Sunday, November 28, 2010

Delightfull Drosselmeyer, Flawless Flora, Priceless Peacock and the Captivating Clara - PNB's Nutcracker sets the bar at the horizon....

"Delightful Drosselmeier, Flawless Flora, Priceless Peacock and the Captivating Clara - PNB's Nutcracker sets the bar at the horizon..."

Pacific Northwest Ballet's


Choreography: Kent Stowell
Sets & Costumes: Maurice Sendak
November 26th - December 27th

The Northwest has several things during the holiday season that people flock to see. Our wonderfully lit Space Needle and Seattle Center, the our snow capped mountains that can be seen clearly on a gorgeous day, and amazing downtown Christmas Tree and Ice Skating rink - and - one of the most unique and magical productions of the Nutcracker in the United States. Previous director, Kent Stowell in collaboration with "Where the Wild Things Are" illustrator Maurice Sendak created a production that has become, throughout the years, a tradition in the majority of the households in the Northwest. Kids receive tickets under the tree as gifts, families get dressed in their best and make it a holiday family event together.

As a proud Northwesterner, I can say I have been going to see PNB's nutcracker since I was a young child - so off and on for 30 years. However I must admit I didn't truly appreciate the magnitude and magic of it all until my daughter started attending the school and became part of the production last year. Now, spending the majority of my life in the halls of the PNB School - we have the honor of watching the company dancers practicing for upcoming shows etc - and in time, we get to know them by name, and have created favorites.

Our family tradition, though rather new - is to see our daughters opening night - still full from Thanksgiving dinner - with my visiting in-laws from Florida. We make it their Christmas presents for the year (as GOOD seats are pricey but very worth it). The company cast isn't announced until the week before opening weekend, so its really luck of the draw as to who you have performing the night you see it. Overall - Peter Boal has a lovely and extremely talented group of company performers, so whoever you see, you are sure to get a good show.

Now -- that being said -- I am CONVINCED - we saw one of the best casts I have ever seen - perform together this past Saturday night.

From the prologue - and Uncle Drosselmeier, all the way to Flora and almost every character in between - it was sincerely a magical work of art and proof that the story can touch every age and every heart.

I have seen countless Drosselmeier's in my time - even the artistic director Peter Boal has played him - and no one has played the character quite like PNB Principle dancer and Whim W'him company creator Olivier Weavers. Often seen as the "pot stirrer" of the show, this character, I feel is very important and a huge part of if the audience understands the story or not. Weavers eccentric and excellently animated the roll of the creepy and mysterious Uncle to Clara.

He hilariously bounced around with the same agility and excitement as the children in the scene with him - often times catching them off guard, making for a naturally wonderful response from the children. I found myself finally understanding the dynamic between Drosselmeier and Clara and how his conniving makes what is the essence of the story. I credit this all to Weavers brilliant performance.

Clara - the part every girl dreams of being as a child...was danced breathtakingly by PNB Principle dancer Carla Korbes. Her technique flowed like water and she played the part with every inch of her being. Her Prince - PNB Principle dancer Batkhurel Bold was the epitome of testosterone and strength and was an amazing support for the countless lifts of Korbes - high enough to make little girls in the audience gasp. Unfortunately, like most Prince/Princess pairings, the sparkly princess gets more of the attention - and Carla easily steals the show when they share the stage. Her effortless develope up to her ear, flawless ponche's and ridiculously high and perfect grand jete's - had my grandmother, a ballet mega-fan and aficionado yelling "Brava!!" after each combination.

The children consist of over half of the cast, ranging from party girls and boys, battle attendants, mice, and servants. Arguably the best dance part for ages 17 and under is the part of Chinese girls. The part is for 4 girls, on pointe, and each holding a ribbon helping contain the Chinese Tiger - that looks wonderfully like one of the monsters one of Sendak's books.

The girls, dressed in vibrantly colored costumes have quite a fun but difficult looking dance, considering their ages. This time is was fun to watch because we knew the dancers and because the dancing was so light, fun and well done - the girls made it seem effortless and were beaming on stage. It was tons of fun to watch.

One of the most popular pieces and characters of the show is the Peacock. This part was hard for me to warm up to at first - as I was a fan of the classic tale - which instead of a Peacock was "Arabian Coffee". I was not won over until I saw this role danced last year - by PNB Soloist, Lindsi Dec. We were lucky enough to see her dance it again this night. She embodied the persona of the Peacock and had the perfect attitude, along with the amazing extension of her legs and arms to really transform herself into the character. I looked high and low for a photo of Linsdi in this roll but came up empty handed, but here is a photo of another PNB Dancer in the roll so you can see the costume.

