Ashton's Cinderella - Abrera and Gorak

I have to say that ABT needs to perform more Ashton ballets.  The style just seems to suit them at this moment  in time.  Maybe they were all a bit happy to be released from that turgid, pomp and circumstance, dreary Sleeping Beauty production.  Not only that, it seemed as if the whole company wanted to be in fantastic form for Stella Abrera's victory lap as a new principal dancer.

Although I've read that the stepsister roles could be distracting if performed too broad or not broad enough, I think Sean Stewart and Duncan Lyle hit just the right form.  They were an audience favorite from the first moment they appeared.  One of the things I noticed about these characters is that they need a lot of support from the other dancers as a whole.  If everyone plays it too straight then the Stepsisters are isolated and dance in their own ballet.  But if the others camp it up a bit, they fit in right as rain.  Stella Abrera played beautifully into this kind of acting.  She was very light, quick, graceful with an aw shucks demeanor that was very sweet.

Devon Teuscher was a very good Fairy Godmother.  Although the music for her solo was bizarre.  I've never heard it before and it didn't fit in with the rest of the score. Nor did her solo really match the rest of the dances.  It was the only misfire in style for the whole ballet.  Not her fault, she was wonderful, it was just odd.  Newly promoted Skylar Brandt was dazzling as the Spring Fairy.  I loved how she connected all her movements without any choppiness or weird pauses to make a pose.  She will be someone I will watch for in the coming seasons.  Christine Shevchenko was lovely as Summer.  She did have a slight wobble in one of her pirouettes, but with a slight hop she saved herself.  Misty Copeland was a very good Fall.  In fact out of all the fairies I think she was the only one who knew the acting had to be kicked up a notch.  The ballet isn't a straight classical piece, it owes quite a bit to vaudeville and musical theater.  Copeland had a Showbiz Folks! style in her upper body that sold the choreography very well.  The only weak spot was the Winter Fairy played by a last minute substitution, Karen Uphoff.  Unfortunately, I think the role was out of Uphoff's grasp right now.  She lacked the musicality for it, was late in many places and too early at other times.  I also thought she looked as if she was too aware of the musical counts and seemed to be matching pose by pose to certain notes like a paint by numbers deal.  Not only that, she was very tall. So much so that she stood out.  If stood against one another, I swear, Copeland looked as if she would be the same height as Uphoff's belly button.  It was just....well the others looked small and light and Uphoff was a lumbering giant in comparison.  A weird WTF substitute casting decision if there ever was one.  Was Sarah Lane or any of the other newly promoted soloists not available?

Arron Scott's performance as the Jester was another audience favorite as well as the Stepsisters suitors, Gray Davis and Kenneth Easter.

Joseph Gorak, as the Prince, was wonderful.  He has such good form with wonderful lines.  His limbs look as if they go on forever.  He also looked very nice when paired with Abrera.  However he doesn't have the same spark with her that he does with Sarah Lane.  Nor does Abrera have the chemistry with him that she had with Shkylarov.   Also even though Gorak has good technique, it was clear that he was not equal to Abrera.   His partnering skills are still very rough.  At times he looked as if he was a construction worker doing some heavy lifting.  I wonder if he sacrificed a bit of his line for more muscle, he would find partnering just a smidgen easier.  The acting from both was very good and I believed they were two fairy tale characters experiencing love at first sight.

This was a fun production and today's holiday audience really appreciated it.  It was practically sold out with Stella Abrera fans, Misty Copeland fans and ballet fans in general.  I'm glad I saw it and I hope it is revived often.


Logan's Run

It is so easy to dismiss Logan's Run as fluffy kitsch.  Especially since it had the bad luck to be released a year before Star Wars.  But ultimately, it is Logan's Run that has more weighty subjects in one scene than all of Star Wars.  The reason this is missed by so many viewers is because the early special effects, the miniatures especially, were amazing for the time.  Plus it was filled with scantily clad attractive young male and female actors.  The film definitely uses eye candy to hide its difficult nature.

Among its subjects are social engineering, population control, communal living, the fetishization of youth, heterosexuality/homosexuality, euthanasia, child rearing (especially the lack of it).  But its most prevalent message is a society without love and relationships.  The inhabitants of this film's world are the equivalent of Harlow's terry cloth/wire mother surrogate raised monkeys.  These people are without compassion, love and barely know how to create relationships outside of releasing sexual impulses.  And the computer running this society encourages this maladaptive behavior.  The ultimate expression of this isolated, ill socialized society is called the carousel.  Although the characters think the participants will be reincarnated, they are really watching their fellow citizens be systematically mass murdered.  It still stands as one of the creepiest scenes in modern sci-fi.  The movie also strongly implies that it covers up socialization problems of the people, due to lack of mother nurturing, with drugs.

The film's society shows very little work ethic among the people.  The only working people we see are the Sandman, the men who dispose of dead runners, a secretary and a doctor.  We don't know how they are paid.  It seems as if resources are pooled together and everyone is given a portion due to their place in this world.  Judging by the film, Logan is part of the elite and he seems to own a large private apartment.  Do the lesser citizens sleep in communal dorms?

