Sunday, September 25, 2011
Pacific Northwest Ballet Presents:
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Artistic Director: Peter Boal
Sept 23-Oct 2, 2011
Pacific Northwest Ballet comes out of the gates for its 2011-2012 season like a prize winning show horse with these amazing series of works from England born dancer turned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
The PNB dancers were like refined tools working with Wheeldon's fluid, emotional and mesmerizing choreography. Here are my thoughts on all 4 pieces. We had two friends attending with us that night, one was a virgin to ballets, so this was his first impression and the other had only been to a handful. I will pepper in their opinions as well, because first impressions are important to me.
Carousel (A Dance) was the first up. Principle dancers Seth Orza and Carla Korbes carried this piece and Korbes made it hard to take your eyes off her. The romantic love story between the two was easy for even amateur patrons to feel. 30 some rows back, we could hear Korbes small gasps during the back and forth between the two lovers. Orza, who seems leaner and slimmed down this year (which I saw as a good thing, makes him seem softer), was tender, careful and thoughtful in every movement, I got goosebumps every time he gently grabbed Korbes by her small waist. Their chemistry wasn't electric, but I don't think that's what Wheeldon wanted. It was sweet, soft and cherishing. Honestly its difficult for me to comment on the other dancers, as my eyes followed those two the entire time. My friend who had only been to a few ballets in the past said "This piece was visually so happy and lovely and Korbes was so lovely, she made it seem effortless!".
After the Rain pas de deux with Principle dancers Maria Chapman and Karel Cruz. One word. Unbelievable. A single violin, heart stopping silences between the notes and a breathtaking union on stage. In my few years as a PNB patron and fan, I have been rather indifferent about Chapman, initially because she was out with an injury for an entire season, and upon her return, her roles were few and far between - so getting a taste of her true talent wasn't easy.
She has won me over. Her slim and stacked facility in the nude leotard costume, and amazing arches, made for a beautiful sight. The strong, chiseled arms of Cruz were a perfect match for her, as he seemed to effortlessly partner her with fluidity and grace - he was able to convey power in the silences that was almost deafening and was gentle but present with the small cut body of Chapman. There was a point of the dance where I couldn't tell where Chapman ended and Cruz began, they were so seamless. Overall my favorite piece of the night - it showed not only brilliance on the part of the Wheeldon, but also the caliber of artistry in the seasoned dancers at PNB under Boals direction. My friend new to the ballet said "This one was my favorite, the violins were perfect and the dancers showed SO much control and athleticism, it was unreal.".
Polyphonia was the piece we all agreed was the least enjoyed, mainly the music made it difficult to focus, but a few of the Principle dancers in the piece, Carla Korbes, Kaori Nakamura, the newly promoted Rachel Foster, and Lucien Postlewaite.
The maturity and fluidity of these dancers made them easily outshine the rest. I wish the solo's in this piece would have showcased more of Postlewaite, Nakamura and Korbes - who I feel add more emotion and feeling in their upper body work of dance than the others in this piece.
The final piece of the night, Variations Serieuses - was the only piece I had seen before. Several years back, PNB performed this as a part of a series called Laugh Out Loud. It stuck with me over the years as I have always remembered it. This time didn't disappoint. It is a comedy and almost a parody of the dance world. With exaggerated depictions of characters everyone in the dance community sees on a daily bases - the piano accompanist, the ballet master, the "diva", the male "lead" and the diamond in the rough/cinderella type dancer.
The entire group did this piece justice. Boal/Wheeldon picked the best dancers for the acting parts in this piece. I have always personally thought that there are several PNB dancers that are rather emotion-less when they dance, so I was happy the ones with the acting rolls, could actually act. Major applause for Laura Gilbreath as the "diva prima ballerina" as she showed fuming rage and total devastation brilliantly. Jonathan Porretta was hilarious as the Ballet Master, Seth Orza was funny as the Premier Danseur - however I wonder how much of that was type cast ;) and last but certainly not least, I LOVED Lindsi Dec as the Stage Manager, she ALMOST stole the show in my opinion.