Lastly but certainly not least is Flora - the lead dancer roll in the Flowers section. Flowers is known in my family, after the Snow scene - as one of the easiest parts to be lulled to sleep during. Every dancer I have ever spoken to who has had to dance that lead says its the hardest women's part in the entire show, because of its length and difficulty. We were blessed enough to watch PNB Principle dancer, Carrie Imler as Flora this night and she was beaming and flawless. Her strength is a force to be reckoned with in that company and her technique never waivers. Our entire family talked over dinner after the show, and we all came away with the same thing after her performance - she seemed RADIANT and so happy! Its always amazing watching someone talented do something perfectly and love every minute.

I hate to leave out the other parts - as every piece of the show is memorable in its own way. Act I is full of lovely small solo's as part of Drosselmeiers enchanting magic - the Doll, the Sword Dancer Doll and of course the Masque dancers.

And of course no Nutcracker would be complete without the Snow flakes - who close Act I, so magical, the dancers float as if on air.

Every family's holiday traditions are different, however this production is the type of event I can see all types of families and religious backgrounds making part of their holiday tradition. No matter how long the show has been around, I always meet someone who has never seen it but always wanted to. Peter Boal has pieced together such a strong, diverse and amazing company, that virtually ANY show you see will have wonderful and amazing dancers in it. They say that you are only as strong as your weakest link - and there are over 150 parts in this show. Living, breathing and dancing parts from age 6 all the way up to Grandfather age! Thankfully, Peter Boal has just as high standards for his school aged dancers as his company dancers, because class, maturity and professionalism radiates from everyone in the cast.

No matter who you treat to the Nutcracker this season - daughter, son, sister, brother, parents, grandparents etc -- it is sure to be more than just a treat, it will be an experience they will never forget.

Rating: ***** - Excellent all around!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Men In Dance - La beauté des hommes (The Beauty of Men)


8th annual Festival

October 8-10 + 15-17, 2010

I entitled this La beaute des hommes (The Beauty of Men) because it is what this entire performance embodied. Everything you have always loved about Men. Think of every man in your life. Your father, son, brother, uncle, grandfather, best friend, lover....these pieces show us every side of Men we love.

Instead of picking the pieces that I felt were the strongest - I decided to touch on them all - because art is subjective to each of us - and this event was so touching as a whole, I refuse to take away from any choreographer by judging what may be better or worse in my opinion. We must each see it through our own souls and let the art guide us.

Piece #1 - Small Spaces - Choreographer Alia Swersky w/the dancers.
As we walked into the theater - bought our tickets and walked into the main lobby- we were immediately halted by improvisational dancers who were using the lobby space as their stage. They had combinations of tumbling, flowing pieces and soft improvisational mumbling that made you just stand and stare. They used each other as parts of a puzzle, intertwining and weaving like a piece of fabric. We made our way to our seats as they danced - thinking their show was over. As we sat and read our program - my daughter exclaimed "Mom - they are dancing down the isles!". Just as she said that - all 5 dancers collected to the front of stage on the left right where we were sitting. The first dancer drew a line with his finger and said "This is my space." and then soon the rest of the dancers vocalized where their "spaces" were (one saying his looked like Nevada ahah!). Directly in front of me - there was a Space - where it seems there used to be a seat, that was removed. One dancer picked this as his Space. He stood inches from me - expanding his movements within his space, as did all of the dancers. At one point he looked at me and said "I would like to take this moment to let you know you have a great bag". It was hysterical. Towards the end of this humorous piece - the new dancer friend I had made - was in the fetal position on the ground next to my feet. He proceeded to stealthily grab my bag, he had so admired earlier - and slowly hid it between him and another dancer as they made their way out the door, on the floor - with my bag! It had us in stitches and then someone said "Reverse" they all reversed their movements and my purse was returned as comically as it was taken! These men had a great way of creating their own world and letting us be a part of it. A wonderful way to start the show.

Piece #2 "15 to 20" - Choreographer: Cheryl Johnson
The curtain opened. A youthful drummer with a snare drum sat stage left "He's cute!" my daughter exclaimed. I quickly told her to Shhh and that I'm SURE that was not going to be the last time she said that statement during this show. 3 young men entered the stage - and it was clear quickly they were tappers. They were energetic but quietly sweet compared to most tappers I have seen. They were minus the hoots, hollers and grunts that you sometimes experience. They had several solos and then combined synchronized pieces that were a pleasure to watch. The youngest - (I assumed) with glasses was quite adorable - almost seeming like the "Annie" of the bunch. His awe of what he was doing and the audience watching with baited breathe - made me chuckle. To watch a youth with so much innocence and happiness dance, it was awesome.

Piece #3 - Cypher - Choreographer: Barry Kerollis
3 dances - all from Pacific Northwest Ballet. The choreography had them all following in a circle/cypher. All men - bare chested (yes it sparked another breathy comment from my hormonal teen) in black shorts. This piece exemplified Strength for me. All men showed amazing strength in their jumps, their ability to keep the time within the cypher and their ability to assist each other. I always am amazed when men partner in dance, because it has to be so much more difficult. These three artists made the entire piece look like cake. Barry obviously chose these men for specific abilities that complimented this work - because they all meshed together beautifully.

