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Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

Romeo and Juliet Again

A performance of Romeo and Juliet! As envisioned by Matthew Bourne! I had enjoyed his Cinderella, his Red Shoes–so, why not try it? $10 ticket, a BARGAIN compared to the tickets for in-person performances. Virtual performances not quite as riveting, but good enough.
Unfortunately, having bought the ticket, I forgot about it and only remembered this morning that last night I was to have watched this cultural event. NO MATTER! With virtual performances, exact time is of no concern. So I clicked the button, turned it on.
AH.
We start with a long talk from Mr. Bourne about how he hesitated to do this, how BORING to do something that everyone has already done. But never fear! He would bring his own special vision…YOUTH..blah blah…
At this point I wandered away and cleared the dishwasher, loaded it with the breakfast dishes. Once the droning voice was replaced by music–Prokoviev’s gorgeous Romeo and Juliet!–I hastened back to my computer.

YIKES! We’re in some kind of asylum, the young dancers all in white uniforms, a brutal guard grabbing Juliet for forced hanky panky. NOT exactly what we signed up for.
The music has been chopped up, changed, as has the story. Of course all the reviews talked about how passionate and contemporary it was. Except for the one that said, “bleak, disturbed, troubled…”

Well, it is that.
But it is also powerful.
Dan Wright, who danced the part of the brutal guard, is simply compelling–a big man with terrifying tattoos and a shaved head. Juliet barely comes up to his shoulder.

There is one scene–a party!–when the inmates are suddenly allowed costumes, and they dance like a wave of the sea. We finally notice that they are beautiful young people.

But I admit that MOSTLY, they are writhing in anguish, their movements harsh and mechanical.
Romeo’s cold beautiful parents bring him to the –asylum? school?–write a big check, leave him there. The other lads strip off his clothes and push him into the white top and white jeans uniform. He meets Juliet–RAPTURE. They smile deliriously at one another, wrap themselves together. But there is never that moment of impossible joy that the wonderful duet in Kenneth Macmillan’s ballet gives us–brings tears to my eyes whenever I see it: the boy’s ecstatic leaps, the girl twirling into his arms.
Bourne’s ending is rather spectacularly ferocious. Blood everywhere!
But I clapped for them–well done! Certainly not the Romeo and Juliet I expected, but my $10 was not wasted.

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Continuing on the virtuous Cultural Enrichment path (while patiently waiting for the 3rd episode of Mandalorian) I bade Marquee fetch me some lovely BALLET, and up came Dream, the Frederick Ashton version of Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is a VERY truncated treatment of the story, with no Theseus or Hippolyta, and no business with angry fathers. Mostly, it’s just Oberon and Titania and Puck, the 4 lovers —and a simply wonderful scene with the rude mechanicals–adorable acrobatic silliness. Bottom translated wears not only a splendid donkey head (with moving lips!) but also POINTE SHOES. Which, the dancer (Bennet Garside) remarked, gave him a deep appreciation for the ladies who dance long ballets in them. Painful, rather.

Oberon came down rather hard from a step, and I thought, who is this clown? But then he leapt back into the air with such grace, such strength–and suddenly I saw that it was gorgeous Steven McRae under all that makeup and glitter. His Titania did not charm, however–Akane Takada is a fine dancer but her face is too thin, her teeth too big. You’ll say, what a MEANIE you are, Hope, but there it is. I tried to love her but in vain.
But Puck! That shrewd and knavish sprite who cannot resist mischief, Oberon’s dear jester–“How now mad spirit!” Puck was danced by Valentino Zucchetti, who smiled deliriously as he bounded across the stage, leaping and spinning with astonishing athletic power and joy. And he has little HORNS!

Midsummer Night’s Dream has had a million different shapes and versions–I have seen it as theater, dance, opera–wonderful shows!
And now this one takes its place in the parade.

