_1928,_by_Frans_van_RielThis post is dedicated to all my friends in the dance world. In 1905 Mikhail Fokine, choreographer for the Ballets Russes, created the choreography for Le Cynge, composed by Camille Saint-Saens for cello and two pianos, specifically for the great Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, also of the Ballet Russes.  It depicts a swan’s struggle with death, inspired by the Greek myth of the Mute Swan (an actual species) who could not utter a sound until just before it died (the myth, but like all myths tells an archetypal story; this one a parable about what is inside). The work of Fokine, Pavlova, and the Ballets Russes marks historically and artistically one of the greatest turning points in dance (also for art and music), but that’s an interesting topic for another moment.  What I want to write about today is how my appreciation for the art of dance has been tutored by watching how great dancers interpret a work. More »
07. March 2014 · Comments Off on Harry Belafonte – 87 and Still Making a Difference · Categories: Music Video
Many thanks and much gratitude to our friend David Mash for getting us tickets to the Harry Belafonte tribute concert last night at the Berklee Performance Center. Belafonte, now 87, in addition to his auspicious music career, is a political activist and philanthropist. As a confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr. he was a power in the civil rights movement - the Birmingham campaign was planned in his NYC apartment, he played a major role in the March on Washington, and much more. He co-produced with Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, and Quincy Jones the powerful "We Are the World" which raised $50 million for addressing hunger in Africa. His speech last night conveyed a sharp mind and wit as he told stories from his life and the story of what it means to be African American in this country. His outspokenness was refreshing. But there was no bitterness - just honesty and compassion. A truly great and inspiring man. And, God bless Africa, everyday I think of the immense suffering on that continent and wish for better times for the African people.
18. July 2013 · Comments Off on Pina Bausch “Full Moon” · Categories: Dance Video, Random Thoughts
"I'm young. My ears hear promise, my eyes see dreams …" Another Pina Bausch masterpiece. This excerpt from Vollmond (Full Moon) is a "procession of scenes of ritualized courtship and conflict depicting the subtle ways we control and are controlled" (Claudia La Rocco, New York Times; Judith Mackrell, The Guardian). What a gift to have it on film.
07. February 2013 · Comments Off on A Love Note to Sonny · Categories: Music Video, Random Thoughts · Tags:
Sonny Rollins is 80 years old. So glad he’s still thriving and playing. No one sings with a saxophone like Sonny Rollins. His sound is infinite and rich. His musical language is a Shakespeare soliloquy. When I was a student in Boston I would go to the Jazz Workshop on Boylston Street whenever one of the jazz greats came to town. One night, one ticket, one drink I’d self-consciously sip hoping the wait staff wouldn’t bug me to buy more. But when Sonny came to town, I went every single night. I got there early and sat right next to the stage and just basked in that sound and those solos. He was playing with Matsuo on guitar and I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the other musicians’ names. He played St. Thomas and Doxy and so many beautiful ballads - A Nightingale Sang in Barkley Square, his own version of Debussy’s Reverie. Those days are gone for good. Today I can’t imagine hearing him in a big theater. It just wouldn’t be the same.
A lot of people really like the PBS series Downton Abbey so  I’ve been curious to know what all the fuss is about.  Tonight we watched the first season on DVD.  I was sorely disappointed when the rat poison didn’t make it to the dining room table in the first episode. They missed a great plot opportunity there. I’m also sorry to say I find the characters too well starched. And, I don’t buy the benevolent, all-wise Earl of Grantham bit - history shows the lord is more lech than liege.
the maid

You'll never see this on Downton Abbey. Photo by Frank Kovalchek (thanks, Frank!)

As the story minces along we see the earl right wrongs and the menials learn from his example. Spare me. If the conceit were indeed true, the house staff would be a crew of entitled loafers by season’s end.  Downton Abbey perpetuates the myth that the upper classes deserve their bastion of superiority  and  the rest of us who benefit from the philosophical wisdom, moral leadership,  and puny wages dispensed from on high are meant to accept the status quo.  There’s a scene in which  Grantham tells Cawley letting the help wait on him is actually a kindness to them (“everyone has a role to play”),  a  self serving sentiment if ever there was one. Every installation of privilege dispenses this propaganda to justify a lopsided state of affairs.  We all know the reality:  the 1% are more debauched and fraudulent than exemplary, and trickle down of anything is unlikely, except maybe syphilis.

The Help at Curraghmore House, 1905, National Library of Ireland

A more interesting set of characters than the Edwardian paper dolls at Downton Abbey are the flesh and blood Brontes of Haworth.  I recently read Juliet Barker’s meticulous biography of the famous authors and their father.  In addition to writing a compelling, multi-dimensional narrative and character study of creative genius, Ms. Barker provides social and political insight into the first half of 19th century England. We learn, for example, that in the 1830s the Haworth mill owners were in a twist  when new laws were passed to prevent children 6 years old working more than 48 hours per week, and children 12 years old working more than 60 hours per week. (Now we know how the Granthams made their money.)
child labor

Oyster shuckers, Port Royal, South Carolina, or as today's GOP would say "the good old days." Photo by Lewis Hines

Having already read Emily and Charlotte’s wonderful books, I was inspired to pick up Anne Bronte’s novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”  In contrast to Emily’s deep soul haunting and Charlotte’s feminist angst, Anne’s prose is charmingly domestic with delightful phrases such as  “in correction for his impudence, [he] received a resounding whack over the sconce.” So next Sunday will find me reading in my chair in front of the woodstove, instead of watching Downton Abbey.
bronte sisters

The Bronte Sisters as painted by their brother, Branwell

  Posted by  Alice Gebura, Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved.