Category Archives: Dance and the other arts

Ask the button experts on Saturday

 

fall show second photo - Young button collector Elena IbanezSomething fun to do on Saturday — bring your grandmother’s button box to the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) show and sale on Saturday, May 13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s at the Union Fire Company hall, 1396 River Road (Route 29), Titusville, NJ 08560, where there is plenty of free parking.  All are welcome; admission is $2 for adults, free for juniors to age 17.

Here’s another Princeton Comment post about buttons

The Union Fire Company, is at  1396 River Road (at the intersection of Route 29 and Park Lake Avenue in Titusville), opposite the Delaware River and D&R Canal State Park (with easy access to the canal park), a half mile north of Washington Crossing State Park in Hopewell Township, and some five miles south of Lambertville and New Hope, PA. There is plenty of free parking. http://newjerseystatebuttonsociety.org.

In this article in the Hopewell Express,  Carol Meszaros checks out a novice collector’s button jar. What treasures do you have in yours?

 

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Pride and Prejudice review, illustrated

Here is my review of Douglas Martin’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 26, but with the addition of the excellent photos by Leighton Chen.  

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From left: Bingley, Elizabeth, Darcy, Collins, Lady Catherine, Caroline

Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” is set in 1813 Regency England, where passions smolder under the veneer of a determinedly genteel society. As choreographer/librettist Douglas Martin and his team translate that novel, they hit ballet’s sweet spot. Gentility is, after all, basic to classical ballet.

This ground-breaking American Repertory Ballet production, premiered to a packed McCarter Theater on April 21, is a Douglas Martin triumph. No longer do I want to see the movie. Each character portrayed by the dancers is etched in my mind.

Every element of dance theater — character-based movement, mime, juxtapositions, props, exquisitely beautiful designs by A. Christina Gianinni, music played by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, even a surround-sound score of horses’ hooves and birds singing — helps to tell the story.

With no program synopsis, it helps to know the novel that chronicles the unfolding romance involving the witty and judgmental Elizabeth Bennet and the rich and aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy, though some characters are easy to pick out on stage.

Ballet mistress Mary Barton, wonderful as Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, points to the ring finger of any single man in sight and inserts her dithery head-shaking everywhere she shouldn’t.angry mrs b

Kathleen Moore Tovar, formerly a principal with American Ballet Theater, also shows the young’uns how. As Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine, she cuts a skirt-swishing officious swathe, punctuating her snobbish opinions by up-jerking her knee.

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Aldeir Montero, new to the company, is obviously Bingley, Darcy’s genial friend. With his every lunge and leap, opening himself to the audience, he exudes friendliness, in contrast to Mattia Pallozzi, who plays Darcy.

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from left: Bingham, Elizabeth, Darcy, Collins, Lady Catherine, Caroline 

At the ball, contemptuously looking over his shoulder, Darcy clings to himself, with one Napoleonic arm in front, the other in back.

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Darcy stands at the side. Center: Jane and Bingham. 

 

Austap Kymko, as the black-clad unctuous clergyman Collins, oozes himself from one hilarious misstep to another

e and collins but smooths out some of the clumsiness after he marries Elizabeth’s dear friend Charlotte (Shaye Firer).

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Austap Kymko with, from left, Charlotte (Shaye Firer) and Elizabeth (Monica Giragosian)

Gentility does not always prevail. When giddy youngest sister Lydia Bennet (Nanako Yamamoto) runs off with handsome seducer Wickham (Jacopo Jannelli) their bawdy sex scene rips off the veil of decorum and suddenly we seem to be looking at contemporary dance.

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Wickham (Jacopo Jannelli) and Lydia Bennet (Nanako Yamamoto)

When Elizabeth (evocatively danced by Monica Giragosian) refuses Collins, the pragmatic Charlotte literally jumps on his back to claim him.

Mime? Throughout, and often extended into dance. When Elizabeth questions Charlotte about marrying Collins, the friends circle and touch their hands to the brows, then extend their arms out straight, question, answer, question, answer.

Juxtapositions enable insights.

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A vision juxtaposition: Elizabeth reads a letter from Darcy about how he paid off Wickham before, and this scene is visioned in the background.

Charlotte, in a not-so-good marriage, parallels the movement of the eldest Bennet sister, Jane (Lily Saito), who has been moping in a house on the other side of the stage, waiting for a suitor who does not arrive.

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Kathleen Moore Tovar, as Lady Catherine, attempts to kick away any attempts to pour her tea.

And an incident with a prop, a teapot, shrinks a storyline when Elizabeth outwits Lady Catherine, who has determined that Elizabeth will not be the one to pour her tea.

Scenic projections and costumes were beyond splendid. One that helped the story line was the headpiece of Caroline Bingley, which made a tall dancer (newcomer Erikka Reenstierna-Cates) an even taller and more formidable opponent to the success of the Bennet women.