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Mayerling

Thanks to Marquee Arts, I have beheld some excellent shows. And some NOT so excellent, e.g. the Royal Swedish Ballet’s TOTALLY whimsical Midsummer Night’s Dream, which involved dancers tossing hay at one another. LOTS of hay. Of course, they threw it in very artistic ways–these are highly trained dancers!
I waited for something else to happen, but nothing did, so I left for greener pastures.
And came to Mayerling, that Kenneth Macmillan ballet about the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf, performed by the British Royal Ballet. Why should we care about sad princes of long ago, I wondered, and looked him up. Well, his suicide left the Austro-Hungarian empire without an heir, which title eventually came to his cousin Archduke Franz Ferdinand–whose assassination in Sarajevo led directly to the first world war.
Also he was totally debauched and crazy, such an inspiration to creative artistes.
In this performance, the splendid Australian dancer Steven McRae takes the role of the prince. He is ALWAYS costumed in some kind of military uniform. On top, that is–below we behold the traditional white tights. His mother, aunts, wife, and girl friends are daintily attired in 1890’s gowns, complete with bustles and non-stop ruffles. EXCEPT when his 17 year old sweetie sneaks into the palace in a rather tempting nightie! Sarah Lamb danced that part, and looked very well, I thought:

WHAT is she carrying, you ask? Why, a skull of course! Rudolf thinks of himself as something of a tragic Hamlet–it was on his desk. Where there was also a REVOLVER.
There are some simply astonishing dances–Macmillan has such visions; there are steps that leave you mouth agape–such perfect grace, such strength. This the Royal Ballet, every part is danced by a world class dancer with not only years of training but also fabulous beauty and strength.
The ballet starts and ends with Rudolf’s funeral, a somber affair with rain slanting down over the sorrowing men and women. A fine show! I admit that I didn’t entirely understand what was going on, but I enjoyed the dancing.

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Marco Spada

MOVE OVER, opera–BALLET has plots that are just as complicated as yours—and EVEN SILLIER! You’ll say, but Hope, what about Il Trovatore? And Simon Boccanegra? True, those both feature labyrinthine plots (and good gracious, throwing the wrong baby on the fire..!) but I have just come across a ballet whose plot rivals these in idiotic complexity: Marco Spada. This is one of those antique ballets, created almost 200 years ago, and still delighting audiences–well, RUSSIAN audiences–today. I foolishly thought I could just, you know, WATCH IT–without first studying the history and chronology and story. It was…mystifying.

We start with Merry Villagers dancing on the village square–a country wedding, we are given to understand. Two Important Characters arrive, a dignitary and his lovely daughter, and the Merry Villagers implore them for….something. They all make square gestures–need paper? a box?–but are rebuffed by the dignitary. Then a group of soldiers marches in! With dainty high steps! Their leader is instantly captivated by the dignitary’s daughter. They do a LOVELY dance together!

And then the villagers dance and then….a DONKEY comes on stage pulling a cart into which the bride and groom from the country wedding mount and are borne off stage.

And then, ZOUNDS, a totally wicked guy leaps onto the stage–he has a black cloak on! And an evil grin!

He MUST be Marco Spada! With an arrogant gesture, he tosses off his cloak–and steals money from the people! Who politely don’t notice.
The audience might be forgiven for heaving a deep sigh at this point.
*Sigh*.
A priest sporting a simply ghastly tonsure wig comes hobbling up and wicked Marco Spada steals HIS money.
END of Act 1.
***
This was when I took a break to figure out what was going on.
Lordie, it is simply too K-K-KRAZY to summarize.
But I will gamely try.
Marco has a daughter (Angela), but has hidden from her that he’s a bandit (NOTE: all parts are taken by vibrant young dancers so it’s a little hard to figure out who’s the daddy and who’s the gallant suitor.) So anyway, the dignitary, his daughter, and her military suitor are walking in the mountains, and whoa, happen to stumble into Marco’s lair! Which is a FABULOUS MANSION, with many servants. Pickpocketing a very lucrative trade, it appears.
Angela welcomes them in! Servants attend them into another room–and Angela’s suitor appears, the gallant Prince Frederici! They dance, and then he nips off.
Let’s celebrate! Trapdoors open! Lovely ladies appear! Dancing happens. The dignitary (who, I discovered is the Governor of Rome!) invites everyone to a ball! Time for everyone to put on white powdered wigs and velvet!
Well, lots more happens.
I am rapidly losing strength here.
OK, the priest with the grotty wig reappears to finger Marco as the thief who stole his money. Angela is heartbroken: now she can’t marry her prince. She must become a bandit too!
There is a gigantic Bandit dance, with everyone nattily attired in bandit costumes. Marco does some quite astonishing leaps and twirls.

