If You Love Costume Dramas and Fashion, Binge Away

It’s winter. You’re pockets are empty from the holiday season. It’s dark when you leave for work and when you get home.  On weekends, you don’t want to go out because it’s wet and cold.  Oh what could drag you out of this cloud of Weltschmerz?

Brew yourself a cup of hot tea and plant yourself on the couch with the cat. You have shows with amazing fashions to binge on! Stay hydrated, and don’t forget to take occasional breaks to stretch.

                                            Image courtesy of Netflix

The Crown – Seasons 1 & 2 Available on NetflixSettle in for this sumptuous tale of The House of Windsor that will leave you scrambling for Google and Pinterest. Claire Foy earned an Outstanding Performance SAG award for her uncanny portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The costuming on the show really tells a story about each character. Vanessa Kirby is the breakout star playing Princess Margaret, a woman for the modern age frequently dressed in pants at a time when some considered it scandalous. Compare that to Queen Elizabeth’s matronly frocks, despite having access to untold wealth and the pick of all the couture design houses of the day. The scene in which Elizabeth is happy to find her signature hairstyle at age 32—that she wears to this day at age 91—is almost cringe-worthy for how deeply the unflattering cut ages her. And that’s before all the family drama! Spoiler alert there are a shocking number of Nazis scuttling among the outermost branches of the family tree.

                                                     Image courtesy of HBO

Big Little Lies – Season 1 Available on HBOSet among the moneyed class in Monterey, CA, this five-episode drama cleaned up at the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes. The mysterious whodunit was supposed to be a limited series but popular demand has created a second season—unfortunately it’s unlikely to be seen before 2019. Even if you’ve already seen the show, this is a great time to revisit the series and take notice of how all the amazing outfits are perfectly calculated for each character from Celeste’s elegant yet comfortable sweaters—chosen for a secret reason̶ to Madeline’s (Witherspoon) refusing to take off her overpriced pumps while dropping off her children at school even after rolling her ankle.

                                                 Image courtesy of TV Land

Younger – Season 1– 4 available on HuluSutton Foster stars as a member of the “opt out” generation stunned to find herself divorced and broke at 40. Desperate for work she reinvents herself as a 20- something in the publishing industry. This is a sweet funny tale of female friendship and solidarity. While publishing exec Diane Trout, portrayed by Miriam Shor, can afford designer outfits—and LIVES for bulky statement jewelry̶—the rest of the cast sports fashionable but affordable clothes you’d see at Zara and high-end accessories that looked plucked from sample sales. The show is surprisingly realistic about New York housing, considering it was created by Darren Starr of “Sex and the City” fame. Liza (Foster) lives with Maggie (Debi Mazar) in a gigantic 2 bedroom Williamsburg loft, but we find out she purchased it in the late 80’s when it was in a ‘bad’ part of town. Co-worker Kelsey (played by Hillary Duff) lives with college friend Lauren in Lauren’s parents apt for free because “how else could we afford to live in Manhattan?”.

                                                Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – season 1 available on Amazon PrimeCreated by Amy Sherman Palladino and husband Dan Palladino, “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” tells a story of accidental feminism during the 1950’s with the help of huge budget and a lot of insight into how clothes can make the woman.    Rachel Brosnahan won a Golden Globe playing Miriam (aka Midge) Maisel is delighted with her Upper West Side life caring for her two children and supporting her accountant husband’s desperate effort to be a stand-up comic, dressing to perfection, and making sure Joel never sees her without makeup. Except husband Joel’s routine is stolen from Bob Newhart and he’s having an affair with his dumb as rocks secretary Penny Pann (that is one of the series’ few missteps as Penny is a brain dead slut with a ridiculous name. Come on!) When he walks out that’s when Midge realizes in a drunken haze she’s the true comic in the family. Gaslight café staffer Susie recognizes her talent and decides to become her manager.

Most tales of feminism come from women rallying against their restrictive roles; however, by stark contrast Midge LOVES her role. She only gets a job and starts developing her comedy because she is forced to by circumstance. We can see her evolution in fashion from her perfectly put together outfits that require so much effort to donning pants and flat shoes for comfort and practicality. Susie, played by Alex Borstein, lives in shapeless pants, bulky sweater and an ever-present men’s hat, frequently mistaken for a man. Come for the fashions, stay for this warm funny tale of friendship, liberation, and show business.

         Image courtesy of cravetv.com

Sex and The City – Seasons 1–6 on HBOWhat can be said about HBO’s groundbreaking comedy series that heralded a new era of television? Well for one thing, the stories about friendship and romance have held up remarkably well. It’s amazing to watch the characters grow as the series evolves and fascinating to see how each character expresses their emotions and creativity through fashion. You can even see how New York City and the world have changed. Except for Miranda, none of the women have cellphones. There is no social media—you know Samantha Jones would have been all over Instagram. It’s shocking to see Carrie smoking in bars. You know you still miss this show. Visit it again!!

—Cameron Grey Rose

 

 

Interview Exclusive: Arden Myrin Expands her Character Repertoire in “HeadShop”

                                           Image courtesy of amazon.com

A good thing is happening in Hollywood. No longer do actresses have to be pigeonholed into one type of character for the entirety on their film career. (You know those stereotypical roles; romantic lead, ingénue, quirky best friend, working girl, comic relief, vamp, foil, hard-working mom, psychopath, tragic mulatto.) In this new version of Hollywood, actresses can move more easily through a variety of characters, being deeply conflicted and dramatic on one hand or top banana on the other. And for some actresses, especially if they have that facility, the days of being confined to one type of acting genre is over and the sky is the limit.

Arden Myrin is one of the new breed of actresses who is breaking the typecast mold. Known primarily for her comedy skits on “MadTV” and “Chelsea Lately,” Arden Myrin has had film roles in”Kinsey,” “Christmas with the Kranks,” “The Imformant!,” and “Wrong Cops,” just to name a few. And some of her strong performances demonstrate her versatility in comedy, as well as dramatic roles.

With her star still rising with a starring role in a new Netflix series and the soon to be released “HeadShop,” Arden took the time to speak with Fashion Reverie about her craft, her love affair with standup, and her passion for creating characters.

                 Images courtesy of celebmafia.com and wikipedia.com, respectively

Fashion Reverie: Arden is an interesting name, where does it come from and how did your parents pick that name?

Arden Myrin: My mom grew up in Queens, NY and went to Bayside High and I am named after my mom and my last name is some weird Swedish Viking derivation.

FR: You became involved in theater and acting as a young child. Where did this love of theater and creating characters come from? 

