Stella Abrera as Giselle

I saw this beautiful excerpt from Giselle via Haglund's Heel blog.

This was part of a webcast of a lecture/interview of people from ABT.

I've never seen Abrera dance (but hopefully this will change when I see her Cinderella early this summer), but I've heard so much about her.  She is incredibly beautiful both in dance technique and body type.  She is just perfection all around.

Of course, she hasn't been promoted to Principal yet and I wonder if she ever will be...at ABT.  Perhaps it is time for her to go to another company who will appreciate her talent.  I think any number of American, European and even Russian companies who would be ecstatic to have Stella on their cast list.

Reportedly the AD was in the audience during this performance.  So hopefully the audience's ovation will make an impression.  Plus the wonderful notices Abrera is receiving in her guest appearances will inspire as well.  I mean, there is no development cost to her whatsoever.  She is so ready to step into any classical role on the ABT schedule.

I want to see her Giselle so badly.


The Three Dragon riders - Alchemy in Game of Thrones

The 5th Season of Game of Thrones has begun on HBO.  Speculation is on a high about the future of the characters.  Another round of R+L = J anyone?

Most however treat the speculated Dragon Riders as an almost foregone conclusion.  Mainly that Daenerys will be riding Drogon, the black Dragon.  But I will state that this may not be so and the reason lies in the Alchemy symbolism in the books.

The three dragons represent the three stages of the Great Work.

I've included a representation of the three headed dragon from the alchemical allegory called Splendor Solis.  The three stages of the great work in the artwork are:

1) Nigredo - The Black Dragon head
2) Albedo - The White Dragon head
3) Rubedo - The Red Dragon head

Each stage represents the a transformation of the material into the Philosopher's stone. In literature allegories, the stone is represented as a hero or heroine.

The Alchemist will take the blackened, unpurified stone substance and break it down into it's three essentials.  This is called the Nigredo stage.  Alchemists use symbols of death and blackness to indicate the first stage of the stone being purified.  The death symbols are black dragons, skulls, beheadings, crows, black suns, black kings and images of Saturn.  Out of this poisonous, black material the Alchemist will get the three essentials:

1) Salt or Body
2) Sulfur or Heart
3) Mercury or Mind

Each of these materials will be continually purified in what is called The Chemical Wedding or Albedo until they are so pure that they can be recombined in the Rubedo stage into the Philosopher's Stone.

Daenerys' dragons fit into the symbology like so:

Drogon the Black/Red (The hidden stone in the black) - Nigredo
Rhaegal the Green/Bronze (Green Lion eating the Sun) - Albedo
Viserion the White/Gold (Quintessence) - Rubedo

(ETA 4/20/15:  To answer the question why Rhaegal is green instead of white lies in the process of alchemical method.  There are two materials to work, Plant and Metal and there are two paths, wet and dry.  The greening is usually associated with plant matter.  This occurs during the albedo phase.  According to this site, if the metal method is used the equivalent symbol would be a grey wolf.)

The character of Daenerys is the main Philosopher's child.  Her existence drives the events.  Her Dragons indicate her as the main stone material being purified.

As she moves through the stages, she will ride all three dragons by the end of the books.  At this point in the story Daenerys is still dealing with Ego and Death.  So she has an affinity for Drogon.  But as she purifies we will see her grow closer to Rhaegal during the Albedo then Viserion during Rubedo.

Each of her dragons will sense when she has moved to the next stage and will respond to her in kind. This brings us back to the Three Dragon Riders and putting it together with the three essentials.

The most popular three riders that fans speak of are, of course, Daenerys Targaryen, then Tyrion Lannister (almost a foregone conclusion at this point) and Jon Snow.

All three of them are following the same path of purification.  But when paired together they will embody the essentials in a unique way due to the symbology around them.

The Three Riders:

1) Salt  - Body - Tyrion Lannister
2) Sulfur - Heart - Daenerys Targaryen
3) Mercury - Mind - Jon Snow.

The Three Dragons:

1) Salt - Body - Drogon
2) Sulfur - Heart - Rhaegal
3) Mercury - Mind - Viserion

If you go by the representation of the essentials, than it is a simple mix and match.  But that is not how Martins is pairing the dragons with the riders.  The Dragons will choose the riders according to their place in three stages.

1) Nigredo - Tyrion Lannister - Drogon
2) Albedo - Jon Snow - Rhaegal
3) Rubedo - Daenerys Targaryen - Viserion

More hints that this is so reside in the symbols around them.

