Sunday, October 22, 2006

Feels like I'm repeating myself

Another year gone and I got older as it went by. Time flies even though I'm not always having fun. (But to be honest, I do have fun most of the time, heh.)

I've already posted two similar posts during my time of blogging, as for some reason a birthday always brings to mind all the things I perhaps lack in life or on the other hand things I have that I should be happy about.

And once again I could basically just "cut and paste" my post from last October 21st (or around there). It really is funny, how little things can change in a year. You would think that a year is a reasonably long period of time in which all sorts of things could happen, but no. It's a reasonably long period of time in which nothing new happens. I'm sure the universe must have a few action-packed years in store for me somewhere. You know, the type of years when I suddenly find myself a future husband, get engaged, graduate, start planning a wedding, win the lottery and buy a nice car and an apartment or something. But before I get that year, I'm evidently stuck with "no news is (supposedly) good news" -kinda years.

In other words, referring to that description of an action-packed year, I've had none of that this past year. But what is nice is that I've got more money now than last year, despite not having won in the lottery. Even though that means that I have practically no free time and skyrocketing stress levels - but at least I'm able to save up money for a long trip to Wales next summer. Even the mere thought of it keeps me going and never fails to cheer me up. In less than a year I'll hopefully see the nightlife of Cardiff, the castles of Caernarfon and Conwy, the quirky "Italianate" architecture of Portmeirion and wander on Roman ruins and ancient Celtic sites. Ahhh.

And if I continue on the path of ridiculously positive thinking, there's no avoiding the fact that time goes by so fast it's soon going to be Christmas and maybe on Christmas vacation I'll have time to do some research too. And, for goodness sake, rest a bit. (And if Christmas comes soon, it'll also mean that June'll be here fast enough also. Did I mention I'm planning on flying out of Finland in June? :) )

Well, time to move on to other topics. Like dance shows. I've got one coming up next Sunday in Uusikaupunki. It'll most likely be the last dance show our dance group Arais El Bahr is ever going to arrange. I've had no time to practice and even though I only dance in three choreographies (of which one is my own solo), I'm feeling a bit uneasy. Hopefully this slight cold I'm having at the moment will vanish soon and I can rehearse during the week so I don't have to go and make a fool out of myself on stage. Performing on stage is fun, but only if I feel like I know what I'm supposed to do... And I'm afraid my solo is terribly boring and blah and aaaaghh.

Oh well. At least I had the sense to say no to two more group dances I had originally thought I'd like to dance in. No Andalucian or Saudi dances for me this time. (But if I'm completely honest, it breaks my heart every time I hear the Andalucian song - it's one of the most beautiful songs I know and I've performed the dance a couple of times before and now I'm not involved. Curse this wretched being that is me for feeling like this, when the only reasonable choice was to stay out of the dance...)

But our show wasn't the one I was going to write about, actually. I went to see the Irish dance show Rhythm of the Dance last night - mom & dad had given me a ticket for my birthday. I had high hopes for the show, thinking about the exuberant Riverdance show I had seen earlier (actually, my post about the show was my first real post here at the Pool a couple of years back) and well, I do love Irish music and dancing.

Too bad I can't say I was thrilled after the show. I would've wanted to be.

First of all, I felt so embarrassed to be a Finn, once again. The audience seemed to be made out of clay people with ironbars for backbones and no capability to express emotions whatsoever. I am (sadly) not even exaggerating when I say I was the only one in the audience (about a half full hall) who clapped my hands during the performances.

People, you are supposed to clap! The absolute silence of the audience can be such a mood killer. The poor dancers were tapping away on stage the best they could and the response was a deafening silence. There were even a few soloists who left the stage without getting any applaudes (except mine, eh), because the Finnish audience seemed to wait for a complete silence to signal the end of a dance. And it doesn't always come, if the show is designed to flow along without breaks.

And I'm sure the very stiff looking mother (and her poised little girl) next to me gave me long looks, when I clapped and cheered during the dances. I could almost feel the chill radiating from her. Agh. People can be such bores! And I truly felt bad for the dancers and musicians, who were trying to get the audience to participate. It took the bodhran player quite a few minutes to wake up the mute and frozen Finns to clap for rhythm during his solo. I so wanted to go and peek behind the curtains after the show to tell the performers that the Finns most likely did like the show, even though it couldn't be seen (or heard, for that matter) from stage.