Piece #4 - Hillside - Choreographer: David Lorence Schleiffers. My synopsis - male dancers and how they are constantly running to and from everything in their lives. My first thought was "interesting", however then I began to see between the lines. I saw relationships begin and fail during the daily "running". I saw the humor of those people we let pass us by as we are running to and from things. I saw the ability of the performers, to create one fluid piece that had so many connected moving parts. It was what a dark comedy would be if translated to dance. I need to watch that one a few more times to really GET it. I was left intrigued and wanting to talk in depth to the choreographer and pick his brain as to how close my ideas were...

Piece #5 - Breath of Light - Choreographer: Wade Madsen. Two words. "Mature Love". The lights rose to two men. This was the first real costume I loved. These two men, looked like bronzed male Gods. My daughter quickly proved the fact by saying "The one in the short sparkly gold shorts...GOOD LORD, his lines are unreal...". Aside from her teen aged gasps, I agreed totally. These two men perfectly displayed the maturity of a seasoned love. The intimacy, the pantomime of each others movements without the need for touch - but the touch was in the mind, you saw it as the energy between them. The tests, trials and disappointments you have to overcome in every long running relationship - was painfully evident. It was truly like watching two men underwater at times for me. Their fluidity and the amazing lines they created was magical. Wade Madsen showed his maturity as an artist and as a man who has loved and lost. It was one of two pieces that left me with little to no words.

Piece #6 - Me Over You - Choreographer: Eva Stone. Using the famous Female Diva piece "Pas De Quatre" - Eva brilliantly translates this classic estrogen filled, diva-esque into what would have been the perfect comic male version. All men - clad in white, one even strutting around in a white tutu. I was impressed at the amount of commitment with both their dancing and their commitment these men had. One dancer, who had shorts on - was especially humerus. There was nothing "safe" about any of his solos - he took every line and movement to the teetering edge. I appreciated the absolute abandonment these guys had - diving into the Diva roles of original dancers, Gahn, Grisi, Cerrito and Taglioni. This piece - was surprisingly long but lovely and had quite a bit of technical difficulty, peppered into the comical portions - that created wonderful bursts of laughter and chuckles from the audience.

Piece #7 - Ascent - Choreographer and performer: Jason Ohlberg. One word. BEAST. Jason is a beautiful beast of dance. His ability to show strength but vulnerability in one movement was amazing. This piece said so many things to me, but what stood out was the brute strength that comes out of overcoming pain. He was so involved in the journey of the peice - it was almost as if whatever inspired the creation of the dance, he relived everytime he performed it. He filled the stage with such brute strength, at points it even overflowed. The tests and tribulations in this piece were so evident but so severe it almost left me afraid to ask why...

Piece #8 - Monster - Choreographer: Olivier Wevers. It seems I have been on a role with this One word exclaimation thing so here it goes. This piece left me officially SPEECHLESS. Thats right, it took me a good bit to find words for this piece. Unlike me, my daughter had plenty of words throughout the performance like "Lucien is my new favorite dancer" and her ending statement:"That is the best piece I have ever seen in my life". From the mouth of babes. The piece was an excerpt of a 3 part series that will premier in January with Olivier's new company Whim W'Him. The piece explores the different "monsters" we encounter at times in our lives. Just before the dancers began - a voice came over the speakers and stated that the following dance was dedicated to the families of the youth that took their own lives as a result of bullying against homosexuals. This touched me deeply because my brother took his own life in a similar situation - so at that point - "they had me at hello". The two dancers had grey shirts (much to my daughters dismay lol), blood red shorts and matching socks. The simple but dramatic costumes really made the piece complete. Both men used the subject matter and choreography like veterans, when neither seem to be pushing even 25. I read a dancers review ( where he reviews the same show and said he would like to ask Lucien "how it feels to have super strong, obedient legs". I laughed when I read that because its true. When I watched this piece - Lucien especially made me think, for a split second, that I could dance. For a fleeting moment he shares the exhilaration with you. But the moment I dreamily saw myself doing a perfect Develope (Carla Korbes-esque) - I was jarred back to reality the first time the dancers used their hands to hide their faces. That was the part that kept making the entire piece so real to me. How tragic is it to have to hide what you are, what or who you love - because you live in a world that refuses to let you be who you are? This piece was a constant struggle between these two men, trying to find themselves, helping each other but then hurting each other - each at one point had a moment of aloneness that was excruciating. I must emotionally prepare myself for the other two Monsters that Olivier has up his sleeve...