Tyrion's story was one of death.  He is the earth or salt symbol because of the homeland that he wants to be lord of...Casterly Rock.  It is this fact that trumps his Mercury characteristics.  Also I highly doubt Martins is aiming for a love story between Daenerys and Tyrion.  I rather think the Chemical Wedding will be between Jon and Daenerys.  They will be the quarreling lovers and Tyrion will bring harmony between them since he is their conduit, he knows both and has foreknowledge.

As Daenerys emerges from the Nigredo, Tyrion will enter her story.  Drogon will sense that Daenerys has reached a higher form of being.  He will then choose, of his own free will, to bear Tyrion.

I forecast that Daenerys will first go to the wall to stop the White Walkers.  There she will meet both Jon Snow and Stannis.  She will be riding the next Dragon in her spiritual journey...Rhaegal.  It is here that Jon and Dany will fall in love representing the King and Queen of the Chemical Wedding.  At first they will try to stop falling in love, they will fight but they will finally accept one another.  The alchemy symbolism shows the King and Queen making love, dying, being buried then being reborn.  The result is the albedo, the pure forms of Mercury and Sulfer.  Jon Snow is surrounded by white, in his name, in his living...the far north.  Ice or Water is also Mercurial equivalent.  Because Snow will enter the story during the Chemical Wedding, he represents the Albedo stage.  Therefore we will witness the dragon Rhaegal (namesake of Jon's hypothesized father) choose Jon as his rider.

That leaves the final stage, Rubedo.  This is when Daenerys will turn into the Queen she was meant to be and rule Westeros. But even still that won't mean Daenerys will automatically get to ride Viserion (namesake of her brother) by default.

No, Daenerys must make a sacrifice in order to become the stone and gain the right to ride the Golden Dragon.

That sacrifice will be to give up Jon Snow and take Stannis Baratheon as her consort.  It will be a hard decision, it will mean giving up true love.  But I believe she will do it, to ensure that Westeros will survive and live in peace.  When she makes that decision, Viserion will allow her to ride him.

Why must it be Stannis Baratheon?  Because the symbology of his house.  The Stag.  In alchemy symbolism, the rubedo begins when the Stag and Unicorn meet.

When Daenerys wins the crown, the three will disperse and so will the Dragons.


T-Tapp Update

My exercise regimen went haywire around the holidays and I stopped exercising for awhile.  My body held for a month or two but then I started to gain.  So I halted the decline with 10 sessions of Callanetics.  But I felt a little bored and I decided that I didn't give the T-Tapp program my full attention.

So two weeks ago, I pulled out my T-Tapp Basic Workout DVD.  This time I decided to really concentrate on the instructional program rather than just jump into the regular Basic workout Plus Hoedowns.  Mainly I wanted to work into the program in a slower more comprehensive fashion.  This would allow me to develop more muscle memory in regards to form because form is extremely important in this, rather difficult, isometric exercise program.

I'm still amazed how exacting this tiny 15 minute exercise plan is on the body.  It seems a bit unreal that a few concentrated arm swings paired with a plie can get the heart rate pumping.  The slower instructional session caused me to really concentrate on the pelvic tuck along with keeping the legs in alignment.  I had no soreness for the first two sessions.  But at the end of the week, I noticed that suddenly I was extremely tired, a bit depressed with a low level migraine.  It also seemed that I was spending much of my time in the restroom as my body kept releasing waste.  I forced myself to keep doing the sessions even though I felt horrible.  I didn't have this problem when I did the program before the holidays.  So after some research, I discovered that my symptoms were quite commonplace and even a bit trivial.  Some people experience bad nausea, dizziness, colds, fevers, chills or allergy flare-ups.  This is due to the exercise specifically targeting the lymph system.  As you do the T-Tapp exercises, the twisting movements along with meticulous alignment allows the body's lymph system to work at a better rate.  The varying levels of sickness are a result of lymph system drainage.

Well, I can attest that this low feeling lasts just a few days after a week or two of the T-Tapp system.  I'm now on the third week of every other day T-Tapp, the sickness is just about gone.  I just took my measurements, but comparing them with a few months ago, I noticed a bit of gain around the mid section but everything else is the same.  Once the exercises are in my muscles and I can complete the Workout Plus program, I will move on to the full 45 minute program.

To tell the truth I don't expect big results in inches or weight.  I'm within the 10 to 20 pound weight loss ratio, the area when the body is loathe to give up any extra pounds.  So I fully expect my goal to be about 6 months away.  But its better to be interested in the process than focused on the result.  There is less disappointment that way.  I will be updating as the program unfolds.  I also plan to mix in a bit of Callanetics, Ballet Beautiful and Lotte Berk along the way to stave off boredom.


Bootleg Kirkland - Fille Mal Gardee

Way back in the dark ages, there were no video capable mobile devices.  The only way an obsessed ballet fan could capture their favorite performer was by a big, clunky camera (8mm  etc).  Somehow, someway there were fans who managed to sneak past security and get clips of their favorites.