As the film progresses it focuses on the relationships of three characters: Logan, Francis and Jessica.  Although I never caught on before due to being very young when I first saw the film, the movie equates homosexuality and heterosexuality.  Although most people argue it is against homosexuality and deems it maladaptive, I don't see the film this way.  If anything it is very encompassing in its acceptance of sexuality.  Logan's one night stand machine accepts all participants male and female.  It indicates he has had affairs with both sexes.  I doubt if he has had any romantic notions about any of his partners.  His work partner, Francis, seems more advanced in this area.  In that he places great worth in his friendship with Logan.  He recognizes a deeper connection with his friend, even if he has no clear idea of the extent of it.  Jessica is the first person that Logan has any interest in other than sex.  In fact it is clear that he wants her to be his willing partner.  This is different because later in the film Jessica indicates that Sandman can take anyone they want.  It seems that Logan experiences love without even knowing what it is or why.  But clearly, Francis knows because he has already been feeling this about Logan.  As he follows Logan and Jessica's interactions during their "run", it becomes clearer to him.  This is why he reacts with such frenzy at the end.  The problems we are seeing on screen are entirely due to a society that doesn't accept or encourage love.  It isn't against a Logan/Francis affair.  It is against the fact that Francis was not allowed to express love towards Logan.  The connection between Jessica and Logan was entirely unplanned and strengthened by the hardships they experience together.  But during the last fight between Francis and Logan, I believe Logan finally understands his friend, himself, what he feels for Jessica AND what he felt for Francis.  The Logan we see at the end, strengthened by love, is the one who is able to destroy the computer that runs everything.

Although stuck in crazy 70's decor, the film is more relevant now than at the time it was released.  As a society, we mirror the world of this film more than we would like to admit.  We live in a society that fetishizes youth, celebrates illusory sexual experiences and denigrates relationship connections between partners of any sexuality.  This also reveals that we are part of social engineering projects just as much as the people of this fictional world.


Dr. Seward's Diary - July 1st

His spiders are now becoming as great a nuisance as his flies, and to-day I told him that he must get rid of them. He looked very sad at this, so I said that he must clear out some of them, at all events. He cheerfully acquiesced in this, and I gave him the same time as before for reduction. He disgusted me much while with him, for when a horrid blow-fly, bloated with some carrion food, buzzed into the room, he caught it, held it exultantly for a few moments between his finger and thumb, and, before I knew what he was going to do, put it in his mouth and ate it. I scolded him for it, but he argued quietly that it was very good and very wholesome; that it was life, strong life, and gave life to him. This gave me an idea, or the rudiment of one. I must watch how he gets rid of his spiders. He has evidently some deep problem in his mind, for he keeps a little note-book in which he is always jotting down something. Whole pages of it are filled with masses of figures, generally single numbers added up in batches, and then the totals added in batches again, as though he were “focussing” some account, as the auditors put it.

How Dracula managed to enthrall Renfield is one of the mysteries in the novel.  But why Renfield?  It had to have been obvious that Renfield was psychologically disturbed.  Even if he was only contacted for information purposes, there was nothing coherent he would get out of the deluded man.  Unless, he possessed Renfield.  Seward doesn't seem to keep that close an eye on this patient unless he wants to make a note of his latest funny habits.  He isn't even disturbed that Renfield's temperament has slightly changed, that he is interested in taking life and is convinced it gives him special longevity.  But perhaps it is good that Seward was oblivious.  I'm sure Dracula would have targeted him for early disposal.


Congratulations to Stella Abrera! Principal at ABT!

Just a month and change ago, I was able to see Stella Abrera's gorgeous performance of Giselle and maybe a great new partnership with Shklyarov.  At the time, despite the standing ovation,  I was sad that Abrera may not get her due and be promoted.

But I feared too early.  Stella Abrera has finally been promoted to principal at ABT.  I'm so happy for her.  And selfishly, I'm happy for myself to get a chance to watch Abrera in more lead roles.

Sadly not all news was good.  Sarah Lane was not promoted this year.  She is a beautiful dancer and despite small mishaps in the recent Sleeping Beauty (entirely due to awful costumes and bad gaffing tape on the stage), I think she deserves to be a lead.  She has the most beautiful technique and on top of that uncommonly beautiful features.  Who wouldn't want Sarah for their lead?

Of course, I could spend the rest of this post ragging on ABT.  But maybe...(grasping at straws here) there is another reason why Lane was not promoted.  It was also spoken of on ballet blogs that Joseph Gorak was not promoted either.  He has gained much notice recently for beautiful technique and attractive stage presence.  In just the past year or so, he was paired with Lane frequently.  Mainly because they are an attractive couple, dance well together and create a potent mix of romantic and sexual tension.  It can even be seen in this rehearsal picture below:

I recalled reading Merrill Ashley's auto-biography in which she wrote about her disappointing years in which she was not promoted.  Even though she received good notices and was an audience favorite.  She finally discovered a few years later that she was held back not because of ability but because Balanchine liked a group of dancers who grew up in the company together (of which Ashley was one).  He wanted to see all of them ascend to principal status together.  The only thing holding everything back was that one dancer was not developing in the way he wanted.