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Erikka Reenstierna-Cates as Caroline Bingley, has designs on Darcy (Mattia Pallozzi).

There is much excellent dancing in this 140-minute ballet — lots of women on stage at one time, and many chances for men to do double turns and land on one knee.

Music was by composers that were Austen’s favorites (U.S. 1, April 19). Each worked well for that particular dance and was vibrantly played by the PSO, directed by John Devlin. They did not build to the kind of climax that comes with Tchaikovsky ballets, but at moments of high emotion Martin inserted duets by Schubert or Mendelssohn, played by pianist Jonathan Benjamin with either cellist Michael Katz or violinist Grace Park.

The dramatic climax comes, of course, when Jane and Elizabeth get their men. Jane’s longed-for pas de deux with Bingley is simple joy — quick quivering beats with gentle lifts and expansive arabesques.jane dance caption

Elizabeth, in contrast, has spent most of the evening rejecting Darcy. Conflicted, he rarely offers open gestures and his first proposal is, literally, backhanded. With his back to the audience he twists himself into saying, in tightly gripped movement, that he loves her in spite of himself. She flounces off. Then, when she is devastated by the Wickham scandal, Darcy signals his desire to help with an expressive leg movement — an open rond de jambe — and sets out to fix the situation.

e and himUpon his return, as she stretches arms-wide in longing, he catches her in mid air, and she curls her head on his shoulder in delight. Again, she stretches to the nth, and curls around him. best end.jpg

The once haughty Darcy lies down behind her, his head by her knee, in an act of obeisance, and the audience erupts in applause.

(Addendum: In this video of a rehearsal, the first bit is Elizabeth dancing with the dastardly but charming Wickham. In the second, she dances with Darcy after she loves him. In the fourth scene Caroline obnoxiously separates Elizabeth from Darcy.)

 

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Douglas Martin’s Triumph

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Rarely do I venture out of retirement to write a dance review, but a gaping hole needed to be filled. American Repertory Ballet premiered a full-length ballet about the classic novel “Pride and Prejudice,” and the arts editor of U.S. 1 Newspaper, Dan Aubrey, said “We need to review this” so here it is. 

If given more space, I would more strongly emphasize that if you like to know what is going on, you need to study the book carefully. So much happens between so many people that it’s hard to follow. I am not a student of Austen, had not paid attention to any of the pre-event publicity, and barely had time to scan SparkNotes and it wasn’t enough. I’d have done better looking at the pictures, on ARB’s Facebook page, of the characters in costume — as pictured above, the Bennett family in the second scene, Mr. Bennet brandishing the invitation to the ball. In the first scene he visited Bingley and Darcy to obtain it. You’d have been quite puzzled by that scene if you didn’t know the story.

Also hard to fit in the assigned space — the real joy of watching these dancers liberated from tape by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. The production values were fabulous.

For a similar opinion, here is Robert Johnson’s review. 

 

Listening to the Liturgical Year

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Hyosang Park directs the combined choirs and a chamber ensemble at PrincetonUMC

In a NYT article, Choral Music is Slow Food for the Soul, composer Nico Muhly has wise observations about how “the choral tradition operated in a series of interlocking cycles based on the liturgical year, with the music and the musicians playing a role in a larger drama.” Rather than expecting applause, church choir singing is  “meant for worship…to be heard in a state of quiet meditation.. to guide the mind out of the building into unseen heights and depths.”

Muhly’s essay is meant to be a paean to Andrew Gant’s book O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church MusicFor me, it’s an affirmation of how — week after week, sitting in a church pew, listening to the Princeton United Methodist Church’s Chancel Choir — opens up my spiritual horizons. I am also inspired by the special music offered during Holy Week.  This year Hyosang Park directs Anton Bruckner’s Requiem on Good Friday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m.,

As Muhly points out, live concerts of liturgical music follow the calendar.  He finds himself “looking forward to a work’s annual visits as I would the arrival of a long-distant friend.”

Other notable choral concerts of the season — the Brahms Requiem by the Voices chorale on April 8, the Princeton Theological Seminary Choir on April 22, the Bulgarian State Women’s Choir on April 17.

Choristers — and attentive listeners — will agree with Muhly, that the liturgical tradition of choral music brings  “sharp pangs of nostalgia, followed by a sense of gratitude that this tradition has been such an important part of my musical world.”

FYI: At Princeton United Methodist Church, the Chancel Choir, directed by Hyosang Park, sings at the 11 a.m. worship service. Tom Shelton directs the Youth Choir (at 9:30 a.m. on first Sundays) and the Children’s Choir (at 9:30 a.m. on second Sundays). The Handbell Choir, directed by Park, plays at both services on third Sundays, and a contemporary ensemble plays at both times on fourth Sundays. Everyone’s welcome to — just listen. 

