The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

March 17, 2010

Blogging, ballet & beer — with a perturbed poetry mention

I remember when I used to blog.

I know, it’s been a while.  Coming up on a month, actually.  So many cool things to write about and yet I don’t seem to be doing my job.  When we left off, Bonnie and I were just returning from New York City where it was cold and all Alan Shore-y.  Oh yeah, and a nice man in a bar bought me a drink while I was talking to the Beer Doc on the phone.  That still feels good.  I went out to the Art Bar last night to check out the final poetry slam competition — scouting for an upcoming undefined poetry reading (and by the way, Chris McCormick was robbed!) — and couldn’t find anyone to go with, so I put on my big girl panties and went alone.  Lo and behold, another dude tried to buy me a drink while I was talking to my friend Gillian on the phone.  He was creepy though — cowboy hat creepy, to be precise — so I gave him the Nora look and moved into another room.  (The Nora look is this “eat shite you pathetic fool or I’ll burn your house down” snarl that is passed genetically through the Boiter side of my family.  My dead grandmother Nora had it, and my also late Dad had it, then me, then Bonnie.  Bonnie has actually perfected it — you’ve probably seen it before from one or both of us.)

  In the interim since my last post, the Beer Doc and I spent Spring Break doing some final research on NC and SC beer.  Actually, I’m working on a story for Sandlapper on SC micros and brewpubs — focusing on COAST beer in North Charleston — a wife/husband team who are brewing organic, environmentally conscious beer that absolutely rocks; RJ Rockers in Spartanburg — home of the Son of a Peach summertime sensation; Thomas Creek in Greenville — home of the Deep Water Double Bock which is sumptuous; the Aiken Brewpub, which is in Aiken; and our own local Hunter Gatherer — the place I keep calling “our” pub and for some reason, people who don’t know it think it belongs to us.  I tend to get a little proprietary, I guess.  People who don’t know the Cellar may think I own it, too. 

In any case, much has been written about beer lately and less about my beloved arts.  (No, I don’t own them — it’s a figure of speech.)  However, I have done a couple of reviews for the Free Times of local Columbia dance companies over the past few weeks.  Here’s the piece on Columbia Classical Ballet’s Aladdin, in case you missed it.

And I’ll try to be a better blogger in the future.

 

Issue #23.10 :: 03/10/2010 – 03/16/2010

Aladdin Gives us More — and Less — of What We Expect from Columbia Classical Ballet

BY CYNTHIA BOITER

   

Columbia Classical Ballet’s Aladdin presented itself last Friday at the Koger Center as something big — something spectacular. In many ways, the company met its objective. Resplendent costuming in shimmering warm shades; a multiplicity of dancers at various stages of training; informed choreography courtesy of the rare former dancer who actually knows how to choreograph; delicate women; threatening thieves; and a plethora of adorable children littering the stage.  There is no arguing — it was a big show.

Based ever-so-loosely on a Middle-Eastern folk tale taken from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (though the characters of Jasmine and a blue Genie do not appear in the story’s history until Walt Disney Pictures adapted the tale in 1992), Aladdin is a classic tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back and defeats the evil sorcerer with the help of a genie in a lamp. Choreographed by Classical Ballet resident choreographer Simone Cuttino — a John Cranko Ballet alum — the ballet Aladdin offers quite a lot of dancing.

In the first act, some might argue, it offers too much.

It’s not that exposition in a narrative ballet is a bad thing, but Act I could have used more of the fine-tuning — the winnowing out of superfluous movement and detail — that Act II demonstrated.

In a word, the first act was long.

That said, one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of the ballet came in Scene Two when Aladdin, danced by Aoi Anraku (a Gold Prize winner in the All Japan Ballet Competition in Nagoya), encounters Lauren Frere’s Goddess of Diamonds and her accompanying attendants (danced by Anna Porter, Renata Franco, Kaori Yanagida, Akari Manabe and Dee Dee Rosner).  Though Anraku rarely demonstrated much commitment to his character, stepping in and out of choreography as if it were a series of disconnected exercises, the women accomplished their parts exquisitely.

It can also be argued that the ballet itself didn’t fully take off until the very end of Act I when the character of Jafar, danced by the Ukrainian Oleksandr Vykhrest — who heretofore had lacked the menacing energy one might expect from a villain — came alive with malice as he danced the lights down on the act. Once the ballet found itself, the remainder of the program was a delight.

The highlight of the night was the desert scene in Act II, when the company rallied to produce a mesmerizing scene of conspiracy and deception. Jasmine, danced by Kaleena Burks (former student of Magda Aunon and Magaly Suarez), demonstrated particularly stunning pointe work and arabesques while committing to her character in a manner she had previously yet to reveal. Vykhrest’s Jafar exhibited not just a capacity for peril, but also for affection, as he pined hopelessly for the princess. Kazuki Ichihashi, in the role of the Genie, might have relied excessively on his turns to wow the audience, but he executed them spectacularly. The lighting, courtesy of technical director and lighting designer Aaron Pelzek, painted the desert scene with subtle, yet beautiful changing hues suggesting the passage of time as the scene progressed.

