Friday, February 28, 2014

Pilobolus at the Strathmore

When I heard that Pilobolus was coming to Bethesda, I had to see them. I knew that the group had started at Dartmouth, so of course I had heard a lot about them. Plus, I had seem some of their YouTube videos, and I thought the show would be really fun.

Well, I have to say I was disappointed. I had thought that the whole shadow-puppet performance was the group's thing. But it must just be one of many pieces they perform, because they didn't do any of that. Hmpf.

Instead, I was subjected to two hours of modern dance. I'm just not a fan on the art form, and Pilobolus gave into every modern dance cliché: epileptic fits, marching around like newborn robots, writhing on the floor, all accompanied by unpleasant music filled with the sounds of beeps, gongs, TV static, and water droplets hitting something metal. How original.

And then there is the nudity aspect. I guess I'm just a prude, but I think people should be able to enjoy the art of dance without having to see naked bodies running around. Again, this is part of the modern dance formula (which to me makes no sense because nudity in and of itself is primitive, the exact opposite of modern). Instead of enjoying the dance, I was thinking about sanitation (their naked butts were rubbing all over the stage) and wondering how many [homo]erotic thoughts are going through everyone else's mind in the room.

And then there was the use of props. The first piece ("Automaton") used mirrors, which I thought would be pretty cool, to give the feeling of many more dancers than were actually present. Perhaps it was because I was sitting in the balcony, but the mirrors did not have that effect. Actually, I felt they had no effect at all, except to occasionally shine a very bright light right into your eyes as the dancers moved the mirrors. And the last piece ("Rushes") involved a bunch of small-sized chairs and a suitcase. Um, what?

There was also too much slapstick humor. I understand physical comedy, but that's not really what I wanted to see. During "Walklyndon," people were running into each other, pretending to have groin injuries, acting as if to slap one another...It was all too childish for me. 

Honestly, it's sad when you go to a live performance, and the most interesting parts are the edited film clips in between each dance piece. The first film ("Pilobolus is a Fungus") was my favorite because it was very scientific, showing fungi growing and x-rays of people eating and a little crawfish running on an underwater treadmill. And "Kites" showed an older gentleman controlling three kites as they flew in the air, synchronized with one another to a piece of music. These mini-movies were more creative than the dance!

In general, I just don't think modern dance is beautiful. It's usually awkward, and therefore awkward to watch. I didn't "get" what the dances were trying to say; I didn't understand the metaphors. So I was simply left watching 6 semi-nude people rolling around stage touching each other. The oddity of the whole thing was proof of the influence drugs had on the creation of Pilobolus in the 1970's. 

Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the hard work that these dancers put into their art form. They are obviously in incredible shape, and they are doing what they love. I just simply don't love the same thing that they do.

So I guess just because something is from Dartmouth doesn't automatically mean I'm going to like it. There's a first.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet

This post in long over-due! Some friends and I went to see the Mariinsky Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center in late January. I had never seen this particular ballet before, and since it is a classic, I really wanted to see it. Plus, seeing any ballet performed by a Russian ballet company is a treat, so I just had to go!

First of all, this ballet company is huge! At any moment I felt like there were at least 20 dancers on stage. This was especially true when there were more than 30 other "swans" on stage; they were like an army of birds! I also enjoyed the traditional costumes, with men in white tights and women in classic tutus (although I will say, I am not a fan of the snow-bunny feathered earmuffs that all ballerinas seem to wear whenever performing Swan Lake. There must be a better way to wear feathers!). The prima ballerina (Alina Somova), though a little too skinny for my taste, was very graceful, and I especially liked her as the black swan in the second act, when she could actually smile (she couldn't smile as the white swan. She was a swan!) and wore a feather tiara, a much better look than the ear muffs. Other dancers I especially enjoyed were the Spanish dancers (Anastasia Petushkova, Alexander Beloborodov, Kamil Yangurazov, and my favorite, Yulia Stepanova), and the joker (Vladislav Shumakov did an amazing job! He had the whole crowd on his side, even with his creepy clown make-up!), not to mention Elena Bazhenova, who played the prince's mother and had incredible stage presence. I loved in Act 3 how there was a mixture of black and white swans on stage, too. All of the dancers' movements actually looks like flying wings or graceful long necks, just like real swans!

The backdrops were incredible, from portraying the castle to showing the lake (with what look like actual reflections!). And there was a screen that portrayed Odette outside of the castle window while the black swan is at the ball, which I thought was a very clever way to show the dichotomy between the two swans. There was also lightening that seemed very realistic! The setting was perfect for the ballet.

