BAD BOYS, GOOD NOVELS AND CYBERMEN | August 19th 2008
Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE
Our guide to what's on around the world, compiled by Jessica Gallucci and Ariel Ramchandani
VERY GOOD BOYS
When a group of classically trained danseurs bills itself the “Bad Boys of Dance”, one might be excused for snickering. But the troupe is led by Rasta Thomas, who is considered both a prodigy and a renegade in the ballet world. After scooping up gold medals at international competitions in his teens, Thomas went on to perform as a guest artist with the Russian Imperial Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and the National Ballet of China before joining the Dance Theatre of Harlem as its youngest principal dancer, at 23. But it is Thomas’s very virtuosity--he is also a master of martial arts and a skilled acrobat--combined with his wanderlust, showmanship and ego, that make him something of a misfit in the realm of classical ballet. Together with his band of “Bad Boys”, he fuses ballet with elements of break-dancing, gymnastics, ballroom and modern dance, and offers all-male send-ups of famous female roles, such as the Four Little Swans pas de quatre from “Swan Lake”. Refined, this programme isn’t. But Thomas has been hailed as the next Baryshnikov, and his three-year-old company is full of burgeoning talent. Go, and say you saw them when. ~J.G.
ROCK THE BALLET, featuring Rasta Thomas and the Bad Boys of Dance, through August 23rd, St Pauli Theatre, Hamburg
WHAT A PIECE OF WRITING THIS IS!
Sam Anderson, in a review of "How Fiction Works" for New York Magazine, aptly calls the book "a fleshing out of the increasingly complex literary character of “James Wood.” Where he was previously formal and distant, he is now quirky and personal; where he was once flat, he is now round." This is true--we are taken into the mind of the harsh (and Intelligent Life-favoured) critic. With admirable finesse, he plucks examples from the library of his mind to build a cohesive manual of what's "under the hood" of that complicated machine, the novel. Like a good mechanic, he pulls apart to remake and revise. "By examining the minutiae of character, narrative and style in a range of fictional works that starts with the Bible and ends with Coetzee and Pynchon", writes Peter Conrad from the Guardian, "he fondly and delicately pieces back together what the deconstructors put asunder." Of course, his lofty goals and careful stylings have attracted some negative attention. Walter Kirn of the New York Times grows exasperated by "Wood’s tone of genteel condescension (he flashes the Burberry lining of his jacket whenever he rises from his armchair to fetch another Harvard Classic)." Not so for this reader, who found herself happy to be in the vaulting yet cosy confines of Wood's mind. It helps to be reminded that the best tools for both writing and understanding novels are often as simple as looking closely and imagining widely. ~A.R.
SING ME A SONG ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING
For those who are wary of cruise-line entertainment, take heart: there is nary a Sinatra impersonator aboard the Silja Serenade, a ship that departs from Stockholm and sails to Helsinki attended by vocal ensembles from the Helsinki Philharmonic Chorus. Two more routes, from Stockholm to Riga and to Tallinn, feature chamber music from the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, respectively. It is all part of the Baltic Sea Festival, which pairs classical music with a theme of environmental awareness. Visitors can attend concerts in the neo-Gothic Oskarkyrkan church, or listen to talks by Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times and Lasse Gustavsson of the World Wildlife Fund. There will be a panel discussion about climate change and dystopia--titled “Must we go under?”--which the programme promises will be "inspiring". But the highlight of the festival is surely Sunday's premiere of “Holocene”, a haunting film by the video artist Lars Siltberg, set to music by Jonas Bohlin, with live accompaniment by the Swedish Radio Sympohny Orchestra. ~J.G.
BALTIC SEA FESTIVAL, through August 30th, Stockholm
COLONISING GOVERNORS ISLAND
Governor's Island, located off the coast of downtown Manhattan, was home to the US Coast Guard for almost 200 years until it was "mothballed" in 1996. The federal government then sold the island to New York in for 1 dollar (a rare good deal for New York real estate). The city and state have helped to turn this relatively large piece of property (172 acres, about 22 city blocks from end to end) into a unique public park and cultural centre. "There isn't anything like that in the city" declared Zarin Mehta, director of the New York Philharmonic, one of the great opening acts, in the New York Sun. Joining them is "IN-SITE: Sculptors Guild on Governors Island", a new exhibition celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Sculptors Guild, an arts collective that began showing in 1938 at Lever house. Making great use of all the space, the show features sculptures by over 60 artists from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, China and Turkey, which fill the sprawling park and building interiors. During the short ferry-ride to the island, you will enjoy special views of Olafur Eliasson's Waterfall. ~A.R.
IN-SITE, through October 5th, Governors Island, New York
DON'T PUSH THAT BUTTON
Viewer's have been tuning in to the BBC's addictive "Dr Who" since the 1960s, making it the longest-running science-fiction programme ever (sorry "Star Trek"). Fans of the show, which is now on its tenth "doctor", can feel like they're behind the scenes in a series of exhibitions at Earls Court, Cardiff, Liverpool and Land's End. Expect chilling set reproductions, intricate light displays and plenty of buttons to push (some with the tantalising taunt "Do not push"). Younger fans especially seemed to have loved a similar exhibition in 2005; a ten-year-old named Amber Holdaway confirmed that it was "absolutely FAB" on the BBC's website. Evil, robotic Cybermen will be making live appearances at Land's End on Thursday and Earl's Court on Saturday. As Culture Kiosk says "if you've seen it on screen, you may find it here." ~A.R.
DR WHO EXHIBITIONS AND MUSEUM, through September, various locations, UK