This show has me more than ready to see what Boal and his company has in store for the rest of the season. You have one more weekend to go and see All Wheeldon - get your tickets at http://www.pnb.org/.
Review - **** brilliant piece of work!!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
How to Die in Oregon
Director: Peter Richardson
In the opening scene of this documentary, before we even see the title of the movie -we are made part of a home movie. Your first impression is that we are witnessing a birthday party. Then a tear, an awkward silence and a sad farewell and expression of love to his family, Roger Sagner drinks a lethal potion to end his life, made available to him by Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Before the title even rolls, I am weeping.
The movie follows a number of people, going through terminal and painful diseases - but the focus is on Cody Curtis, a 54 year old married mother of 2, struggling through the final years of liver cancer.
Cody is a gorgeous, silver-haired woman with a bright smile and an amazing family. We meet her as she has set her "date" to die, and we see her daily struggles with this decision. Some days happy to have a time to know when the pain will be over, and rest will be infinite - but some good days where she gardens without pain, makes meals for her family and enjoys priceless time with her children. Those moments she breaks down and wants to cancel her "date" and for a second, thinks because she is feeling better, maybe a miracle has happened, maybe the cancer is gone....
I found Cody not only beautiful and courageous, but also graceful and thoughtful, as she wanted to plan each goodbye special for each loved one, and wanted to make her last hours perfect. She spent time cooking with her son "T", going through her jewelry with her daughter, even going through clothes with close girlfriends.
The relationship that was the most touching to me however was that of Cody and her doctor, Katherine Morris. Dr. Morris was such a sweet, kind and understanding doctor who worked with Cody up until her chosen death and cared for her every need. She explained the difficulties and pains she would have on her way through the process. She was informative but also supportive and nurturing, during what was arguably one of the toughest fights for life I have ever witnessed.
Following her painful decline had an intimate and sweet side to it. I can't imagine the pain this family had to go through, and adding in the cameras and invasive project - I felt at times I was intruding on something very private. Her final chosen death date was handled beautifully I thought. Lovingly, quiet and extremely respectful. If you have any heart whatsoever, it made you realize the humane nature of this choice and why people would choose to take this road to salvage their dignity and whatever quality of life they have left.
The flip side to this issue is also explored. We meet a woman from Washington, who's husband struggled with brain cancer and the Physician assisted Suicide law was not passed here the year she needed it. The movie follows her husbands horribly painful descent and openly displays his severe suffering. Unable to move to Oregon, because you must be a resident for a specific amount of time order to qualify under the law - an amount of time that her husband did not have. The heartache that you feel for this woman and her poor suffering husband, is just horrible.
In the end, besides finding myself weeping and wanting to contact all of my family and friends affect with or by Cancer - the movie also made me want to be part of the fight for this law. To help convince people the importance of this choice and the affect it has on peoples affected and their families. You will never again look at terminal illness the same.
I applaud the families who had the courage and strength to put their life and death on film to help educate the world. I applaud the writers/producers and staff who had such great respect and care when preparing this subject for the worth. They found the perfect balance to both touch the heart, educate the mind and make us want to work for change.
***** = 5 stars - excellent movie that everyone should see
**I dedicate this review to two special friends, 2 sisters - who's dear mother is going through stage 4/5 cancer in 4 parts of her body. You are amazingly strong warriors and your mother is an amazing soul to withstand all she has up to this point. We love you guys so very much.**
Thursday, September 1, 2011
14919 North Kelsey St
Monroe, WA 98272
Living in Monroe - good restaurants are in short supply - so anytime a new place opens, we are not only thrilled but we PRAY that its atleast decent.
This time around, my prayers were not answered. In general, it is my rule to not go to Italian restaurants that either I don't know the name or that I havent heard atlest one family members advice from. On the other hand, I feel the need to direct people to GOOD and Authentic Italian food and would hate for anyone to waste their time and money on something that isnt worth either.
If you follow my blog - you know that I rarely (if ever) write bad reviews, but that I do tell the truth. This review is to inform and to also hopefully educate the restaurants owners and possibly have them make changes toward bettering their establishment.