Arden Myrin: I grew up in a tiny town in Rhode Island. There is still mostly just a general store and no stoplights. My parents had moved from New York City to this small town and every year my mom would take me to NYC. One year I saw “Annie,” and that was it for me. I was a redheaded kid and I just knew I could play Annie. My parents even recorded “Saturday Night Live” for me and I would watch and not understand some of the adult humor.

So, I just grew up in this country town and I couldn’t wait to be an adult. All we had was old movies on TV, so I believed that when I grew up I would be a Judy Holliday or Myrna Loy character.

FR: Do you think growing up in a small town fed into you’re desire to act and create characters?

Arden Myrin: My mom kind of strategically left NYC because she wanted her children to be able to create their own fun and their own magic. I think when there is a lack of constant stimulation you can be forced to use your imagination more. There is a beauty in growing up in a simple place that spurs creativity. I wanted to razzle dazzle, and there was no razzle dazzle in my home town. I wanted to be like Gypsy Rose Lee with sequins and feathers, anything other than the corduroys I saw every day.

                       Image courtesy of pinterest

FR: You really got your start in this industry as a member of the famous Groundlings and doing standup. Why comedy as a starting point?

Arden Myrin: I always loved Gilda Radner, Teri Garr, and Madeline Kahn. I just knew that if I didn’t go to Yale or Juilliard I needed some way to get on stage to show what I could do to get an agent. And I was always a kind of silly girl. I knew I could write something to help get me an agent.

I like making people laugh and I come from a very funny family. If you can brighten someone’s day with laughter than you have accomplished something good.

FR: You obviously love stand-up because you’ve been doing it for some time now. Why do you keep coming back to standup? 

Arden Myrin: That’s an interesting question because standup terrifies me. You know there are not that many women who tour as standup headliners.

In this political climate we feel that the country is so divided; however, when you tour you get to know people in a way that you never would. And people who may have different political views don’t seem so strange and odd. It is a humbling experience to be welcomed in a town or city and share an experience with people who on the surface seem so different.

FR: You have done stage, screen, television, and stand-up. Which platform do you prefer, and why?

Arden Myrin: If I had to pick one, I like television the most because you can tell a story and develop a character over several episodes. Still, there is a thrill of doing live theater every night.

                             Image courtesy of “Chelsea Lately”

FR: Could you talk a little bit about appearing over 100 times on “Chelsea Lately”?

Arden Myrin: That show was so much fun, as well as a little frightening. You are flying solo on “Chelsea Lately” because you never did retakes. It was always fun because you so much wanted to do a good job. The audience would let you know if they got your jokes or not, and you were also on the show with really good comedians.

I was so grateful to be a part of that show and watch Chelsea build her whole brand and image. She is such a hard worker. You know, she was writing all those books in the middle of doing five shows a week. She would also fly all over the country on the weekends and do stand-up, as well as promote her books. She worked her ass off, and built that whole machine.

FR: How did being cast in “HeadShop” come about?

Arden Myrin: It was really a magical present. It was offered to me and I wish all my roles appeared so magically. I didn’t have to audition; my manager represented a couple of people who were cast (Evan Ross and Nicole Ari Parker). From beginning to end it was a great joy. I loved working with the writer/director Kim Bass.

                                              Images courtesy of “HeadShop”

FR: Could you talk a little bit about your character Shelby in “HeadShop”?

Arden Myrin: Shelby is a sweet, newly divorced trophy wife who was married to a much older, wealthy man. She acquired a huge settlement from her divorce and now doesn’t know what to do with time and all this money. She has been seeing a therapist (played by Nicole Ari Parker) in San Francisco and has become obsessed with her. Shelby thinks her therapist is her best friend although she pays her.

FR: Without giving too much away, what do you think viewers will get from and like about “HeadShop”?

Arden Myrin: Audiences will find the movie funny, and that there is a lot of wit to it as well. The film celebrates community which is one of the themes of the film. The film speaks to gentrification, community, love and finding that place of acceptance.

FR: Fashion Reverie is a fashion magazine; that said, who are your favorite designers?

Arden Myrin: I recently have fallen in love with the YSL mini dress. I have been stalking online trying to buy vintage ones. When I come to NYC, I love going to the store ATT. They have such great clothes, they have Self Portrait, a brand I love.

FR: Which designers would you like to wear that you haven’t already worn?

Arden Myrin: That is an interesting question. I love ethereal clothes that make you feel like you are playing dress up. I am not afraid of a little whimsy. I would love to wear Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Rodarte, and Miu Miu.

                    Blake Patterson and Arden Myrin image courtesy of “HeadShop”

FR: Lets talk about the Blake Patterson clothes you are wearing in “HeadShop.”

Arden Myrin: Nicole Ari Parker’s therapist character moves her San Francisco practice to Oakland. I trail behind her to continue working with her as my therapist. So her I am driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in my white Bentley to Oakland because I am obsessed with this therapist. Now mind you, I am the only one from her practice in San Francisco who follows her to Oakland.

Next door to her office in Oakland is fashion store called the Nubian Queen run by Evan Ross’s character. The clothes are the beautiful African inspired-clothing made with the most luxurious African fabrics. I am like Malibu Barbie who has just found her design aesthetic in these unbelievable garments. I buy almost everything in the store from head wraps to you name it. It’s like I have found my true self. I become so obsessed with the clothing that I start to fund his clothing line.

Blake Patterson designed all these garments for me. Now, Blake is this small white guy from Ohio and it was a surprise to me that he was going to create all these incredible garments for me. The clothes are so magical and he made them all in one week. He went to an African fabric store and bought the fabric. He played with the different shapes and silhouettes. I got to wear one exquisite garment that was like a jumpsuit with a huge ruffle down one side.

Now, when Blake Patterson made the garments in the film, he didn’t know I was cast in the role. At any rate, the garments fit like a glove. The clothes are so beautiful and joyful and I got to wear maybe five or six of these incredible garments in the film. It was the most beautiful wardrobe I have ever worn in a film.FR: What’s next for you?

Arden Myrin: I am in a new Netflix show. It is called “Insatiable,” and it’s about beauty pageants and murder, and I play a bad character. I am like Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blond,” but I act like Reese in “Election.” I am all deception and duplicity. My character is Regina Sinclair and I am all southern charm, but evil. By the way, “Insatiable” is filmed in Atlanta. I am ruthless and wound tight. Alyssa Milano is also in the cast.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

The Evolution of Ballet Hispanico

                                 “Bury Me Standing” image courtesy of Paula Lobo

Tina Ramirez founded Ballet Hispanico in 1970 to give Latin choreographers, dancers and the Latin community at large a place to hone their craft and give voice to the Latin experience in the new and old world. Where under Tina Ramirez’s leadership Ballet Hispanico evolved into dance company that is recognized internationally and attracts some of the most talented Latin global artists, Ramirez put lots of emphasis on recognizable Latin movement styles from flamenco, indigenous Hispanic folkloric dances and dance styles that form the diasporic bridge between the old world and the new.Under Eduardo Vilario aegis Ballet Hispanico is presenting a much larger embrace of the Hispanic diaspora, seen through the lens of ever-evolving movement styles, accurately expressing this larger embrace to modern audiences. Ballet Hispanico’s short season at the Apollo Theater wholly demonstrates this evolution. Vilario recognizes that Latin culture is no longer ‘the other’ or the exotic; it is the here and now.