Piece #9 - Carveresque - Choreographer: Donald Byrd. I know I have only mentioned a few dancers - which doesn't seem totally fair - however I must announce that the PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal was the solo dancer in this piece. First of all - we went randomly to this show - not with an agenda to see any one person - and we certainly weren't aware this piece was part of the show. The 40 something retired NYC Ballet dancer stood stoic on the stage in loose fitting jeans, a T-shirt and athletic shoes. My daughter - stunned to silence. This is the director of the Ballet school she attends. This is the man she hopes to one day DANCE for in his company. She talks about him like "the all powerful OZ" at times - it makes me laugh. So this was a defining moment. To see this person she held with such regard - dance. I didn't know who to watch - Peters dancing or Madison's reactions! The art of Donald was a lovely mix of modern lyrical steps mixed with Peters strengths - classic ballet combinations - and they complimented each other greatly. Peter Boals porte bras are flawless even in his retirement. The placement of his head, chin, neck, breastbone, and arms - are just textbook. It was like a classic Balanchine dancer in jeans! All at once my daughter was able to put together what her teachers are drilling into her about the upper body presentation and how important it is. Overall - it was inspiring to see him dance and impressive to see he still had it.

Piece #10 - Frattura - Choreographer: Deborah Wolf. 5 dancers in dark red velvet pants poured through an open space in the curtain. The piece had a reoccurring pushing and pulling action that gave it great depth. The first thought that came to mind with this piece is that of a third eye. I felt as though it was a very spiritual journey. At once point it almost seemed like each many was a different stage of one man - and with each movement, constantly evolving. The music was was simple and striking. A beautiful ensemble of men overall.

My recommendation - see and support this program. It shows again this weekend - however not all the same pieces are showcased. About half of them are and half are new!

Rating: ***** - a gorgeous display of Men in Dance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fourth Kind - Fact or Fiction, it gets the job done

The Fourth Kind
Directed by: Olatunde Osunsanmi

What job did this movie get done? Let us review.

1) It made me think
2) It scared the living shit out of me
3) It made me not want to visit Nome, Alaska...ever
4) It made me question what was real and what wasnt.


This movie starts out oddly. Milla Jovovich (who plays Dr. Abbey Tyler) addresses you, the audience, as herself and not her character. She basically gives you a warning. She warns the viewer of what you are about to see, and also warns us that your reality will be questioned. She urges you to have an open mind and not to listen to others and to come to your own conclusion.

The movie, from that point on had my attention. Putting ANY doubt in my mind that it COULD be real...that opens a whole new thing for me.

The movie is set in Nome, Alaska - which has the top number of missing persons of any city in Alaska. The movie follows Dr. Tyler in a series of sleep studies on Nome residents, who all report having similar side affects and visions. Abbey realized soon that these visions are not sleep related and decided to dig deeper into the subconscious of her patients to find answers.

With every main character and especially if they are psychiatrists, they have a tragic back story. Dr. Tyler is no different. Throughout the movie we see flash backs and video of her loosing her husband.

Speaking of flash backs and videos - thats really what makes the movie. This is not just a movie of actors re-enacting a story. This movie is brilliant in the way it puts the "REAL" footage in a split screen next to the movie version. You have NO idea how creepy that is/can be - until you see it first hand. The craziest parts were the videos from her sessions with her hypnotized patients. If I say any more I will ruin it. Just prepare yourself. Ms. Jovovich was not lying when she said that some of the video was "Very disturbing".

The actors all were great in the movie. Milla was almost convincing, however I felt she could have given just a bit more in the shocking scenes. I would have been much more shaken, however that also added to the mystery of it all.

Will Patton and Elias Koteas were both great support for Jovovich but never I felt really dove into the parts as the real character would have. Part of it was I guess having the "real" characters as well in the movie, you were able to compare.

The end of this movie is as startling as the rest of the movie. It caused me to immediately google the details and try to indeed find out what was fact, and what was fiction.

I will let you decide....and share with me your thoughts after you watch it for yourself.

Rating: **** starts - near perfect horror flick/documentary

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Steelhead Diner - Worth the wait, minus the Huskers

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine Street
Seattle, WA. 98101

I am always on the hunt for a good place to take someone for a birthday or to take family from out of town - and so a week before my husbands 36th birthday, I started to ask around -wanting to find somewhere special to take him that was worth the extra cash it may cost per plate. His only preference - he wanted a good crab cake and some GOOD fried chicken, like he would get at his Granny's house.

SO the overwhelming consensus? Go to Steelhead diner. Its a bit pricey but worth every penny. So i visited their site, and after salivating with my co-workers over the online menu - I conveniently found the place to make online reservations.

Friday night came a long and our close friends double dated with us. Turns out it was a downpour - but providentially we found parking literally right out front - so it wasn't too bad of a walk in the rain. For a Friday night at Pike Place - we were lucky indeed.

We arrived about 5 minutes before our reservation time of 7:30. The hostess staff was kind and accommodating, explaining that our table was being cleaned and set and it would be just a moment. When I made the reservations - I made sure to note it was my husbands birthday, so when coming back to check on us - the hostess was even sweeter and said they had a better window table that was about to leave that they would rather put us at and that it would be just 5 more minutes. They were very kind and lovely about the extra wait that it seemed like nothing at all.