So I thought, could it be that Sarah Lane is being held back temporarily for Gorak?  Even though their partnership is lovely, Gorak is a few years younger than Lane and not as technically secure.  Lane is still a young woman, it is possible for her to wait an extra year or two in order for Gorak to become her equal.  The question is would Lane want to wait for him?  I would totally understand if she didn't and decided to leave the company.

Other promotions were, unsurprisingly, Misty Copeland.

Also the totally unnecessary promotion of outside dancer Maria Kochetkova.  Who was so ungracious enough to announce her promotion ahead of the company on her own FB page.

Jonathan Harker's Journal - June 30th

These may be the last words I ever write in this diary. I slept till just before the dawn, and when I woke threw myself on my knees, for I determined that if Death came he should find me ready.

At last I felt that subtle change in the air, and knew that the morning had come. Then came the welcome cock-crow, and I felt that I was safe. With a glad heart, I opened my door and ran down to the hall. I had seen that the door was unlocked, and now escape was before me. With hands that trembled with eagerness, I unhooked the chains and drew back the massive bolts.

But the door would not move. Despair seized me. I pulled, and pulled, at the door, and shook it till, massive as it was, it rattled in its casement. I could see the bolt shot. It had been locked after I left the Count.

This is Harker's last day.  In desperation, he climbs the wall again to Dracula's chambers.  The gold treasure is still piled high and covered with dust.  This time he discovers again Dracula lying in a coffin.  This time Dracula's face is covered with blood.  Harker is so frightened by this that he runs back to his rooms.  He did not even consider that the blood on Dracula was his own.  He hears the Gypsies load Dracula's coffin and other boxes onto carts.

The door is shut, and the chains rattle; there is a grinding of the key in the lock; I can hear the key withdraw: then another door opens and shuts; I hear the creaking of lock and bolt.

Hark! in the courtyard and down the rocky way the roll of heavy wheels, the crack of whips, and the chorus of the Szgany as they pass into the distance.

I am alone in the castle with those awful women. Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common. They are devils of the Pit!

I shall not remain alone with them; I shall try to scale the castle wall farther than I have yet attempted. I shall take some of the gold with me, lest I want it later. I may find a way from this dreadful place.

And then away for home! away to the quickest and nearest train! away from this cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet!

At least God’s mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At its foot a man may sleep—as a man. Good-bye, all! Mina!


Jonathan Harker's Journal - June 29th

To-day is the date of my last letter, and the Count has taken steps to prove that it was genuine, for again I saw him leave the castle by the same window, and in my clothes. As he went down the wall, lizard fashion, I wished I had a gun or some lethal weapon, that I might destroy him; but I fear that no weapon wrought alone by man’s hand would have any effect on him. I dared not wait to see him return, for I feared to see those weird sisters. I came back to the library, and read there till I fell asleep.

Harker's time is quickly running out.  He knows that Dracula has posted his last letters home.  He also knows that he will never return home.  Dracula feigns a sincere discussion about Jonathan leaving the castle in the morning.  Harker requests to leave right away but his host tells him the horses and carriage are on another errand.  In desperation, Harker states he would walk.  Dracula is amused at this request and opens the castle doors.  It is only then that Harker remembers the poor peasant woman who was attacked by wolves in the castle courtyard.  He breaks down in fear and tells Dracula he will wait.

In silence we returned to the library, and after a minute or two I went to my own room. The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me; with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.

When I was in my room and about to lie down, I thought I heard a whispering at my door. I went to it softly and listened. Unless my ears deceived me, I heard the voice of the Count:—

“Back, back, to your own place! Your time is not yet come. Wait! Have patience! To-night is mine. To-morrow night is yours!” There was a low, sweet ripple of laughter, and in a rage I threw open the door, and saw without the three terrible women licking their lips. As I appeared they all joined in a horrible laugh, and ran away.

I came back to my room and threw myself on my knees. It is then so near the end? To-morrow! to-morrow! Lord, help me, and those to whom I am dear!


My great new Template!

I was getting bored with my old blogger template.  Last night, I went on a search for a new one, free or purchasable.

There were a lot of options out there, but mostly for Wordpress.  Then I found

This site offers both pre-made templates and personalized designs for both blogger and wordpress sites.  Most of the designs are created with personal blogs in mind in beautiful fonts, soothing colors and lovely, girly icons.

The pre-made templates are beautiful and affordable.  It took me a long time to decide.  But I'm happy with the one I've chosen.

As of now, I'm not sure if I want to move to my own domain, use blogger or switch to wordpress.  When faced with buying a domain and so many sites out there offering hosting...I just can't concentrate on it.  Plus there is the problem of transferring everything to my new site.  So I'm staying on blogspot for now.  Its free and easy plus I'm not a huge, popular blogger anyway.  I don't really need the extra bells and whistles.