A few of Gelsey Kirkland have turned up here and there on Youtube.  Above is a film of her dancing Fille Mal Gardee.  It is a bit blurry, definitely not HiDef, completely silent except for the music added onto the clip.  But it captures the magic of Kirkland's dancing even if only for a few minutes.  No one danced like her and they still don't...not even the Russians.  She was no-nonsense Balanchine technician married to the most romantic and purest classical style.  You can see that her focus is all about presenting the choreography and the ballet in the best possible light.  There is no grandstanding or turning the dancing into a ME,ME,ME show of athleticism.

All of that talent came with a price.  But I'm glad she thought enough of us, the audience, that we deserved the best she had to give even if it meant baring every part of her soul.


The Iceman Cometh

I purchased tickets months ago for the Nathan Lane version of The Iceman Cometh at BAM.

I have to admit I was wary.  Lane is a very affable, sweet natured actor with a bit of snark.  I couldn't see him as Hickey.  The role, for whatever reason, has become the province of uncommonly handsome actors even if that was not the type that O'Neill was thinking about when he wrote the play.  Lane was among big men, from the sleazy Robards, Marlboro Man Marvin, the silky voiced James Earl Jones, strapping Dennehy and the shark-like Spacey (who I saw almost 20 years ago in the role on Broadway).  However my fears were laid to rest because Lane showed new sides to the role that were hidden by the other actors.  Lane's Hickey was an everyman, a non-intimidating guy you would let charm you into a sales pitch.  And his usual sweet nature took on more menacing element, it turned into a facade.  Because underneath you could feel the strain to keep up the smiles and the charm, you could feel the hate brewing underneath.  He had the audience mesmerized from his first appearance to his frighteningly unhinged mad scene.  I never thought his gentle laughter could be so unnerving but it was.

Lane was ably backed up by a powerful Brian Dennehy, this time aged into the role of Larry Slade.  Dennehy was always a powerful actor, so much so he sucks up the energy around him like the great attractor.  Its hard not to take your eyes off him.  And this was still the case in this production.  He managed to steal many scenes just sitting in a chair, quiet within himself.  I could believe him as a man who was disappointed in love, so much so that he decided to leave the world behind him but not too far in case his torch should call for him.

The rest of the actors did good jobs.  The only caveat I had was the forced New York accents some of the actors used.  The actor who played bar keep Rocky especially struggled with the accent.  I grew up with the remnants of that speech and that wasn't what I was hearing on stage.  What I heard was this operatic, scale sliding warble when in reality that accent is quick, to the point and very low key.  I had a feeling that the actors were copying an already bastardized, over the top interpretation of the accent from 1930 gangster films.  The only one who was more comfortable and close to it was the other actor who played bar keep Chuck.  And that was because he chose to ignore the accent most times.  I was quite impressed by the actress, Kate Arrington,  who played Cora.  She did very well during Lane's mad scene as she quite clearly identified with Hickey's ill fated wife Evelyn.

The other quibble I had is more about O'Neill's writing than it was about a particular actor.  Patrick Andrews did his best with Don Parritt, but lets face facts, the role is thankless and badly written.  I have yet to see ANY actor make anything of it or turn it into a believable person.  The character has odd speeches with odd wording, and was so obviously a symbolic shadow-Hickey that I don't understand why O'Neill couldn't see that he was writing dead space into his play.  And that is exactly what Parritt is, dead space.  I could feel my eyes rolling at each cheesy sentence he uttered.  I felt a vindictive relief when he finally ended it all, and I don't think that was what O'Neill intended.

The production values were great.  Goodman Company did a lot with what money they had for the production.  The sets weren't as beautiful as the big Spacey Broadway production years back but they were still attractive.  I do think they changed sets once too often, which led to some disorientation in regards to a sense of place but not so much it took me out of the play.  The lighting for this production was just breathtaking.

I highly recommend this production, and if you can get tickets...SEE IT!  Another piece of good news is that the production may get backing to move to Broadway.  It would be fantastic to see Lane fill up a huge Broadway stage with his very memorable Hickey.


80's Mix

Nostalgia is a foreign concept to me.  I don't seek out music specifically to remind me of a time in the past.  What I like are songs that seem to raise themselves out of their time period.  The very fact that they transcend being time placeholders is attractive.