In the end, Marco is SHOT! But before he dies he confesses that Angela is not really his daughter! So she can marry the handsome prince after all.
Well, well, the dancers have worked very hard indeed.
And Marco was danced by David Hallberg, the first American to become a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet.
And please note: however foolish the plot, the dancing was impeccable, astonishing.

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That MINX Manon

Having thrown caution to the winds and subscribed to Marquee TV (DAMN the cost! ) I watched the Royal Ballet performance of Manon last night. And came to the scene I remembered from the last time I saw this show. An odd little Pas De Trois, with Manon being languorously twisted about between her brother, who is selling her, and the wealthy Monsieur G.M., who is buying.

Lascivious in a rather cold detached way–and slightly distasteful.
But, fascinating. I searched in vain for this scene, and finally resorted to recording it from my machine–not very well, but here it is. There is another scene, in which she is passed back and forth between a whole group of gallants swinging her up and over, and twice she dives headfirst to the floor like a fish into the sea, to be caught up by her attendants. Nice, rather–but the threesome deal is better.

The scene that everyone knows from this ballet is the last one, where poor Manon dies (of what we are not completely sure) as Des Grieux despairs. The stunning dancing in this last scene takes my breath away.

Sarah Lamb is so beautiful–and getting old now, 39. But her powerful body and exquisite form will never die, as long as these records persevere.
I bless modern technology for allowing me to see such wonders.
[NOTE: Speaking of modern technology, did you know that you can record your screen by using PowerPoint? This was completely new to me, but if you go to the insert menu, you’ll find an item called Screen Recording. Click on that, and it will record whatever is on your screen.]

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Taking a break from detectives and spaceships, I dived into a Bollywood show that outdoes, outdances, out parties all the others! Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, a completely OVER THE TOP production includes (but is not limited to):
1. A WACKO cheesecake castle of mirrors (built on a WATERFALL, of course)!
2. Hundreds of dancing girls in fabulous costumes!
3. Elephants, also in fabulous costumes!
4. Swashbuckling heroes with rippling muscles! Dueling with fancy swords!
5. A train draped with marigold garlands arriving at the station: Princess transportation!
6. Loyal retainer with loving heart!
And so much more. The plot is a doppelganger one, with muscle bound Salman Khan playing both a kindly and loving actor and a stern cold Prince. The latter has a mustache, which helps to differentiate them. The Prince is engaged to a beautiful Princess (Sonam Kapoor) but she doesn’t love him (because coldness). A ghastly assassination plan almost kills the cold hearted prince! While he lies in a medical stupor, kindly actor is engaged to take his place until he recuperates. As you might guess, the beautiful princess is charmed with her fiance, so changed from her last visit. There are estranged sisters, at first resisting but eventually ALSO charmed by false prince. Much happens, accentuated with DANCING. Also a bit of soccer. Salman has a tear in his eye more than once, but it doesn’t smear his mascara.
I shall not betray the ending, though allow me to hint that it does not end unhappy.

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High Strung Free Dance

DANCING! SINGING! BROADWAY! And very handsome guys!

This seemed a mix guaranteed to please, and actually, I was not displeased. It’s basically American Bollywood! LOTS of dance numbers, part of the show because the show is about a show. This by the way is the 2018 iteration–there was another show of the same name in 2016.
The fellow above plays the Brilliant Choreographer, perhaps a little poutier and cuter than an actual choreographer might be, e.g. Christopher Wheeldon, who is not only mascara free during rehearsals but manages to keep his shirt on.

