Extremely Pedestrian Chorales, (2018)
***** The Herald
In Kinloss and Findhorn’s Parish Church a little later, Karl Jay-Lewin [and Matteo Fargion’s] latest choreography, entitled Extremely Pedestrian Chorales, was an elaborately annotated step-dance for a quartet taking the soprano, alto, tenor and bass lines of 36 of Bach’s Chorales as their instructions, the progression of the notes translated into forward, backward and otherwise motion. With hand percussion, kazoos, some laptop recordings and a few wigs thrown into the mix, Jay-Lewin, Neil Callaghan, Claire Godsmark and Janine Fletcher delivered a clever, funny, and thought-provoking 45 minutes. Even for those of us with two left feet, this year’s Findhorn Bay Festival has thrown all divisions between genres into the blender.
**** The Scotsman
And in one of those rare moments of festival synchronicity, I finished my visit to Findhorn Bay by watching a remarkable experiment by choreographer Karl Jay Lewin and composer Matteo Fargion, at Kinloss Church, in transforming the rhythm and melodic line of a series of Bach chorales into movement. The effect, in Extremely Pedestrian Chorales, is strange, sometimes comic, sometimes intensely moving. And the movement of the four dancers, including Lewin (sic) himself, is accompanied by a fascinating range of sounds, including blasts of the chorales themselves, snapping fingers – and of course, at climactic moments, the sound of the dancers’ tapping and stamping feet, perfectly capturing the rhythmic power and grandeur of the mighty JS Bach in all his exhilarating glory. – Joyce McMillan
**** Extremely Bad Dancing to Extremely French Music is one sense exactly what it says on the tin. It’s also a somewhat self-indulgent and very self-aware look at the concept of dancing to accompaniment and the entire concept of “extremely.” It’s also very, very funny, if your sense of humour skews towards visual absurdity.
Composer Matteo Fargion and choreographer Karl Jay-Lewin have collaborated on this movement piece. Here, Jay-Lewin is accompanied by Tim Parkinson, (a composer himself), playing Fargion’s score on piano. A series on signs (all in a mid-price French restaurant menu font) placed on the music stands in front of them indicate what kind of “extremely” we’re about to experience: “Extremely vulgar,” “extremely stupid”, etc. Each “extremely” gets a new movement – altogether, they form a suite of wackiness. To give too much away would ruin the distinct oddness of the proceedings – you never know what’s coming next. Suffice it to say there’s some partial nudity, an elephant costume used, (or rather, not used), to dramatic effect, and my two favourites, “Extremely Left Wing” and “Extremely Right Wing.” Parkinson and Jay-Lewin never have the same caption on their signs, but the (sometimes very abstract) relation between the two captions is always clever.
Sometimes, it seems as though this piece is challenging the very notion of why certain music should go with a certain emotions or physicality. Why do we say that a piece of music is sad or angry, or why indeed do certain movements connote certain emotions? Jay-Lewin’s physicality is wonderfully ironic—he performs each bad dance perfectly in rhythm and without hesitation, but with a trapped, sheepish face, like someone’s uncle forced to do the Macarena at a wedding.
Don’t go to this expecting, well, anything really. This is the kind of show that provokes nervous “should we be laughing?” laughter in an audience. It isn’t for people who don’t enjoy challenging and abstract performances, but the wit on display here is first class. It’s also got an excellent title – who hasn’t done some private flailing around to Françoise Hardy? Broadway Baby Lauren Moreau
Absurdist performance isn’t limited to theatre, but also crosses over into dance, as showcased quite expertly by Karl Jay-Lewin & Matteo Fargion in Extremely Bad Dancing to Extremely French Music. The Skinny
As well as having the best title ever – who could resist – [the] performance was a joy to encounter. Apart from John Hegley serenading me at The Lighthouse in Cromarty last month, cannot think when I have laughed more! Susan Christie, Director, Inverness Old Town Arts.
Happily, I did see the gloriously funny / sad / lovely / rebellious Karl Jay-Lewin’s show on at the Traverse, also under the caring gaze of The Catalystas. Morag Deyes, Dance Base.
I Think Not (2011)
**** “Work so beautiful and powerful to behold that you cannot fail to be moved.”
Audience seating was in a circle but Jay-Lewin ignored boundaries as he soared through the room with a gripping delivery that never failed to draw you into his world. His use of eye contact effectively heightened the intimate sense of the piece as he forged ahead. Clothes became the communicators when, first wearing an orange waterproof coat, he removed it to reveal a blue one, then removed that exposing his bare chest branded with ‘It wasn’t me’. Calling out to the audience, his voice entered the circle only after his body had left the room. Michael Wilkinson, Broadway Baby
Karl’s performance was transcendent and moving and brought me to a place that all art attempts to which is to include his audience in his discourse, no matter how indirectly, while speaking a personal truth… The surprise of Karl’s movements and trajectory within the score, coupled with the dramaturgical choices he made supplemental to the score, were a continual revelation and he seemed to be leaving behind a story that each audience member could call their own. I was transfixed, transported and deeply touched. Without exaggeration, I can say it was one of the most moving and engaging artistic experiences I have been witness to in my prolific participation and viewership of dance performance. Christopher Roman, Associate Artistic Director, The Forsythe Company
From my perspective, what Karl Jay-Lewin’s adaptation of I Think Not has in common with the most vital and affecting art is that it seems to be representative of nothing other than itself. As its own best definition, freed from the dogma that life and art are, if not oppositional then mutually exclusive, the work soars, while as an audience member, one finds oneself in the exhilarating and often challenging position of being less witness to a performance than intimately involved in one of an ordinary day’s million peculiarities. Luke Sutherland – Writer and Musician
Fragile, funny, fearless, tender, vulnerable, delicate, curious and sad. It lifted my heart right out of my body … Beautifully done. Jennifer Cantwell, Designer
… primal, youthful, ancient, and present… Made me like him, worry about him, and laugh at him (in a ‘with-him’ kind of way). Robin Dingerman, Dance Artist
What’s interesting is how deeply affecting the performance was – I haven’t had that sort of cathartic experience since I was 17 watching Hamlet! … wonderfully quirky and funny. I wanted to laugh out loud long and hard but squashed it down, mostly because of the pathos of the piece and the vulnerability. Jean Ekblob, Naturopath
Generation and Every Day Life (2001, 2003)
… a touching, funny duet between Karl and his cheeky-faced 10 year old son Jake … a relationship rarely given genuine life on stage… Sunday Herald
Minimalist and cool… Dance Europe