This modern perspective is made all the more evident in the musical choices found in the company’s current repertoire. In most dance companies the choreography and the performance level of the dancers is front and center and the main attraction; however, in this outing the music is the driving force behind the ballets with the dancers serving as supportive component to the music. This is not only an evolution for Ballet Hispanico, it is also a good thing. And a manifestation that perhaps the dance world is moving beyond personality-driven artists that drive box office—consider the dance phenomenon of Nureyev and Fonteyn in the 1960s; Baryshnikov, Jamison, and Kirkland in the 1970s, and other dance stars in the 80s and 90s— and moving toward a more integrated approach where all elements that make a performance possible are equally important.

                                 “Espiritu Vivo” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

The ballet on the program seen at the Apollo Theater that best expressed this evolution of Latin movement styles is Ron Brown’s “Espiritu Vivo.” Brown has established an oeuvre for creating ballets that infuse popular dance styles into choreography that is also steeped in more codified movement disciplines. This melding of dance forms is an integral part of Brown’s “Espiritu Vivo.”Originally made for Ballet Hispanico in 2012, after a five-year absence, gratefully this fully realized work is back in the company’s repertoire. And it is currently danced with passion and soulful vibrancy. Exploring the intersection of African and Latino diasporas, Brown seamlessly melds Horton, Graham, and Dunham techniques with dance styles that come out of Santeria, later becoming more recognizable Latin Caribbean cultural dance styles.

“Espiritu Vivo” opens with an almost monastic restraint and builds toward ecstatic exuberance. For those lucky enough to translate the Susana Baca’s music used in this work, the messages of bondage juxtaposed against the liberating spirit of freedom as seen against the African and Latino diasporas comes across loud and clear. Standout dancers in “Espiritu Vivo” include Lyvan Verdecia, whose movement quality was grounded and fully invested, and newcomer Garbrielle Sprave, whose majestic presence filled the stage.

                             “Bury Me Standing” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

With Ramon Oller’s “Bury Me Standing,” Ballet Hispanico looked almost like a completely different company. Though this ballet is over 20 years old, Ballet Hispanico performed the work as though it was made brand new on the company.The ever-evolving Ballet Hispanico is demonstrating every season that they can handle almost any movement style and a variety of movement styles in one work. In “Bury Me Standing,” Oller not only used a wealth of movement styles but also ingeniously incorporated mime and words for dramatic effect in reference to the alien status of gypsies and the Roma people. Oller’s use of the innovative ‘airplane’ partnering really gives this work a signature look. Standout dancers include Diana Winfree and Nick Fearon.

                                “Con Brazos Abiertos” image courtesy of Paula Lobo

Creative director Eduardo Vilario brought back Michelle Manzanales’ “Con Brazos Abiertos” from the company’s 2017 season at the Joyce Theater earlier in the year. This hilarious and thought-provoking exploration of the Mexican-American experience in the US melds folkloric details with canned dialogue from Cheech and Chong and the music of Selena and Julio Iglesias.Like all the works in this season at the Apollo Theatre, “Con Brazos Abiertos” demonstrates that Latin American culture is not an addition to the American mainstream, Latin American culture is an integral part of the mainstream. Viva Ballet Hispanico.

—William S. Gooch

Nicole Ari Parker Discusses Life, Career Choices and “HeadShop”

                                                  Image courtesy of Kim Bass

Getting and maintaining traction in the fashion industry is a circuitous journey that takes talent, perseverance, hard work, providence, and nerves of steel. Acting has similar requirements. And success and good fortune have eluded talented thespians who would have become household names if only the fickle of fingers of fate were pointed in their direction.Nicole Ari Parker is one of those fortunate actors who has been blessed by providence. Well known for her role in the Showtime series “Soul Food,” Nicole Ari Parker for the past two decades has successfully portrayed characters that run the gamut of emotion, sensitivity, humor, and pathos.

Equally known for her roles in television, as well as film, Nicole Ari Parker continues to hit her stride in the upcoming independent film “HeadShop.” Conceived and directed by Kim Bass, “HeadShop” examines issues of gentrification, class, cultural appropriation, and community.

Scheduled for release in early 2018, Nicole Ari Parker chatted with Fashion Reverie about her love of acting, her career trajectory, and her role in “HeadShop.”

                                              Image courtesy of Kim Bass

Fashion Reverie: Now you started out as a ballet dancer, why the shift to acting?Nicole Ari Parker: Well, I studied ballet mostly as a kid and I was more serious about becoming a classically trained actress. My mom had me involved in lots of things as a child, and theatre and acting kind of stood out over the other creative pursuits.

FR: Where did this love of acting come from? 

Nicole Ari Parker: I was just full of drama as a kid. I am an only child and I had a vivid imagination and read a lot of books. I would turn the stories I read in books into plays. I would also write my own plays and produce them. I just had a natural affinity for the stage; it is truly my first love.

I am from Baltimore and my parents had sacrificed so much to put me through private school that lead me to going to New York University (NYU) a year early at the age of 17. I went to NYU as an English and drama major that I thought would be more stable than majoring in theatre. I wanted to do something that would make my parents proud of me.

In my second semester I auditioned for the Tisch School of the Arts—that is a part of NYU—and I called my Dad and asked him if I could change majors. He said if I did, I had to be diligent and not give up. So, here I am!!

FR: Your range as an actress is phenomenal from “Boogie Nights” to “Subway Stories” to “Soul Food’ to “Brown” Sugar,” and “200 Cigarettes” to “Almost Christmas.” The depth and width of your roles have gone from comedy to drama, and back again. That said; what do like best comedy or dramatic roles?

Nicole Ari Parker: The older I get, the funnier I have become. Life teaches you so much. My heart is always on the stage and with more dramatic roles. There is a whole world of opportunity out there to tell more stories, and we need more people of color writing those stores (both funny and serious), so that there is more range and a diversity of voices.

                                           “Headshop” cast images courtesy of shadowandact.com

FR: You have done a lot of big studios films and well as independent films, what do you like best, independent or big studio?