Why did this simple scene with few props and no stage clutter satisfy so?

Because big isn’t always better. Give me the respect for the aesthetic of dance, the purity of exquisite technique, the confidence of simplicity audiences have come to expect from director Radenko Pavlovich’s classically trained and, usually, impeccably coached dancers, any day. My favorite Pavlovich productions are the ones with little production at all — beautiful, proficient dancers on a bare stage with nothing but a capable lighting director to illuminate their prowess.

We got to see a peek of this local treasure Friday night — but only a glimpse and not nearly enough to last until next season begins.             

Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

   

 

 

February 17, 2010

Cabaret Comes to Trustus Wednesday night with Marjorie Barnes & Wideman/Davis Dance

If you can tear yourself away from the Olympics on Wednesday night, (did somebody say Tivo?), race on down to TRUSTUS Theatre on Lady Street for a taste of New York City, Columbia Style.  The brain child of former Broadway star – now Columbia arts supporter, Gillian Albrecht, TRUSTUS Theatre presents an innovative series of monthly cabaret events starting Wednesday night with Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis of Wideman/Davis Dance Company and featuring the huge voice of the beautiful Marjorie Barnes.

Marjorie Barnes may be best known for her work with the musical group The Fifth Dimension (can you suuuuuurry, can you picnic? wo-o-o-ah) — Marjorie replaced Marilyn McCoo in the mid-seventies — but she has also enjoyed a stellar career as a jazz vocalist both on Broadway and throughout Europe.  Among the shows she has starred in are Hair, Dream Girls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, and Pal Joey.

The fund raising event starts at 7:30 and tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door, with student rush tickets available at 7 pm at the door. But don’t dally — there were just a few seats left by Tuesday night — and seating is general admission. For tickets call 254-9732.

Watch this space for more info on the upcoming shows.

February 9, 2010

Valentine’s Day = Pressure; What’s Love Fest = Pressure Release

As a woman of a certain age, I’ve suffered through many a Valentine’s Day.

Suffer, you say?  Why, I thought you had married your high school sweetheart — a boy you met on the football field when you were but fifteen years old?  I thought you had never dated another boy since and that you were living happily ever after in a little white house in an enchanted forest? Isn’t all of this true?

Why yes, yes it is. So if someone like me, who is married to the Beer Doctor, who just happens to have exquisite taste in all things romance, jewelry, wine, chocolates, flowers — the whole bit — if someone like me has suffered through Valentine’s Days galore, then please do pity the poor girl or boy who:  doesn’t have a love interest; only has a like interest; isn’t sure where she or he stands on the like/love scale.

The fact of the matter is that, more than anything, Valentine’s Day means pressure — even for those of us long in-love.  If it’s not deciding what to do, because God forbid you act as if it’s just another night, then it is deciding what to do soon enough lest every table in town be booked.  Pressure.  Then there is the question of gifts.  Women are easy — there is tradition behind what women expect from their beloveds on Valentine’s Day — gentlemen may make their choices from any variety of candies, jewels, and floral designs.  For women of the enlightened sect however, (those who recognize that loving and cherishing is a two-way street and that boys like to have love professed to them as much as girls), it is slim pickings.  We can only give so many wallets, money clips, and boxers with hearts all over them.  Women have to get creative.  Personally, I’ve given the Beer Doc so many baskets of craft beers by now that I just can’t go that direction again.  Pressure.

Don’t even get me started on Valentine’s shopping for parents, grandparents, and kids; what to wear over & what to wear under; performance anxiety; and the fact that a major candy holiday comes around in the middle of the biggest diet season of the year.  Pressure.

At least there is something we can do in Columbia that is pretty much pressure-less for those who just have to show up, and a pressure-release once we get there — the What’s Love Fest at 701 Whaley Street — one of the best arts events of the year.

With too many artists to mention — but I will say a few names like Bonnie Goldberg, Anastasia Chernoff, Michael Krajewski, Alejandro Garcia, Caroline Hatchell, and Billy Guess; plus performance art à la Wideman/Davis Dance, Unbound and more; music from Danielle Howle, Unresolved and Les Paramours; food, including an offering by Chef Kelly and a cash bar with Magic Hat brew; plus all kinds of surprises, I’m sure — The What’s Love Fest is the answer to the second most stressful holiday of the year.  Simply suit up in something sexy (ok, a little pressure there), and show up.

Below are the details lifted from the What’s Love Fest Facebook page — I hope I get to see you there.

What’s Love? This is What’s Love!
Over 40 visual and performance artists showing You the Love!