When we did get seated - we were brought a lovely basket of mixed breads and a seasoned butter. It was pleasant and the presentation was very pretty, the photo doesn't do it justice.

If you are a drinker - their bar is very extensive and I highly doubt there is anything they could NOT make. For us - the Pomegranate Martini's were lovely.
For appetizers - we had to order the Crab cakes - it was on the birthday boys wish list. We also decided to order the fried cheese curds - we had had them before and were interested to see how they fared here. The appetizers were pricey, the same cost as a meal - so we were a bit skeptical. When they arrived - we keep looking for more when it came to the Crab cakes. Correction, it was ONE Crab cake. For $15?? I was shocked. HOWEVER - it was GIGANTIC and it was the best crab cake any of us had ever had. Huge chunks of fresh crab - wonderful blend of spicy and lightly friend perfectly, not too much oil. It was lovely. Perfect way to start off the meal.

The Cheese curds were also good - not as phenomenal as the crab cake, but a great companion. They came with a light mustard sauce and tartar which both were yummy with the lightly fried cheese bits. They were very rich and you really couldn't eat more than a few.

Our dinner took a bit longer to get to us than seemed normal. It was a Friday night, and they were packed - however it seemed a bit long. We had our appetizers to munch on, and good company so it was forgivable. The only downside was that somehow - some random Nebraska Cornhusker fans found the place and were quite a distraction in my opinion. The Nebraska/Husky game was to be the next day and the fans were all in their teams gear and half way tipsy. With Husky fans across the restaurant - they would throw playful but LOUD banters and BARKS across the establishment. At first it was cute, the third time, chuckleable, and at the end of their meal (the middle of ours) it was downright annoying. I felt like telling them to go find a Red Robin...but then they left, and all was well in the world (until they beat the huskies the next day and I'm sure they raised hell somewhere else as well).

Our dinners came and were WELL worth the wait for every one of us. I had the American Wagyu Kobe Beef Burger. I love burgers and was so intrigued with this special Kobe meat. The waitress explained how special this meat was, with its captivity, its feeding and its location and how its marbled specially. I had to pick up my chin from the floor and wipe the drool to order it. I ordered it medium rare and I must say - I rarely get a restaurant to actually produce that. But they did. The meat was juicy, amazing texture and cooked to perfection. It was topped with sauteed and caramelized mushrooms and onions. The only surprise was the pickle, which I am not fond of - but it was easily removed.

The birthday boy ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken sandwich with a tangy coleslaw dressing. He said it was amazing, the coleslaw dressing was sweet and it complimented the salty fried chicken perfectly. With above average fresh french fries served on the side - the meal was perfect to fulfill his birthday wish.

Our friends ordered the Southern Fried Draper Valley Farms half chicken with creamed Spinach, and the Kasu Marinated Oregon Black Cod, served with Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms,and a baby buck choy and carrot ginger salad.

I watched my friend with the Cod - she ate it with her eyes closed half the time, saying she was enjoying tasting the distinct flavors and that the fish melted in her mouth. It was one of those kinds of dishes that you savor. When the fish was gone, there was a lovely dark broth left and she stole my spoon to enjoy more of it - fearing that putting the bowl to her face wouldn't go over well in this type of restaurant ha!

Her husband had the fried chicken - and said it was amazing. We had gone to Highlife in Ballard for their Sunday friend chicken weeks before and he said this was 10 times better. Not as heavy or greasy. It was served over a rich dark gravy with creamed spinach on the side. The only issue he had was that he would have enjoyed some mashed potatoes with this meal - he said it needed it. So he ordered french fries - which he said helped to make it feel complete. Overall - he said the dish was top notch.

With our bellies full we tried to decide whether or not to have dessert. At one point, while enjoying the full silence one of our friends said "This food is MEDICINAL!!" It was true, we were relaxed and happy. Watching various choices being served to tables around us - we were convinced. Their selection is really vast, considering. There were so many things I wanted to TRY. With such imaginative and amazing choices - my only suggestion to them would be to do small bites or tapas type servings and have a plate where you can order a small taste of them all. But alas - that is the suggestion from a sweet tooth with a never ending appreciation for wonderful and new dessert inventions.

So my friend and I had the Red Haven peach and blueberry crumble, with Cinnamon Ice Cream and caramel sauce. His wife had the Earl Grey tea Creme Brulee and the birthday boy had the Theo Chocolate peacan pie w/cocoa nibs and bourbon chantilly cream. The crumble was scrumptious. Lovely homemade crust - almost like an individual pie. Not too much fruit as sometimes happen.

The creme brulee got mixed reviews. She just kept saying "it is interesting", but no other words - she didn't finish it, so I'm sure it wasn't amazing but rather, interesting.

Finally - the birthday boys dessert. Theo chocolate pecan pie. In Kentucky they make a pie similar to this but its called Derby Pie -and its made during the Kentucky Derby traditionally. He said the pie was wonderful, with big chunks of locally owned Theo Chocolates. He said it was the perfect finishing touch to an amazing dinner. They topped it with a candle - sparred him the goofy singing and clapping most places do - and at the end of the night didnt charge him for his dessert.