Nicole Ari Parker: I like work that is more character driven whether it is from a big studio or it is independent film. I jumped at the change to work on the character I play in Kim Bass’ “HeadShop” when the role fell in my lap.

FR: Why did “HeadShop” excite you?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim is a visionary and that is a rare opportunity in this industry to work with someone who is a visionary. When you are creative person in this industry, you have to take a lot of jobs to pay the bills that don’t challenge you as an artist. You have to take guest starring roles in television and other mediums that are not always challenging.

I have played some sort of executive on television now for over ten years. You get pigeon holed and then you get a script that is just beautiful on the page and saturated with color and nuance and all the sensibilities that excites you as a creative person. Add to that, Kim Bass, a director of color, and “HeadShop” as a film is a dream come true.

FR: Without giving too much away, could you talk about your character Dr. LaTrice Monroe?

Nicole Ari Parker: She is a therapist in San Francisco in private practice. She breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, and reconsiders the direction of her life. She drives into her old neighborhood in Oakland, and decides to open up a practice in Oakland, meeting a coterie of characters that change her life in unexpected ways.

FR: What appealed to you about this character?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim wrote this character with a keen sense of where a lot of professional women are in their lives. They have sacrificed so much to get ahead and now they are at a crossroad. And it is right in this moment of that success that these women are looking for a deeper connection. And that crossroad is what appealed to me about the LaTrice Monroe character, because she is at that critical moment in her life.

                                                  “Headshop’ set images courtesy of Kim Bass

FR: There are some gentrification storylines in the film. How does your character relate and play that out in the film?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim layers a whole lot of themes that are affecting communities right now in real time in this film. Things that are going on with small business owners; issues around gentrification; misconceptions of cultures, all these things are packed into this sweet film.

FR: Now you worked with Michael Jai White in ”Black Dynamite,” and Kimberly Elise in the “Loretta Claiborne Story” what was it like working with both again?

Nicole Ari Parker: This was my third time working with Kimberly Elise and it was awesome working with some of my former co-stars again. Come on, I am working with Marla Gibbs and Loretta Devine, what couldn’t be better than that?

It was a real pleasure. I also worked with Evan Ross, Deon Cole from “Blackish,” it was good times on the set. Kimberly and I laughed so hard and had so much fun.

FR: What was the shooting schedule like, and how long did it take to shoot the film?

Nicole Ari Parker: We shot the entire film in under a month with really long hours and a six-day schedule. We shot mostly in San Francisco with exterior shots done in Oakland.

FR: Fashion Reverie is an online fashion magazine, so our viewers would like to know, who are your favorite designers?

Nicole Ari Parker: I love Byron Lars and CD Greene.

FR: Which designers would you like to wear that you haven’t worn, yet?

Nicole Ari Parker: I love Monique Lhuillier, Oscar de la Renta who I’ve worn before, but I would like to keep wearing him. I also would love to wear Michelle Blanchard. I have a real eclectic taste, so I am open to a lot of designers.

                                                     Image courtesy of people.com

FR: What’s next for you? 

Nicole Ari Parker: I have a movie out on TV One with my husband Boris Kodjoe called “Dowsized” about a couple that had a baby when they were still teenagers and now they are in their early 40s, and everything is different. I just wrapped filming a thriller with Forrest Whitaker. And I am just very busy and happy with my life.

—William S. Gooch

 

The Bold Truth of “The Bold Type”

Image courtesy of rubensramblings.com

“The Bold Type” cast image courtesy of rubensramblings.com

When Fashion Reverie heard about a new fashion-based series, “The Bold Type” on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) expectations were low. Based on the description, an exciting drama set in a fashion magazine following the adventures of three women in their late 20’s, Fashion Reverie’s first thought was a “Sex and the City”/”Devil Wears Prada” rip-off with a dash of “Pretty Little Liars” thrown in to brew up a flavorless tea. That “The Bold Type” was debuting during the summer season, a time when so many networks burn off their rejects, didn’t help our opinions.

Depictions of the fashion world in popular culture has always been problematic and a thin veil for aimlessness. From Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties” on NBC in the 80’s to the current portrayal of Hailey Pritchett on ABC’s “Modern Family,” an interest in fashion has been shorthand for being shallow and dumb.

Well, Fashion Reverie is pleased, if a little shocked, to report “The Bold Type” bucks the trend of fashion magazine’s airheaded, but fashionable staffers, depicting an honest, if exaggerated, version of the halls of the fictional Scarlet Magazine. (It’s about time!!)

Image courtesy of thehollywoodreporter.com

Image courtesy of thehollywoodreporter.com

ABC’s “Ugly Betty” showed us the inner workings of Mode Magazine, except the staffers never really worked, did they? There were frequent staff meetings, but it seemed like no work was ever done. In its pilot episode “The Bold Type” shows a fashion magazine presenting its August issue to the board of directors—all major fashion magazines answer to a board of directors that represents the investors interests—who question aspects of articles and ask about advertising.

Yes, the editorial staff of Scarlet Magazine writes articles, and does other things that are critical to a magazine’s success. The show even takes the time to depict the articles as something that WOULD appear in Marie Claire or ELLE.

Melora Hardin image courtesy of freeform.com

Melora Hardin image courtesy of freeform.com

The “The Bold Type’s” main character, Jane, portrayed by Katie Stevens, has spent years as an intern and assistant before landing a job as a staff writer. Okay, she is absurdly young to be a staff writer; however, her portrayal feels authentic. Asked to come up with ten ideas for her first day, an overly excited Jane comes up with 20 only to be crushed when succinctly told by Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline (played by Melora Hardin), “These aren’t working for me, what else do you have?”

The “The Devil Wears Prada” may have been a big hit commercially but among some actual fashion industry professionals, it was reviled. Not only did it illustrate a view that working for a fashion magazine despite being exhausting never seemed to involve any writing or editorial work, but “The Devil Wears Prada” writer Lauren Weisburger never attempted to disguised main character’s Andie Sach’s contempt for fashion. Weisburger’s doppelganger Andie Sachs took pains to remind us that working for a fashion magazine was beneath her. While stories about Anna Wintour’s legendary diva status abound, there can be not debate she turned American Vogue around at time when it desperately needed an overhaul (whether or not American Vogue needs an overhaul now … is another matter), Wintour is well-educated, insanely smart, financially savvy, and dead serious about her job. (Any editor-in-chief whose magazine has subscribers numbering the millions, HAS to be or they will be replaced in minutes.)