SAT. February 13th @ 701 Whaley
The main event:
“What’s Love Fest 2010”
7pm-midnight

Sun. Feb. 14th CLOSING
2pm-5pm

Tickets are $15 advance $20 at the door
Advance tickets:
Sid & Nancy – 5 Points
S&S Art Supplies – Rosewood Dr
Frame of Mind – Main St.
WEB – http://www.palmettonluna.org paypal

It’s Valentines weekend and whether you are single or have a love to bring you won’t want to miss this night of tantalizing art and entertainment!
Sponsored by:
Free Times
Baileys
Magic Hat
Sid & Nancy
Comunicar
Smoke
L.A.Kornegay, Media Productions

SAT. FEB 13th 7-midnight

Music by:
Les Paramours featuring:
Don Russo: Vocals/Guitar
Nick Brewer: Piano
Reggie Sullivan: Bass
Tony Lee: Drums
PLUS
Danielle Howle
Unresolved

Performances by:
Unbound Dance Company
Wideman/Davis
Sherry Warren & Kirrill Simin
Penthouse Playhouse

Also enjoy DR SKETCHY! The most rambunctious sketching session you’ll experience.

ART ART ART ART ART
With sexy, humorous, erotic and romantic art – starting with return artists or “The Love Hangovers”
* denotes part of juried show
Heidi Darr-Hope
Anastasia Chernoff
Melissa Ligon
Britta Cruz
Jeff Smith
Alejandro Garcia
Molly Harrell *
Michael Krejewski *
Melinda Register *
Bonnie Goldberg
Leslie Pierce *
Diana Farfan
Lee Ann Kornegay
Travis Teate
Billy Guess *

“Puppy Loves”
Betsy Newman *
Wade Sellers *
Michael Dixon *
Half & Half – Nick & Sarah *
Ted Sbardella *
Melissa Buckner *
Lindsey Wolf *
Izms of Art – Cedric & Mustafa *
Shannon Purvis *
Roe Young *
Caroline Hatchell *
James Shealy *
Lucy Bailey *
Dawn Hunter *
Sarah Kobos *

Kelly Courtney of Sugarhill will have something yummy and chocolate!

You can also shop for the perfect Valentine’s gift with:
Sid & Nancy
Bohumila Augustinova
Tom Chinn – Love Taps
S&S Art Supplies
Frame of Mind
Danielle Howle – Jewelry

Looking for the perfect Valentines Experience?
How bout the DELUXE LOVE package?
Details coming soon!

What’s Love Fest 2010
Jurors

1. Todd Herman, Chief Curator of the Columbia Museum of Art.
2. Karen Watson, Director of the Sumter Gallery of Art.
3. J.J. Ohlinger, Director of CAFfeine, Contemporary Art Forum in Greenville, SC.
4. Alejandro Garcia-Lemos, What’s Love Jury Coordinator.

This year’s event supports Palmetto & LUNA, a non-profit organization promoting Latino arts and culture in South Carolina. Latino theme not required.

FREE TIMES, Sid & Nancy, BAILEYS, Magic Hat and COMUNICAR are sponsors of the event.

For more information
lakorn@bellsouth.net

January 24, 2010

Looking at LifeChance

It was so nice to see such a great crowd at LifeChance Saturday night — and not just folks who got trucked in, but just a whole lot of people from the community. Here are a few observations:

  • The show was great — I love it that the show even exists and that Radenko Pavlovich brings in such fine talent from the far corners for us to see.  The talent and choreography should help to inspire local companies and dancers, especially the contemporary pieces performed by Lia Cirio, her brother Jeffrey Cirio, and Sabi Varga and James Whiteside.  Lia, who literally just got word that she was promoted to Principal dancer at Boston Ballet, is a force to be reckoned with.  Her exhibition of controlled energy is a tutorial for aspiring dancers — every inch of her body  was expressive and beautiful — not a wasted second or movement in her performance.  Total commitment to the dance — amazing.
  • Brooklyn Mack rocked.  I am completely biased because I love the boy so, but he was totally on — ON, and it was glorious to watch him take in all the love from the audience.  You have to know how humble he is to understand this.  He continues to see himself as a student, as a struggler, as someone who is working so hard to get where he wants to be — no fears about resting on one’s laurels here.  Not all the stars and wannabes from Columbia are this way, so it’s very refreshing to see.
  • That said, who was the chick he was dancing with and where did she come from?  This is a rhetorical question because I know the answer to both of them.  But what I want to know is why she was dancing with Brooklyn.  I’m not going to criticize her and say that she had a bad show — I’m not even going to say the child’s name — I think she just wasn’t up to the part.  Le Corsaire, the pas that she and Brooklyn danced, is all about lightness — we expect our dancers to skitter across the stage — to take flight.  That just wasn’t happening with her last night.
  • OK, and while I’m pretending not to be critical, (should I add a “bless her heart” here?), here’s my take on classical variations.  I ONLY want to see them if they are excellent — not just good.  Because any student of ballet who has been at it a while and has some hope of ever having a career even at a fourth or fifth tier company knows how to execute these classical variations.  They may not be excellent or even very good — but they can get ’em done.  If I want to see a future star of tomorrow, I’ll go watch a class or sit in on a YAGP competition.  For $30 — I want to see a pro.  Like  Meaghan Hinkis out of ABT II who we only got to see dance Don Q. This chick took a part that I’ve seen done way too many times and added her own energy to it to such a degree that I actually liked it.  So many dancers, when they do these tried and true (read dull and boring, imho) classical variations, work so hard to be precise that they suck the very soul from the dance.  This is why I shudder a little bit every time I hear music by Minkus, Asafiev, or Adolphe Adam.  Here’s to being so good that you add your own interpretation to ancient choreography. Go Meaghan Hinkis.
  • I’ve never seen the Trey McIntyre Project perform before, but after watching two of their dancers last night — I’m going to put it on my to-do list effective immediately.  Dylan G-Bowley and Chanel DaSilva brought synergy to the stage last night in a way you don’t always see in modern dance.  Loved it.
  • Can we talk height for a minute?  Little DeeDee Weatherly-Rosner, who went to NCSA with Annie and Bonnie, is s0 short — she’s like a tyke, right?  Well looking at Radenko’s corps last night, DeeDee was, well, she was mid-sized.  For some reason the Columbia Classical Ballet company this year appears to be made up of very talented kinder-gardeners.  This isn’t a criticism — it’s just an observation.  Wee dancers.  Tiny.
  • And speaking of DeeDee — good show, Child.  You stood out on the stage and, as an NCSA mom, I was proud of you.
  • OK, another observation — are we dressing up again?  I say this because, back in the day, LifeChance was the night that we put on the ritz — tuxes and sequins and faux fur (yeah, I know this is magical thinking on my part — I have to pretend that all fur is fake to suppress my compelling desire to drench it in a gooey red substance).  I’m thinking that we started dressing down after 9/11 — is that right?  At the risk of sounding like my friend The Shop Tart, who is clearly the authority on finery, I couldn’t help but notice a bit more bling last night.  And black velvet — which I was even wearing myself — and I loved it –ain’t nothing that feels any better on the bod that black velvet.  I’m OK if we are dressing up again — I was telling Jeffrey that since we don’t go to the Phil anymore that I rarely get to do it up.  To which he replied, Come to the Phil, then.  Probably not.  I’m betting that next year we’ll see more tuxes — which is good for me.   The Beer Doc looks especially fine in his tux.
  • Finally, I just want to give a shout out to Lee Lumpkin — who may be the most generous woman in town.  Her devotion to Radenko and Columbia Classical Ballet is the sole reason that company is alive, especially in the recent economic malaise.  I’m sure Radenko knows this.  Her support has allowed him to realize his dream — and it has allowed us to attend some quite excellent after-parties year after year.  Thanks to Lee and Mike for their hospitality and generosity.  You both rock.

