Unfringed review: Chimaera

I saw the show, Chimaera, on October 21 as part of the Unfringed Festival.

Chimaera is “an advanced interactive dance/music performance environment” created by composer, Enda Grennan and dance artist, Angie Smalis. It incorporated dance, music and visuals in a complex combination made possible by the Microsoft Kinect sensor for game consoles.

The Kinect is a little gadget that uses a motion sensor detector to transform gamers’ movements into a visual on-screen. In Chimaera, this system was adapted so that when the dancer makes a particular movement, a particular sound came out of the speakers and a particular visual was projected onto the white cubes of the set.

The software design was very impressive; not only was it set up to make sounds when she moved a certain way but she could also control what speaker the sound came out of. The visuals by Patrick Cusack were intricate wave and web-like creations in monochrome and colour with varying speeds etc.

Angie Smalis has vast experience in dancing and choreography. Her sustained performance for roughly an hour obviously packed with skill and stamina. All in white, she moved ghost-like—using every space in the set. Grennan, similarly, is a lecturer in Electroacoustic Composition and Interactive Music Programming and his multi-channel tape works have been performed nationally and internationally. These are people at the top of their respective fields and their collaboration is a unique duet.

Now to the bad news; I didn’t like it. First of all, there was no context and it is hard to evaluate something in a vacuum. I’m not sure if the title had a meaning. A chimaera was, in Greek mythology, “a monstrous fire-breathing female creature…composed of the parts of three animals: a lion, a serpent and a goat”. I got no impression of fire, fierceness or zoomorphism so maybe there was no reason for choosing that title bar the fact that Ms Smalis is from Greece? I spoke to the dancer afterward and she said she was not trying to communicate any specific idea to the audience. She had total freedom to improvise so every show was different.

When I was watching I just saw Smalis performing contemporary dance while various electronic sounds played and visuals were projected. There was no speech. It was a multi-sensory experience and I searched for patterns etc in the work but after a few minutes, I was bored. The ‘music’ was too industrial for me; there was no rhythm or rhyme to it. And with the dancer controlling the sounds, there was none. This might have been nervewracking for the composer but it was a loss to the audience too because his power in the piece was diminished somewhat.

The show left me a little cold. I felt I was a witness to artists doing their thing but not brought in or included in the experience. Of course, if you are interested in the art of dance or electroacoustic music or computers etc, you would get more out of it.

I find pure dance works—without an element of theatre or some other dilution—very esoteric. They seem to be produced and enjoyed by a select few. Although the technology is exciting and the participants are highly skilled, I didn’t think Chimaera was accessible enough to a regular audience member.

Unfringed Festival 2012 starts tonight, Oct 16

The Limerick Unfringed Festival 2012 kicks off tonight (October 16) with a specially commissioned play, Siege.

The festival will run until October 28 and will include new and established theatre, music, dance, cinema and literary events. This year’s festival is curated by Duncan Molloy and the theme is ‘Darkness on the edge of town’.

The Unfringed used to take place in January but I think the new timeslot is a good move and spreading the festival events over 12 days will hopefully encourage audiences. There are a few ticket bundles available too, which might soften the financial outlay for some. The prices for events range from €7 to €22.50. The programme is a heady mix, with a lot of local input, so I would encourage people to support the festival by attending at least one event if they can at all. I’ll get to (and review if possible) a few things myself.

Siege is a local affair—written by Ciarda Tobin, directed by Marie Boylan and starring Aidan Crowe, Erica Murray and Joanne Ryan. The plot outline is as follows: “Pa is missing, Mouse is on the warpath and the houses are burning. This new short play, set in Limerick and inspired by the Trojan war, follows the exploits of Helena and her daughter as they discover Mouse’s secret and are forced to escape his fury. This is a highly charged urban play, which swings from karaoke to chaos and comedy to tragedy. It is rough and ready; it is savage and familiar. The production will be fast paced and physical.” The venue is the Belltable and it runs until Thursday.

Thursday lunchtime marks the first of three shows tying in with Lunchtime Theatre at the Savoy. Bandit—fresh from the Dublin Fringe—is on at 1pm on Thursday and Friday this week. On Friday (October 19) and Saturday nights, the multi award winning, Silent, by Pat Kinevane, is on at the Belltable. Act Without Words II by Samuel Beckett is on this Saturday and Sunday (two shows a night). The venue is site-specific but audiences meet at the Belltable.

Also on Sunday, Molloy’s own work—Mass—is on in the afternoon in the Limerick City Gallery of Art. Mass is on again on Sunday October 28. Interactive dance performance, Chimaera, by Angie Smalis is on Sunday and Monday night. On Tuesday October 23, there is a screening of the George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead.

