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

February 21, 2010

New York City — for the weekend, a summer, for life

Coming to New York is, in so many ways, like coming home.

Years ago, when Bonnie and Annie were mere babes and their arts studies took them to NYU for Annie to study viola and to the American Ballet Theatre for Bonnie to study ballet, the Beer Doc and I decided that, if we were going to pay for anyone to spend the summer in Manhattan, then we might as well pay for everyone to spend the summer there.  So, for four summers in a row the Boiter-Jolley clan hunkered down in Greenwich Village for 6 to 8 weeks.  For the first two summers we resided in two bedroom apartments on 5th Avenue between 8th and 9th streets — just a block and a half up from Washington Park.  The next summer we opted for a two bedroom in the meatpacking district at the edge of the west village.  Then the next year we scored a three bedroom townhouse owned by the dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service which was also on 5th Avenue and Washington Mews, a half block off of Washington Square.  We were in heaven.

The results of out extended time in the city, in addition to an elevated credit card balance and the reality that the Beer Doc would be retiring a few years later than planned, were a comfort and familiarity with the city as well as the sensation that in some small way, the city is ours, just as it belongs to the millions of people who either live here or have lived here in the past.

Spending so much time in New York taught us that while the arts and adventures in the city are certainly spectacular, the real wonders are found wherever the sidewalk leads you.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Christopher Walken and Liev Schriber and Kristen Chenoweth are all performing on any given night within a few blocks of one another; just walking past Lincoln Center gives me chills — not to mention climbing to the upper realms of the New York State Theatre.  But the best things about the city are the conversations you overhear at crowded bars in Chelsea late at night; the best sites the ones you happen upon rounding the corner of Bleeker and McDougal or near the smoking area at Lips in the Village.

So when Bonnie decided to venture up for a weekend of auditions in the city, once again I figured, we’re going to be paying for a hotel room anyway — I’ll just go along, too.

Being a Southern girl by nurture and nature, New York winters offer me less opportunity for freelance adventures — the streets get pretty cold uptown — and spending only 48 hours anywhere puts a damper on too much wondering aimlessly around.  But we did take advantage of a couple of arts opportunities I’ll share.

Friday night found us at the Joyce Theatre in Chelsea — one of my favorite theatres in one of my favorite parts of town.  We were there to see Parsons Dance — we had no idea what we were going to see, we just knew we wanted to go.  To our thrilled surprise we got to see one of David Parsons’ most famous pieces of choreography, entitled Caught.  First performed in 1982 by David Parsons himself, Caught depicts a single dancer who dances to the music of Robert Fripp’s, “Let the Power Fall,” while incorporating the use of strobe lighting.  This may sound like something from a 1970s disco, but it is not.  The lighting is specifically timed as if the performer is dancing with the light itself — at times the light captures (i.e., “caught”) the dancer in a variety of series of midair jumps and leaps so that she or he appears to be completely suspended and flying through the air in circles and across the stage.  Verbal description fails this piece of choreography.  We got to see Zac Hammer perform this number — it was spectacular.

We also saw a rock-dance opera called Remember Me, performed by Parsons Dance and members of the East Village Opera CompanyJulie Blume danced the lead, and she was absolutely glorious.

Another highlight of the trip was seeing David Mamet’s new play, Race, starring Alan Shore — I mean, James Spader — with David Allen Grier, Richard Thomas (aka John Boy Walton), and Kerry Washington.  The cast was excellent and Mamet’s dialogue shot through the stage like an automatic weapon.  The plot deals with a law firm’s (unfortunately not Crane, Poole, and Schmidt’s) preparation to defend a white man who is accused of raping a black woman.  Of import is the way that we as white people and Black people speak of race — when we have the audacity to even do so.  Interestingly enough, the only time the play addresses the issue of gender is in the last line of the first act.  Alan, I mean James, states that race and sex are the same thing, then the scene goes black.  “Yes!” I thought — finally we were going to be talking about the woman (and women) at the heart of the issue, but disappointingly, we did not.  Someone needs to have a sit down with David Mamet and introduce to him the concept of intersectionality — the sociological theory that socially contructed categories of discrimination interact on multiple levels contributing to a variety of arenas for social inequality.  The absence of consideration for sex and gender in the play Race detracts from its efficacy — however, I am not oblivious to the title of the play — Race; not Race and Gender.  That said, writing a play about any form of rape without considering sexual politics is like writing a play about bread making without considering the role of yeast.  Given this caveat, the play is excellent and it raises questions that must be raised by someone, at sometime,  in some forum, if we are going to intellectually and spiritually progress as a human race.