January 21, 2010

Our buddy Brooklyn Mack, Radenko Pavlovich, Simone Cuttino, & LifeChance Ballet this Saturday

If you like dance the way dance is supposed to be, there are two yearly Columbia events you should never miss — when USC hosts the stars of the New York City Ballet, this year on Saturday, March 20th, and when Radenko Pavlovich hosts stars from all over the world at his annual LifeChance Ballet — which is happening this Saturday night, January 23rd.

Radenko, who is known for his European take on classical ballet, has been putting on his annual LifeChance Ballet for many years now, each year with the proceeds from the show benefiting a local charity.  I remember when Bonnie and Annie were young and danced in Radenko’s second company and how exciting it would be for the likes of Pollyana Ribiero and Simon and April Ball to come to town, take class with the kids, and then perform the caliber of dance my kids only got to see when we traveled to New York or abroad.  It was thrilling.

Now, one of their own best friends and former classmates is dancing among those stars himself, and it is even more thrilling to see our buddy Brooklyn Mack take the stage.  Brooklyn started out late as a dancer — he was young and goofy and full of enough ambition to make up for the awkwardness of adolescence.  Radenko would yell at Brooklyn to “point his biscuits!” — referring to his feet that flopped at the end of his long legs.  Brooklyn persevered — never got mad, seldom seemed discouraged, and eventually he improved.  But the thing was, he didn’t stop — he just kept getting better and better and better.  After a few years he followed his friend Mathias Dingman — who we all knew as Matthew back then, a beautiful boy who took to the stage like he was born on it — to the Kirov School for Ballet in Washington, DC.  After he graduated from the Kirov he moved on to the likes of the Joffrey, the ABT Studio Company, Orlando Ballet, and eventually to Washington Ballet, as well as dancing literally all over the world.   But he always comes back — sometimes just to say hello, sometimes to take a class, and sometimes, like this Saturday, to perform.  And Lord have mercy — does this boy PERFORM.

In addition to Brooklyn, Radenko has brought in Grace-Anne Powers out of Montreal, with whom Brooklyn will partner; Jeffrey and Lia Cirio, James Whiteside, Whitney Jensen, Sabi Varga, all from Boston Ballet; Japan’s Aleksandr Buber and Kayo Sasabe; as well as Meaghan Hinkis and Alberto Velazquez, both from ABT II.