The end of the night had arrived and we all were in the first stages of our food comas. A few days before when searching for a good place to have Friend Chicken - a few people also mentioned the King Fish Cafe. We have been there twice and both times, while the food has been great, the service is below average - even teetering on apathy which in my opinion should never be the attitude of people trying to sell a restaurants food and experience.

The Steelhead Diner was leaps and bounds ahead of the rest on the topic of service. Every employee smiled, greeted, the waitress was pleasant, sweet, attentive but also stayed away the perfect amount of time as not to meddle. Many restaurants could learn from this one as far as customer service skills go.

The food - phenomenal - the service - lovely. Total rating ***** You must eat here!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No One Dies in Lily Dale - not easily convinced

No One Dies In Lily Dale
Directed by: Steven Cantor
Documentary - HBO

Do I believe in Ghosts and or Spirits? Yes. Do I believe energies and spirits surround us? Of course. Do I think that there are certain gifted people that can see, feel and communicate with people that have passed and are now ghosts aka spirits? No.

I must say - when I read the title of this film and read its plot I was quite intrigued. I consider myself an open minded person when it comes to issues of spirituality and the super natural - HOWEVER I am quite the cynic when it comes to "certain people" being the only gifted ones able to "see" in these situations.

Lily Dale is a small town in upstate New York - that has the largest number of "registered" mediums recorded. They consider themselves a Spiritual Community. People travel there for readings, tourists go to feed their deepest curiosities and the inhabitants are there to "Answer questions" and of course, profit.

The documentary follows a select group of mediums - follows their daily life and does a bit of background on how they found their "gifts". They have these big open events - kind of like they did on John Edwards shows - you pay a fee, they spurt out a situation that has to get close to someone out of the 100 people know the rest.

This movie had the POTENTIAL to be awesomely intriguing and interesting. Instead it was predictable and almost cheesy. At one point they showed a group of mediums - who said they get together and have a round table reading together so that they can read for each other! They all had their eyes closed and were talking in their soft whispery NPR voices and kept saying things like "Joe, you know your brother has been hanging around..." and then Joe says "Yes I have felt that, thank you Katherine for confirming that for me...". There are even 3 sisters who talk openly about seeing their dead parents in every day life. "You know Joan, mother is waving some hot brownies at you and giggling!" I am not trivializing this - this is the kind of things they were saying to each other. It was too cheesy to be real.

Am I am cynic? In some ways yes! Do i "believe"? Yes I do. I don't think ANYONE should have to pay for such spiritual and sensitive information and that if we all try and hone our skills - we all would be able to have these types of abilities at some level. As babies and children I feel we have these raw abilities and they are slowly suppressed as we grow and mature - to help fit what is "normal".

Almost every Medium in this movie told a customer at some point that their crossed over loved one, "Is at peace and doesn't want you to worry, know that they are fine...". Is that really what all ghosts and spirits think? I know there are angry spirits, and worrisome spirits, and sad and happy spirits. Show me a mad one! I want to see that! Don't just show me the happy stuff - how fake is that!

My rating for this movie is a 3 out of 5 stars. For such an amazing topic - it needed more depth and imagination. I would have liked to hear more into the background of the mediums and heard what death turned on or off their abilities.

My opinion - skip the flick and work on your own skills.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Stoning of Soraya M. - Simply Stunning

The Stoning of Soraya M.
Director: Cyrus Nowrasteh

Staring: Shohreh Aghdashloo, James Caviezel

My first thoughts after seeing this movie. Amazing, moving and utterly horrible. From the producer of the Passion of the Christ - this movie transports you to this tragic moment.

In Southwestern Iran, roughly thirty-five miles outside of the city of Kerman, lies the small village of Kupayeh. In 1986, French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam (played by James Caviezel) found himself stranded in this small mountain town. After walking a ways he finds an old man and basically forces him to fix his car. Everyone seems to be doing everything they can do get him, this foreigner that looks unlike them, to leave as quickly as he came.

Zahra, (Played flawlessly by Shohreh Aghdashloo) who feverishly relates a terrifying village conspiracy involving blackmail, misogyny, and murder. Zahra tells the journalist that she, as a woman in Iran, no longer has a voice and she pleads with him to "take her voice" and tell the world her story.

Zahra is the aunt of Soraya - a young beautiful iranian wife and mother of 4. We find Soraya struggling with a cheating and abusive husband - however because of the religious laws and culture, she was in trouble with the local mullas for not 'LAYING" with her husband.

Mozhan Marno plays Soraya. She portrays such an amazing balance of strength, silence and forced obedience. Mozhan was Soraya and made her so believable. Her horribly evil and decietful husband, Ali was played by Navid Negahban. His performance was chilling. I was scared of him. Honestly I was almost afraid of every man in this film.