On a far more frivolous note, Bonnie and I got our Boston Legal on after the play when we stage-door stalked James Spader, got his autograph and our photos taken with him.  Drat my daughter for taking my photo with her broken camera — yes, she has broken yet another camera — so I may never have evidence of my conquest.

Still, I do so love new York.

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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.

December 10, 2009

Dale Lam, Andie MacDowell, Andie’s daughter, my daughter, and The Two Claras

We have quite a few hidden artistic treasures in Columbia.  Some are folks who not a lot of people know about so these treasures labor along in the glow of the fortunate few who are aware of their magic.  Some of our treasures are underused — they are the people who could shake things up, put us on the map, as it were, if the right spotlight found them at the right time.  And then there are those of our treasures who are actually quite well-known and much in demand away from town but, having plied their wares on us before without due recognition, they have surrendered to working quietly for a larger audience and given up on being known for their greatness on a local basis.

Choreographer Dale Lam fits into all of the categories above.

Dale is the owner and artistic director of the Columbia City Jazz School and Company, a non-profit performing arts organization which will be presenting a modern version of the Nutcracker called The Two Claras, this Thursday and Friday nights at Drayton Hall.  You may have heard about the fact that South Carolina native film star, Andie MacDowell, who names herself as one of Dale’s biggest fans, will be performing along with the young dancers.  You may also have heard that The Two Claras is a nice break from the traditional Nutcracker in that everything from the choreography to the costuming is contemporary and upbeat — less predictable, more exciting.  But you probably haven’t heard about how much raw talent will be on the stage this weekend, or how much of herself Dale Lam has put into getting them there.

I’m not a money person.  When people start talking about cash my mind goes to that Charlie Brown place and all I hear is, “wah, wah-wah, wah wah wah.”  I don’t want anyone to hear those sounds when I talk myself, so I usually just avoid the subject altogether.  But I can’t really convey to you an accurate picture of the gift that Dale Lam gives to her students without mentioning money — or the absence of it.  Because that’s mostly what there is — an absence.  But do not think for a minute that the lack of cash in any way determines whether this woman will work with talented students or not.  Like Andie MacDowell said in an interview I conducted with her which will one day be published in Stir Magazine, Dale isn’t interested in making money — she’s interested in making dancers.

Kindness and Andie MacDowell aside, the show Dale and her kids put on is a fine one.  A couple of her male dancers are extraordinary and the young female dancer she brought in from the university at the last minute to dance the part of the older Clara has quite a dance history herself.  Yes, it’s my kid – – although at 21 it could be argued that she’s old enough that her momma ought not be bragging on her when she writes her blog.  Whatever.

Although tempting, I won’t print the entirety of my article on Ms. MacDowell which will one day appear in Stir Magazine, however, I will include below an excerpt from the piece which deals specifically with Andie’s relationship with Dale Lam — which is why I wrote the article.

~~~~

MacDowell and Lam first began their association when MacDowell’s older daughter, Rainey, had the opportunity to take a master class from the highly sought after Lam in a nearby Asheville, North Carolina studio.  As younger daughter Sarah Margaret’s interest and talent in contemporary dance grew, MacDowell recognized the unique gifts that Lam brings to her students and made a commitment to insure that Sarah Margaret continue to work with Lam, despite the distance between Lam’s studio in Columbia and the MacDowell’s North Carolina home.

Over the years, a friendship developed, turning the tables on MacDowell to the point that she sometimes refers to herself as Dale Lam’s biggest fan.

“The gift that Dale has – the gift she gives to her students,” MacDowell says with intention, “is nothing short of genius.”

She goes on.

“Dale’s musicality is literally the best I’ve ever seen.  I’ve yet to find anyone who can teach a child how to hear the music, and to feel the music, the way that Dale can.  She is a genius, plain and simple.”

That recognizable genius is what has inspired MacDowell to not only entrust her daughter’s training to Lam, but to devote herself to helping her friend, in any way she can, achieve portions of her life’s goal – sharing her gifts with as many talented children as possible, no matter what the circumstances of their lives may be.

“I can afford to pay for my daughter’s instruction, but not everyone can,” MacDowell says.  “And Dale will never turn a talented student away.”

MacDowell also points out that the Columbia City Jazz School, whose students feed into the Columbia City Jazz pre-professional company, is a not-for-profit organization; a fairly unusual enterprise among instructional institutions in this day and age.

“Clearly, Dale isn’t in this to make money. She’s in it to make dancers,” MacDowell explains. “She continually gives to these young people in her charge – she treats them like they’re her own children, not just her students, often opening her home to the children” MacDowell says.

“And if I can help her – if I can be a part of her mission – then I am delighted.”

That’s why for the second year in a row MacDowell has agreed to participate in the Columbia City Jazz Company’s presentation of The Two Claras, on December 11th and 12th at USC’s Drayton Hall.  In the show, MacDowell narrates the story of Lam’s take on a modern Nutcracker – based very loosely on the traditional Tchaikovsky classic – while jazz company members, including MacDowell’s daughter, Sarah Margaret Qualley, perform Lam’s contemporary choreography to a modern score.  Performances are at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday, with a Saturday matinee at 1 PM.