But then, perhaps the show could've been a little more impressive, maybe that would've made it easier for the rest of the crowd to react. I'm sure the National Dance Company of Ireland will now and for quite some time, if not always, suffer from comparisons to the Riverdance show. And unfortunately I'm going to add to their misery a bit.

The Rhythm of the Dance promises to be "a whole new concept" in Irish entertainment, "a two-hour dance and music extravaganza", "an inspiring epic" which combines "traditional dance, music and song with the most up to date stage technology".

Well. If one has never seen or heard of the Riverdance show, the concept of last night's show might be new. But I couldn't see what the fuss was about. If the new concept was to project pictures and video clips of contemporary Irish life on screen, I'd say the concept artists need to do some more thinking.

I sat to the side of the stage and the screen was only half visible to my seat, which wasn't a terrible loss. When watching a dance show, I'd prefer the background to be quite neutral and preferably not have any brightly dressed people in it. The main focus should be on the dancers and the background visuals shouldn't steal their moments and the interest of the audience. Landscapes and ornaments are fine, but people on a busy street are not.

I also think the story of the show remained quite unclear. It was in the program I bought, but for the life in me I couldn't make out how the story evolved on stage. An easy way to solve this problem would be either to ignore the fact that the show tries to tell a story (a bad solution, since the show is made into a story) or to have short introductions to the dances. In other words the story would've been stronger, if it would've been told "twice". Once with words and once with dancing. It wouldn't break the rhythm of the performance, but it would help the audience. If I hadn't bought the program, there would've been no way of knowing that the dancers were supposed to be Celtic Warriors fighting against evil spirits and higher Gods. Rii-ight.

The music itself was good. Not thrillingly exciting (as some of the Riverdance songs are), but solid Irish dance pieces. And the somewhat odd "Irish Il Divo" trio of male singers did their jobs well. Their choreography consisted of walking from one side of the stage to the other, which was a bit dull. Also the swinging of the jackets was a bit artificial as a part of a choreography for singers. But the singing was good, and one of the singers was very cute, so who am I to complain?

Dancers of the ensemble are, according to the program booklet, the "cream of Irish and Ballet dancers" and it was obvious that they knew what they were doing. Only small glitches, like one dancer having to fix her bra while dancing and one having to collect a piece of her colleague's dress from the floor in the middle of the dance - nothing that a professional dancer can't handle with style and ease.

I thought the male dancers were a bit stronger as a group. More dynamic, more accurate. The girls were very skillfull, there's no question about that, but I suppose it's partly thanks to the nature of the dance that the men appear to have the upper hand (or foot? ehheh). There were some very nice group formations in the choreographies, excellent movement and precision. Although the typical long rows of dancers weren't very long on the small stage and not quite as militaristically precise as the ones Riverdance boasts with.

I don't know how much the small stage forced the group to restrain themselves (or the sets - judging by the pictures in their gallery they do have a bigger ensemble and different set pieces for some events), but on the other hand the smallish stage made the performance feel more personal in a way. I don't know if it's only me and my experiences as a dancer, but I've always liked to get close to the audience if I'm dancing or to the performers if I'm a member of the audience. And since I had a good seat close to the stage, I enjoyed watching the dancers faces and the details of their dresses and such.

All in all I liked the show, but I didn't go home feeling absolutely in awe of what I had seen, like I did after the Riverdance show. I felt like I had seen a good show (even if a little over-priced) and I had enjoyed the couple of hours.


Johan A said...

>>First of all, I felt so embarrassed to be a Finn, once again.<<

We sure are mirth-loving peoples up here, ain't we? ;)

Johanna said...

Oh, we sure are... :P

I see it in a smaller scale almost every time I go to the local Irish pub. Me and my friend Satu have met several of the native Irish musicians, because they seem to be drawn to the precious few who clap, sing and sway to the music. Ergo, they come to chat with us after their sets. We don't mind and we'll keep cheering on also in the future. :)

Donna said...

I think I would like to have a year where nothing much happens!

Johanna said...

Donna, having read the archives of your blog I can definitely see why a calmer, non-eventful year would sound wonderful.

And I'm not really that bothered by the thought either. The only thing I would, however, really want to happen is that I'd find a special someone. It gets kinda lonely sometimes...