The fact that this movie was a TRUE STORY and a COMMON PRACTICE made it that much more heartbreaking. I found myself weeping but not being able to tear my eyes away from the screen.

However, the women in this movie truly were its strength. The powerhouses that were the women during this era in Iran - but at the same time how submissive they had to be. It was a strange dichotomy to watch unfold but also such an admiring thing to witness. These women had their local faith leaders, their husbands, the laws of the land and every other man in their village, against them. "Here a woman must prove her innocence and a man must prove his guilt". That pretty much outlined the entire movie plot. The strength in their eyes, in their tears and in their jaws was mesmerizing. Shohreh was paralyzing in some scenes where she was reprimanding local men for their action, knowing full well her actions were punishable.

So the end of the movie isnt a secret -- its in the title. You know its coming and that it will happen. So I am not ruining anything. What was shocking was HOW it happened and how they played out the moments before and after - that will not ruin. It is done in a way that takes your breath away and may be too visceral for some. You spend half the movie learning Soraya's story and know the moment is coming - however knowing the injustice makes the moment that much more horrible to experience.

For me the REASON she was stoned was so hard to swallow. The injustices against women in that part of the world - even to this day - are hard to believe when you live in America.

I am one of those liberal women who still think women have far to go to be equal in America - but when I see a movie like this, it really gives me some perspective and even if just for a few moments, makes me appreciative of our government, our laws and our freedom.

I have many Persian friends, and the one part of the movie I enjoyed was the Farsi and subtitled and then the small amounts of English that were thrown in. The translation from Farsi to English is humorous at times - words and phrases that are horrible in Farsi arent so horrible in English ("poison of snake") etc.

This movie is a must see for all adults - no children under 15 should see this, in my opinion - the stoning scene is very graphic and emotionally difficult.

Rating: *****

Available on Netflixs instant play now

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ghetto Ballet - a touching story that still shows the brutal side of the dance world

Directed by: Jeremy Simmons
HBO Documentary

The movie takes place in a small township outside of Capetown, South Africa. Labeled as one of the poorest townships in the area - the movie focuses on a handful of youth, trying to break out of township.

A program called DANCE FOR ALL - was started in Cape Town (a bus ride away) and these teens saw it as their ticket out. Dance for All was created in 1991 by white ballet dancer and teacher, Philip Boyd. Boyd wanted to bring change to the segregated ballet culture and to this day teaches 1000 youth from the townships that would not otherwise be able to have the opportunity to take a dance class.
Now you can imagine this program would be overrun with kids if it was just open classes. Once a year they have auditions, to find youth that have rare and raw talent that they can work with. After one year of training, they will have exams and have a chance to be invited to the Youth Company connected to the school and is the stepping stone to a professional company.

This story spotlights on Simbalke, Vuyelwa, Tusili, and Fiona. The film touchingly follows their daily life, where ballet, dancing and a dream of being a ballerina, is the farthest from reality, but that somehow this dream helps them get through their days. We watch their training process and their diet control, which was an interesting part of the story-line. Many of the families don't have a healthy diet because of money - watching the kids try to become healthy eaters with the little they have, it difficult but inspiring.

Without ruining the story - I can tell you the anticipation of the exams and results is almost maddening! A few kids almost become sick - just lamenting, explaining that if they doesn't happen for them, they don't know what they will do. Then I realized that the "cut throat" ballet world was still existent in this movie, and it made me sad. The odds for the average youth in dance to "make it big" is slim to none. The odds for these kids are even less.

At this point the movie started to make me feel a bit sick. I just didn't think it was fair giving the kids a false hope that had little to no benefit for their future.

Then there was the exam scene. I watched Vuyelwa dance and heard her explain how she felt when she danced and realized - anything is possible. Surprisingly during the movie, one of the youth gets pulled out and offered a job with the Cape Town ballet, then BAM, professional career. On the other hand, another one of the youths parents don't like how much time she is spending dancing, they need her help at home, so she quits. One is accepted into the youth ballet, and one is rejected. The rejection was so hard to watch.

The dancing scenes and interviews were done beautifully. Overall the story is touching and inspiring. A great movie for anyone in the dance world or with appreciation for it.

Rating: ****

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Sailfish Bar and Grill - Good when its open...

Sailfish Grill
104 N Lewis St
Monroe, WA 98272

(360) 794-4056

This small, exclusive, upscale eatery has been a fixture in Monroe for atleast the 9 years we have been here. Its a bit pricey but the quality of the food is worth it.

Its a hit or miss finding them open. They have hours posted, but I swear we have been there a few times at a "normal" restaurant hour, and they have been shut up for the night.

We arrived late and there were a few people in the bar. The kitchen is lovely and open so you can see the chef's creating. The staff was sitting at a booth relaxing when we came in. A sweet boy in no noticeable uniform sat us with a smile. For a restaurant that has the kind of food and prices they have, I was surprised to see him in street clothes. I mean literally like pants and a flannel. I guess we ARE in Monroe still, ha.