~~~~

Go see The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company Presents The Two Claras:  A Tale of “The Nutcracker” for Modern Times, featuring special guests Andie McDowell and Dana from Kidz Bop, (not to mention my kid), at Drayton Hall, Friday and Saturday, December 11th & 12th at 7:30 PM and Saturday at 1 pm.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling 803.252.0252 or visiting http://www.columbiacityjazz.com.

November 10, 2009

Here’s to a seat at the Nick, The Cellar on Greene, the TRUSTUS Tasting, birthdays, family and food — cheers Y’all!

As some of you may be aware, this time last year I had just celebrated the inauguration of the Year of Wine — or the year of wining and whining as the Beer Doctor is so fond of saying.  I had chosen the occasion of my humphth birthday to embark on an intense study and appreciation of all things wine, having known just enough about wine initially to know that there was oh-so-much more to learn.  Well, much to my dismay, the months on the calendar whisked right away in the wind, and before I knew it, the same date rolled around once again, sadly bringing the year of wine to a close.

I’ve learned quite a bit.  My travels have taken me to several of France’s wine destinations where I’ve wondered through the Champagne district’s chalky caves, gotten lost in Burgundy’s enumerate vineyards, and immersed myself in Alsace’s spicy Gewurtz’s, Rieslings, and Pinot Gris’s.  We’ve traveled twice to California’s beautiful rolling hills and, happily, I only broke my nose there once.  I even gave the wines of Virginia a shot and found that, though inconsistent, they did present a brand new quality of delicacy to my palate — which shouldn’t be dismissed just because it is so different from most other wines.  We had hoped to also travel to Argentina, as well as back to Italy — just for the wine — but just as it did with the Bob’s Year of Beer, time got away from us — so these countries, and more, are still on our to-do list.  Our cellar is far fatter than it ever was and has taken over our fairly large walk-in pantry — there is literally nothing edible in there at all anymore — and will soon be spreading to the closet under the stairs — thanks for that idea to my friend, who will remain anonymous because she is having her closet converted into a cellar for her beloved as a birthday surprise — hmmm … wonder if I could score a little trompe l’oeil on my closet door, too? The one casualty of the Year of Wine, other than my nose, is the reality that bad wine is far more difficult to stomach than it ever was — and in many ways I have Ricky Mollohan, Kaitlin Ohlinger, and the rest of the good people at the Cellar on Greene to thank for that.  There is no such thing as bad wine at the Cellar, and my palate has effectively been spoiled.  Thanks guys, thanks a lot.

I celebrated my birthday on Sunday this year, and rather than the fairly immense blow-out wine tasting party that we enjoyed last year, I was more in the mood for a quiet family gathering at Muddy Ford.  It was a decision deliciously well made.  The Beer Doc created for me a beautiful Chateaubriand with bernaise sauce, my second favorite liquid — next to vino — in the world.  Annie put together a phenomenally rich potatoes dauphinoise and her lovely signature sauted vegetables.  Bonnie even got into the kitchen (she found it on her own and all!) and whipped up a scrumptious asparagus and mushroom saute — a dish of which she and I share a love.