Not a New York State of Mind

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Image from Columbia Journalism Review post “Beyond the Parachute: Newsrooms rethink centralized model” Feb 26, 2017, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

Geographic diversity is connected to something crucial re what journalists need: audience trust in their work. The Columbia Journalism Review takes a hard look at how coastal newsrooms ignore middle america in this article.

When reporters “parachute in” to cover a story, they are likely to miss the nuances.

“Often people outside of these major city bubbles see themselves depicted in print and on television in a sensationalized way, without any nuance,” says a journalist who lives in South Carolina.“The thought is ‘well, if they’re getting depictions of us wrong, what else are they getting wrong?’

We in Princeton recognize that everybody thinks New York is better.Where do we go when we are really sick? What newspaper do we need when we really want the truth? Here is the Saul Steinberg cartoon about that self-effacing city, followed by two journal items inveighing against New York-centric viewpoints.

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Saul Steinberg “Ninth Avenue” cover for the New Yorker, March 29, 1976

 Journal item #1 : I lived outside the New York sphere when I worked as a freelance dance writer in Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh. For dance critics, even those big cities are considered boondocks.  A New York critic’s move to Philadelphia drew condolence letters.

To survive, vampires need blood; dance critics need to see and review dance, and New York is the best place to do it.

Back then, to qualify as a voting member of the Dance Critics Association, you had to have had a review published in a print newspaper during the previous year. Features (advance stories based on a critic’s experience with previous performances) didn’t count.

Fine for New Yorkers and big city papers, but in the boondocks, few newspapers would print reviews. I brought this up so often that I got to be known, somewhat affectionately, as the “lady from Philadelphia” even when I lived in Pittsburgh.

Journal item #2: Reporters treasure good sources. Reporters from small papers — from areas unknown to the “big city guys” — particularly treasure sources that respond with the same attention and respect that they might give to a Washington Post or New York Times reporter.

How I ran across this CJR story was because I follow the path of a former assistant managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Richard Tofel, who always made himself available when I was a reporter at U.S. 1 Newspaper. (We weren’t a boondocks paper — we delivered to the Dow Jones building on Route 1 North, but it was still gratifying to always get a return call.)

Tofel is now president of the Pulitzer Prize-wining nonprofit newsroom, ProPublica. It’s expanding to Chicago. Not exactly the boondocks, but at least it’s not New York. ProPublica offers a new model for investigative journalism. Whether that comes from New York or the boondocks, we need that now.

To Pro Publica, you can contribute information. You can also contribute money.  And if you care about the future of journalism, subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review. 

 

 

 

 

 

They sold a thousand tickets —

— to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir tonight.’

estonianIt’s in the Princeton University Concert series usually held in Alexander Hall, but, ever-so-appropriately, the venue for the choir is the Princeton University Chapel.

After years of enjoying Janell Byrne’s choreography to the work of Arvo Part “the uncrowned king of Estonian music,” I’m looking forward to hearing his choral work in that Gothic cathedral space.

Here is the program.

Though the ‘regular’ tickets are sold out, there are ‘obstructed view’ seats available and who cares about the view? But the snow will discourage some, and concert series director Marna Seltzer suggests “likely you will be able to move to a better seat.”

With its riches of Westminster Choir College and the American Boychoir, Princeton is a singer’s town. Next weekend we’ll welcome 800 singers from all over the world for a choral festival, “Sing ‘n Joy Princeton.” Trinity Church hosts a “Friendship Concert”  on Friday night, February 17, and Princeton United Methodist Church hosts a concert on Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m. It’s free!

3 p.m.  – Friendship Concert – Princeton United Methodist Church
• ChildrenSong of New Jersey (Haddonfield, NJ, USA)
• Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Universitas Sumatera Utara (Sumatera Utara, Indonesia)
• Liberty North High School Choir (Liberty, MO, USA)
• Shanghai Jiao Tong University Choir (Shanghai, China)
• Vassar College Majors (Poughkeepsie, NY, USA)

Take part in the joy!

 

Marathon Singing Today

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For anyone who appreciates outstanding music, please join the community at Nassau Presbyterian Church (at the top of Palmer Square) anytime from 11 am Tuesday, January 31 (yes, that’s today) to 11 am Wednesday, February 1. Westminster Choir College is one of Princeton’s crown jewels, and we cannot afford to lose it to the Lawrenceville campus of Rider University. The musical equipment, the recital rooms and even the culture simply cannot be duplicated in another location.

There is no cost to attend, and you won’t be asked to do anything but enjoy — John F. Kelsey. 

Here is the back story: 

Marathon Performance To Save Westminster Choir College’s Princeton Campus 

Hundreds of performers including dozens of choirs, prominent opera voices, quartets, organists, pianists, students, alumni and other members of the music world who support Westminster Choir College will hold a 24-hour marathon choir performance on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 11 a.m. at the 180 year old Nassau Presbyterian Church located at 61 Nassau Street in Princeton. The performance will last through Wednesday morning.

