Identity

Saturday’s excursion was somewhat profound for enthusiastic members of the London Culture Club. The venue of our second meeting was at the Wellcome Museum in Kings Cross to see an exhibit entitled ‘Identity’. It dealt with investigations into the self from DNA to diary, genealogy to gender and everything in between. I left with some answers and a whole new set of questions about who I am and who I want to be.

The first room had the famous diarist Samuel Pepys as its figurehead. This made me think that, with our lives laid bare on various social media platforms, few people keep private diaries now. We know our blogs and tweets and walls will be read, even if hiding behind anonymity, so we window dress our thoughts to make ourselves seem more interesting or important. Thus, it was fascinating to read someone’s truly private thoughts. Particularly poigniant was the WWII girl whose mother turned to prostitution and took her young daughter to dance with the soliders.

Surprising discoveries were the absolutely beautiful photographs taken by Claude Cahun, a French woman whose self portraits explored femininity, sexuality and religion. Her androgynous allure oozed the rebellion of 1920’s flappers and continued into anti-Nazi campaigning. I shall definitely be checking out some books on her life and work.

Most striking for me was the gorgeous April Ashley (born George Jamieson) who was one of the first British transsexuals. The bravery of people who undergo this operation astounds me, suffering the huge stigma it still carries. The photograph of a smiling woman I first mistook for Audrey Hepburn, so sophisticated and stunning, only upon entering the room did the tale unravel. After joining the navy and living in Paris George became April, a stylish woman who modelled for Vogue, met film stars and rock ‘n’ roll legends, and campaigned for GreenPeace. She fearlessly handled an exposé of her past. It sparked in me a desire to cast off self doubt and really go after what I want in life. Her story was captivating and I urge you to go and read it.

Of course, the other rooms were wonderful, especially the Alec Jeffreys DNA room (a must for CSI fans), but I will let you discover those for yourself. If you were half as inspired by this exhibit as I was, my work is done.

Ram head snuff box

An added treat were the permanent exhibitions, accessed via the spiral staircase. ‘Medicine Man’ housed shocking medical tools and paintings, though my favourite display was the ‘End of Life’ section. It housed melencholy artefacts befitting a world of Dorian Grey via Indiana Jones – a treat for any individual such as myself with a healthy amount of morbid fascination. ‘Medicine Now’ was not as interesting from a personal angle but there was much to see. It is worth stopping by the ‘Malaria’ area as it housed some interesting art that made you think. Serial dieters may also like to stop by the ‘Obsesity’ area, if only to see the work of a girl who photographed everything she ate for an entire year. Food diary, obsession or art? You decide!

The Identity exhibit runs until April 6th, visit here for opening times and more details.

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Are we human, or are we dancers?

The first London Culture Club outing was to a performance at ‘The Place’, a small dance school and theatre near Kings Cross that has been running 40 years. Both tired from a long day at work me and my wonderful friend, Alex, sat down to catch up over a few drinks in the theatre bar before the show began. We scurried excitedly to the auditorium at the sound of the bell and managed to nab a couple of front row seats.

 

A lone white figure lay motionless on the black stage and the music started, the crowd grew hush. The figure arose gracefully to reveal it’s form…a unicorn? Hold on, I thought this was ‘Swan Lake via The Ugly Duckling’? Hmmm…

 

Summary of act one:

The unicorn trotted horse-like round the stage. It left. A man in very large, very flimsy white pants came on stage, flapped a bit, threw some feathers around, then thrust his gentials in our direction. A woman came to clear up the feathers while a bit of Swan Lake was shown on a TV. The unicorn came back and committed suicide. The duck guy emerged from the unicorn outfit and took off his pants (another pair was underneath, thank god). Then it was the interval. 

Now I’m no dance genius so I turned to Alex, who has had some training, and raised a quizzical eyebrow. She said, ‘I didn’t quite get it either. The…err…movement was nice. Wasn’t too sure about the bit with his genitals.’ We concluded that ‘Mr Thorley’ must have been smoking something interesting and agreed that the ballet on the telly was very nice. Must put a ballet on London Culture Clubs ‘to do’ list.

 

 

Once more into the breach dear friends for part deux…

Argentine tango. Oh good. I like this the best on ‘Strictly’. Bit of a slow start. Oh balls! Beginning to think first foray into becoming a cultured young lady was misguided. But then…absolute magic!

The stage was transformed into a tube platform and the dancers accidentally meet via a renegade umbrella. The use of the prop as a third person (perhaps Fate) bringing them back into hold whenever they tried to separate was flirtatious and a welcome addition to the duo. The male solo twisted himself in knots – literally – when his new love left and then there was some extremely good leg flicky bits and graceful leaning when she came back. The story of the couple’s relationship ended with a glorious slow section which melted into classic ‘slow dance’ position to the sounds of ‘My Funny Valentine’. Trés romantique and one of my favourite songs. 

All in all this was my favourite piece of the evening, despite a few dodgy sections, and I would recommend seeing ‘Fusion Dance’ once they’ve had a little more experience.

 

The third act, ‘Archanna Ballal’, were technically excellent but the Tai Chi / Capoeira style was a bit too slow for my tastes. There was a partnered section which had some complex lifts and dramatic choreography. I enjoyed that immensely but the other 60% of it lacked any real passion for me, which I found strange from a piece that intended to explore desire.

 

 

Best bits:

  • Dreaming of falling in love on my morning commute
  • Some very impressive lifts
  • The lovely old couple sitting next to us who had been coming to shows there since it had opened

 

Would I go again? 

