Sunday, September 25, 2011

All Wheeldon proves to be All Genius

Pacific Northwest Ballet Presents:


Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Artistic Director: Peter Boal

Sept 23-Oct 2, 2011
McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA.

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

Review - **** brilliant piece of work!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Die in Oregon - a Masterpiece about our quality of Life and Death and the Human condition

How to Die in Oregon
HBO Documentary
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

Tuscano's - Thats a Margherita Pizza???

Tuscano's Italian Kitchen

(360) 805-5453
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