Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Comedy Dance of ‪Jirí Kylián‬

[post 396]

Last night I made it out to Triskelion Arts in Williamsburg for a totally fun double-bill of comedy dance with a Valentine's Day theme, and it got me thinking how some of the best physical comedy is to be found in the world of dance. [The double-bill was the Red Gloves'  Flannery and the Valentine’s Day Ninja, created by Billy Schultz and Geneviève Leloup; and Tough Cookie Dance's Love Letters, by Josselyn Levinson. If you happen to be reading this on Valentine's Day in NYC, don't miss the last performance tonight.]

All of which leads me to the subject of today's post, the very funny comedy dance of legendary Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián‬, whose main body of work was created with the Nederlands Dans Theater. While most of his work is more "serious," he has choreographed a few video pieces that I find hysterically funny.

The first two I think are actually excerpts from a 35-minute piece Birth-Day (2001) set to the music of Mozart. Clearly this hyper-kinetic work is made for video. The speeding up of the action is an exaggeration of silent film undercranking, and I'm assuming they were shot with slowed-down Mozart in the background to keep them on the beat. The first high-octane excerpt is this very funny bedroom romp:

And the companion piece, a richly detailed kitchen sketch with slaps, juggling, and percussion layered onto the comic movement and caricatures:

And if you're thinking I'm going to tell you not to try this at home, well, it's too late, because the Tel Aviv School of the Arts already did. Here's a video of their students reprising the piece, but with sevens pair of students each getting their 15 seconds of fame. If nothing else, an interesting classroom project:

Kylian's love of silent film is even more obvious in a movie he made with director Boris
Paval Conen that combines footage of silent film car chases with modern dancers and actors, filmed in and around an abandoned coal mine in the Czech Republic. It is set to the music of Georges Bizet, and the title of course is Car Men.

I haven't seen the whole film yet but I have just ordered the DVD. Not sure how all this mayhem translates into a half-hour film, but the descriptions says that the film characters are based on the original Carmen opera. Watch for an update to this post, but meanwhile, here's a short excerpt that gives some idea of what he's playing with.

• Though not comedy, the piece Stamping Ground has a lot of eccentric movement.
• Here's a 7-minute video where Kylián‬ discusses his study of animal movement in creating characters for his dancers.
• Kylián‬'s web site has a thorough listing of his creations, with video.

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