Yes. I think I probably need to learn a bit more about modern dance to properly understand it but I was impressed by the athleticism of the dancers and entertained, which is basically the aim of the game, isn’t it? Besides, how many people can say they’ve seen a half-naked man exploding a bag of feathers? I can, can you?

 

Unfortunately it proved difficult for people to get down at such short notice but a lot of interest in the London Culture Club project has been expressed in the Twitterverse. I urge you not to be one of those people who thinks, ‘What a wonderful way for me to try new things and meet new people.’ but then never actually comes. There’s a whole wide world of weird duck men and tangoing commuters out there so get involved!

 

See you soon,

BurnsyBoo

 

‘Resolution!’ Is running Mon-Sat evenings until 20th Feb. To find out more about the ‘Resolution!’ series and other peformances at The Place please visit the ‘What’s On’ page. Read an alternative review of the evening here.

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first outing

Tomorrow night at 8pm we will be going to a dance show called ‘Resolution!’ that showcases emerging talent. There’s a different programme every night until 20th Feburary 2010. I will tweet my exact location at aprox 7.30 but it is likely to be a cafe or bar near Kings Cross.

Monday’s dance troupes are:

mrthorley.com (chor: Ivan Thorley) Swan Song (F)
Swan Lake is revisited by the ugly duckling. Part-dancer, part-clown, part-naked, there’s something for everyone. mrthorley is an interdisciplinary performance project that develops form and is experimental.

Fusion Dance (Chor:Amir Giles & Tara Pilbrow) Entangled (F)
Fusing the stark power of Argentine tango with the energy of contemporary dance, this intimate duet physically and emotionally entangles two dancers with music from Bach to Chet Baker.  http://www.fusiondance.co.uk

Archana Ballal The Line of Desire (F)
An emotion instinctive to living things, desire overcomes us all. Three dancers discover the extremes of this feeling, from a pure unadulterated sentiment to a gripping sensation capable of destruction.

I’m highly excited about this as contemporary and argentine tango are two of my favourite styles. Having dated dancers I know that ‘part-naked’ can only be a good thing. The lower priced tickets are sold out, however, there are still £15 tickets available which allow you to attend another show within a 6 month period. To find out more information or book tickets click here.

Let the adventure begin!

BB

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Launching the London Culture Club

I am going to explain who I am, why I am doing this, and how it came to pass. Part diary / part manifesto, if you will. This post will be quite long and is probably more catharsis for me than informative for you. To get to the bones of it read the about page. To experience the body and soul of the LCC start at the very beginning, a very good place to start:

Date: August 2009, Location: Dissertation Hell

While writing my MA dissertation I had a minor breakdown. Months of stress and probably a few monthly hormones lead me to a decision that running away would solve my problems. Being one of those painfully responsible people I had funds remaining in a savings account. In a fit of spontaneity I booked the Eurostar to Paris for a 5 day break. Alone.

Having previously been held back by a fear of striking out on my own, this was one of the single most liberating weeks of my life. Getting up early I entrenched myself in all the city had to offer, took a nap, then dove back in to the giddy cacophony of Parisian nightlife. In this week I met intersting people from many different countries, some of whom I still keep in contact with.

I came back and finished my dissertation (got a distinction too, in case you were worried). But I was never the same. I was infected with the incurable travel bug but apparently you can’t get airline tickets on the NHS (though strangely you can get a sun bed session)!

Date: Wednesday 13th January 2010, Location: Hertfordshire

I have spent the last 5 months trying to get a job in advertising and, largely due to the recession, I have been unsuccessful. But I’m through to the final round of a really good agency and I’m waiting for the call to say if I have got the job or not. I have the feeling I do not but, due to my incurable sickness, I have already mentally planned a trip to Australia and Eastern Europe before the October start date.

I get the call. I do not get the job. I end the call. I cry (I’m a girl, we do that sometimes). My plans of expanding my horizons are dashed on the rocks and my unemployment and shoe addiction dance a tortuously expensive merry jig in the back of my mind. (N.B. I am not actually unemployed, I intern at a lovely company near Kings Cross during the week and pull pints at my local at the weekend)

I watch the news before taking solace in ‘Neighbours’ and copious amounts of rum and see the tragedy of the Haitian earthquake (donate here) and promptly pull myself together. OK, so the dream job isn’t happening right now, the travel plans are on hold and yes, it’s not ideal, but I have a very supportive network of friends and family who love me no matter what and, most importantly, are all alive. Things are not that bad for me. Not at all.

Date: Thursday 14th January 2010. Location: London Kings Cross

I missed my bastarding train home. Fuck. Partly my Boss’s fault for delaying my exit (though he was just trying to help me out at the time). Partly National Rail’s for not putting the correct platform number on the internet. Partly my own for trusting National Rail not to be fuckwitted bastards. What the hell am I going to do for 45 mins waiting for the next train?

Earlier that day a favourite internet person of mine, Adland Suit, had blogged about the usefulness of Time Out magazine for being a good advertising person. Previous advice this gent has dispensed has proved useful (Secret Cinema. Google it. Go to it. Love it.). Striving to be a good advertising person candidate I wandered into W H Smiths to see if it was there. It was. I bought it.

Well knock me down, Mr ALS is right again. This is chock-a-block with interesting stuff. I have an epiphany: why do I need to travel the world when one of the greatest cities in the world is already on my doorstep?!

And so the London Culture Club was born…

That’s all. Keep checking back for updates. See you soon culture vultures!

BB

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