Another treat to look forward to is Simone Cuttino’s Tango choreography with ten couples on stage and three women dancing lead.  Simone is Columbia Classical Ballet’s Ballet Mistress and quite a gift to the dance arts herself.  (For a story I wrote on Simone and her husband Walter last year, check out Zen and the Art of Relationship Maintenance at right.)

~~~~~

For information on Columbia Classical Ballet’s LifeChance this Saturday night, call 251-2222 or visit the ballet website at http://www.columbiaclassicalballet.org.

January 14, 2010

Be true to your school, I do, they dance, no day but today, & Beer! Beer! Beer! — + strings & jeans

It seems that life is getting back to normal these days — the parties are over, the garland is down (most of it, anyway), and the routine is starting to set in — if you believe in routines, that is.  I’ve never been one to dig into the rut — too claustrophobic for me.  I can see why some folks find the rut functional –it’s safe and can be comforting, I guess.  But if the rut gets too deep, it becomes harder and harder to see out of it and the next thing you know, it becomes a maze — and then — you’re trapped.

I’ve always been a fan of second and third careers, changing majors mid-stream, and letting the flow take you where it may.  Life never gets dull — it’s a sin to be boring.  That said, this is what we’re doing this weekend, starting tonight.

On Thursday at 7, my eldest and her beloved are going with me to see the Women Gamecocks play some mighty bball at the Colonial Center.  The Beer Doc drags me to as many of his little sporty events as he can, but never seems to be going in the direction of the arena when the Big Girls play.  Yesterday, after mentioning that the guys were playing LSU last night and that we should all Go Cocks and the like, one of my new students, the amazing Ms. Ebony Wilson who happens to play guard for the Women Gamecocks — and no, don’t give me any of that “lady” Gamecock crap until you’re ready to call the boys the “Gentlemen” Gamecocks when they play ball — asked me if I was going to their game tonight.  Zap!  What kind of Women’s Studies instructor am I if I don’t go out and support some of the toughest and most talented women of the university?  So, I’ll be there waving the garnet foam finger that Annie gave me for Christmas — Gamecock women are #1, in my book now, and Ms. Ebony Wilson happens to wear a #1 on her jersey.  Tonight’s game will be preceded by the best chee-boogie & brew in town at my beloved Hunter Gatherer.

And then there’s Friday night.  If you read my last blog & review of the film, you know that I’ll be attending the 5:30 showing of La Danse at the Nick, which will be preceded by some used-to-be surprise nuptials of two dear friends.  For all intents and purposes, the I dos are still a surprise if you haven’t been formally invited to the wedding or if you aren’t friends with the folks — of friends with their friends — on Facebook.  So, everything that I wrote yesterday still stands if you find yourself still in the dark — and I hope to see you there. In the light, before the film starts.

But for me and the Beer Doc, we’ll be darting out the back door of the theatre about half way through so we can grab some snacks and libation before we head down to TRUSTUS to see Rent.  This will only be like my umpteenth time of seeing this play, all other times on Broadway, but I am just so excited about seeing Kevin Bush play Mark — a role that both he and Doogie Howser were made for.  It only runs through next weekend and tickets are slim pickin’s, so if you have your heart set on going, as well you should, call the theatre at 254-9732, and beg Joe for a ticket.

After Rent we hope to make it down to CMFA at 914 Pulaski Street to take part in my friend Aaron Pelzek et. al.’s artist-driven extravaganza, Playing After Dark #4 — Free Form.  Aaron and buddies have brought together an awesome group of artists who will bring you everything from art-in-the-making via my friend Karen Storay, to Sherry Warren’s choreography (also my bud), a local band called The Noise, puppetry, poetry by Charlene Spearen (yes, a bud), scenes from Jaques Brel is Alive and Well — a play I was just writing about in the Beer Book, oddly enough, and, hell, I don’t remember — a bunch of stuff.  My friend Jeffrey wrote a nice little ditty on this event on his blog at http://carolinaculturebyjeffreyday.blogspot.com/.  The shenanigans start at 7:30 — which is why we’ll be coming in at the tail end, but never fail — the whole shebang is going to crank itself back up again Saturday night at the same time, same station.  Tickets are like $5, so seriously, head out to this event and show some love to local artist driven arts.  It’s the way it should be.

Which brings me to Saturday — the day of the second annual Columbia hosting of the World Beer Festival at the Columbia Convention Center.  There are two sessions, afternoon and evening.  Having made the mistake of attending as many sessions of beer events as offered before (read about this in Bob, Beer, and Me, coming out this spring/summer, by god!), we will only be attending the afternoon session — after which we will promptly crawl to our hotel room in the Vista and snooze until the evening festivities commence with yet another freaking basketball game — the Gentlemen Cocks, this time.  Is it possible to OD on sports?  Is that something that happens to the hard-core — read Beer Doc — or has he developed an immunity or a tolerance — built it up in his system, as it were, leaving him protected while his neophyte woman remains susceptible to sports poisoning and may just have to sneak out at half time, already clad in her blue jeans, to the Koger Center for some strings?  It is time for the Philharmonic’s Beethoven and Blue Jeans, after all.

After running in and dropping off a coat closet of old coats at the Art Bar last night — thanks to Chris Bickel for his generous offer of collecting a scad or two of coats for the cold during karaoke — I felt the yearning for the good Art Bar people in my soul, so the night should finish us up, just a few blocks from our hotel, at the best place to be in the city after 1 am.  We are so lucky to have that place.  Really, take a minute and thank your maker for the Art Bar.

Whatever your drug of choice, get drunk on the goodies going on in our beloved city this weekend.  I’ll see you around town.