The decor, menu variety, the staff, all of the topical elements of the restaurant were top notch. I was impressed and hoping it followed through. Even the bread and dipping sauce we were served when seated was above average. Good start!
It went down hill horribly from there.
Our daughter ordered a small pepperoni pizza. Over done, a layer of grease and way overly seasoned crust. We ordered a Margherita pizza and the Tuscanos trio, which was a small selection of Lasagna, sausage filled Canneloni and "jumbo" ravioli.
When the Margherita pizza came, I thought they had the wrong table. I even said "You must have the wrong table." What we got was not a Margherita in ANY country. It was a plan cooked pizza dough, with melted mozz cheese and cold tomatoes sliced on top. No basil. No sauce. No fresh Mozz melted in chunks. It was the most pitiful attempt at a pizza I have seen.
The Tuscano's trio was three times bad. The worse part was, ALL THREE had amazing potential. As an Italian AND a cook - I could break down the ingredients and could tell time was put into each dish and even the sauces. The biggest issue is when they were made and how long they were sitting under or in heat. Mushy pasta of any kind is hard to stomach unless you enjoy babyfood.
It seems as if large trays of Lasagna, Canaloni and Raviolis (I'm sorry they were NOT Jumbo, but rather normal size. Check out Costco's jumbo ravioli if you want to see jumbo) - it seems as if these are all made, cooked perfectly at the beginning of the day or the night before, then continuously warmed up during the day and or put under heat all day.
There are so many simple things that can be done to make pastas and meals such as these "aldente" and it dosent take much research to figure out what a Margherita pizza consists of.
Rating: * - 1 star, not real Italian food
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
You can no longer use the words "growing" or "burgeoning" when describing Seattle's dance community. We can now use words like grown, impressive, diverse, mature and can now stand next to the heavy hitters of the country like NYC, San Fran, Atlanta and Chicago.
At the forefront of this Seattle movement, is Belgium choreographer and former PNB Principle dancer - Olivier Wevers. Just freshly retired from Pacific Northwest Ballet, Wevers is focusing all of his efforts on his Whim. Whim W'him - his company - now in its second year, has gathered incredible acclaim, grants, prizes and recognition in its second year.
June 24-25 - Wevers presents ReSet - a combination of 3 masterpieces in their own right.
Monsters, back by not only popular demand, but also repeated requests - is the spoken word/dance fusion featuring the haunting, descriptive and emotional words of RA Scion from the Seattle hiphop group Common Market, paired with Oliviers heart wrenching choreography telling the story of 3 Monsters. The Monster of Society, which is where homophobia runs rampant - the Monster of Drug Abuse and how it poisons your life and finally the Monster of Abusive Relationships, and how some of us just love the pain. Each piece is haunting, jarring, touching and breathtaking in its own way. Wevers is brilliant with his ability to contort the body and express what words cannot. Scion's words help paint the picture as the dancers provide the colors and backdrop for 3 stories that will stay with you for days if not weeks.
Here is the trailer for Monster:
3 Seasons is a true reset, first debuting in 2010 - for Whim W'him's premier season, this piece contains some of Seattle's best and brightest talents. With costumes by Michael Cepress that are eccentric, colorful, imaginative and dramatic - Wevers creates a piece that takes the audience on a ride of humor, sadness, anger, attraction and admiration as he brilliantly weaves his unique movements into the amazing talents of his company. This pieces truly builds on the strengths on his dancers and creates an imagery that will have you emotionally exhausted by the end.
Trailer for 3 Seasons:
Finally, the premier piece of the evening, entitles Its Not About the Money is just that, brand new and only a few have set eyes on the final piece. I tried to get a few sneak glances during a few rehearsals but didn't see enough. What I did see was exciting and made me more that eager for this weekends debut.
