Russian Ballerina

It is has been a long time since I've posted on Joy Womack.  Since the last time, she has been promoted to lead dancer with the Kremlin Ballet.

It is hard to gauge how much of an impact Womack is making in Russian dance circles.  Her videos are strictly centered on the process she undergoes to prepare for her appearances.  No doubt due to personal preferences and other professional factors, she no longer films her fellow dancers.  Despite a few shots of curtain calls, she cuts away from those for time factor.  So the films are in a sort of vacuum and many times Womack relates her fears that her dancing is not progressing fast enough or she isn't working hard enough.  The one thing I love about her videos is that it shows the kind of work ethic required to be a dancer.  It is never easy and it gets harder as a dancer's body ages.

However I do think the fact that she is now a lead dancer in a big company (on par with the Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest etc. here), shows that the Russian ballet circles have accepted her.  She danced a few weeks ago for President Putin himself, and THAT is not small potatoes at all.  Still it is hard to get Russian reviews, so a fan outside of Russia can't judge the reception.  I do see that Womack has improved enormously in the past year.  She has a Russian polish  on her dancing now that was rough last year.  She looked more American then as she powered through the steps.  But now the mix is more settled and her professionalism is a testimony to her hard work and the attentiveness of the Ballet Masters at the Kremlin.

In her last video, Womack's father has visited Russia in order to see her dance Swan Lake.  The film is a bit fuzzy but it shows how good she is and the appreciation of the audience.  When taking her father on a tour of Moscow a few fans stop her for her autograph and picture.  So clearly she is well known.

Eventually I think she wants to move on to a European or American company.  However I'm not sure if she would be entirely happy with that arrangement.  Western companies are no longer truly classical but really modern dance companies with classical elements.  Where would she fit in?  Russia is on the rise and perhaps she should stay to ride the zeitgeist wave.  Unlike Western companies, it is rare for Russian ballet companies to accept foreigners into their ranks.  I'm not sure if Womack fully realizes yet that she achieved something close to the impossible.

Below is a short video of the Kremlin Theater.  It is huge, with a curious mix of classical and modern architectural styles.   A very impressive place to dance!


Stranger Danger!

It seems people in Iowa are having strange and disturbing close encounters with men dressed in black.

No doubt, it is a bunch of pranksters with time on their hands.  But they are posing a danger to people by walking out into the middle of the road late at night.  Supposedly they are trying to get cars to stop for them.

When I was a teenager, I loved creepy stories like these.  I would read all the odd books about them from Whitley Strieber's Communion to seeing films like Fire in the Sky.  But for hands down scare factor and chills, get your hands on John Keel's The Mothman Prophecies.  Yes, the film was based upon some of the stories in this book.  But the film was nowhere near as frightening.  You get it all in this novel: aliens, men in black, the Mothmen and other odd phenomena.  Don't read it late at night or I guarantee you will have very disturbing dreams!


This doesn't surprise me at all

Three years ago when I visited Disney World I was disgusted and outraged to discover that their local park animals (Birds and Squirrels) were covered in mange.  I saw countless animals with bald patches and running, open sores.  What was even more disgusting was that these animals had no fear of humans and stalked every open food stall in the park.  I saw some children even attempting to touch and feed these diseased animals.

Yes, Mange is curable and YES, it can spread to humans where it becomes known as SCABIES.

I wrote a strongly worded email to Disney Customer Service after my visit.

And what did I hear?

Mange wasn't lethal nor did affect humans.  End of response.

As far as I know the Magic Kingdom animals are still running around with open sores and it has probably spread to all the parks.  When I visited it was only in Magic Kingdom with some spread into EPCOT.

So you will understand I was sadly, not surprised to read that Disney World brushed off a letter from a concerned parent regarding alligators in their lakes.

Ultimately this cavalier attitude led to the recent tragedy of a child being fatally attacked.

There have been a lot of calls for lawsuits.  However I don't see how this will change the horrific accident or even change Disney's apathetic response.  The fact is, Disney is its own municipality.  They RUN EVERYTHING on their property with their own in-house government.  Walt Disney structured this himself due to his experiences building his park in Anaheim and dealing with local government officials.  In essence Disney has free reign to do as it wills.  There is nothing that anyone can do about it.


Swan Lake - Veronica Part - American Ballet Theater

Last year I was amazed at Veronica Part as the Wili Queen in Giselle.  Last fall, she looked beautiful but miscast in Ashton's Monotones.  I was very sorry to have missed her Swan Lake but I had run out of time and money.

But this year I remedied last year's miss.  And I must say, Part is the best Swan Queen I've ever seen. She mixes true Russian classicism with American economical, no-nonsense technique.  I was also happy to see that this production takes the music as close to tempo as possible.  True it wasn't full of fire like the NYCB version, but it was a good mix between the slo-mo of current Russian productions and NYCB's swans on speed.

I loved that Part was an heroic Odette.  She didn't dance a portrait of a woman wallowing in self-pity but someone who still had fight left within her.  She didn't emphasize a fear when meeting the Prince but someone who was willing to die to protect the rest of the cursed swan women.  Her work in the pas de deux was gorgeous as her acting took her from dubiousness to surety.  Her dancing was full of moments that suggested bird-like frailty that totally captured my attention.