But where’s the fun in that, right? The actor–who is by the way a proud son of Scotland but quells his accent for the show–did in fact study dance and does very well, though the lovely girl outstrips him by far–she is a well trained ballerina. Whose makeup NEVER ONCE runs! And whose hair is always perfect. There is also another young man, also easy on the eyes, who is the Brilliant Pianist. [Spoiler: he gets the girl in the end.]
The story is a traditional one: talented young artiste get a break–the STAR is injured! The substitute goes on stage and wows the audience!

Anyway, it was cheesy and hokey, but rather fun.

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A man who was painting rooms for me told me he liked the music I tended to always have playing in the house–but, he added, “it’s so sad, it makes me want to bust out crying sometimes.”
Arvo Part, Eric Satie, Dustin Ohalloran–quiet music that can bring you to your knees if you’re not careful.

It is melancholy, I admit.
One of my children set up a merry playlist to counteract the mood, and I appreciate that.
So, when the sad music threatens to make me wish I had never been born, I snap it over to Cheery Songs For Mom–and DANCE!

So that’s all right, you see.

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Pepperland

Last night I bravely left the house for a show at the Kennedy Center–on a WEEK NIGHT! I had been completely entranced by the picture advertising the show: dancers in sunglasses and ridiculously bright clothing leaping about in odd diagonal poses.

Mark Morris was at it again! The city of Liverpool had asked him to compose a dance series in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Sgt Pepper album, and the result was Pepperland. Now, I think Morris is a self involved poseur –but his inventions are charming. He is known for many compositions, among them, his version of Nutcracker, called The Hard Nut.
This work was inspired by the music–but of course, didn’t actually USE the music. NO no, instead we heard impressions of the songs, as played and sung by a small group of musicians, one of whom played a rather ghastly instrument called a theramin. This produces a sound not unlike the wail of the musical saw. It added eeriness but not much in the way of enjoyment. The piano mostly made up for it.
So, the lights dimmed! The MASTER HIMSELF nipped into the theater and sat at the end of the very row I was sitting in! This was an unexpected honor! And then the curtain rose and the set was revealed: heaps of crumpled silver foil lining the back of the stage. Oh well, it looked grand with the colored lights on it. And the dancers started whirling and leaping, and I found myself smiling with delight. Morris makes patterns with his dancers–movements and steps, repeated, turned around, circular dances breaking into individual steps. Lines of dancers stepping by and then suddenly turning and leaping directly at the audience, smiles beaming. The best dance was ‘When I’m Sixty-Four”–a stunning line dance to the well-known tune, but the tune kept changing rhythm, and still the dancers whipped about doing the intricate steps, somehow honoring the rhythm. I wish you could see it!
And best of all, the show ended in time for me to get home and to bed at my usual time.

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Dancing like a wave of the sea

In the morning I do my healthful exercises, but in the evening I like to Jump Around–performing movements that I call “Dancing.” The cats call it “behaving like a crazy person” and regard me with great disapproval–though Bertie will graciously join me from time to time for a mild waltz.
Cats, such traditionalists.
So last night I had a whim to watch a particular dance scene from a Bollywood movie and just typed in Bollywood dance –and Google gave me some anodyne Bollywood scenes, and then–MICHAEL JACKSON. Who has NOTHING at all to do with Bollywood, but plenty to do with dance. With some hesitation, I clicked on Beat it–and there are all these scowling dancers looking dangerous until Michael comes in and persuades them to dance. And how they dance! Yes, he had something of a plastic surgery obsession, and perhaps was not an admirable man–but how he could dance!
Which always reminds me of Yeats’ poem about the fiddler of Dooney–when he plays his fiddle, folks dance like a wave of the sea. His brothers are good men, priests, but when they come to heaven, says the fiddler, St Peter will smile on them all–but call him first through the gate:

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.

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