Reset is THIS Friday and Saturday - the 24th and 25th at the Intiman Theater in Seattle Center. As an added treat - Saturday is Olivier's 40th birthday (he doesn't look at day over 30!)and for a small additional ticket cost, he is inviting all the audience to help with celebrate his special day, immediately after that nights show! There will be music, dancing, cake and TONS of surprises. Come enjoy the evening with Olivier, the Whim W'him dancers and some of the most Fabulous people in Seattle!
I leave you with some images of this weekends show - and urge you NOT to miss it. Not only is Olivier creating and presenting some of the most ground breaking, socially relevant and breathtaking art Seattle has seen in a minutes - but its also Pride weekend and Olivier's work transcends and challenges all labels and society-made boundaries when it comes to love with another soul.
TICKET LINK: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/168121
MUST SEE! RATING: ***** 5 Stars!
Photos by La Vie Photography
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
1000 E. Pike St
Seattle, WA 98122
Open Weekdays 11:30am-2am; Weekends 3pm-2am
It seems I try new restaurants on the fly, with little notice and most of the time I got to celebrate a friends birthday or special event.
This day was no exception. Was told to meet at Poquitos for a friends birthday dinner and was told the location was just across from Neumos...
With a prime corner spot - Poquitos is very pleasing to the eye from the outside. Bustling, hip patrons socializing and smoking out front, as well as people waiting for seats. It was happy hour and the place was packed!
As we were meeting friends, we didn't have to wait and were briskly ushered to our table. Our party was already in the midst of tons of tapas and drinks, as the waitress made her way literally as we sat in our chairs. She was surprisingly calm, witty and engaging for being so busy, so new an establishment and the table #'s growing as she spoke. Being a former waitress, I was impressed. She found out our favorite types of drinks through casual convo and suggested what she thought we would enjoy. Mine was a version of a White Russian, but instead of cream, it was Horchata! SO amazing!
Next it was time for Tapas! Their fried corn (above) was one of my favorites - but also their homemade guacamole and pico was top notch, as we kept asking for refills. With warm salted chips, it was perfect!
As if we had room for main meals - their menu was mouth watering and well priced enough to not even blink. From the simple Black Beans and Rice to the exotic Sweet Potato tacos with caramelized onions and goat cheese - and everything in between, the members of our party were making delectable sounds and enjoyable noises the entire time.
This Chicken Tortilla soup was a HUGE portion, with big chunks of chicken and tons of vegis - my friend who ordered it said it was "totally amazing".
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
The sandwich can differ regionally. Regional variations may include sliced turkey along with the ham and cheese. Traditionally, the sandwich is dipped in its entirety in egg batter and fried. In some regions of the United States it is served grilled, and in some regions it is served as an open sandwich with just the bread battered. It can also be served as an open sandwich using french toast as a base, with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese piled and then heated slightly under a broiler.
The sandwich is sometimes served with fresh fruit or with clotted cream on the side, sometimes with fruit preserves, powdered sugar, maple syrup, or sweet mustard sauce instead. Monte Cristos also may be served with a dusting of powdered sugar. In the North Country of New York State, Monte Cristo sandwiches are savory rather than sweet and served with Thousand Island dressing. This variation is often referred to as "Cumberland Head style."
OKAY PEOPLE. HOW on EARTH did I not know that this sandwich exsisted??
I was at dinner with friends for a birthday celebration (holla bday girl Kristen!) and I saw this sandwhich on the menu. I casually asked my friends what it was. They all were flabbergasted that I had never tried it -knowing my love for sweet and savory mix. I was then schooled that this creation had been around since the turn of the century and I have just heard about this NOW!
So I ordered this sandwich, realizing I was taking a huge risk with such a different dish - but I had to do it. I really had no idea what I was in for...
Now this particular version was served with a fruit compote, which I didn't eat. I had at that point, had my heart set on JAM with it (Thanks Rick James) which I was told was the traditional way to eat it. I am glad I did - the jame was the perfect additon.
Let me try to channel Adam Richman from Man vs Food when I describe this sandwich.
