Showing posts with label Javier De Frutos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Javier De Frutos. Show all posts

17 Mar 2011

Ballet- The Most Incredible Thing

Javier De Frutos

Javier called me, had I heard of Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Most Incredible Thing’? Incredibly, I hadn’t - a quick Google and, incredibly I had! Javier had been commissioned by Sadler's Wells to create the choreography for a new ballet with original music scored by the Pet Shop Boys and would I come up with an image to front it?
 Anderson’s obsession with cutting shapes out of paper was my starting point. Look away now if you don’t want to know the ending; a clock turns out to be the ‘Thing’. My idea was straight forward; replace the hands of a clock with a cut out of the principal dancer. Javier had one request- it should have the feel of a Constructivist poster. 
 The idea is often the easy part, the trick is to turn concept into surreality. 3D software was the only tool in the box to do the job. My 3D skills were rusty and in need of some serious polishing. I based the structure of the clock loosely on the workings of a19th Century lighthouse time piece. Clemmie Sveaas, performing the role of the Princess, would be the hands.
  In a tight rehearsal room at Sadlers, Clemmie contorted her body into every shape I threw at her.

Clemmie Sveaas
Working with Clemmie is always creatively rewarding. There’s no pretense, no tantrums or tiaras, even though she is the Princess- just  passion and talent.

 Katrina Lindsay

The incredible costumes were provided by Katrina Lindsay who’s considerable talent is equaled only by the accolades stuffed into her trophy cabinet.

 Poster image

Press/ programme image

So much is resting on Javier’s shoulders. The hype and the pressure is on - incredible things are expected. Javier is not an extension of the pop duo or the third member- he’s a one off. 

 Article on Javier in the Royal Academy of Dance’s publication 'Dance Gazette' featuring images by yours - truly.

The Independent
The Times

Final poster
The Guardian Guide

Sadler's Wells site

The Pet Shop Boys site

8 Jan 2010


Javier De Frutos © Gavin Evans
 At the peak of the suicide season the dance world martyred it's integrity. In October '09 The Sadler's Wells commissioned 4 acclaimed choreographers to give 'their own original response to the famous challenge that Diaghilev once issued to Jean Cocteau: “Surprise me!”' Javier De Frutos (above) rose magnificently to the challenge and boy did he deliver. True to 'The Spirit of Diaghilev', Javier's homage to Cocteau; 'Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez' divided the dance world. Critics and audiences were vocal in their unbridled praise and indignant outrage. The moral right obsessed on a scene where a fictional Pope (Roberto 1st) rapes a choir boy- a scene derived from Cocteau's musings. Javier's choreography is renowned for his provocative sensuality, dark humour and visceral beauty- every movement has reference and purpose. With a raft of predatory Bishops resigning from the church the timing seemed perfectly tuned! Javier was given no option other than resign his post of 'associate artist' at Sadler's. Had the dance theatre submitted to the patrons' demands and sided with the ballet hooligans?
 The extraordinary rendition of his reputation continued when his, now scandalized ballet was cut from the BBC schedule. The arbiters of public taste and morality had decreed the piece too shocking to broadcast pre-watershed and the dance theatre offered no defense. We were spared the spectacle when, on the 18th of December, the BBC broadcast the show in its censored entirety.
 On the 23rd December Javier was summoned to a meeting at the BBC. It was presumed that the Corporation would be equitable and discuss broadcasting 'Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez'. Instead, Javier was informed that the BBC would have never have purchased the piece had they known that the set consisted of illustrations of erect penises. Javier respectfully pointed out that these weren't the imaginings of a depraved choreographer; they were reproductions of drawings by Da Vinci and Jean Cocteau!
 Every artist expects the full support of his commissioners, management and contemporaries. Instead of insisting that the show was broadcast in it's entirety, the dance theatre sanctioned the BBC's decision to censor Javier. The press never sought an explanation from Javier or gave him the opportunity to put forward his defense. The perpetrators and supporters of this action should be outed for their collusion in the slandering of Javier's reputation. As for those choreographers who silently watched on as their colleague was publicly berated- they too should be noted for their complicity.
 The public vilification of Javier is a warning to all artists. To stop the pernicious erosion of our rights we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder and be counted. Demand to view the infamous performance- it would be reprehensible if Sadler's were to profit from releasing it on DVD. What about the Freedom of Information act- Javier owns the copyright?

footnote- The BBC broadcast the opinions of BNP leader Nick Griffin without our consent or approval- that's shocking.


