KVT – Tiger Tiger Burnt so Bright

KVT – Tiger Tiger Burnt so Bright

KVT 2013Tiger Tiger Burnt so Bright 1

KVT and a date with a tiger at the Youth Theater

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Pure poetry in movement….. from an extremely tuyet voi, French dance company named Kubilai Khan Investigations which presented a brilliant, 60 minute performance titled ‘Tiger Tiger Burning Bright’ at the Youth Theater on Friday night……in fact if I wasn’t allowed to see another dance performance this year, I’d be satisfied.

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright-Kubilai-Khan

Kubilai Khan Investigations is one of those companies that, if my body was still pliable, and if I was anywhere good enough, I’d give anything to be a dancer with.

Now I’ll digress a little with a bit of a fling into 18th century poetry…which I have to touch on for a couple of reasons.

First: company director and choreographer (as well as composer and sound technician and also delightfully dreadlocked) Frank Michelletti chose William Blake’s famous poem ‘Tyger’ as a vehicle to drape his choreography and music all over. He says in PR that it’s because of the poem’s sounds and rhythms…which you can catch in their first verse:

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Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

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As I read my own stuff into the dance and the poem, I see Blake’s connotations of creation, purification and destruction fit easily into the dance’s synopsis of surviving in a modern, globalized city. Blake stood in awe of the tiger as a supreme physical and aesthetic achievement in nature while recoiling in horror from the implications of such an achievement, Michelletti seems to stands in the same sense of awe and recoil when he contemplates the growling, uncontrollable growth and savagery of modern cities. Blake’s contemporary rationalists had hoped for a tamed world guided by kindness and understanding; Michelletti’s contemporary urban rationalists have to confront the metaphoric tiger that pursues and gnaws and shreds at our urban myths and dreams and aspirations.

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Basically, Michelletti’s scenario deals with rush hour in a city, sometimes chaotic, often deadlocked and the human interactions thus generated.

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Secondly: I also couldn’t get past the notion that perhaps Michelletti’s dance company was named because of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Ballad of Kublai Khan’ …written about the same time as Tyger and is (as I comprehend it) about the retrieval of dreams and the and the desire to take on the persona of the magician or visionary and create through music and words a miracle of understanding.

Michelletti, the magician, through his dancers and his music and riveting choreography, created that near miracle and for a look at the simple set and some of the moves, click here.

The six dancers, who hail from Europe, Asia and Africa, were gymnastically and balletically excellent and their solos were invariably full of physicallity and technical impossibilities. The company pieces were awe inspiring and the pas de deux, de trois and de quatre,were scintillating. The finale pas de deux was sexily breathtaking…slow and sensuous and enough to make you weep.

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If you can down load the video in the following link you’ll get a 7 minute peep into how fabulous it all was

And even these brief You Tube clips are enough to stir my blood

The choreography embraces the impact of living in densely compacted spaces and the interactions between people thus confined…impersonal. evasive, angry, domineering and then, empathetic and caring. The movements are at times confined and caged. At others sweeping and hugely gestutral.

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A lonesome beginning with a lone dancer, lonesome, deranged was offset by the six some tableaux of companiable optimism….mixed with an inevitability of bewilderment. as the lights slowly faded to black

The music was the type of new sound stuff that would stand proud in a concert hall

The set was brilliantly minimal and the lighting design wonderful.

The company is on a sweep through Indonesia and we were indeed lucky that the French powers that be were able to grab the tiger by the tail and persuade it to gyrate for us.

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In many ways the dance fits in well with the other outstanding urban exhibition that the French have provided us with this month, the urban angels at L’Espace.

By the end of the performance the last two lines of Kublai Khan fitted me to a dance freak’s T

The two poems:

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
a stately pleasure-dome decree,
where Alph, the sacred river, ran
through caverns measureless to man
down to a sunless sea,
so twice five miles of fertile ground
with walls and towers were girdled round.
and there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
where blossom’d many an incense-bearing tree.
And here were forests as ancient as the hills,
enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But O! That deep romantic chasm which slanted,
down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover.
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
as a’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
by woman wailing for her demon lover.
In from that chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
as if this Earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
a mighty fountain momently was forced,
amid who’s swift half-intermitted burst,
huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail,
and ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever,
it flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion,
through wood and dale the sacred river ran.
Then reach’d the caverns measureless to man,
and sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult Kublai heard from afar
ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
floated midway on the waves
Where was heard the mingled measure
from the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device
a sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice.
A damsel with a dulcimer
in a vision once I saw.
It was an Abyssinian maid,
and on her dulcimer she played,
singing of mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
her symphony and song.
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
that with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air!
Thy sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
and all who heard should see them there!
and all should cry, Beware! Beware!
his flashing eyes! his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
and close your eyes with holy dread!
for he on honey-dew hath fed,
and drunk the milk of Paradise.

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.


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