Cheers, Y’all.

January 12, 2010

Review — La Danse at The Nick — (Don’t miss this beautiful film)+ Surprise Romance Columbia Style

Don’t be surprised if you feel oddly out of place when viewing Frederick Wiseman’s film, La Danse, opening at the Nickelodeon Theatre on Wednesday night.  The sensations evoked when watching a Wiseman film must be akin to something one might experience in a limited time travel situation.  Limited in that the subject matter and singular grouping of locations never change – think the various wings and wards of a hospital, the corridors and classrooms of a high school – but approximating time travel in that the viewer may find herself plopped down at any point in a controlled period of time – yesterday, next Thursday, earlier today at lunch – and witness to any variety of the mundane and the exotic – in this case, dying silk in a pot over a gas flame, vacuuming the loge in Paris’s Palais Garnier, or peeking into the sweaty rehearsal of Swedish choreographer Mats Ek’s La Maison de Bernada by the étoiles of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Transforming the viewer into the voyeur is, to a great degree, the point of documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s films.  And he has made almost forty of them, with objects of study ranging from a hospital, high school, racetrack, or zoo, to welfare, meat, the deaf, and domestic violence.  In every case, Wiseman settles himself for four to six weeks at the particular institution under observation, with very little preparation, and simply begins filming.  When he accumulates a hundred or so feet of film, he stops.  Then the real work of cutting and editing and arranging begins.  The result:  a brilliant amalgam of recorded experience, often poignant and beautiful, yet completely lacking in contextual information, exposition, or any kind of narrative arc.

La Danse (2009) is Wiseman’s latest effort in the observational mode of film-making, sometimes called direct cinema, and it may be his most beautiful.  His subject matter this time is the day-to-day activity under the roof of the neo-Baroque architectural masterpiece that is Paris’s Palais Garnier, the home of the famous Paris Opera Ballet.

Wiseman drops us in to the commotion of the ballet company as it prepares for six upcoming performances : the afore-mentioned Mats Ek project from the Cullberg Ballet, based on the Spanish play, La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernard Alba) by Federico Garcia Lorca; Orphée et Eurydice (Orpheus and Eurydice) by the recently deceased Pina Bausch, famous for, among other things, her influence in the development of the Tanztheatre (dance theatre) style; Pierre Lacotte’s  restored classic Paquita; Angelin Preljočaj’s contemporary ballet, Le Songe de Mérdée; the German choreographer Sasha Waltz’s abstract setting of Romeo and Juliet to a Berlioz symphonic score rather than the traditional Prokofiev; and, the sleek 1967 version of Casse-Noisette (The Nutcracker) by Rudolf Nureyev, rather than Petipa, which most Americans are accustomed to seeing.

In French with English subtitles, Wiseman brings a heavily-detailed intimacy to this project, often shooting from the vantage of just outside the door to the activity he wants us to see.   We are literally peeking in – spying on what’s going on.  What we get to see is not the always perfect presentation the Paris Opera Ballet puts on stage.  We are privy to the imperfect rehearsals, dancers actually learning the choreography, complaining about their corrections, becoming frustrated with themselves, their partners, and their ballet masters.

But there is far more than dance to Wiseman’s film, as his camera plays homage to almost every brick in the building of an arts institution:  the custodians, the costumers, the painters, the Director of Dance, Brigitte Lefévre, whose stylish red coiffure shows up in frame after frame – even the beekeeper on the roof.  One scene takes us meticulously through the mid-day meal as dancers approach the cafeteria and we are shown shots of their various entrée choices, the boredom on the cashier’s face as she collects money, the dancers leaving full and fresh and ready to rehearse again.

And then there are the dancers.

The Paris Opera Ballet company is divided into five ascending tiers for dancers, beginning with the quadrilles and rising to the etoiles – the stars, or principal dancers of the company.  Wiseman makes use throughout the film of a camera angle which shoots down one or another exceedingly long hallway and forever up exhausting stairways, perhaps as a metaphorical commentary on the inordinate work which goes into becoming a member of this prestigious company.  As viewers we get to see the likes of such luminaries as étoiles Marie-Agnés Gillot, Laëtitia Pujol, Aurélie DuPond, Agnés Letestu, Delphine Moussin, and more.  And ultimately, we get to see these amazing talents present the product of their labors under Marc Chagall’s glorious opera house ceiling.

I have had the good fortune to sit under the largest piece of work of my favorite artist, Marc Chagall, before and witness the Paris Opera Ballet in person.  I remember the massive six-ton chandelier that drops from the Chagall ceiling’s center – not literally, mind you, though the 1896 accidental crash of one of the Opera House’s chandeliers did inspire Gaston Leroux to pen the classic Phantom of the Opera. And I remember the gilded Grand Staircase, the Grand Foyer, and all the gold and velvet and overwhelming sumptuousness.  I remember seeing for the first time, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort (The Young Man and Death). But with dance, it’s difficult to remember more than the sensations you experience as you watch it.  Sure, your mind captures images and freezes them in time – the height of a grand jeté, the pristine stillness when, en pointe, a dancer exquisitely pauses between phrases – no movement, time stands still.

Watching La Danse brought this all together for me – it connected the dots in my memory, gave me context and background and a renewed appreciation for what makes the best of the best – the best.  It made my heart swell.

Don’t miss the opportunity to be a voyeur and see the Paris opera Ballet backstage and on-stage in La Danse, showing at our Nickelodeon for the next week.  For tickets, contact the Nick at www.nickelodeon.org.