Mimic by Raymond Scannell is on Wednesday and Thursday night (October 25). Also on Thursday and Friday, Payback and The Wheelchair on my Face will feature at Lunchtime and Teatime Theatre at the Savoy respectively. On Thursday, The Loft will host Under the Influence where comedian/actor Pat Shortt and playwright, Mike Finn, will discuss their inspirations. Later that same evening, there will be a celebration of Richard Harris presented by Bottom Dog Theatre Company and The Little Apple.

On Friday night, French jazz musician, Tigran will perform and on Saturday, band Scullion will perform. Unique live game, Day Zero, is taking place, every 20 minutes from 1-4pm on Saturday. The idea is that the city has been overrun by zombies and you have to find a way to survive. The venue is site-specific but audiences meet at the Belltable. On Sunday, the festival will conclude with a production of David Mamet’s Oleanna.

Find out more about the Unfringed programme at www.belltable.ie or download it here.

Tango and ballet classes in Limerick

Limerick Tangois holding beginners classes every Thursday at 7.30pm and for the more experienced, thereare improvers classes after at 8.30pm. The venue is the Ecotree Space on Thomas Street (opposite Tadhg Kearney Jewellers).On the second Saturday of every month, there is a tango social night—El GatoNegro. You can start any week and the price list is: Individuals, €10 and €15for couples. For more information, see www.limericktango.com;email limericktango@gmail.com.

Just Breathing is a dance arts company formed in late 2010 with the aimof promoting dance in Limerick. They are particularly interested in getting non-dancers interested indance, and provide a platform for new and emerging artists. They hope to make ballet a more accessible art formthrough a series of workshops, classes, photo projects and performances.It’s great to see a new dance company fill some of the void left by Daghdha. This coming Saturday, January 21, it will start two sixweek courses in ballet at Studio 21, 84 O’Connell Street, Limerick (under Café Noir).

The first is course is called Ballet:Power and Fitness and there’s no actual dancing involved! “Instead weuse ballet exercises in a low impact one hour long workout. The course willstart from the very basic principles like how to hold your posture in neutralposition to a very simple workout and will break down and explain each exerciseand counter it with stretches to train your muscles to develop in length andstrength. As you progress within the course the classes will become more fluidand as your stamina increases the exercise intensity will increase with you. Theclasses are based on progression and are a fun way of keeping fit, flexible andtoned.” This runs from 11.30am to 12.30pm.

The second is CompleteBeginner’s Ballet for Adults. This course is “for adults who never gotthe chance to do ballet as a kid or who always wanted to do ballet but neverdid for whatever reason. We really believe it’s never too late to startlearning any form of dance! Over the course you will learn the terms andexercises that ballet dancers use every day in their training. We’ll start at avery basic level and build things up gradually over the course.” Thisruns from 1-2pm.

Thecost is €60 for six weeks (€48 for 3rd level students/unwaged). A discount is available for anyone who signs up to bothcourses. Drop-in classes are available at a cost of €12 per hour. However,since courses are based on progression they would encourage you to sign up forthe six weeks to really get the most benefit out of the classes. For more information see justbreathingarts.blogspot.com or see the Just Breathing Facebookpage or email justbreathingarts@gmail.com.

Lola Montez Cabaret, Daghdha Space Limerick, December 8-10

A cabaret show basedextraordinary life of dancer and actress, Lola Montez, returns to Limerick forthe next three nights in the former St John’s Church—starting with a previewtonight (Thurs Dec 8) and running Friday and Saturday. The show has had astring of sell-out dates in the likes of Dolan’s Warehouse, the Sugar Club and the Pop Up Playhouse. It is a melting pot of musical theatre, burlesque, cabaret, jazz, soul,rock, pop and punk. Organisers, Music in the Glen, promise an “incredible castof singers, actors, dancers and musicians producing a spectacular night out”.
Tickets for tonight are €8; Fri/Sat €12 (group discountsavailable). Pizza, anti-pasti and wine will be available. Bookings or furtherinfo on 087-2104583. www.lolamontez.ie
See a taster video here:
Her name was Lola, she was ashowgirl…
Just a bit of back story on Lola’s fascinating life. Shewas born Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in either 1818 or 1821. She herself insisted shewas born in Limerick in June 1881—which is on her headstone—but this isdisputed because a birth cert has also turned up claiming she was actually bornin Sligo three years later. I’d take Limerick over Sligoany day! Either way, she has very strong local connections. Her grandfather wasCharles Silver Oliver, an MP for Kilmallock. He lived at Castle Oliver in Co. Limerick. Eliza Oliver, Lola’s mother, washis youngest child. Her father was an army officer. The Gilbertfamily settled in Boyle, Roscommon in 1823 and later moved to India.
Eliza returned to the UK to attend school but eloped at 16 with a soldier herself and returned to India. It was there she began dancing professionally. Shedubbed herself Lola Montez, the Spanish Dancer when she started performing in London but when people found out she was separated from herhusband there was something of a scandal. She left to dance her way around thecontinent.
Whatever Lola wants, Lolagets…
Lola reportedly had an affairwith Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt. When she eventually settled in Paris,one of her contemporaries was the novelist, Alexandre Dumas (with whom she was rumouredto have had a relationship). After the 1845 death of her lover in a duel, she left Paris—settlingagain in Munich. There she was the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her a Countess. She used herinfluence to institute liberal reforms (I bet she did) but at the startof the revolutions of 1848in the German states, she was forced to flee. She went back to performingaround Europe and while living in London, she married again. Unfortunately,that violated the terms of her divorce so the newlyweds had to hotfoot it to France. Fleeing and maritaldisarray seemed to be habits of Lola’s so when her second marriage collapsed,she went to the USA.