It was the perfect mix of melted cheese and warm meat in a semi sweet fried egg batter. The bread wasnt soggy but done perfectly and the jam just adds enough sweet to balance it all out. Its SO SO rich but such an amazing combination of just the right flavors, it made me curse. Then I gave half to my 14 yr old daughter - and she curse. Rightfully so.
***** 5 stars - this sandwich rocked my world!!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
MAN vs. FOOD
Travel Channel Series
Staring: Adam Richman
"I could eat that!". Something every one of us has said when watching at least one episode of Man vs. Food. If you haven't, either A) you have never seen the show or B) you are an incredibly picky eater with boring eating habits.
Adam Richman is the luckiest man in the world. He has no "special talent", he isn't an expert on fine foods. Hell he isn't even TRYING to be. He is simply a man who enjoys good food, BIG portions and loves celebrating the mom and pop establishments.
If you have never seen the show - this review is for you. Adam's show is based on all the best places in the US to find good, gooey, big, amazing food. And most of the establishments have a huge meal, that is unreal to most and you get a prize for finishing! Adam always rises to the challenge, whether its a 7 layer breaded fish sandwich or a 15 scoop ice cream sundae called the Kitchen Sink! He is MORE than a sport for all types of food. So I guess we could indeed call that a talent.
As an Italian, who was raised with not only a love for food but also a need to express enjoyment while I eat it - this show is truly like church to me. Cooking is a form of worship. I take pride in it and my goal is to make every person happy. Adam is amazing when he eats. He doesn't mind letting grease run down his chin, often uses BBQ sauce as a facial and licking his fingers is a ritual for each episode almost. I almost think there needs to be a meter in which his groans of pleasure and wacky word medleys for what he is tasting can somehow translate into a rating system.
I have often said i could be Adams sister from another mother. I react to food the same way. This is a great show to watch if you plan to travel and want to steer away from the touristy establishments and want to get to the small secrets of each town. The places with changing menus (or no menus at all!), and don't measure their ingredients. Because of this show, I now have a LIST of places to visit in some 10 cities in the US.
They recently did a special series called "The Carnivore Chronicles" that I loved. Being a proud red meat connoisseur, it was a fun series to watch. Sharing the tears when you see that perfect cut of steak, and know its being cooked specially for you. Its very emotional.
Some may say that this show encourages over eating, gorging and obesity. Why yes it does, thanks for that! There are a few things Adam ate for contests that were gross to me and I would bet $100 he went and puked afterward. But that's what makes him a superhero in my eyes. For me its not about gorging on big portions of food. Its about finding the BEST amazing food out there that is affordable to most people - and ENJOYING IT!
The new season coming this fall - me thinks Adam's doc may have put him on a break- he is still hosting, however has asked for videos of people around the US - visiting their favorite local spots. Basically doing what he does. I am sad we will see less of Adam, but excited they are letting the fans get involved. I have a husband who enjoys food more than i do and is from the South - so a video is most definitely in order here!
Watch the show, become and fan, and share in the joy of cooking and eating good food.
Rating: ***** Five stars - anyone who can eat and love so much food is amazing in my book!
Friday, March 11, 2011
Mon-Fri 11:00AM-2:00PM, 4:00PM-11:00PM
$2 all draft beer (microbreweries)
As usual - we were looking for late night food, refusing to fall into the fast food trap. I am always determined to find something new and worth my money. Belltown is a hard area to find something kid friendly at that time of night - so we truly got lucky.
Checking the times on the door - we were pleased to find them still serving. When we walked in - the one cook and one waiter were chatting up front - both greeted us with cheerful smiles and asked us to sit anywhere. As we came in, so did 2 other rather large parties, and the waiter didn't look the lease bit worried.
After taking our drink orders and handing us menus - the waiter cheerfully fluttered between the 3 tables, bringing us our drinks and answering questions with ease. Me - being from an Italian restaurant owning family, am an extra harsh critic with wood fire pizza - so I had lots of questions. He answered each with a smile and assured me of which would be my favorites.