If you’ve ever been to a meal at the Ford, you know how long it takes us to cook.  But that’s ok, because we have to also take the necessary time to fully enjoy the wines we are drinking in the process.  We started our Sunday in the kitchen off with a Clicquot Yellow Lable bubbly, followed by a 2003 Schramsburg Brut, which we much preferred.  With dinner we vertically tasted one of Helen Turley’s 2001 Magnificats — which was glorious — alongside an amazing 2006 Darioush cab — easily one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year.  Presents were served with red velvet cake — and I’m happy to say that everyone shopped locally this year, with an emphasis on jewelry and assorted creations by local artists.  My favorite (and most highly requested) gift, however, was my very own seat in the Nick’s new theatre on Main Street.  So, Larry, if  you’re listening, I’d like to take my seat as soon as possible, dear.

Even though the Year of Wine is officially over, I can promise you that the wining and whining is not.  Just for one example, I will  happily be attending the TRUSTUS wine tasting benefit at City Art in the Vista on Tuesday night, killing two very important birds — the drinking of good wine & the support of TRUSTUS Theatre, one of the most important arts institutions our city can claim — with one only slightly tipsy stone.  You can be there, too.  We’ll be tasting 8 wines — two bubblies, 2 whites, 2 reds, and 2 ports — for a cost of only $45 in advance, or $50 at the door.  I hope you’ll join me for a taste and a toast — to all good things – wine, family, food, friends, and art.

Cheers, Y’all!

November 5, 2009

Main Street has taken over my brain — FOM, Anastasia, CCJC, Miriam, Good Time Chuck, Ashley, Vista Ballroom — plus more

It’s the first Thursday of the month and that can only mean one thing — Main Street will be rockin’ the arts tonight.  Big time.

Big goings on this month, too, because the happening trifecta traditionally provided by Mark, Chuck and Travis — aka Frame of Mind, Gotham Nights and White Mule –– is getting a major boost just a bit down the street at the Sheraton where Anastasia Chernoff is opening her show cleverly titled ex true sions.  Given that I will fight you for the title of Anastasia’s biggest fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled.  Anastasia has subtitled her show as — deep emotions squeezed or forced out and reformed through a medium — because she created these works while under hypnosis.  See?  Hypnosis doesn’t necessarily make one bark like a dog or speak like Rush Limbaugh when she goes under.  (Although I’d much prefer the first to the latter.)  Even if you aren’t an arts geek like me, do let your curiosity get the best of you and stop by Posh at the Sheraton at 1400 Main Street between 5 and 10 tonight to have a drink at the bar and check this show out.

And the big news up the street (or is it down?  I admit that sometimes I am directionally challenged — but I always know where the wine is, which is a life saver) is that Mark Plessinger has put together way more performing artists than any one Main Street deserves to complement his FOM (Frame of Mind) Series, which this month features the local artist Evelyn Wong.  Evelyn is both a performer and a mixed media artist so you never know what she will come up with, and I’m excited to see what she has going on with this showing.  Her work will continue to be on display at FOM throughout the month of November.  Performance-wise though, Mark has seriously got you covered, with short features presented by Miriam Barbosa of the SC Contemporary Dance Company, solos by the lovlies Sherry Warren and Ashley Bennett, and ensemble presentations by Columbia City Jazz Company, Vista Ballroom, and Carolina Ballet.  Whew!   We’ll be kicking off this delicious dose of arts immersion at 5 and running it until 9 at Frame of Mind — 1520 Main Street, directly across the street from the art museum.

At the risk of completely overwhelming you I also have to share that both of Mark ‘s neighbors — The White Mule and Gotham Nights — have stuff going on that you are absolutely going to have to stop into as well.  White Mule has a free wine tasting and a happy bar that is always ready to pour/mix/splash you a cold one, plus some of the coolest, edgiest art in town hanging on its walls — though I hear someone has her eye on one of Mike Krajewski’s pieces, but I’ll not divulge which one lest she get beaten to the punch and I have to suffer the consequences of my big mouth.  And Good time Chuck over at Gotham Nights (Gotham Bagel, by day) will be partying down with Tim McLendon, schwing dancing, plus a fridge full of fine beer and wine by the glass.

But please be forewarned — do not stay out too late tonight as Friday and Saturday nights have a glorious show in store for you at the Koger Center.  The USC Dance Company is on the stage again, so not only will my baby girl be dancing, but Thaddeus Davis has choreographed a new piece on former Boston Ballet principal/now USC instructor, Kyra Strasburg, to the music of Andre Previn.  That plus Balanchine plus more new choreography —  more info to come tomorrow, but rest assured, you dance & music lovers don’t want to miss this show.

See you tonight on Main!