The menu is small but there are choices - because their specialty is seafood - we opted for the Crab Cakes. They were light and very savory - lots of herbs and the sauce was a great complement.

We both chose pasta dishes for our main dishes. Now for someone who is VERY picky about pasta - their pasta was on the chewy side. It was almost like they tried alittle too hard to make it Aldente.

Flavor-wise both dishes were great. One was penne pasta with salmon in a light parmesean sauce, with grilled vegetables, all topped with freshly grated Parmesean. The other was Linguini with grilled shrimp in a creamy pesto sauce, with grilled vegetables on the side. Both were full of flavor and generous portions.

I have to say - dessert was almost better than dinner. I decided to have their version of Flan and my husband had chocolate chip bread pudding. Both were divine - made with rich creams and served warm.

Most definately in the top 5 best restaurants in Monroe - Sailfish is a must try when you are in the area and feeling like a nicer upscale place for dinner.

RATING" ****

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All Balanchine = All Beautiful

All Balanchine
Pacific Northwest Ballet
April 15-25

"Balanchine was a choreographer of true practicality and spontaneity." said PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal - in the Director's notes for this Season's All Balanchine.

I can only imagine the difficulty Peter Boal experienced in picking 3 pieces from all of Balanchine's work. The 3 he chose - while I had my favorites, were all nothing short of gorgeous, well danced and breathtaking.

Serenade was a beautiful display of the Core ballet and was very pleasing to the eye. Gorgeous white tool dresses, clean classic buns, and long limbs, all very Balanchine. It was then I realized that Mr. Boal had a classic Balanchine company on his hands, and besides Balanchine's original company (NYC Ballet) PNB was marvelously representing the art and the history of such a ground breaking Choreographer.

Serenade reminded me of the joys of spring - with lovely lines - shimmering drops of humor fell like spring rain, a flexed foot here - an off center line there. Just enough to make you cock your head and smile at the lovely risk he (Balanchine) took. The principal dancers that night showed their love for the choreography, rather effortlessly. Its as if I almost saw them SIGH as they danced, happy to be doing a style they loved and literally breathing in and out their talent.

In Serenade 2 artist stuck out the most for me - Laura Gilbreath was astounding. Her extension, her lines and her weighlessness was mesmorizing. I felt like her dancing was light and fast and simply lovely. The other was Ariana Lallone. Going on 25 years with this company - Ariana showed the depth of her understanding and experience of Balanchine. She embodied what I believe he wanted to audience to see and she truly was gorgeous to watch. All of her steps exuded depth, maturity and experience. Both dancers were such a pleasure to watch specifically - and the entire company really did wonderfully as well.

Square Dance - the second piece, was my favorite of the 3. I love the speed and preciseness that Balanchine brought to this work. Rachel Foster and Bejamin Griffiths were the principals in this piece. Not only were they perfectly paired, but I felt they were made for the parts. Benjamin showed such an amazing joy and energy, it was radiated to all around him and to the entire McCaw audience. Rachel Foster was flawless. I have seen her perform several times and have had mixed feelings, but truly this was the best performance I have ever seen her in. She was light, precise, technically superior and amazingly swift in her most difficult role. Her gorgeous smile was testiment to her performance, she knew she ruled the night and she truly earned "Diva" status.

The Four Temperaments was the last piece and honestly I found it a bit slow in parts. Looking back the reason I think is because it followed such a high action and face paced ballet. I would have felt differently, had they been switched in the line up. Still there were beautiful parts. The 3 dancers that stood out for me were Jonathan Poretta, Olivier Wevers and Lindsi Dec. Jonathan shows such amazing power and lines, he often makes me gasp as I watch, just shocking thing things his body is able to do. His intensity during this show was a pleasure to see. Olivier is such a different type of dancer - so soft, wonderful fluidity and an amazing eye for his fellow dancers. He uses his talent to weave (no pun intended) a wonderful painting with the Core that surrounds him. I find myself smiling continuously while watching him dance.

Finally - Lindsi Dec is a true star this season. She has blossomed as an upcoming soloist and has dominated all of her lead roles this year. This piece was no different. Her determination to show perfect lines and effortless choreography is principal dancer material. She is quickly joining the ranks of her fellow dancers, Korbes and Nakamura in becoming a spotlight female in the company.

I have been so impressed with the selection of pieces Peter Boal has chosen for this season - and this truly was a lovely, enchanting and breathtaking way to begin the Spring and almost end the dance season. I am literally giddy with anticipation of the final show in the season - often called The Happiest Ballet in the world - Peter Boal adds Coppelia (June 3-13th) into his wonderfully broad and colorful repertoire. With whispers of Italian designed sets and costumes and choregraphy by Balanchine once again - I have a feeling the NW is in for a ballet they will never forget and flock to see for years to come....

Rating: ***** Excellent and Lovely - go see it this weekend - the last weekend!