We ordered a 3 pizzas with our favorite toppings and 3 salads. While we waited, our waiter came to our table, asked us if we were drinkers and proceeded to give us drink coupons for their popular happy hour. He proclaimed he doesn't give them to just anyone, and that he thought we were awesome and wanted us to come back. We found him very engaging and genuine. Whenever a waiter will admit to us what on the menu he DOESN'T like, I find that refreshing and usually will go back to that establishment. Honesty is always good when it comes to food.
My pizza had sausage and mushrooms. It was VERY tasty. Homemade sauce, the crust was done perfectly and the cheese was fresh and not too much.
My daughter got pepperoni and couldn't stop raving. Their pepperoni wasn't too spicy, however very flavorful! I liked that the crust was consistent and evenly done like mine. My husband got the Calzone and said it was amazing - tons of meat, sundried tomatoes and cheese. The only thing it lacked was Ricotta cheese. I make my Calzones with Ricotta and so he is used to them. We asked if they had it, but they didn't, so he dealt with it. That would have been the only thing he would have changed.
Here are our salads - they were good sized and VERY hearty. I notice when restaurants make cut backs, thats what gets cut first are their salads. This was not the case here thankfully.
We skipped dessert, the meal was really filling and it was late. The waiter was kind and made us promise to come back. Our experience was on the whole very positive and we will definitely go back for another late night pizza.
My rating: **** 4 stars - VERY good (5 stars if they had Ricotta)
Sunday, January 9, 2011
First meeting PNB Principal dancer and Whim W'him creator and director Olivier Weavers through his daughter's dance school - RA Scion had a respect for the medium and for the newly blossoming company, Whim W'him, that Weavers had created. As one of this months Dance Magazines "25 to watch", the newly born company is gaining recognition amazingly fast. It wasn't until one afternoon over coffee, that a possible collaboration between the Music/Hiphop scene and the Modern/Ballet stylings of Weavers dance company, Whim W'him was discussed and deemed possible.
Weavers company has just been named the Intiman Theaters in-house dance company when Scion and Weavers began discussing a collaboration. Weavers said he is thrilled to be opening their 2nd season entitled "Shadows, Raincoats and Monsters" at the historic Intiman. The show opens this weekend and runs just 3 days, January 14, 15 and 16th. This collaboration, both Olivier and RA Scion hope - will create cross interest in the dance and music communities. Seattle has a very distinct music fan as well as a very seasoned dance supporter - and it is rare you will find one person a supporter of both.
RA Scion has written spoken word poetry as intros to the three part Monsters piece - choreographed by Weavers. The piece exposes the Monsters that lurk in us all - each of them different - these are just 3 examples of Monsters that can take over our lives. The first Monster, Society, explores the monster of Homophobia and how two lovers have to hide who they are, and put on a different persona in public, in order to please society. RA Scion wrote stirring pieces to this and the other two Monsters, Addiction and Abusive Relationships - that bring the dance medium up to the understanding of the new audience, who may not be seasoned in watching dance and understanding the story behind the movements.
The Whim W'him dancers consist of the best and brightest in ballet, modern and contemporary and from various Seattle dance institutions, including PNB, Spectrum and Cornish College. The beautiful lines and intensity of PNB dancers Chalnessa Eames, Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite, to the raw and unchained energy and intense technique of Donald Byrds Spectrum dancers Ty Cheng, Vincent Lopez and Kylie Lewallen - the talent in this company is thick and evident with the first muscle movement. In addition to these names and more - there are amazing guest dancers and choreographers from Amsterdam, Houston and Santa Cruz ballets that lend their amazing facilities and talents to Oliviers vision.
The 1st season sold out with a week of opening night - so get your tickets to see next weekends show before they sell out. RA Scion will be there opening night to celebrate in the collaboration as well. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for students and can be found at http://www.brownpapertickets.com. Come out and support this exciting new dance company, Whim W'him as well as hear RA Scion's contribution to the production.
Is this the last time we will see RA Scion collaborate with Whim W'him? No likely, RA Scion said he looks forward to integrating Oliviers Choreography in future music and video projects in this new year.
A sneak peek of the Monster of Society (Homophobia):