It would have been very easy (and more than a bit misogynist) to show Jacqueline as a dragon lady, bitterly jealous of her younger counterparts and treating them with cruelty as a result. “The Bold Type” executive producer Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of ELLE and current Chief Content Officer for Hearst Magazines, refused to let this cliché stand.   In order to spearhead a global and extraordinarily influential media operation effectively, an editor-in-chief must work with her staff to get the best from them, challenging them to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

Image courtesy of thebusinessinsider.com

Image courtesy of thebusinessinsider.com

That said; “The Bold Type” is television so there are some uneven elements. Would a busy editor-in-chief really have so much time to mentor people just one step above entry level? How does the show’s unpaid staffer afford the high-end designer clothes they wear? What do characters Jane and Sutton’s afford their palatial Brooklyn apartment with a GIANT living room? (Are they trust-fund kids, with rich parents helping out?)

Still, none of these uneven elements detracts from the main takeaway of “The Bold Type” which is that fashion journalism can be a difficult and exhausting, but also a fun and important job.  At a time when Teen Vogue is featuring excellent political coverage aimed at young people, the level of empowerment cannot be understated.

And as Scarlet Magazine would argue, if you can change the world wearing a killer pair of heels that only makes your victory that much sweeter. “The Bold Type” airs on ABC’s Freeform channel on Tuesday nights at 9pm.

—Cameron Grey Rose

Misty Copeland Dances “Don Quixote” Her Way

 

Image courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor/ABT

Jeffrey Cirio and Misty Copeland in ABT’s “Don Quixote.” Image courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor/ABT

The sign of a world-class ballerina is when that ballerina puts her individual stamp on a classic role. Misty Copeland did just that in her debut as Kitri in American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Don Quixote.

Traditionally, ballerinas who have excelled as Kitri play up the athletic, kittenish, soubrette quality of the character. After all, Kitri is the spicy daughter of inn keeper Lorenzo, who lustily flirts with every man on the stage with her true affections projected toward Basilio, the barber. Also, Don Quixote is set in Seville, Spain. You cannot get any spicier than that.

The list goes on almost ad nauseam of iconic Kitris that have brought a lot of sass and vitality to the role (Ekaterina Maximova, Maya Plisetskaya, Cynthia Harvey, Sylvie Guillem, Lauren Anderson, Nina Ananiashvili, and Paloma Herrera, just to name a few. Gelsey Kirkland who originated the role in ABT’s full-length production was fiery, but she simmered instead of exploding.)

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Misty Copeland rising “Don Quixote”

Misty Copeland is a different kind of Kitri. Yes, she she does pepper the role with joie de vivre and punctuated battements and winks. Still, her Kitri is more layered and superbly acted. With Misty’s interpretation, audiences can actually rout for the two main characters—Kitri and Basilio—instead of waiting for fiery variations and multiple pirouettes.It would been a bonus if Copeland’s temps de fleche had more pop, and some of her jumps had more elevation. However,Copeland made up for the slight downgrade in pyrotechnics with her well-thought out portrayal of Kitri. Copeland’s Kiti was earthy, yet determined, full-bodied and contemporary, but still technically pure. (In a recent New York Times article, Copeland talked about working with an acting coach on her debuts this season in ABT’s Don Quixote and Giselle.)

Where Copeland really shined was in the Second Act “Dream” sequence. Her dreamlike Dulcinea was the epitome of the ethereal, grand ballerina, in the mold of Russian Imperial ballerinas, without the mannerisms. Her balances and hops on pointe were exquisitely executed, and her menage of pique turns were extremely fast, keeping time with the conductor’s tempi.

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Jeffrey Cirio in Boston Ballet’s “Don Quixote

Copeland has an admirable partner in Jeffrey Cirio. This new partnership holds lots of promise, and Cirio brought many of the pyrotechnical fireworks he acquired while performing Basilio with the Boston Ballet. His Basilio was one balletomanes have come to expect in the mold of great Russian dancers—Vasiliev, Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Ruzimatov, and Mukhamedov. Other great performances came from Calvin Royall III’s intense and passionate Espada; Luciana Paris’ fiery Mercedes; Veronika Part’s pristine Queen of the Dryads; Cassandra Trenary’s fleet-footed Amour; Jonathan Klein’s airborne gypsy; and Catherine Hurlin’s very musical flower girl.

Still the star of the evening was Misty Copeland, and in this very auspicious debut, Copeland proves once again that she is a prima ballerina. Fashion Reverie cannot wait for her Giselle debut.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

Peter Fletcher Brings Fireworks and Subtlety to Carnegie Hall

Collages1267Peter Fletcher is very clever. After several appearances at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, classical guitarist Fletcher has assembled a performance repertoire that is both familiar and thought provoking, as well as highly entertaining.

After two decades on the performance circuit, Fletcher has learned his performance craft well. He has assembled a repertoire that comforts the soul with warm, melodic harmonies and excites the intellect with transcribed work of composers not usually associated with classical guitar. (Fletcher’s transcribed Erik Satie favorites “Gymnopedie No. 1” and “Jack in the Box” come to mind.)

Still, Fletcher’s concerts are much more than rich, soothing melodies or a cerebral excursion down unfamiliar roads. Fletcher has ingeniously composed programs that highlight that classical guitar goes way beyond the Iberian-infused rhythms of Albeniz, Rodrigo, and Villa-Lobos. With Fletcher there is Bach, Mompou, Scirabin, Rameau, Ravel, and Couperin. And in this particular concert Fletcher introduced some new repertoire additions, William Walton’s “Five Bagatelles,” Andres Segovia’s “Oracion” and the show-stopping Niccolo Paganini’s “Caprice Opus 1, No. 24.”

This unusual assemblage of favorites and soon-to-become new friends makes for an evening of comfort, adventure, and intellectual stimulation. That said; there were a few hiccups in Fletcher’s recent concert at Weill Recital Hall, but whatever the faux pas’, Fletcher’s dexterity, joy and commitment to excellence triumphed on this particular evening.

As a mature artist, Fletcher stands out in his emotional interpretation of the works he performs. And this is particularly apparent in the less pyrotechnical pieces in his repertoire. Though the more virtuosic works get pulses racing, the gentler works give room for reflection and in Fletcher’s corner demonstrate more accurately his craft and technical nuance. This is good calculated move on Fletcher’s part!!

Images courtesy of Peter Fletcher

Images courtesy of Peter Fletcher

Standouts on the program were Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, “Simple Gifts”” William Walton’s “Five Bagatelles,” Niccolo Paganini’s “Caprice Opus 1, No 24,” and Isaac Albeniz’s “Cordoba.” Fletcher brought tenderness, poignancy, and variety to the traditional Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” transcribed by John and BJ Sutherland, while Walton’s “Five Bagatelles”—only three were played on this particular program—was infused with warmth, skill and a unique understanding of Walton’s musical intentions.