 

 

 

September 29, 2009

The USC Dance Company Dances Their First Performance of the Season — This Friday and Saturday

I went to see my daughter Bonnie and several of her rock star friends dance last week at a preview of the USC Dance Company’s next performance.  It was a casual intimate glimpse into what a well rehearsed group looks like a week or so out of their concert date.  They opened with Alan Hineline’s contemporary ballet — some on point, some on flat.  There are no real soloists in the piece, instead there are 3 main couples and a small corps of women.  Bonnie dances with Keith Mearns, previously of the Pennsylvania Ballet; the beautiful Olivia Anderson (previously of Houston Ballet II) dances with former Broadway dancer, McCree O’Kelley; and the amazing Carolyn Bolton dances with Ryan Thomas.  While Carolyn is a product of Stanilas Issaev’s good work at the SC Governor’s School for the Arts, both Bonnie and McCree come from the handiwork of the late Melissa Hayden at North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem.  The fact that these dancers, along with other dancers from NCSA, SCGSA, Columbia City Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre and other prestigious places of either professional dance or stellar dance training, are in the USC Dance Company can be attributed to the state of the program that Susan Anderson has built at the university.  First she brought in Stacey Calvert, a former soloist with New York City Ballet, then she brought in Kyra Strasberg, a former principal dancer with Boston Ballet.  In between, Miriam Barbosa came along and brought her expertise in contemporary dance, specifically the works of Martha Graham — though Miriam has left to pursue building her own company, the SC Contemporary Dance Company.   In her place, Susan brought in Thaddeus Davis and Tonya Wideman-Davis, of the Wideman Davis Dance Company — (Tanya was principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem) — and both partners have become so enthralled with the program that they would like to make Columbia their home.  All this is said because it is important to recognize that the caliber of both student and instructor showing up at the university is indicative of the quality of the education and performance opportunities being given there.  In other words, good stuff is going on in dance down on Sumter Street.  This USC Dance Company is not your mother’s USC Dance Company.

Given that this showing was only a preview — the dancers were wearing studio clothes, for example, and Stacey, et. al., were giving corrections — the dancers only performed a small piece of  Hineline’s lovely choreography.  But it was enough to see that those of us who fell in love with “Twist,” the choreography he gave the company last year, will not be disappointed.  Twist won the company a slot in the finals of the American College Dance Festival  competition last year in New York, and it was dancing this piece that lead Bonnie to being named one of the top 10 college dancers in the country by the same organization — Alan Hineline’s choreography has a way of bringing the best out in his artists. 

The next piece the company performed was an excerpt from Tanya Wideman-Davis’s new choreography.  Tanya brings this funky new vibe to the company that is at once loose and relaxed but also metrical and balanced — perhaps this is what the body will do when given an agency of its own?  Being the parent of a bunhead, I don’t often get to see the modern dancers do their things — and watching these women dance made me regret that fact a bit.  Their movements were measured, but intense.  Where that ballet dancers make me soar on the inside, these women made me boogie.  I loved it.

The final bit of a piece was an excerpt from the second act of Giselle.  Olivia Anderson dances the title role of Giselle and the casting is perfect.  Olivia, the dancer, is an old-souled young woman who places a priority on kindness.  Not that pretend sweetness-now-let-me-eviscerate-you-behind-your-back kind of kindness; Olivia is genuinely good, and you can see that in the way she dances — her face, the way she holds her shoulders, the position of her chin.  She is perfect as the heartbroken Giselle, both dancing and portraying the role beautifully.  Giselle dances opposite Myrtha, queen of a group of female ghosts, called wilis, who were jilted at the altar.  The role of Myrtha requires large brave guy-like leaps, stoney eyes, and the ability to control ones adversaries (dare I say family and friends?) with nothing more than the look on her face.  And the witch can seriously dance.  Bonnie in this part?  Yeah, bingo!  I won’t use this space here to say how proud I am of my kid, but I will say that she was made to dance this part and I’m so glad to get to see her do it.

I hope all of you will come out and watch this upcoming performance, as well.  The quality of dance in this company has risen so high so quickly that, if you came to see a performance more than a few years ago — you just wont recognize the company anymore.  

The USC Dance Company will be performing at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday nights, October 2nd and 3rd, at the Koger Center.  For tickets call 777-5112 or 251-2222.

