jueves, mayo 28, 2015

Wayne McGregor dares to reanimate dance

Wayne McGregor may just be the most interesting choreographer nowadays. Sure, you may have remarkable -and popular- dancemakers like Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, but whenever I read an article or a review of one of his dances, I’m sure I will end up fascinated.

McGregor is an artist that has gained notoriety thanks to his curiosity and his willingness to collaborate with talented people from seemingly disparate fields like visual arts, avant-garde music, technology and science. His mind seems to be as restless as many of the dances he has come to create.

The British choreographer’s talent may have also come at a proper time. Dance in general, at least until a few years ago, seemed to be stalled. That excitement dancers used to bring in the sixties and the seventies seemed to be long gone. Dance historian Jennifer Homans was harshly criticized for ending Apollo’s Angels, her fundamental book on the history of ballet, with some sort of an obituary for the art form. And even when her opinion might seemed a little bit over-the-top for some people, she definitely had a point: dance needed a striking resuscitation.

McGregor’s audacity has set foot on the stage of prestigious companies like La Scala, Paris Opera, San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet and English National Ballet. He’s also the Artistic Director of his own ensemble, Wayne McGregor Random Dance, and the Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, for which recently created Woolf’s works, a full-length production inspired by Virginia Woolf’s writings and with music written by Max Richter -a composer with whom McGregor has already worked with.

His other exciting recent project is entitled Tree of Codes, based on the book written by Jonathan Safran Foer scheduled to premiere at Manchester’s International Festival. The music is composed by Jamie xx, one of the members of The xx and who’s about to release his first album as a solo artist. The equally interesting visual artist Olafur Eliasson is also involved in the production taking care of a series of impressive light-based designs.

In a recent interview with the Guardian, McGregor confessed he feels obliged to break the limits of traditional choreography: “I think it’s the responsibly of major lyric theatres to challenge audiences, otherwise you’re just making work that suits the current taste, you’re not making it possible for the language to evolve.”

Everytime I hear from McGregor, I just sense some sort of an outstanding zeitgeitst, represented by his eagerness to be surrounded by people who has left their mark on these times. He has worked, just to cite a few names, with established, outstanding and cult musicians like Thom Yorke, Mark Ronson and Ben Frost.

On this regard, this is what he had to say in a recent Q&A he did with the Guardian: “I just think there are so many brilliant people out there. I love being inspired and in a room with them to see what we might be able to do together.”

And for now, there’s plenty of fascinating things he has been able to accomplish. The thing is, and I’m just speaking from my intuition, the road that McGregor has set out to take is just beginning. We’ll just wait, impatient and eagerly, to what he has yet to bring to the stage.  

lunes, mayo 18, 2015

This is what I dream for my beloved New York Philharmonic

One of the first things I did when I went to New York City was to walk around Lincoln Center. I wanted to visit Avery Fisher Hall, home to my favorite orchestra in the world: the New York Philharmonic. I just felt the need to step on the same concrete Leonard Bernstein, one of my absolute music heroes, must have surely walked on.

I was lucky to arrive in New York (June of ‘09) when Alan Gilbert had just taken the reins of the ensemble. I was a close witness to the beginning of his exceptional tenure. Even when I don’t live in its hometown anymore, I still feel very close to New York’s principal orchestra.

The New York Philharmonic needs to leave Avery Fisher Hall due to renovation works. Since Gilbert didn’t want to go through that transition, he decided to step down of the podium. That been said, the orchestra is on the brink of its most critical moment of its recent history: it needs to find a new conductor and a -temporary- new home.

Over the last few months there have been plenty of changes among some of the most well known orchestras: contract renewals (Dudamel/LAPhil, Nezet-Seguin/Philadelphia, Jansons/Bavarian Radio), new appointments (Nelsons/BSO, Rattle/LSO, Gatti/Concertgebouw) and the election for the conductor of what’s arguably the most prestigious symphony orchestra: the Berlin Philharmonic.

When choosing a new conductor, orchestras must find a person that possesses a set of features that goes beyond than just waving a baton. The chef d’orchestre is also in charge of overseeing the programming, dealing with members of the board, alluring potential donors, commanding the ensemble’s mission and acting as the most visible face of the organization -all daunting tasks, indeed.

Music lovers, critics, bloggers and musicians around the world have already started to make their bets on who may replace Gilbert. Among the candidates, the most remarkable names include David Robertson (who will, in my opinion, end up taking the position); terrific-but-too-young conductors like Pablo Heras-Casado, Ludovic Morlot and Daniel Harding; and a few underdogs like Manfred Honeck and Susanna Malkki.

But if I were to choose the perfect candidate, I’d pick Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Finnish composer and conductor has been one of the most outstanding personalities in the classical music scene. He became known for transforming the Los Angeles Philharmonic into the most modern orchestra nowadays (a status diligently maintained by his successor Gustavo Dudamel and its CEO Deborah Borda). He was also a key figure throughout the construction and opening of LAPhil’s marvelous new home: Disney Concert Hall, an accomplishment that might be Godsent for the New York Philharmonic’s upcoming reaccommodation.

As a composer, Salonen has written magnificent pieces of music like the gorgeous Nyx and Wing on Wing, impressive Concertos for Violin and Piano, and the arresting Insomnia (my personal favorite). As a recording artist, he’s been able to craft exciting interpretations of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Oedipus Rex, the superb Henri Dutilleux’s Correspondances, and pretty much any Bartok work that has his stamp on.