~~~

And if you love dance in Columbia like I do – if you love the people who dance it and the ones who do the work that allow them to – then make your reservation for the 5:30 show on Friday evening, January 15th.  Larry is doing a pre-talk and there is an absolutely beautiful surprise which I promise you will warm your heart until the day you die.  It’s a secret – I can’t say more.  But I can say, don’t miss this film and please do try to make it on Friday at 5:30.  You won’t be disappointed.

November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving realities and The Wideman/Davis Dance PROJECT

I write to you today, several pounds heavier, with a house half decorated and a heart full of Thanksgiving and Holiday joy.  Yes, joy.

Like many of you, we spent Thanksgiving Day (although Boiter-Jolley Thanksgiving happens on Wednesday rather than Thursday, allowing the Beer Doc to tend to turkey injuries and domestic disputes in the ER on the sacred Thursday) embroiled in the preparation of far more food than any one family should ever sit down to eat.  It takes us so long to cook our Thanksgiving meal that we start early in the morning (BJT*), everyone pitching in with several toasts to our blessings throughout the day, and finally get around to eating around 9 or 10 pm, listening to Handel’s Messiah and slipping goodies to the kittens beneath the table.  It’s a good and happy day.

Afterward, we clear the table only to find that we could feed many more families many more meals with our leftovers alone.  Several microwaved plates, turkey sandwiches, and turkey nachos later (seriously, nachos = the best way to use that leftover bird), the green beans get a little too soggy, the stuffing a little too scary, and we begin to clear the fridge of the leftovers left too long.  A few things can go into the compost, but most have too much cream or butter or some other kind of indulgence, and these food items just go into the trash.  The trash.  We waste creamy cole slaw, sautéed mushrooms, and precious pecans.  We throw the dark meat, which none of us favor, to the cats.  The cats — the same ones who think skinks taste pretty yummy.

My point?  You’ve already figured it out on your own. Your family is probably not very different from mine.  We live in a land of pretend abundance — at least those of us communicating via the Internet, for sure.  Thanksgiving is just like Christmas — we have so much that we celebrate by having more.

No, I have no interest in being the blogosphere’s version of a Sarah McLachlan neglected dog commercial.  You’re all adults — many of you with better human kindness records than me.  But for those of you who either daily or seasonally hitch your wagons to the do-good train — and for those of you who sometimes come to this cyber-space curious as to what kind of arts nonsense I might be blubbering on about — I do offer an elixir to slightly abate the  over-indulgent miasma that those on our side of the monitor may be feeling this time of year.  The Wideman/Davis Dance Project.

I promised you this information in my November 19th post, and here it is.  There are no donors or patrons for the Wideman/Davis Dance Company — but there are partners.  This is what the company is about; this is what you can be about, too.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions for you or direct you to people who know the answers better than I.  There’s excitement in the air in the Columbia arts community — the Wideman/Davis Dance Company and the Wideman/Davis Dance Project is part of it.  You can be a part of it, too.

Read on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Interested in being a part of an arts endeavor that also places a priority on making the world a better place?

Join the Wideman/Davis Dance Project.

Joining as a Charter Project Member before the December 4th final performance of Balance – Influenced by the Testimonials of the Homeless of Columbia, South Carolina, will guarantee you a free ticket to the performance of your choice December 1st – 4th; admit you to a post-performance reception on Friday, December 4th, during which you can chat with the company and other project members; record your name as a Charter WDDP Member; and designate that 10% of your contribution be donated directly to the needs of the homeless in Columbia, South Carolina.

Joining is easy.

Go to www.thefield.org

Select “Contribute to a Sponsored Artist”

Select Tanya Wideman-Davis and Thaddeus Davis: Wideman/Davis Dance

Enter an amount of $50 or more then click “Contribute”

Select “Checkout Now” at the bottom of the next page

Enter your name as you would like it to appear on our records, then select “Continue” and fill in the requested information before selecting “Continue Checkout”

Upon completing your contribution you will immediately be issued a personalized thank you letter which you may print out for your records.  (WDDC is a not-for-profit arts group.)

Now here’s the important part – FORWARD a copy of your letter to me at CindiBoiter@aol.com and I will have your ticket waiting for you at the performance of your choice.

Thank you for becoming a Charter Member of the Wideman/Davis Dance Project.

Thank you for putting your passion for art into action.

