -- i.e. they're casually dressed, dressed down, and definitely don't look
like they're about to dance a conventional dance.

They sit down and before you realize it they are already into the movement, reaching
down, brushing the floor, stroking their palms across the denim on their thighs, and
so on. Sometimes they are in unison, sometimes in counterpoint, sometimes looking up
to catch a cue from the other, sometimes looking bored and waiting for the other to
finish. Generally, their eyes are down, checking their notebooks. Occasionally one
leans forward and turns the page -- rarely if ever do they both turn a page at the
same time. Their manner and they way their seated movements relate to each other is
rather like that of classical chamber musicians.

Burrows has an extremely dead-pan facial expression, while Fargion gives more away,
looking continually surprised. People laugh a lot at times, particularly at first
because the material was so unusual and hence 'funny', grown men so seriously
executing such peculiar things. People laugh at sudden changes and at the
introduction of surprising new material. And there are some extremely funny moments -
for example when they both stand up and place their feet very deliberately so that
they pivot round through 360 degrees, craning their necks so as to keep on reading
their notebooks.

As often with Burrows's choreography, part of the fascination is working out what
movements are intentional and significant and what is just coincidental, ordinary
behaviour (what's background noise and what's information); and within the
significant material, how much is marked and how much fully stretched. Burrows has
more sensitive hands, quicker, cleaner, clearer gestures, but sometimes if Fargion
has the same moves as Burrows (which he often has, in a slightly difference phase or
sequence) you can see what the moves are more easily with Fargion because he's slower
and more matter of fact.

There is little or no deliberate sound during the initial stages of the piece, just
the swish of hands on denim or skin on skin, and the occasional thump as they sit
back in their chairs. Instead the focus is on the placement of hands on things, on
the delicacy of gestures that take the hands up in the air in a kinked circuit and
down again. These gestures are not mimetic, but have the precision and focus of mime.
Or the torso folds forward so that the head bobs between the knees and then returns
to vertical. Or their heads turn left, right forward in 90 and 180 degree turns.
Mostly simple movements performed with quiet sensitivity and clarity and used
repetitively. The patterns of repetitions and the relationship that develops between
the two performers is increasingly fascinating. The choreography nevertheless is far
from repetitive but develops in its own rather surprising way. Later they both sing
in fast high pitch bursts that sound like ''. They count their
fingers touching a fingertip with the flat palm of the other hand. They stand up and
robustly stamp. Burrows places his chair behind Fargion's and each stretches out
their arms like airplane wings: when Burrows's slope up, Fargion's slope down and
vice versa making a cross. And as usual with Burrows's work there is an 'unexpected',
abrupt ending -- no build up, no gradual cadence: one second it seems to be movement
as usual and before you realise it the lights have quickly faded and we're clapping.
(I don't think there were any other changes in the lighting throughout the piece).

Afterwards some of the more curious audience members (myself included) went on stage
and looked through the notebooks which the dancers have left behind. They have each
devised their own score for the piece which is built up of individual sections each
with a descriptive subtitle lasso, twist, brush, etc. Fargion, as a composer, has
used musical time signatures and notes (but no staves). Burrows has written down a
number for each count and added words or scribbles. His score is thus much longer
than Fargion's and he had to turn the pages more often. In an interview with Donald
Hutera, Burrows and Fargion explained that they had taken a piece of music and
created their choreography note for note. They wouldn't say what the piece was. It is
in fact a piece for violin and piano by a composer within John Cage's circle, and
while these composers mostly used innovative, unconventional methods of musical
notation, in this case, because it was a late work, it was scored entirely

The affective quality of their dance piece, in Burrows's opinion, is unconnected with
the feel of the music they worked from. Burrows says he thinks that he and Fargion
have worked in an old-fashioned way in their concern with the relationship between
dance and music. From this I assume he is referring to the idea of dancers' and
choreographers' musicality: that the way a 'musical' dance artist creates or
interprets music comes not just from the coming together and coincidence of sound and
move but from a sensitive and appropriate movement response to the music on
structural and affective levels. To suggest that the way Burrows and Fargion are
doing this is 'old-fashioned' is surely disingenuous. Nothing in the world of
performance survives unless it is performed again, but each performance of it is
nevertheless unique and has the potential to create innovation. The way that Burrows
and Fargion have approached the relationship between movement and music in Sitting
Duet is new and fresh. It articulates an intriguing relationship between what I have
suggested is noise and information. The performers' informal, unseductive,
uncharismatic presence directs attention away from the dancer towards the movement
itself and the affective qualities that their movements generate. As such it has a
lot in common with the current so-called conceptual dance in continental Europe. It
is also a conceptual piece in so far as the original music is essentially absent and
only present through its translation into another idiom. In its own, quiet, reticent
manner, Sitting Duet does far more than reproduce an old-fashioned idea about the
relationship between dance and music; it changes the way we think about it.

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 Post subject: Re: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2003 5:30 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 307
Although I was initially intrigued a while into the piece I had to reluctantly admit to myself that I felt unable to connect in any way to what I was seeing. 'Both Sitting Duet' certainly consists of movement, as I found out afterwards even movement inspired by music, but I am wondering does any kind of movement automatically qualify as 'dance' because somebody says it is meant to be? Why does dance have to become less 'dancey' in order to progress?

Thursday night after a tough week at the office was probably not the best time to contemplate the big artistic philosophical 'Why?' or 'Why not?' but the fact of the matter is I simply did not get it. To discribe my feelings I was reminded of an incident at an art exhibition of works by Joseph Beuys years ago in Germany. One of the exhibition pieces was a bath tub wich had been messed up on the inside. A well meaning cleaning lady not realising that this was a work of art took it upon herself to scrub the tub sparkling clean. (This event later inspired a popular TV commercial for a cleaning liquid). As much as I hate to admit it as far as 'Both Sitting Duet' is concerned I feel as ignorant as this poor cleaning lady.

Is there any hope for me yet? Should I try to see more of 'less cutting edge' contemporary dance pieces before trying to understand 'Burrows's work again? Or is it a case of you either belong to the 'select few' able to cope with cutting edge ideas or you don't? Any advise would be appreciated.

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