The firework piece of the evening was Paganini’s “Caprice Opus 1, No 24, a work that has had many a musician quaking in their boots. Fletcher—minus one major hiccup—handled this well-known work with an almost pristine brilliance and aplomb. And by adding this work to his repertoire, Fletcher demonstrated that his transcription captures the true essence of this work, taking this prodigious masterpiece beyond pyrotechnical efficiency.

Bravo, bravo Peter Fletcher!!

—William S. Gooch

Ballet Hispanico Celebrates Strong Women

Images courtesy of Paula Lobo

Images courtesy of Paula Lobo

When it comes to celebrating strong women through movement, no dance company has more capacity and generosity than Ballet Hispanico. Strong Latin women have always been at the core of Latin culture and are a focal point in Ballet Hispanico’s repertoire. However, for their spring 2017 season at the Joyce Theater, Ballet Hispanico pulled out all the stops, dedicating whole programs to Hispanic female choreographers.

With that effort, Ballet Hispanico’s female dancers have never looked more magnificent and fully realized than in works by the female choreographers in question—Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, and Tania Perez-Salas. In dance circles, many cultural critics contend that only a woman choreographer—with the exception of a few male choreographers—Balanchine, Robbins, Ashton, and Ailey—can bring out the full range of female dancers’ abilities and craft. Most male choreographers only actualize female dancers’ attributes through the lens of delicate beauty with occasional pyrotechnical displays thrown in for good measure. Not true for Ballet Hispanico’s choreographic triptych. All three female choreographers in Ballet Hispanico’s all-female program aptly manifested the range and depth of what Ballet Hispanico’s women can bring to the stage.

"Linea Recta" images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Linea Recta” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

Doesn’t everyone love flamenco? Well, if that does not ring true for some dance lovers, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Linea Recta” will make flamenco naysayers true believers!! And true to the theme of the night the female dances of Ballet Hispanico wore at the core of Ochoa’s “Linea Recta.”

Performed to original guitar music by Eric Vaarzon Morel, “Linea Rectoa” is Ochoa’s modern interpretation of flamenco infused with a mélange of modern dance techniques from Graham to Horton and Cunningham. Though the women are the central characters in this brilliant work, Ochoa provides some exceptional choreography for Ballet Hispanico’s men.  And the dance language between the sexes is modern, explosive, deliciously sensual and above all celebratory.

"Con Brazos Abiertos" images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Con Brazos Abiertos” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

In “Con Brazos Abiertos,” Michelle Manzanales explores through dance language and the spoken word of Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin, as well as the musical renderings of Julio Iglesias, Daniela Andrade, Gustavo Santolalla, and Juan Carlos Marin, assimilation and the immigrant experience in the US. Manzanales looks back to her own childhood and how the mixed messages of Mexican pride and assimilation informed her.

“Con Brazos Abiertos” is a wonderful amalgam of folkloric movement styles, and modern dance fusions used to relay the immigrant duality. Again, Ballet Hispanico’s women demonstrate their ability at interpret mood, nostalgia, humor and reflection through their mastery of modern and folkloric styles.

"Catorce Dieciseis" images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Catorce Dieciseis” images courtesy of Paula Lobo

“Catorce Dieciseis” reflects the many modern dance works seen on major stages in the beginning of the 21st Century. As had happened in the early 1930s and 40s many modern choreographers in the late 1990s and early 2000s looked to Baroque composers as their musical sources. (Many of Mark Morris’ best know works found inspiration from Baroque composers in the 1990s through early the 2000s.)

Tania Perez-Salas’ “Catorce Dieciseis,” which debuted in 2002, is one such work. Like many ballets from this period that used Baroque music there is a strong emphasis of group movement or corps de ballet that dance similar or the same steps that follow the repetitive canonical-like qualities found in Baroque works. That said; “Catorce Dieciseis” is a joyful feast for the senses that celebrate the theatricality of Ballet Hispanico’s women and also demonstrate that the company is totally capable of excelling at dance works that go beyond Latin themes.  Also, the circular, meandering patterns in “Catorce Dieciseis” reflects Salas’ projections of the number Pi.

Every season Ballet Hispanco proves that their dancers, both women and men, can handle almost any choreographic style. The time is now ripe for Ballet Hispanico and many dance companies of its ilk to receive the global and financial recognition worthy of its brilliance.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Antonia Franceschi Comes Full Circle

Antonia_Franceschi1“Do you know where you’re going to, do you know the things that life is showing you, where are going to? Do you know? — Theme song from “Mahogany”

Antonia Franceschi may not have known exactly where life would take her, but she sure she has ended up in some pretty spectacular places. And where she is right now is just right!!

Most people, if they are old enough, know Antonia from her role as the spoiled ballerina in the movie “Fame.” But that was kind of just the beginning. After “Fame” Antonia spent 11 years in the New York City Ballet and another two decades working in Europe. And all those years on the world’s stages have given her a keen eye and life perspective that is more precious than gold.

Still, life didn’t turn out exactly the way Antonia envisioned. (It rarely does for most of us.) Antonia was the ‘It’ baby ballerina of the early 80s with name recognition and a promising career at the New York City Ballet. That potential went unrealized and for those who never saw the movie “Fame,” or New York City Ballet in the 1980s and 90s, Franceschi’s name does not resonate.

But, life is more than some familiar nods. And Antonia has turned what could have been just 15 minutes of fame into a lifetime of nuanced experiences and creative satisfaction. How many people can name George Balanchine, Natalia Markarova, Jerome Robbins, Alan Parker, and Karole Armitage as personal influences? Not many.

Fashion Reverie was given the extraordinary opportunity to reminisce, revel, and luxuriate in the meandering, sometimes slippery slope, of Antonia Franceschi’s life. And we are all the better for it. We expect our readers will be, too!!

Fashion Reverie: How did you get started in ballet?

Antonia Franceschi: I was born in Ohio and then we moved to Detroit, later to New Rochelle and finally Manhattan. My mom is a painter and she loved ballet and used to take evening classes when we lived in Detroit. I would accompany her and sit on the floor while she took class. I started to imitate her and my mom thought I had some talent and enrolled me in ballet school. 

FR: How did you become one of the dancers in the movie “Grease”?

Antonia Franceschi: “Grease” happened in a very interesting way. I was a student at the High School of the Performing Arts in New York City (PA) when the school was located on 46th Street. I auditioned for both the drama and dance departments because I wanted to be a great dramatic ballerina. I was accepted into both departments, but I opted for the drama department and took ballet classes after school.  I studied the Cecchetti technique with Margaret Craske. Cecchetti technique is one of the hardest techniques because you work without mirrors; you have to feel everything. The core of the training is so good that it keeps you from getting lots of injuries.

