So after watching a handful of fantastic artists collaborate together on this spectacular yet intense rehearsal and performance period, it was brilliant to see such a blend of amazing artistic talent including the works of choreographers Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon, painter Chris Ofili, famous sculptor Mark Wallinger, composer Nico Muhly and the gorgeous relationship formed between The National Gallery and dancers of The Royal Ballet, alongside the fabulously technical Carlos Acosta.
From the beginning, I was spellbound, as I am from a contemporary background, training to become a dancer, seeing aesthetically brilliant ballet dancers set off a variety of bells for me. One being the jealousy bell, because although I would never ever EVER be good enough to be a ballerina, and I most certainly do not have the aesthetically facilitating body (long neck, any sense of turnout and gorgeously forever extending limbs) in order to be a ballerina and TWO it made me realise…. I want to BE A BALLET DANCER. I’m verring off course here towards paths in which I cannot possibly imagine going down. Back to ‘Dancing with Titian’. The programme, as a whole was very informative and gave everyone an insight into the challenging collaboration between technical classical dancers( the best of the best in the classical world)and the physical demand from one of the worlds best contemporary choreographers. Carlos Acosta, a cuban ballet dancer, born 1973, the best of his time many would say, studying at the Cuban Ballet School, dancing for many classical companies including English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet to name a few finishing off with a small side order of oooh, The Royal National Ballet, cherry on the cake perhaps? Where he resides as a guest artist. Acosta, alongside all of the other collaborators found this project very challenging as with his classical career, the work with one Wayne McGregor, a choreographer renowned for his cross career collaborations and famously known for his intricate, sharp and precise contemporary vocabulary.
The documentary, which can be found on BBC I-Player, is based around the artists re-creating works by none other than the italian painter, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) by collaboratively dissecting 3 chosen paintings of his, using all artistic licenses to create a piece of theatre work.The National Gallery of London and Edinburgh, together funded the bringing together of one of the paintings, (45million pounds infact), called Diana. The three pictures, of course, all follow a story, very similar to all other greek mythology, containing lust, anger and betrayal and death. The three pictures chosen, for me, as a watcher and avid lover of dance, didn’t necessarily matter, although of course it was the main focus for the process for both creators, dancers and audience members to be
As always, Wayne McGregor worked fantastically with his unique language of ‘um tahs, and woooaps’ on the dancers. McGregor explains in the documentary that ‘there’s some information contained in this wahh that you couldn’t do it in any other way and the body just understands it’ and for himself, it works, because it enables him as a choreographer to work in a way that he understands, as I’m aware all choreographers have their own quirky and independent ways of working .
I know that on a personal note, I know very little about art, especially art that is so glorious the pound signs rack up in their millions for galleries to hang them on their historic walls, so watching Dance with Titian has allowed me to gain knowledge of an artist I knew nothing about, a period of drawing I had no understanding of and as a recent interest of Greek Mythology, this has also captured my attention with regards to the story behind the paintings used.
One part of this whole process that fascinated me more than the graceful and effortless dancing, to the outstandingly successful final performance of all pieces was indeed the introduction of a 30m+ high robot, created by Conrad Shawcross, a robot to be centre stage in The Royal Opera House,whilst the dancers are performing. Not only will it be anchoring the dancers, it will also be moving with them, with the astounding help from a technology, called motion capture. Motion capture technology allows to to record any movement process by placing sensors on all parts of the body. These sensors were placed on Ed Watson, a dancer of The Royal Ballet, who then performed a phrase of movement, which was then cleverly processed on many clever computers and transferred to the 30m+ robot standing on stage, giving the dancers not only human dance partners, but a robotic one too. The robot, created by Shawcross was given the role of Diana from Titians paintings and he linked the robot, Diana and technology altogether as ‘Diana:the thing that we are seduced by and dependant upon but also we all have that sort of uneasy relationship ‘with it and fear with what the future holds for us and the unstoppable march of technology’.
Although, this seems like a long review, in actual fact, it’s not. For those of you that watched the documentary, you will know how in depth the artists all went in order to search for those unique performances put on display at The Royal Opera House, how much passion and hard work was put in place from Ofili designing and painting his own set, consisting of a 31m painting and how much of a challenge they all faced trying to re-create history, in my eyes, by delving into the world of Titian, a man who inspired so many artists following many different career paths because he began to create paintings from poetic texts, to show that painting was his way of metamorphosing those texts. Jo Shapcott, a poet, discussing Titians painting explains this inspiration that spans from Titians work and also way of working. ‘It opens the door for other artists to make another change into my own medium’ a quote I am very fond of, as I believe taking something and transforming it, into a language that your body, or your mind, understands it a way of saying ’ this is my way, of creating different works, of writing, this is my adaptation and I believe within a strangling climate that the arts are under, doing things in your own unique manner, whether the work or fail, is indeed the way work should always be produced.
This is a great story but i cant tell it better because paint can get at something that words cant- Sheila Hale,poet.