Celebration Of An Artist

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Today’s Google doodle.

It’s always an exciting day for a dancer when the Google doodle features an artist. Today’s doodle is an ode to Oskar Schlemmer on the occasion of his 130th birth anniversary, for his contributions to art, puppetry, theatre, and dance. Schlemmer was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school – Staatliches Bauhaus, a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined fine arts and crafts, and was recognized around the world for its approach to design. Schlemmer’s work has been described as a “rejection of the pure abstract, and retention of the human” (not in the emotional sense but in the physical structure of the human body). He represented bodies as architectural forms, where the figure was an interplay of convex, concave and flat surfaces. He was fascinated by movements the body was capable of, and captured his observations in his work.

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Oskar Schlemmer – One of the most influential aesthetes.

Schlemmer was the youngest of six children, whose parents both died before he reached his teens. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule – a vocational arts school which existed in German speaking countries in the mid-19th century. The Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart was another one of his alma maters, where he studied under the tutelage of landscape painters Christian Landenberger and Friedrich von Keller. Schlemmer moved to Berlin in 1910 where he painted some of his early works, before returning to Stuttgart in 1912 as an apprentice under Adolf Hölzel. In 1914 he enlisted to fight in WWI, and returned to work under Hölzel in 1918. Schlemmer turned to sculpture in 1919, and was invited to run the mural painting and sculpture departments at the Bauhaus school.

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“Grotesque” (1923)

This was followed by being hired as a Master Of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop in 1923, after working at their workshop of sculpture. His most famous work which brought him international recognition was the Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) of 1922, which comprised costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body. There were three acts, three dancers and three colors, twelve scenes with eighteen costumes. He designed the costumes based on cylindrical, spherical, conical and spiral shapes – revolutionary at the time. Schlemmer described his creation as a “party of form and color”. The Triadic Ballet is viewed by many scholars and artists as a precursor to contemporary choreography and modernism.

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Costume from the Triadic Ballet, 1922

Space dance, gesture dance, rod dance, hoop dance, metal dance, form dance, scenery dance – Schlemmer used elaborate costumes in his stage ideas and transformed dancers into “artificial” figures which united dance, costume and music. Faceless female figures were the predominant subject in his paintings. He developed a multidisciplinary course at Bauhaus called “Der Mensch” (The Human Being) – a movement which celebrated his themes of the human figure in space; sitting or standing, lying down, walking or stationary. He used Cubism as a springboard for his structural studies, and was intrigued with the possibilities of figures and their relationship to the spaces around them. His characteristic forms are visible in both, his sculptures as well as his paintings. He also immersed his creative urges in stage design, and executed settings for the opera “Nightingale” and the ballet “Renard” in 1929.

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“The Dancer” (1922)

Schlemmer left Bauhaus in 1929 and joined the Akademie in Breslau where he painted one of his most celebrated works, the “Bauhaustreppe” (Bauhaus Stairway) in 1932. During WWII, he worked at the Institut für Malstoffe in Wuppertal. He produced a series of eighteen small, mystical paintings titled “Fensterbilder” (Window Pictures) in 1942, his final works before his death a year later.

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“Bauhaustreppe” (1932)

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Sources:

~www.thefutureperfect.com

~www.britannica.com

~www.bauhaus100.de

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Footsteps To Follow

Guru Purnima is celebrated today. An eastern spiritual tradition dedicated to teachers (or gurus) – considered as enlightened human beings who share their knowledge and wisdom with others. The occasion is often considered a festival, traditionally observed to revere an individual’s chosen mentors and to express one’s gratitude.

Guru Purnima is observed on a full moon day (purnima) in the month of Ashadha (June-July) as per the Hindu calendar – the day on which Maharshi Sri Veda Vyasa was born. Hence, the day is also known as “Vyasa Purnima“. Vyasa was the one who completed the codification of the four vedas and wrote the eighteen puranas. The day marks the peak of the lunar cycle after the end of the solar cycle. Hence, the specific date varies every year. The Guru Purnima of 2018 is special due to the occurrence of the total lunar eclipse or the blood moon. Hindus refrain from performing any puja or ceremony on the day of the lunar eclipse, since no auspicious practices are undertaken during the period of the eclipse. For this reason, my dance class has scheduled the Guru Purnima ceremony for tomorrow, and my drumming school will be celebrating the occasion on Monday.