One of my very good friends Jerry Regan at PA told me about the “Grease” open call. Now mind you, I had never heard of the musical “Grease,” although it had been a successful production on Broadway. Patricia Birch was the choreographer and she gave a dance phrase and you had to replicate it very quickly. I did my phrase and they kept me and told me to come back the next day for the second part of the audition.

The next day at the audition Pat Birch told anyone under eighteen to leave. (I was sixteen at the time.) I stayed because I figured I would never get the job. A month later I was contacted that I was cast in “Grease.”

The only way I was able to take the job—all the filming was in LA—was that the film was shot during the summer. That way I didn’t get in trouble at PA. But I got kicked out of PA anyway because filming went into early fall and PA found out. It is really hysterical when you think about it because the following year I am cast in the movie “Fame,” which is about my alma mater, PA.

The good thing about “Grease” is that I earned enough money to go to Professional Children’s School (PCS), which was necessary for me because I was now studying at the School of American Ballet (SAB), being that I was expelled from PA.  At the time no one knew that “Grease” would turn out to be the box office hit that it turned out to be.

Antonia Franceschi in "Grease" and Franceschi with "Fame" cast

Antonia Franceschi in “Grease” and Franceschi with “Fame” cast

FR: Now, lets talk about the movie “Fame”, we all know that you played the character Hilary van Doren. How did that all come about?

Antonia Franceschi: Because of the filming of “Grease,” I felt I had lost some valuable ballet training. So, I auditioned for SAB and got a scholarship while attending PCS. I lot of the students from PCS and SAB were talking about auditioning for the movie “Fame.” I didn’t want to lose more time in my dance training, so initially I was not interested. And at the time the ballet world frowned upon doing anything outside of the dance world.

The producers of “Fame” were having a hard time finding ballet dancers of the appropriate age to be in the ballet classroom scenes. So, a bunch of students from SAB went in and auditioned. Also, one of the casting agents from “Fame” contacted me and asked me to audition.

I went to the casting and they had me read Hilary van Doren’s abortion clinic scene. They liked my read and immediately had me read for the director Alan Parker. And just like that I got the part. I really liked the script and Alan Parker, so I thought it would be great to be in the movie.

The only thing that had me kind of freaked out was that George Balanchine would sometimes observe the morning advance class and choose dancers. I was worried that the day he scouted dancers for New York City Ballet (NYCB), I would be filming “Fame.” The day that Balanchine did come in, my filming schedule was in the afternoon. I was in Stanley Williams’ class that morning and Stanley organized the class to show off my best qualities. After filming “Fame” sequences that afternoon, a friend of mine, Cynthia Lochard—who was also in “Fame”—called me and screamed in the phone, “We’re in. We both got into City Ballet.” So, it worked out perfectly, I got to be in “Fame” and I was signed to the NYCB. Coincidentally, I didn’t go to the premiere of “Fame” in NYC because my graduation performance from SAB was the same night. But, I did go to the “Fame” after party at Studio 54 with my boyfriend in a limousine.

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Images of Antonia Franceschi in “Fame”

FR: By the time “Fame” was released you were already in the New York City Ballet. Did you know that you wanted to be a ballet dancer as opposed to an actress while you were filming “Fame”?

Antonia Franceschi: Honestly, I only wanted to be a ballet dancer and work with a genius like George Balanchine. With “Fame,” the director Alan Parker is also a genius. So, early in my career, creative masters surrounded me, and that desire to collaborate with the best has stuck with me.

Also, Hollywood turned me off when I was in “Grease.” I was sixteen and very insecure. I had acne, I didn’t have large breasts, and I didn’t think I had anything special. After “Grease,” John Travolta’s manager wanted to manage me. But, I knew at that young age I couldn’t emotionally manage being in Hollywood. I didn’t have a strong support system, my parents had separated, honestly, and I really just wanted to dance. So, I opted out of becoming an actress.

When the “Fame” television series was being developed, I was asked to be a part of the cast. But, by that time I was already in the NYCB. I didn’t realize at the time that Mr. Balanchine would be dead in three years.

Even after I got into the NYCB, Hollywood would always call. I got offered a three-picture deal after “Fame.” But, I had blinders on; you have to if you are going to have a career in ballet. When I left the NYCB, I did other things. I moved to London, I acted in plays and did some film. I even wrote a play that I choreographed and starred in.

FR: You were one of the last dancers that Balanchine personally chose for NYCB. What was it was like working with Balanchine?

Antonia Franceschi: Even though Balanchine didn’t live a long time after he chose me for the NYCB, I was so fortunate to work with him closely. When Nureyev and Patricia McBride performed Balanchine’s “Le Bourgeoisie Gentilhomme,” I was one of the six SAB students chosen to perform the work. I also was in some of Balanchine’s last ballets—“Ballade” and “Noah’s Ark.” He would talk to me a lot in class and in rehearsal. He was nicest man, but his classes were not kind to your body, everything was extreme.

NYCB, at that time, was an amazing ballet company because Balanchine chose every dancer for their unique gifts. That was my environment and everything was sugar for me. Just to be in his presence and learn from this great genius has made an indelible mark on me as an artist.

FR: How were you received at NYCB because of your early fame?

Antonia Franceschi: By the time “Fame” came out I was already in the corps de ballet of NYCB after having danced with “Markarova and Company.” While I was dancing with Markarova, she got injured and I had to dance one of her roles. Clive Barnes, the dance critic for the New York Times, predicted I would be a great star.

So things at NYCB for me were a little odd in the beginning because I was already famous. Ballet companies tend to make dancers stars because of their association with certain choreographers and/or for dancing major roles. I was already well known before joining NYCB because of “Fame” and “Makarova and Company.” There were some people at NYCB that were threatened and were not as nice as they could have been. It took a while for me to prove to certain folks at NYCB that I was serious. There was some jealousy because early on choreographers would make roles on me, which is highly unusual for a new dancer. It was a tricky time.

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Images of Antonia Franceschi in the New York City Ballet

FR: Do you realize that to people who were not ballet fans you were more well known because of “Fame” than most ballet dancers with the exception of Nureyev, Baryshnikov and maybe Margot Fonteyn? How did you deal with that recognition early on in your career?

Antonia Franceschi: Because of the Internet and social media it is now a good thing to be famous. However, thirty years ago in the dance world you had to be humble and self-effacing. I would take the subway and people would recognize me and I would pretend I was someone else. The best compliment I ever got was this girl came up to me on the subway and said, “I hated your ass in the movie.” That comment confirmed I did my job well.