June 26, 2009

California, Bonnie, the Giants and Wine

One of the great things about having kids who are active, independent and just as jazzed about life as you are is watching them fly and then visiting them in the places they’re nesting for a while.  Bonnie has been our child who tends to hit the road a lot.  Her dance adventures have taken us to New York City, Boston, Prague, Ascoli Piceno, Italy, the Berkshires, and DC, among other exciting places — and last weekend they took us to visit her in San Francisco where she is immersing herself in Alonzo King’s LINES ballet program this summer. 

We took this opportunity to combine a visit with Bonnie with a celebration of Father’s Day and a little more research into California’s exquisite wine country.  Annie came along with us which made this the first time the original Boiter-Jolley clan had spent anytime together away from Muddy Ford in quite some time.  We missed Kyle, but it felt nice to re-visit our little nuclear unit for a few days.

The three of us flew into San Francisco airport on Friday morning about noon, then spent over two hours waiting on the local Fox Rental Car company to issue us our pre-ordered convertible PT Cruiser.  That gave us just enough time to sit in traffic on the way to Napa, enjoy a brief but glorious sparkling tasting at Domaine Carneros (a division of Taittanger of Reims —http://www.domainecarneros.com//index.cfm ), then sit in traffic again as we drove back into the city to meet Bonnie.  As a Father’s Day surprise Bonnie had purchased tickets to see the Giants play Friday night, so we easily made out way to the stadium and hunkered down for a cold but fun night. 

We devoted all day Saturday and all day Monday to visiting wineries we had missed on our last trip in March.  Farrari-Carano http://www.ferrari-carano.com/ easily offered us the best wines of our visit — luscious chardonnays, lightly oaked, with long, complex finishes and pleasant spice.  If you hit the Farrari-Carano winery, be sure to take the stairs down into the cellar for their reserve tasting where you’ll find a knowledgeable staff and absolutely scrumptious tastings.  And please do try the 2007 Dominique Chard, the 2007 Emelia’s Cuvee Chard (which is unfiltered) and, for a big, fat, tannin – rich meritage, try the 2005 Prevail Westface — a hard-to-come-by lush red that I plan to keep in my cellar for at least another 5 years.  It was actually our server at FC who directed us to a small winery we’d never heard of before — Bella. 

Like Ferrari-Carano, Bella Winery is located in the Dry Creek Valley; it is a small, family-owned and, obviously, well-loved winery and facility.  Bounteous lavender plants line the modest drive and lawn where rolls of yoga mats invite visitors to take a load off and enjoy the scenery and wine.  Dry Creek Valley is known for producing big fat zinfandels and the Bella Winery has a wonderful example of the best the area has to offer — the 2007 Two Patch Zinfandel, awarded a nice 95 by Wine Enthusiast.  Visit their site at http://www.bellawinery.com/

In the interest of brevity, here’s the Siskel and Ebert version of the remainder of our tastings with a few brief notes where needed.

Mayo Family — thumbs down, at least for the diner-like tasting room we visited — no problem here, just no atmosphere either and wines which didn’t really float our boats — http://www.mayofamilywinery.com/mayofamily/index.jsp

Gloria Ferrer — Sparkling is always a great way to start your winery visits wherever you are, and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the beautiful terrace here overlooking vineyards and sharing 4 flutes of the winery’s offerings (but still highly prefer Schramsberg and Domaine Carneros) — thumbs up —  http://www.gloriaferrer.com/

Ledson — thumbs way down — big informal corporate tasting of mediocre wines — not even gonna list the website

Benziger Family Winery —  thumbs way up — don’t miss this historical site or its embrace of biodynamic viticulture — wines range widely — http://www.benziger.com/

Gundlach-Bundschu — thumbs up — another old (1858) winery with a lot of history, a healthy dose of irreverence and some quite decent wines — http://www.gunbun.com/

Schug Carneros Estate — thumbs up — but if you’re from South Carolina you should know that our home state is the major market for this winery — so don’t bother with the first tier tasting of wines you can find on almost any grocery store shelf in the state — go for the reserve tasting where you’ll find some happy values and very nice wines that are easy to ship home — http://www.schugwinery.com/schugwinery/index.jsp

Landmark — thumbs up — knowledgeable staff, good, afforable wines, lovely setting with a place to picnic which we used to its fullest — http://www.landmarkwine.com/home.html

Wilson Winery — thumbs up — under the direction of winemaker and general manager Diane Wilson, who is also the mother of three teenagers, Wilson has a tasty array of fruit-forward reds.  Stop in to see the small assembly — http://www.wilsonwinery.com/

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