InAmerica, she reinvented herselfand toured around performing. She was famous for her trademark ‘Spider Dance’ whereshe would shake imaginary tarantulas out of her clothes and stamp on them. Thiswas thought to be a take on the ‘tarantella’—a frenetic Italian dance. She settled in San Francisco in 1853 where she married again. It lasted two yearsand she embarked on a tour of Australia after that before returning again to the US west coast. She moved to New York where she died from an illness in 1861 aged just 42.

An extract from the book, The Gentle Tamers: Womenof the Old West by Dee Brown (1958) said:
No western stage performer ever equaled the glamorousLola Montez in creating an aura of seductive mystery and exquisite scandalaround her personality. Whether or not Lola was an actress is debatable-she wasmore in the class of modern burlesque queens-but the dubious legends of deli­cioussinfulness which she deliberately spread abroad and carefully nourished havespun down through the years until they are a part of the fabric of westernhistory.”

“Atigress,’ said one newspaper writer, ‘the very comet of her sex’. Lola’scelebrated spider dance shocked and titillated her audiences; the spiders wereingenious contraptions made of rubber, cork, and whalebone. She gave aspectacular bene­fit for an audience of San Francisco firemen, and they show­ered the stage with theirfancy helmets and almost smothered her with enormous bouquets of flowers.”But she made an impression on more than just firemen! Lola Montez’ former homeis a landmark; she has a lake named after her in the Tahoe National Forest and a 9,148ft mountain named in herhonour, Mount Lola—bothin California.

Lola’s often controversial adventures are well documented so if the show is a fraction asinteresting as Lola’s real life exploits, it should be a smash. 

SCRATCH at the Belltable December 2 and 9

If you want to get a sneak peak at exciting performance projectscoming down the pipeline in Limerick and beyond, SCRATCH, willreturn to the Belltable tonight (Friday December 2) and next Friday, Dec 9. Theevent, curated by Duncan Molloy, is for new work and works in progress. Therewill several new pieces of theatre/dance etc on each of the two nights and you can have coffee/meet themakers after—all for an outrageously low sum of €5.
I think we can allagree what good value that is, especially given that two pieces from theinaugural SCRATCH event last May went to show at the ABSOLUT Dublin FringeFestival in September and got seven award nominations between. Follow, won the coveted ‘Spirit of theFringe’ award. This is an ideal opportunity to boast that you saw it first. Everyone likes an exclusive…but it needn’t get you into trouble like one national broadcaster who shall remain nameless.  
The line-ups are:
December 2:
undergroundby Stefan Barry, which will be directed by Simon Thompson and presented byOrchard Theatre Company.
Peter & theBody (Guards), choreographed by Angie Smalis with music by Peter Delaneyand it will be performed by Katarína Mojžišová.
The Death of aCharacter by Dermott Petty, which will be directed by Myles Breen.
December 9:
My First Friend was a Cat, written and performed by Crissy O’Donovan.

Getting to know You, choreographedby Mary Hartney. It will be performed by Lisa Cahill and Sultan Ahmad Kakar andpresented by Spoken Dance.

No Particular Night or Morning, written and directed by Jamie Walters.

Pop by KarlWatson and presented by Comeassoonasyouhear.

More info at www.belltable.ie.

BTW Karen Underwood and her band present SINGING NINA -The Life andMusic of Nina Simone, also at the Belltable, on December 3 at 8pm. Tickets from €15.