ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS
The first novel by Ocean Vuong, a Vietnamese-American poet whose collection of poems Night Sky with Exit Wounds has remained by our bedsides since first read of those searingly vulnerable, tender, violent words, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous takes the form of a letter from Little Dog to his mother, who cannot read. A master of juxtaposition, Vuong, in gossamer-fine language, explores subjects as dense and far-ranging as identity, immigration, language, love, sex, America and the opioid crisis. Non-linear in narrative, Little Dog writes mid-way 'I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck — the pieces floating, lit up, finally legible'.
In interviews Vuong speaks about the way he wanted to draw people's attention to the minutiae of the everyday – often, more specifically, to the detritus – and that in this way he is moving away from the pursuit of timelessness. What he wants to show is what is ephemeral, momentary. That it is these things that build a life. It is a move away from the statue building of patriarchal literature and a step towards something queerer in approach.
'In a world myriad as ours, the gaze is a singular act: to look at something is to fill your whole life with it, if only briefly.' For Little Dog, for Rose (his mother), for Lan (his grandmother), these generations whose history is a catalogue of trauma and loss, to look on beauty – even if only briefly – is a balm. It is Little Dog, aged six, climbing a tall fence to retrieve some tiny purple flowers for his grandmother; it's buying three mood rings at the supermarket when they haven't much to eat; it's a pink bicycle, white dresses, hummingbirds, Chopin. 'It was beauty, I learned, that we risked ourselves for.' This book is so layered, so rich, it feels reductive to focus on just one thread. But it's this, the hunger for beauty, the turning towards so ephemeral a thing, that feels like one of its foundations.
The biggest boon to interrailing in the mid-to-late nineties, Before Sunrise takes place over less than twenty four hours when Jesse, a young American traveller, meets French student Céline on a train bound for Vienna. Immediately hitting it off, when the time comes for Jesse to disembark, rather than say goodbye, they decide to spend his last night in Europe together, walking, talking and ultimately, falling in love, before he has to leave to catch his flight home.
Smart, authentic, unashamedly earnest … and boy-oh-boy is it romantic. (Especially if you're into a sort of low-key grunge meets Éric Rohmer realism). A precursor to mumblecore, the film is one long, luxurious conversation. The script is tight and the musings engaging but what's truly brilliant is just how accurately it conveys the feelings. Take the scene in the record store listening booth: it's early on and they both so desperately want to stare at each other but neither wants the other to catch them. Shyness, sweetness. It's excruciating and delicious. The brief encounter element making it even more so. 'It's like our time together is just ours, it's our own creation' says Céline. Everything's heightened, suspended. And isn't that just the essence of falling in love? 'We’re back in real time' says Jesse later. And ain't that also the way? Luckily for them, and us, this isn't the end of their story.
In dance emotions become tangible for a fleeting moment.
- Benjamin Millepied
In 2020, we're excited to see:
Cowpuncher My Ass by choreographer Holly Blakey and composer Mica Levi. A new version of the original Cowpuncher which was staged in 2018, this genre-defying performance will continue to toy with the sounds and structures of the American Western, telling a story of heroes and heroines, obsession, infidelity, suicide and cowboys. At the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre for two performances only on 7th & 8th February.
Double Murder at the Brighton Festival in May. 'We dance to know what it feels like, not just to live, but to be alive,' reads a statement on the Hofesh Shechter Company website, 'We believe that dance has the ability to prod and poke and tap into our deepest emotions; a visceral part of ourselves that we rarely access in modern life.' With memories of their past unremittent, soul-shaking performances still echoing, we won't miss the world premiere of Hofesh Shechter's new creation.
Anything performed by Rambert2, the world renowned Rambert's young ensemble that perform together for only one year. Last year's cohort of 12 incredible dancers blew us away. We can't wait to see what this year's new crop achieve. In 2020 they will perform work by international choreographers Andrea Miller, Jermaine Spivey, Damien Jalet and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui at venues in London and across the UK.