Saturday, October 28, 2023

Opera Bar: The Message in the bottle

As a full moon beat down on Manly ferries as well as hundreds of Opera House spectators on Saturday night, there was a fervent energy in the air and the the Opera Bar …

Combining gravity-defying hip hop and contemporary dance with breath-taking music, Message In A Bottle is a vital story of humanity and hope that explores the global refugee crisis through the lens of one family’s experiences. 

~ Sting in the Bottle

Message in the Bottle 1973-2023: Sydney Opera House: Celebrating 50 years 

         - Maybe Sammy Bar RC with MJI 

It was at choreographer Kate Prince’s 2016 wedding that the seed was first sown for what would eventually become Message in a Bottle, her acclaimed dance work based entirely on the music of Sting.

My husband and I are both atheists,” she says, “so we had Walking on the Moon as a hymn, which the whole congregation had to sing. Then when we were away on our honeymoon I was listening to the song on my headphones, and I said to my husband quite casually, ‘I bet you I can make a show out of his music.’ ”
Extreme physicality is a hallmark of ZooNation’s performances.
Extreme physicality is a hallmark of ZooNation’s performances. 

Four years later, Message in a Bottle was bornPerformed by Prince’s company ZooNation, based in Sadler’s Wells, the work tells the emotional story of a family forced to become refugees.
After the honeymoon, in one of her regular emails to her Sadler’s Wells boss Alistair Spalding, Prince added a postscript about the viability obtaining the rights to Sting’s music.
Two months later she was in a hotel lobby with Sting and his manager, pitching the merest kernel of an idea. The Southampton-born artist told him that just as it would be difficult for him to describe one of his songs she’d never heard, so it was hard for her to describe the proposed choreography.
Sting gave his blessing to a two-week workshop, and a snippet of lyric from 1987’s They Dance Alone inspired the subject matter.
“Those lyrics made me think about what people go through for the chance of a free life,” Prince says, “and the people they lose along the way, or the people who they’ve left behind who die.
‘It could be anywhere’. Kate Prince wants Message In A Bottle to have a universal appeal.
‘It could be anywhere’. Kate Prince wants Message In A Bottle to have a universal appeal. 
“It could be anywhere,” she says of the setting. “I’m never trying to be preachy. I’m not a politician. It’s not my job to do that. But I am aware that people who are not kind to refugees – who don’t want them here – don’t think about the fact that it could happen to any of us.”
At the workshop, Sting was moved to tears watching the fierce demands made on the dancers’ bodies by the breakdancing and physical floor work – a ZooNation hallmark.
“He’d never seen what one of his songs looked like,” Prince says. “It was people presenting his music back to him in 3D. He was really moved by it.”

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE at Sydney Opera House, 2023. Photo: Daniel Boud

Given the green light, she embarked on “a deep dive” into all she could learn about refugees, and remembers her husband finding her sitting on the sofa crying. Asked what was the matter, she replied, “I’m working!”
“It was so brutal to just submerge yourself in these stories,” she says, “because it’s all true. It’s not just adapting a work of fiction.”
Solidifying her responses was the disturbing photograph of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi, looking merely asleep when washed up on a Turkish beach.
“My daughter was that age at the time,” says Prince, “and she was sleeping upstairs in her nice bedroom in our home in London, and it was all very safe. And there was this little boy. Your parents don’t put you on a boat and risk your life for fun. They’re doing it because what they face at home is not safe.”
Such was Sting’s enthusiasm that his management made available the stems – the unmixed recordings of individual instruments – for every song Prince wanted from his solo albums. This allowed musical director Alex Lacamoire – also the world-wide music supervisor for Hamilton – to cast some songs in a slightly new light while not sacrificing their familiarity.
Unable to gain this access to the Police material, they re-recorded the relevant songs with Sting singing, and Lacamoire was stunned by his vocals.
Choreographer Kate Prince in rehearsals for Message In A Bottle.
Choreographer Kate Prince in rehearsals for Message In A Bottle. 
“We needed Sting to re-record his vocals for Roxanne,” he recounts, “and we recorded it in the original key. Now you have to remember that Roxannewas recorded in 1978, so we’re talking almost 50 years since that recording, and Sting could still hit those high notes. He made a joke about the effort, but it seemed effortless to us!”
Drawing on Sting’s music, Lacamoire also created transitional pieces to link the songs into a continuous score.
“That was a really fun thing to do,” he says, “using chord progressions, melodies and motifs from other songs and creating mash-ups.”
Describing herself as “a guest in the house of hip-hop”, Prince began her choreography career with pop groups, before forming ZooNation with like-minded artists whose background was in street dance, hip-hop, breakdancing and pop culture.
“But there wasn’t a natural path for these people to be dance artists in their own right,” she says. “There wasn’t the Royal Hip Hop Company!”

 Message in a bottle: Sting was moved to tears as he watched his songs come to life

Message from Pop Choir - JM 

Diva and the Harp and friends

Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, ohAnother lonely day with no one here but me, ohMore loneliness than any man could bearRescue me before I fall into despair, oh
I'll send an S.O.S to the worldI'll send an S.O.S to the worldI hope that someone gets myI hope that someone gets myI hope that someone gets my message in a bottle, yeahMessage in a bottle, yeah
A year has passed since I wrote my noteI should have known this right from the startOnly hope can keep me togetherLove can mend your life or love can break your heart
I'll send an S.O.S to the worldI'll send an S.O.S to the worldI hope that someone gets myI hope that someone gets myI hope that someone gets my message in a bottle, yeahMessage in a bottle, yeahOh, message in a bottle, yeahMessage in a bottle, yeah
Walked out this morning, I don't believe what I sawHundred billion bottles washed up on the shoreSeems I'm not alone at being aloneHundred billion castaways, looking for a home
I'll send an S.O.S to the worldI'll send an S.O.S to the worldI hope that someone gets myI hope that someone gets myI hope that someone gets my message in a bottle, yeahMessage in a bottle, yeahMessage in a bottle, ohMessage in a bottle, yeah
Sending out an S.O.SSending out an S.O.SI'm sending out an S.O.S

Pablo Picasso's art changed a lot. Here's why

 Scientists explain how the brain encodes lottery values ScienceBlog (Dr. Kevin). The conventional view is that lottery tickets are a tax on people who are bad at math. However, a second view is that a lottery ticket is buying the fantasy of winning, and therefore akin to a middle class person buying, say, Architectural Digest or other shelter porn publications, looking at houses they could never afford to buy or build.

Albatrosses listen to the sea to navigate the skyBoing Boing

Asteroid Polyhymnia’s density beyond known elements The Watchers

Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial judge has threatened to hold the former president in contempt.

       (Not ?) reading Patrick White 

       As longtime readers know, I'm a great fan of the work of Patrick White -- seventeen of his titles are under review at the complete review ! -- so I am of course always pleased to see any coverage of him, even if it is, as now from Reuben Mackey at The Conversation, along the lines of: Patrick White was the first Australian writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature -- 50 years later, is he still being read ?
       But Mackey does have a point when he notes that:
Ever since he won the Nobel prize, White has been unable to escape the institutional framing of his work, whether he is being critiqued negatively or positively.
       (I remain kind of baffled that he is considered 'difficult' etc.; certainly his work is not easy, breezy reading, but it strikes me as very accessible.)