I don’t follow the rituals much since I don’t consider myself a religious person, but I try and participate in the activities. My dance form is the Indian classical style of Odissi. On Guru Purnima, our ghunghroos or ankle bells are blessed by the teacher, an offertory of fruits and flowers is made to the gods (Lord Jagannath in the case of Odissi), and the guru ties a cord on the wrist of every student, symbolic of his/her blessings. The student in turn delivers Guru Dakshina – the tradition of repaying a teacher for everything one has learnt in the course of the year. This could be monetary or non-monetary – in a dance class, students can even offer a dance performance as guru dakshina. In my drumming school, students play various percussion instruments as guru dakshina, and homage is paid to the founder of the institute. I play the doumbek, but students can select from an array of instruments – from the djembe to the tabla, the timpani, bongo or the drum kit. Thus, the ceremonies vary depending on what the teacher deems fit for his/her school and students.

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All set for tomorrow.

Wander Where The WiFi Is Weak

Years ago, while I was studying French at L’Alliance Française, our instructor would give us sheets of lyrics for singing along to music she would play in class. This activity began just as soon as the course did, so in the early days of learning we obviously had no idea what we were singing. We would enthusiastically join in for the chorus, and mumble something for the verses. Gradually as our vocabulary improved, we had some inkling of the meaning of the songs. Students would receive a new song sheet every other day, and our teacher also gave out the CD containing the songs to be circulated among the class. Some of the songs we learnt in the lessons, but there were many others in the CD that she asked us to listen to at home – in an attempt to pick out words without looking at lyrics.

Music is a great accompaniment to learning a new language. In the early stages of learning, one tends to think in their native tongue, translate mentally, and then produce the new language – resulting in a staccato effect while speaking. Singing songs early on lends fluidity to speech later – helping the brain to string all those words. And listening to songs assists in picking up words and understanding verses – again helping the brain to perceive what is being said when one does engage in conversation.

I still remember many of the songs we sang all those years ago. One which particularly stands out is ‘Voyage Voyage’ by Desireless – a beautiful number about travelling the world. Literally translated to ‘Travel Travel‘, the lyrics encourage eternal travel to beautiful, wonderful, breathtaking places and sacred destinations around the world. Written by Dominique Albert Dubois and Jean-Michel Rivat, and recorded by Claudie Fritsch-Mentrop who went by the stage name ‘Desireless’ and released it in 1986 as the first single from her album ‘François‘, the song became a huge hit all over the globe. Despite being sung entirely in French, it broke through language barriers on music charts and featured in the top slots internationally between 1986 and 1988. (Ironically it missed the number one spot in France, peaking at second position for four weeks, behind Elsa Lunghini’s ‘T’en Vas Pas‘.) The music video was directed by Bettima Rheims, and premiered in France in December 1986.

Mexican band ‘Magneto’ created a Spanish version in 1991 titled ‘Vuela Vuela‘, and Belgian singer Kate Ryan released a cover version in her 2008 album ‘Free’. Here are the lyrics to the original French song. Sing (and maybe dance) along! And get inspired to plan out your next trip. (I’m unable to get the video to play on this page. Click the link below for a video of the song.)

A translation for non-French speakers:
Above the ancient volcanoes
Slide your wings under the carpet of the wind
Travel, travel – eternally
Of clouds in swamps
Of wind in Spain in the rain from Ecuador
Travel, travel,  – fly to the highest heights
Above the capitals, fatal ideas
Look at the ocean
~Chorus~
Travel, travel – further than the night and the day
Travel – in spaces unheard of by love
Travel, travel – on the sacred waters of an Indian river
Travel – and never return
On the Ganges or the Amazon
At the houses of people of all races (the Blacks, the Sikhs, the Yellows)
Travel, travel – throughout the land
On the dunes of the Sahara
From the island of Fiji to Fujiyama
Travel, travel – do not stop
Above barbed wires, with hearts bombarded
Look at the ocean
~Chorus~
Above the capitals, the fatal ideas
Look at the ocean
~Chorus~
From popular destinations to nondescript places, travel to connect with others or to connect with yourself. Go with all your heart and teeter into the unknown.
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