I've been meaning to write about Ernest Cline's Ready Player One for awhile.  Mainly regarding the Alchemical framework it is built upon.  The book in general is a good sci-fi adventure built on a speculative virtual reality world called OASIS.  The fictional creator of this world was a bit of a recluse and obsessed with his teens during the 80s.  Cline included 80's trivia so arcane that I didn't even know it existed.  But then again, I wasn't really into video games back then.  Yes, I did have an Atari but only after it became affordable.  And then most of my player cartridges were purchased from the bargain bin because they were extremely expensive.

Many of the songs Cline listed were a big blank to me.  I wasn't an Oingo Boingo fan.  I hated Rush.  The others I do recognize weren't big on my playlist.  And I avoided all the TV shows and movies Cline fanned in the novel.  However that isn't to say I was a pop culture illiterate.  I just fanned different things.  Still I'm surprised Cline didn't mention "Moonlighting" in the novel (so big in the 80's)  nor the old touchstones that were still popular with 80's teens.  I mean it seems every 80's teen party wasn't complete unless there was a drunken singalong to The Who's "Pinball Wizard".

I created my own playlist at 8track of oldies that reminded me of the decade that started video games.  The majority of the songs are from 79 to 84 but there are a few from later in the decade.  The latter half of the decade I began to tune out because I didn't enjoy the music that much.  Obviously I liked the early transitional period more.


Serenade, Agon & Symphony in C - New York City Ballet

I purchased a ticket to NYCB's All Balanchine program for the Art Series (this year celebrating artist Dustin Yellen).  Every seat in the house cost just 29 dollars and, obviously, it sells out fast.

All the Corps were fantastic in Serenade.  They were extremely comfortable in the choreography and the speed of it which makes it all look deceptively easy and almost ridiculously simple.  Ashley Bouder was not in the cast tonight as one of the main dancers.  Her place was taken by Erica Pereira who did well but did not have the explosive, dynamic energy that Bouder does.  Her dancing style seemed more delicate, a skittering like quality that I'm not sure is the best for the part.   The dark angel trio section with Sterling Hyltin, Ask La Cour and Teresa Reichlen was haunting and more than a bit frightening.  It seemed so strange in the middle of all the happy Corps constantly floating around the stage.  Balanchine added black humor bits with La Cour partnering the leads along with the whole  Corps as they danced past him.  I'm still not sure what to make of the last transfiguration scene because it is so obviously a late edition to the piece and it does not fit into the ballet as a whole.

The next piece danced was Agon which seemed a little oddball considering it was sandwiched in between two of the most romantic ballets in NYCB's repertory.  But it had an explosive energy all focusing through Megan LeCrone.  She was a big, precise, very no nonsense dancer.  The other big stand outs were Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar.  They performed the famous Pas de Deux created on Diana Adams and Arthur Mitchell.  In some performances the Pas comes across as very cold, calculating and careful.  But both Kowroski and Ramasar have a very natural quality to their dancing and this couple's performance was extremely passionate.  The dance transformed from something cold to very raw.  As they performed intricate moves, their hands shook with tension almost like live wires of contact.  At one point a piece of hair fell out of Kowroski's severe bun and it flew around wildly during the dance adding a quality of abandon.  Their performance elicited cheers of appreciation from the audience both after the dance and at curtain call.

After a very enlivening Agon, Symphony in C was a bit of a let down.  Ashley Bouder took the first movement of this piece.  But I didn't find anything memorable about the performance.  Maybe this role just isn't the best for her.  The Second movement is virtually haunted by the shade of Allegra Kent which makes it hard for subsequent dancers to make an impact.  Kent had a quality of surrender to her dancing that male partners responded to in a very primal manner.  Sara Mearns held up very well under the pressure.  She isn't the clinging vine that Kent was but she is such an unembarrassed romantic in her dancing.  At times she skirts extremely close to corny sappiness, but stops before the jump.  I also loved that she didn't finish her movements in this Pas.  Each pose did not stop in time but kept moving as she stretched further.  Mearns always has extremely lovely upper body epaulement.  I think she developed this because she is not the typical shape for a ballerina.  But she is so fun to watch.  The corps was a little ragged in Symphony in C.  There were some spacing issues between the dancers with some bunched into corners and others too far apart.  It makes me wonder if it hasn't been rehearsed as much as the other pieces.

I have to admit I'm a biased spectator, but I enjoyed NYCB much more than I did the Mariinsky performance a few weeks back.  I think our dancers more than match them and I don't understand why everyone thinks Russian dancers are so superior.  I read from another dance fan that that the AD of Mariinsky thinks our dancers are barrel shaped.  Well, I say, bring on the barrel over the preying mantis.  Its so nice to see dancers who look strong, not weak and don't give me the impression that they would whip out forks and knives to cannibalize their fellow dancers because they are so hungry.

NYCB is in prime condition now with loads of talent at all levels.  I look forward to seeing them again.