Lost in Art, the Pere Ubu Ballet

Lost in Art
Max Janoff said, "I stumbled across this rare shot showing the few hardy souls who stayed through the infamous Lost in Art ballet at the Sadler's Wells Theatre."

Edand Wilbur added, "I think you can just make out Chris Cutler there and one of the Residents."
On April 1, 1983, the Pere Ubu ballet Lost in Art was staged at London's Sadler's Wells Dance Theatre. At the time it was considered an "unmitigated disaster." Many believe it is the cause of the four year hiatus in the band's history during the mid `80s.

"David disappeared," a person close to the band said on condition of anonymity. "He spoke to no one. He wouldn't answer the phone. To this day he flinches when it rings. He'll stare at it motionless until it stops. Mobiles drive him nuts.

"He will look you in the eye and say it never happened. The consequences of broaching the subject are fearsome."

Fans have researched the event in an effort to document it.

Robert Schaad found this review in The Times,
"As we were shown to our seats in the opulent Sadler's Wells Theatre, home to some of the world's greatest dance companies, the lights slowly began to dim. What followed left me 'Lost in Art,' an apt title indeed! Not only was it near impossible to discern one dancer (or their movements) from another in the total blackness of the stage, but a woman could be heard whimpering throughout. (Was this part of the performance?) Also audible were bodies crashing into one another - were we seated too close to the stage? - and what sounded like random snippets of dialogue from Abbott and Costello. This added nothing to the performance, nor did the spinning clowns who entered as stage lights came up, finally, after twenty minutes. (A thinly veiled reference to Pagliacci?) The final five minutes of the etude were endurable only as a game of guessing which of the clown dancers would be next to topple over while attempting pirouettes in big-toed floppy shoes. I, for one, hope the Sadler's does not invite this Pere Ubu Dance Troupe back, and can attest as one of the half dozen in attendance, that it was an 'avant-garde farce.'"

Terry Racinskas says,
"I recently read a review about Pere Ubu which mentioned their ballet. I am amazed anyone even remembers it! It was 1983, and I was an exchange student in London. I was so excited to see that Pere Ubu was presenting their ballet at Sadler's Wells nearby, having been a Jim Jones groupie in Cleveland, Ohio at Platterpus Records, the store he ran in my hometown. Sadler's Wells was trying many things back then to boost attendance, and as an art student I tried to check out as many productions as possible. I will always regret seeing the Baylis Theatre's The House of Blue Leaves, a NOT so 'zany' comedy in my opinion, but that's another story. I entered the space and my anxiety grew, I couldnt wait for it to begin, as it was delayed due to poor attendance.

"Finally the house lights dimmed, and the stage lights dimmed. The ruckus of thumps and thuds surrounded by a few expletives could be heard amidst the familiar sound of Three Stooges pokes and jabs. The performance seemed to push the fourth wall as the whimpers of a girl crying in pain seemed to reverberate over my seat. After about 15 minutes I realized some of those pitiful sounds were actually two audience members behind me, lamenting their attendance. It was at about this time they walked out and missed the dawn of the lights exposing an array of angry clowns spinning atop big toe shoes... a metaphor not lost on me.

"Lost in Art was my introduction to performance art and the last time I attended a ballet."

Edand Wilbur says,
Digging through a pile of old 'Maxium Rock N Roll' and 'Reflex' magazines, I couldn't believe my luck finding a review of Lost in Art from shortlived UK quarterly 'Speakout.' Transcribed errors and all for your info: 'Never Mind the Ballets Here's Pere Ubu & 30 Minutes in a Tutu'

"What is it with rock bands and ballet this year? First we had The Fall and 'I am Curious Orange' with enfant terrible of Brit ballet Michael Clark. Now Pere Ubu of Modern Dance fame slip on the red shoes for Lost in Art.

"However, unlike the Mancunian miserabilists, David Thomas and his current band shun the safety net of a professional dance company - at least for now - in their challenging and off-kilter take on contemporary ballet. Rumour has it that the sudden transfer from the Royal Opera House to Sadler's Wells follows the refusal of technical staff to continue working with the Ubu frontman.

"Tonight, keyboardist Jim Jones made a brave, even foolhardy lunge at what may have been a Brisé and then a raggedy fouetté jeté. Earning a basilisk glare from his band leader for the presumed offence of smuggling in actual ballet moves into proceedings. What Jones lacked in accuracy he made up for with such a fierce enthusiasm, I fear for his back.

"Unsurprisingly Thomas, no Sugar Plum Fairy shrewdly confined his movements to the upper torso, his flailing and windmilling arms directing and berating his band in equal measure as they gamely struggled to interpret his gnostic vision. The drummer must have been grateful that his role kept him seated.

"This view of the band was brief. For much of the performance, the audience remains in merciful darkness assailed by band's unsettling avant hoodoo, Thomas's intimidating exhortations and the sound of balletic failure as bodies slammed on to the stage. The less said about the clown-like figures with Keaton faces (Buster not Diane) the better. And was the pre-recorded wisecracking Abbot & Costello? Or Jackie Gleason?

"Lost in Art is a bold experiment but one that would be better remaining unfound. Let's hope Pere Ubu soon resume their day job of rock band and deliver something more akin to the mighty Dub Housing and Modern Dance."
- Jack Lacan, 'Speakout Magazine,' Winter 1983

For info: following the demise of 'Speakout,' Lacan (using his real name Ray Frett) was a popular culturist at the University of Salford. His whereabouts from the mid `90s are unknown.