The marathon performance will be held so the performers, who will come from throughout the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia areas, can show their opposition to Rider University’s plan to close Westminster Choir College’s Princeton campus and consolidate all students onto the Lawrenceville campus. It is being considered in order to avoid a possible $13.1 million deficit by 2019.

“The announcement has outraged current Westminster students, parents and alumni because the historic Princeton campus is unique in the world in preparing performing artists for the rigors of concert halls, classrooms and recording studios,” the Coalition to Save Westminster College said in a release announcing the event. “Over the last 90 years, Westminster Choir College choirs have performed with premier orchestras and conductors, welcoming the likes of Arturo Toscanini, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Mazur, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.”

Rider University first announced this possibility in December. After that, the coalition was formed. Additionally, a change.org petition that has launched, known as Keep Rider University’s Westminster Choir College Campus in Princeton Open, and there is a Keep Westminster Choir College in Princeton Facebook group.

Earlier this month, the coalition made its case to the Princeton Historic Preservation Committee that the Princeton campus is worthy of historic designation.

“At a time when arts, music and theatre programs are being threatened across the United States, this ninety year old institution which has trained many of our nation’s leading artists cannot be allowed to become a victim of the accountant’s balance sheet,” the coalition said in its statement issued this week. The final decision, expected next month, may come at a later date.

Please do not respond to this…but attend if you care about music.

Very sincerely

John F. Kelsey, III

 

 

Hinted accusation?

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Gioacchino Rossini, composer of “The Barber of Seville” in 1815

First a mere insinuation, just a hinted accusation, slowly growing to a rumor, which will shortly start to flow.

What began as innuendo Soon is swelling in crescendo; Gossip turning into scandal, Stopping nowhere hard to handle… 

Those lines were written 200 years ago for Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” illustrating how to use slander or calumney (calunnia, in Italian) to ruin a rival’s reputation.
pretty-yende
I saw the fabulous South African coloratura Pretty Yende in this opera at the Met today and couldn’t help comparing compare the aria The Art of Slander, sung by Basilio, to “alternative facts.” And to the Tea Party’s slandering of Obama. And to “fake news,” like what inspired a guy to bring a rifle to a DC pizza parlor.
Other writers have been noticng the same thing.

From the start of Obama’s administration, there were rumors he was a Muslim, not an American citizen, that he was a racist, and worst of all, a socialist. These rumors were repeated and used to fan the fire of the ill-will of people who were quite legitimately upset with what had happened to the country. However, the calumny was used to target a president who had nothing to do with what got us here, and it has been used to fan the hatred against him, disrespect him, and do the absolute opposite of what he’s trying to do to fix the economy. All in all, it’s quite cynical.

Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum all must have have taken a lesson from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. (From the Musical Almanac). 

This exciting production continues at the Met through February 11. Here are the complete lyrics and here is the video of Samuel Ramey in Rossini’s “La Calumnia” Start at Minute Two.

What can we do in the 21st century to keep calumny from being effective?

Reports and Antidotes

 

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“Reconciliation by Vasoncellos. Photo by Martinvl, couresty Wikimedia Commons

 

On the way to the dentist, outside the Princeton Ballet School studio, I encountered a distraught dancer. She said she can’t stand to listen to the news but needs to know what’s happening. So — Susan — this is for you.

Keep up with what’s happening without depressing yourself.  By limiting your news to weekly reports,.you can safely plug your ears to most of the noise, for the sake of mental stability, and still not miss everything.

Think Progress.org promises to summarize all actions taken in the White House every Friday. The snark content is milder than my Twitter feed. It ends with a delicious segment from Samantha Bee.

Politico also offers weekly emails, for the White House and for New Jersey.  They are a roundup of this digital news organization’s  reported stories — more information but more overwhelming.

Online, Washington Week, even without Gwen Ifill, helps me see the big picture without triggering stress.

Mental stability?  Here is a “how to” article on how to achieve it, “Finding Healing and Peace in a Polarized Political Climate.”  It’s from the national organization of the United Methodist Church to which I belong. 

Many of the same hints come from a just-published blog on Medium, by Mirah Curzer, titled “How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind: Self Care Lessons for the Resistance.

  • Spend a significant amount of time not thinking about Trump and all the work that has to be done. Do not get used to Trump — get away from him.
  • If you want to be effective on anything, pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them. Let the others go.
  • Resolve to do something small every day, without fail. Play to your strengths. Make activism fun.
  • Take care of yourself: exercise, sleep, time with friends, get outside. “Make your bed. Seriously, it takes like two minutes max and makes such a difference.
  • Oh, and call your mother, if you can.”

All this said, it’s hard not to check my Twitter feed.