Salonen is just perfect because he imbues a bold sensibility into the classical canon and a devoted and proficient approach into contemporary works. He’s also handsome, cool and cosmopolitan -features that make him simply irresistible for a fashionable city like New York.

There’s also a lot that may play against his appointment, I’m afraid: Salonen quit the LAPhil because he wanted to dedicate more time to his music. It also seems he has found an enviable balance between composing and performing -he’s being regularly invited to conduct top-notch orchestras around the world. Hence, truth be told, he may have more than one reason to decide not to conduct the NYPhil.

Nonetheless, my intuition foresees great things for a shared future between my admired Esa-Pekka Salonen and my beloved New York Philharmonic: a match made in -my- heaven.

This is what I dream for my beloved city: an excellent musician leading its main orchestra. A pairing that will surely inject excitement to classical music and put it back on track to what made it so great in the first place: the most transcendental expression of the human condition.

jueves, mayo 14, 2015

Caminando a (mi) Nueva York

La revista del New York Times le dedicó uno de sus números más recientes a algo que se traduciría como “Caminando a Nueva York”. Esta edición me llegó directamente al corazón porque conecta dos de mis pasiones: caminar y esa ciudad que fue mi hogar durante los dos mejores años de mi vida.

Y si bien me devoré los artículos que allí se publican -que van desde la historia de las aceras de Nueva York, un interesante proyecto fotográfico llevado adelante por JR, hasta una nota reveladora sobre las ratas-, no pude evitar sentir cierta dosis de nostalgia al leer los recorridos favoritos de un grupo de neoyorquinos.

Movido por mis remembranzas, decidí compartir algo que hasta este momento me había reservado: mis recorridos favoritos de Nueva York. Estos son mis tres recorridos favoritos, y que también incorporan muchas de las calles y de los sitios que más frecuentaba en mi estadía neoyorquina.

Recorrido #1: De Times Square a Central Park

Iba tanto al McDonald’s que queda en pleno centro de Times Square que mi hermana la apodó como “Mi oficina”. Allí me pedía un latte y un paquete de Chocolate Chip Cookies y me sentaba a escribir o bien a mandar CV’s cuando buscaba trabajo. Luego de trabajar por un par de horas, tomaba mi iPod y reproducía canciones del 21st century breakdown de Green Day, Phrazes for the young de Julian Casablancas o My beautiful dark twisted fantasy de Kanye West. El pulso urbano de esos discos musicalizaba mi recorrido que iba desde la 42 hasta la 59, calles que atravesaba por Broadway. Al llegar al Columbus Circle me adentraba en el Time Warner Center y me metía en la librería BORDERS o a comerme algo en el Whole Foods Market que queda en el sótano. Y si el clima era amigable, terminaba de pasar la tarde sentado en algún banco del Central Park.  

Recorrido #2: Del Lower East Side a SoHo

Una de las pasantías que hice en Nueva York fue en un estudio de grabación que quedaba en el Lower East Side. Al terminar mi turno, me iba hasta mi cine de autor favorito: el Angelika. Luego subía por Broadway hasta Prince street, que recorría de oeste a este: de Mercer a Bowery. Prince street es una de mis calles preferidas de Nueva York porque tiene sitios que me encantan: McNally Jackson Books (mi librería favorita), macbar (originales combinaciones de mac ‘n cheese), Oficina Latina (un bar con una vibra muy fina), Café Gitane (de comida francesa, queda sobre Mott), Café Habana (sus Cuban Sandwich y Burritos son divinos) y Soho Park (un sitio muy fino con terraza que vende unas hamburguesas deliciosas). Al final del recorrido, cuando llegaba a Bowery, podía visitar el New Museum si había alguna exhibición que valiera la pena.

Recorrido #3: De Union Square al West Village

El instituto donde estudié quedaba cerca de Union Square. Cuando salía al mediodía me iba caminando hasta el Village. Allí almorzaba un shawarma de cordero, tres falafel y una lata de Sprite en Mamoun’s o un Chicken Fried Rice en Noodle Bar. Si compraba comida en Mamoun’s almorzaba sentado en un banco del Washington Square Park, mientras escuchaba a un genial grupo de jazz. Luego me iba a tomar un latte en Caffé Reggio (mi café favorito) y también me pasaba por el IFC Center a ver alguna película de cine independiente. Mamoun’s y Caffé Reggio quedan sobre la Macdougal street, que es otra de mis calles favoritas de Nueva York porque tiene otros de mis sitios favoritos: Comedy Cellar (donde gente como Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock y Louis C.K. van a probar material), Creperie NYC (las crepes de nutella son pornografía), Luxor Lounge (un bar muy sexy porque está iluminado sólo por velas). Y si seguía bajando y cruzaba a la izquierda en Bleecker, también me iba lugares que me encantaban como Café Español (donde tuve auténticos acontecimientos gastronómicos), Le Poisson Rouge (uno de mis sitios de conciertos favoritos) y The Bitter End (legendario recinto neoyorquino).

Conocí y amé Nueva York de la misma manera en la que mi abuelo me enseñó a conocer y amar a Caracas: palpándola y escuchándola con mis pies. Extraño a Nueva York de la misma forma que extraño a Caracas: con nostalgia de volver a posar mis pies sobre ella. Estas letras han logrado calmar un poco ese suspiro que se apodera de mí cada vez que añoro volver a estar en esas ciudades: ciudades que he amado, ciudades que me han hecho.