Cheers,

Cindi

Cynthia Boiter

Acting President, Wideman/Davis Brain Trust

 

 

*Boiter-Jolley Time

November 7, 2009

USC Dance, Stacey Calvert, Kyra Strasberg, live music, my kid, and more

As I wrote earlier this week, the USC Dance Company performed last night at the Koger Center starting at 7:30, as they will again tonight.  They are calling this program American at Heart — for reasons I’m not sure I understand.  Three distinctly different pieces have been assembled for the audience’s pleasure and, this time, there is a nice variety of dancers performing, rather than seeing the same old same old as we often do.  And yes, I realize that my own kid has probably been the most same old of all the same olds for the past three years.  Still, fair is fair, and good is good.  The program has grown through the roof with better and better young dancers showing up every fall to enroll in the Bachelor of Performing Arts degree program.  Now we get to see quite a selection of very good young dancers on the stage.  Good job USC Department of Dance.

The show starts out with one of George Balanchine’s most  beautiful ballets, Serenade. Now here’s something that not a lot of people realize.  The only way you are going to legally get to see a Balanchine piece performed in Columbia is if you have someone who has been approved by the Balanchine Trust  to stage it.  They have to meet exceedingly precise standards in regard to the application of the Balanchine style and technique, and they have to document their procedures and provide film of the performance for the Balanchine Trust to approve.  There aren’t a lot of those people just hanging around Columbia, or South Carolina, for that matter, but USC is lucky to have Stacey Calvert as their Associate Artistic Director, who is.  Stacey was a former soloist with the New York City Ballet.  Although we don’t get to see her dance anymore, I can attest that just watching her teach a class is the equivalent of watching a wonder in the dance arts.  Her movements are beautiful; her physique, which she carefully tends, is a work of art.  Stacey is one of South Carolina’s treasures — we are phenomenally fortunate to have her here and at our university.

This performance’s presentation of Serenade is a testimony to Stacey’s work in the studio and Artistic Director Susan Anderson’s work in growing her program.  Bonnie performed the same role in the same piece three years ago when she was a freshman here at USC.  But watching the performance today, compared to then, is like watching a different company.  Of course, most of the dancers are new, with the older dancers having graduated or moved on.  But the difference is in the quality of the corps and the maturity of the lead dancers — Bonnie, Sara Caton, Olivia Anderson, McCree O’Kelley, and Keith Mearns.  Even taking into consideration the bias that I probably have when watching people I’ve grown to love dance, I can say with certainty that the members of this program,the members of this company, are some of the very best dancers you’ll have the opportunity to see in South Carolina.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees.

There is a brief pause in the performance after Serenade, followed by a dance in six movements choreographed by Luis Dominguez.  The piece is titled after its music, the Bach Cello Suite.  Live music is wonderfully provided by cellist Kenneth Pruitt, who sits on the corner of the dancers’ stage.  This is a bit of a minimalist piece, and it is lovely.  Keep your eyes on dancers Ashley Johanson and Lauren Shankle.  They are significant parts of the future of the dance program at USC.

After intermission you return to the audience for Thaddeus Davis’ and Tanya Wideman-Davis’ choreographic work, If At First We Dream, set to the music of Andre Previn.  The violinist is Ashley Horvat and the pianist is Rosemarie Suniga.  Kyra Strasberg, Columbia native, distinguished artist in residence, and former principal dancer at Boston Ballet, celebrates her return to the stage with this piece.  Carolyn Bolton, McCree O’Kelley, Ryan Thomas, and William Smith also offer exceptional performances.

Come out to support your local university and take advantage of some truly exquisite dance and innovative choreography.  The USC Dance Company is on its way to being one of the top companies in higher education in the country.  Come see it now, so you can eventually say that you remember seeing it back when.

November 6, 2009

Feedback on Frame of Mind

You guys know I don’t usually do reviews, but I do want to give a little report, if you will, on the Frame of Mind series tonight on  Main Street.  There was a wonderful turn out, and with a free showing from Miriam Barbosa and Serguei Chtyrkov from the SC Contemporary Dance Company, Erin Jaffe Bolshakov from Vista Ballroom, Mimi Worrell and John Whitehead’s Carolina Ballet, Dale Lam’s Columbia City Jazz Company, and the beautiful Ashley Bennett and Sherry Warren — not to mention Evelyn Wong’s visual arts — why wouldn’t it have been?

Sure, there were a few glitches and things started a little later than expected.  But you know what?  They started, and that is the only thing that matters. Thanks to the artists who put themselves out there and performed under significantly less than ideal circumstances.  Their muscles were cold, the stage was raked — they were dancing in the street, for god’s sake.  But the gift that each of the performers gave us cannot be underestimated — they let us get a glimpse of what it looks like when someone fulfills their heart’s desire.  I often find the intimacy of this exchange overwhelming in the best of circumstances — but to see people who love their work so much that they will take the risk of letting complete strangers witness them perform it under less than ideal circumstances — in the freaking street, for example — it just blows me away.  I don’t care what anybody says — that is art.

Big fat kudos to Mark Plessinger for taking a chance and putting this stuff out there.  Thanks to the industrious and kind hearted Robert Michalski for helping Mark make it happen, as well as to the tech guy from White Mule, whose name I admit I just don’t know, for doing his quite significant part, too.  And thanks to all of you who came out to support local art — in the community and on the street.

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