But of course with any performance, I have a few complaints. I do not like the use of props in dance in general: I think they make the movements more awkward, and in this case, made it difficult for couples to dance (how are you supposed to dance with someone while you hold a lantern or she holds a tambourine?). And I found the ending to be quite anticlimactic: it seemed so easy for Rothbart to be defeated, just by losing his wing (although I will admit this dancer, Andrei Yermakov, was rather impressive throughout the rest of the night).

But all in all, I loved seeing this romantic love story unfold on stage. I hope this will not be the last time I see the Russian ballet!

Monday, February 24, 2014

WMZQ Country Music Concert

Last Friday, I went to the Fillmore in Silver Spring see a country music showcase sponsored by WMZQ, my local country music radio station. It was AWESOME! All of the singers were really great, and the crowd was so into it, singing along with every song (Shawna from Thompson Square said, "I don't know if it's because it's Friday night or because we're in Maryland, but you guys are awesome!). Here are the artists and songs that I heard.

Joe Nichols
Nichols was the "host" of the night. He is just as handsome in real life as he is in his music videos. He was so much fun to watch live!

Gimme That Girl
Sunny and 75
Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come off
and he sang his own country version of Sir Mixalott's Baby Got Back.


Chase Rice
I saw Chase Rice at the Fillmore in 2013 when he had his own show, but I was excited to see him perform again. But I must say, I was disappointed that he didn't wear white jeans. He is SO fine!

How She Rolls
Cruise (he helped write the Florida Georgia Line song)
Nelly's version of Cruise
Ready Set Roll

 Eric Paslay
I also saw Eric Paslay perform earlier when he opened for the Eli Young Band at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. He, too, was just as much fun to see a second time!

Friday Night
Less Than Whole
Song About a Girl

Craig Campbell
Cambell is not a name I instantly recognize, but when he started singing, I thought, "Oh, I know that song!" I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for his music in the future!

Outta My Head
Keep Them Kisses Comin'

Thompson Square
I think this married duo is too cute! They harmonize very well together, and I'd love to see them again sometime!

Everything I Shouldn't Be Thinking About
If I Didn't Have You
Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not

The group finished the show by singing Family Tradition. All in all, a very fun night!

AND on top of a great concert, a portion of the ticket sales went to support the American Heart Association. The sold out show raised $10,000 dollars for the cause!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My First Broken Bone

So...I went snowboarding for the first time in 3 years last Friday. All day I was doing great; it all comes right back to you, like riding a bike. That was...until the last run. We hit a patch of un-groomed snow, and though my dad was able to make it through, I fell and immediately knew I had hurt my ankle. I was able to make it to the lift to take me down to the base of the mountain, but by the end of the day, I could not put weight on my left leg. I thought it was a really bad sprain, but after a trip to the hospital, the x-rays showed a broken fibula. So now I'm in a very fashionable boot (see photo above) for the next six weeks. Here are some things I've experienced with this issue:

1. Breaking a bone (or at least a small one like this) doesn't actually hurt that badly. Like I said, I thought it was a sprain. The only time I cried was when doctors confirmed that the leg was broken; I wasn't crying out of pain, but out of frustration, knowing that my snowboarding vacation was over and that I'd have to deal with this inconvenience for the next several weeks.

2. This was a whole experience of firsts. I'd never broken a bone, never ridden in a wheelchair or used crutches, never been inside a hospital (except the waiting room with other people, or the day I was born), never been the first person onto an airplane, never worn a funky boot on my foot... There really is a first time for everything!

3. When you can't walk normally, everything takes twice as long to do. The average TV commercial break is not even enough time for a run to the restroom. My mom had to wash my hair as I leaned over the side of the bathtub since I couldn't get the original split wet. I have to brush my teeth on one foot. I can't carry anything in my hands while I'm on crutches (carrying things while walking is probably one of the greatest things about being a biped). I'm essentially a complete invalid.

4. I have to say that, although this happened at the beginning of my vacation rather than the end, the timing is actually pretty good. It's not summer time, when I'd want to wear super-cute clothes and sunbathe. The Olympics are on, so while I'm stuck on the couch, at least I get to see essentially every event (including heats and qualifying rounds). I have an upcoming long weekend, so I'll have an extra day to recuperate without missing work (and perhaps an upcoming snow day, too!). A colleague of mine recently hurt her leg, but is much better, so now I can borrow her nice leg stool to keep my leg elevated.So it could be worse.

5. I do not plan on having this happen EVER again. So I'm milking it for all it's worth. Lots of cooked meals, people grocery shopping for me, doting on me...Yep.

I'm making the best of this annoying situation. But I appreciate your prayers for a quick recovery!