19 Mar 2009

Death and the King's Horseman

 January - another day of monotone. The sodden nap of winter's fire-blanket had long extinguished Autumn's pyrotechnic displays. Feeling seasonally maladjusted and in need of spiritual re-orientation I dial Javier. Whatever mood he's in, his irrepressible effervescence always lifts mine. Things start off well; his Latin temperament is cursing him for subjecting it to the Great British weather. Then he slips a Mickey Finn into my tonic, apologising that he'll be boarding a plane to Nigeria to research Yoruba dance and culture. To rub salt into my anemic wounds he tells me he'd be travelling with friends Rufus (Norris director) and Katrina (Lindsay costume designer). They were working together on the play 'Death and the King's Horseman' by Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka. And as if that wasn't enough, whilst there they'd venture out of Lagos to meet him. The leaden sky was now pouring acid. When I eventually caught breath from the blow to my solar plexus, I realised that this presented the perfect opportunity:

I was first introduced to Wole Soyinka’s work in 1992 when shooting a campaign for Talawa Theatre Company’s production of his play ‘The Road’. Shortly after, when making ‘dis’, I had the youthful temerity to ask Wole if he'd write me a poem. I had created a photograph that I believed only his insight and vision could seal the marriage between image and word. Despite his perilous circumstances he humbled my adolescent arrogance with a poem of terrifying beauty, profound resonance and perfect symbiosis. I never met or spoke with Wole, back then in 1993 the only way to communicate was by fax. At the time of correspondence he had sought sanctuary at the Sheraton Lagos, before fleeing Nigeria for the USA. More than a decade later I have this chance to safely repatriate Wole’s poem with a print of the finished artwork.

 Skip to now. It's mid-March and the intransigent sky is still resolutely grey. Rehearsals are scheduled to start for Death and the King's Horseman when I get a call from Jenny(Jules). Over the years I have come to see Jenny as a wonderfully errant sister. She's an extraordinary talent, a gifted actor and stuff, but when we get together our senses of humour strain to be let off the leash and go bounding off in to the woods. She purrs she's got a lead part in a play at the NT. Enough, basta, comprendo, capiche! I get the message and catch the next train.

Rufus is the Zidane of the stage. He paces the action with the stealth of a predator, preying on the smallest indiscretion that strays from the script.

The role of King is filled by the imperious presence of Nonso Alozie. Standing in at a 6'6" he can quake the stage with the force of Ogun, or defy his mass and float with the light touch and agility of a bird.

Rufus's all black cast is a reassuringly welcome sight, peppered with familiar faces from past projects. Above them a newspaper advertisement hollered down. The Evening Standard is already stirring things in the direction of the box office with the headline 'Black Actors White Up at the National' -a provocatively cynical reference to Olivier's performance as Othello.

 My fee is redeemed before the shutter is depressed. No price could be put on sitting in on rehearsals, watching an apprehensive cast find their way under Rufus and Javier's masterful stewardship. No money is exchanged, the equation is simple: I get access to remarkable subject matter plus a unique insight into inspirational artists at work -
I was royally paid.

The opportunity to shoot the cast in full costume came during dress rehearsals. The only available space was off-stage in rehearsal room 6; a windowless casket of coffee stained cream walls and plastic stacking chairs. It could be have been a waiting room or reception you'd find anywhere - Lagos or London. I resisted the temptation to neutralise it and opted to work with its... banality. The contrast of the actors, extraordinary in Katrina's exquisite finery, set against the ubiquitous sterility of their surroundings could be made to work to my advantage.

 In Yoruban culture everything, including inanimate objects, has as spirit. The lampshade girl represents this 'Jinn' and she reappears throughout the sequence as a reminder of this belief. For the following six hours the session is a frenetic production line of masquerading black peacocks, priests, servants, musicians and African Royalty - real and fictional. Full dress rehearsals are a time of palpable panic, eyes in headlights stuff. I had between 90 seconds and 15 minutes to shoot each actor before they were spirited away, back on stage.

(footnote) The poem made it safely home to its maker. The present was received with joyful surprise- one more of Wole's lost poems had returned to the fold.

End of The Road. End of story.

22 Jan 2009

Tonight I rendezvoused with my amigo querido Javier De Frutos at Century Club. Century is Javier's Soho sanctuary and casa de casa. When he enters the club everyone welcomes him like a scene from Cheers- directed by Pedro Almodóvar. This evening he's accompanied by satirical composer Richard Thomas and musician-come-viking-come-cook Lore Lixenberg.

When Lore sleeps she dreams of food. On waking she writes down the recipes and then cooks them- with some considerable success!


Richard is best known for penning the score for 'Jerry Springer the Opera.' Last year he collaborated with Javier on 'Cattle Call' (a culled classic) and now they were cooking up another feast.

Conversation journeyed the four corners of absurdity and on the strike of 12 I slipped away- my pumpkin was due to depart from platform fifteen.