It was just too bad that James Whiteside couldn't match her bigger than life portrayal of the Swan Queen.  Technically he was good.  But in the realm of acting, he was hopelessly flat and self-contained.  I just couldn't understand how the rakish good-humor he showed in La Fille, just totally disappeared in this production.  He didn't seem like the same dancer.  His work in the pas de deux sections was serviceable.  He handled the lifts very well considering that Part towered over him in her pointe shoes.  But the assisted pirouettes, attitudes and arabesques were awkward.  Whiteside stood too far away from Part.  So that her turns were all slighly off center and wobbly.  It made it look as if Whiteside's Prince was afraid of the Swan Queen not devastatingly in love at first sight.

This reticence in Whiteside also led to a lackluster Odile section.  Part was full of life.  Her zealous attack on the choreography indicated a character who lustily enjoyed all facets of living to the point of debauchery.  But she had nothing to bounce ideas off of in this section.  Whiteside wasn't inflamed by lust and led astray.  He was just as calm and collected in this section as he was in the rest of the previous scenes.

Luckily there were plenty of dancers around Whiteside showing a pulse.  Marcello Gomes was fantastic as Von Rothbart.  This version expanded on his character and led to insights into the story that I had never considered.  The argument of this production made the case of von Rothbart being a sexual predator who loves to seduce and enslave beautiful women.  And his mesmerizing solo scene in the Black Swan section was the portrayal of a man on the hunt just as much as Odile.  It was too bad that he wasn't Part's partner for the production.  Usually he is her Prince.  Why this changed suddenly, I have no idea.

Corps dancer Patrick Frenette was a standout performer in this production.  His partnering in the opening Birthday scene was a little shaky but this could have been due to the stage being a bit overly crowded with dancers.  But he stood out with very thoughtful technique and good acting.  He was also very handsome and looked good on stage.  His work as one of the Spanish dancers in the third act was fabulous.  He even had a great acting moment with Marcello Gomes' von Rothbart.  He was one of the few courtiers to notice von Rothbart's snarling laughter at the Prince which led to stare off.  I will be looking for his work in the future.

Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher and Calvin Royal III were very good in the Pas de Trois.  Teuscher in particular has the most lovely arms I've ever seen.  Her port de bras are so fresh, natural and without strain.  Shevchenko had good sparkle and fine footwork.  Royal was also good technically but his acting was a bit off.  He was full of smiles and lacked aristocratic demeanor.  This Pas de Trois wasn't the Peasant pas de deux from Giselle.  Someone should have told him to be more self-possessed.  Another standout performance was Catherine Hurlin who danced the Spanish Princess in the third act.  She managed to stand out from the crowd with a very lovely dancing presence.

The ABT corps must also be commended as a whole for fabulous work.  The dancing in the Swan section in particular was very fine.

I enjoyed this production very much and hope to see Part in more roles this coming fall season.


Lord of the Dance!

I think if happiness were would have to involve the sight of a dancing parrot.


Three Approaches to Psychotherapy - The Gloria Sessions

I took one class in psychology while in college, but I was not required to watch this tape for class. Instead I discovered this on Rob Ager's (film fan and theorist) youtube channel.  He focused on the Perls session (Gestalt).  But I find the tape more enlightening when taken as a whole.

As more information about Gloria came out it both revealed and obfuscated this film.  Because at times it seems so bogus, so staged and then when moments of realness come out (Perls session) it is strikingly uncomfortable for Gloria, Perls and the viewer.  Gloria admitted later that she only did the film at the behest of her therapist.  It seems that the problems Gloria discussed in the Rogers session were cooked up for the film.  This must have been why I found Gloria to be highly theatrical and overtly charming.  There is a self possession and guile about her that is totally missing in women today and seems a bit over the top.  She is an avatar for a past culture clashing against a modern mindset that was totally upending society at the time these films were created.  We live in the aftermath of that change and Gloria is a strange character indeed.

The Gestalt session with Perls is startling and disturbing.  Because this therapy is so confrontational, it totally blew apart the structured story that Gloria had created for the film.  As the session develops, we can see the theatrical facade that Gloria hid behind start to crack and reveal a vulnerable woman.  She wants to be liked and protected by Perls, to establish roles and boundaries between them. This is something that Perls adamantly and aggressively refuses to do.  What Perls was trying to force Gloria to realize was that she didn't need to be liked or coddled by ALL men.  However I do think somewhere along the line this aim became muddled as the two devolved into bickering just to bicker.  I've read some commentary that stated that Perls seemed to be dealing with some latent problems that Gloria triggered in him.  That she inadvertently reminded him of his own parents who rejected him.  Indeed, later it was revealed that he played a cruel joke on Gloria by making her hold out her hands to him which he then used as an ashtray for his cigarette ashes.

The Ellis session is also a bit odd.  Since it seems Ellis is coming on to her in some way.  Gloria is frowning during this session not because she is antagonized but because she can't figure out her position in this situation.  Here she is faced with a man who is willing to play a dominant role over her and she does not like it.  This reveals that her words to Perls about wanting to be protected were really just a cultural artifact.  This is what she thinks men want to hear but not what she wants to do.

Ultimately, Gloria preferred her session with Rogers.  Who was both nurturing and an independent sounding board for her.


Yuriko Kajiya as Giselle

I didn't see Yuriko Kajiya when she danced at ABT.  When I started to attend ballet performances again, she had already left the company for Houston Ballet.  By the evidence shown in the following videos, Houston Ballet won themselves a gorgeous ballet dancer and ABT lost out big time.

This clip was filmed in Japan about 2 years ago.  Kajiya dances Giselle's solo.  Just watch her lovely phrasing of the steps that is so musical.  I wish I could see her dance it live.