The whole world has changed since “Fame” and being in NYCB from 1980 to 1992. You can live your life in a bubble in a ballet company. I was working from 7:30 in the morning to 11pm at night, six days a week. The only people you meet are mostly those involved with the ballet world. You give everything to that world. If you had any energy left over, you’re made to feel you were not giving enough. Mr. Balanchine used to say, “What are you saving it for.”

FR: How long were you in the New York City Ballet, and what was your experience there like?

Antonia Franceschi: For most of the 11 years I was in the NYCB, I would say it was great, but very hard. One of the hardest things is that I didn’t have the success at NYCB that I wanted or that was predicted. The good thing about NYCB is that you perform a lot and dance a wide range of roles, even soloist and principal roles, while still in the corps de ballet.

I had the great disadvantage of being a transition dancer. Balanchine chose me for the company and then he passed away in 1983 and Peter Martins became the creative director. You hope things will stay the same, but they weren’t. By the time I realized how different things were I was 27 years old and too old to go to another company; which is not the case now, but back then you stayed where you were.

When Peter Martins took over NYCB, he had to learn how to run this huge institution. That said; I was never a hater; I felt I had to work harder and continue to prove myself. So I continued to work really hard, but nothing was happening. At 27, I got married and decided to get really thin, because Peter Martins liked really thin ballerinas. Immediately, I started getting soloist roles. I stayed really thin for three years but couldn’t maintain it. It was too hard counting every little calorie all day. I was worn down mentally trying to maintain my weight.

I would always get asked to do things outside of NYCB, but I would always turn things down. However, in 1992 I was offered one of the leads in a production of “Brigadoon” and some other things and I decided why not leave NYCB on a high note while I was getting all these major roles. So, I left with my dignity at the age of 30.

FR: You were in the NYCB corps de ballet for 11 years. What lead roles did dance and what roles were created on you?

Antonia Franceschi: Jerome Robbins made “Piano Pieces” for me and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous made a beautiful pas de deux for Ib Anderson and me. I did leads in Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments,” “Episodes,” a demi-soloist in “Diamonds,” Tenderness fairy in “Sleeping Beauty,” and one of the leads in Lar Lubovitch’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” When I moved to Europe I danced as a guest artist in the works of Mark Baldwin, Wayne McGregor, Michael Clarke, Arlene Phillips, and Karole Armitage for ten years and then started producing and choreographing my own work. I had a second life in Europe in my thirties that has taken me to where I am now. If I had become a principal dancer with NYCB, I never would have explored more acting opportunities and dancing with these great European chorographers, as well as realizing my gifts as a choreographer and producer, and teaching at the Royal Ballet and Rambert Dance Company.

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Antonia Franceschi’s dance company AFD Just Dance and Antonia Franceschi in rehearsal

FR: How would you describe your choreographic style?

Antonia Franceschi: When you start choreographing, your work looks like everything you have ever danced. You don’t have your own voice yet. The starting point for me, like Balanchine, is the music. My style is an amalgam of all the things I have learned from Cecchetti to Balanchine and the contemporary choreographers I worked with in Europe.

You don’t really learn to choreograph when a choreographer puts a work on you, you learn watching them work and teaching. I have worked with Richard Alston for over 15 years and I learned from him how to get people on and off stage and link movement.

FR: You continue to perform, why?

Antonia Franceschi: I continue to perform because I stayed healthy. I am so healthy because I was trained by Margaret Craske in the Cecchetti technique which when done properly keeps you from getting so many injuries. If I am asked, I will dance things that I can still dance well. I have no injuries, I have no pain and my body feels good.

I recently danced some excerpts from Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “Symphony in Three Movements” for a group piece called “Museum de Dance” at the Sofia Museum in Spain. Mark Baldwin recently made a solo for me. Still, I only perform if I think it is the right thing to do.

Downloads361FR: How has the dance world that you were such an integral part of changed? Have the dancers changed?

Antonia Franceschi: I am at a disadvantage answering that questions because I just moved back to NYC after living in London for 22 years. One of things I noticed was that there is just a quick turnover at NYCB. Balanchine rarely fired dancers. You could stay there until you didn’t want to perform any more. That is not the case now.

Also, when I was dancing I was very much on the down low about going to classes at Fordham University on my day off. Now, everyone talks about what they are going to do after they stop dancing. Dancers are now more realistic about their careers. However, the flip side of that is that maybe dance is less precious and there is less of a commitment because there are more options. And some of the magic is gone. So, there is a trade off.

FR: In your ballet for New York Theatre Ballet “She Holds Out Her Hand” one of the lead dancers was a dancer of color. That said; how do you feel about diversity in ballet?

Antonia Franceschi: When I was in “Fame” I had scene where I had to kiss Gene Anthony Ray. Now, that was back in 1979 and I was advised not to do it because it could ruin my career. I did what I wanted to do, kiss Gene Anthony Ray, because I wasn’t going to be an actress.

Now, that incident was over 30 years ago. However, I was producing a ballet program in London some years back and I brought some dancers over from the NYCB—Wendy Whelan, Peter Boal, and Albert Evans. There was beautiful poster featuring Albert Evans with the caption “New York Ballet Stars.”  Albert Evans is African American and a big star with the NYCB at that time. One of sponsors didn’t want me to use the poster because a black person didn’t represent ballet to her.  I went with the poster and we sold out. So, there!!

Still, even in Europe there is this embedded racism in ballet. They don’t want to see a brown or black girl in the corps de ballet of “Swan Lake” because in their minds all the swans should look the same. That is still a factor on the other side of the Big Pond.

To use Amanda Smith as the lead in my ballet was a no-brainer. She is deep, musical, and has a beautiful quality. Perhaps, I got that from Mr. Balanchine, he liked people who could dance.

Image courtesy of NYTB.

Antonia Franceshi’s “She Holds Out Her Hand” image courtesy of NYTB. All other images courtesy of Antonia Franceschi

FR: What is life like for you now back in the States, and what’s next for you?

Antonia Franceschi: Well, my son is 13 and I moved back because I wanted him to experience NYC and more cultural diversity. I have been substitute teaching at Barnard College and Julliard, I have two ballet commissions and I have work back in London for the summer.

I started a company called AFD Just Dance in London and we were invited to perform at the Opera House in Malta. I handpicked dancers from the Royal Ballet, Rambert, and Random DV8. We sold out, so I decided to keep the company going. We performed at the Royal Winchester and also sold out.  So, voila, I had a company. I am planning to do the same thing in NYC, mix British dancers with American dancers, performing to live music. And there were other things in the works.

—William S. Gooch

 

Antonia Franceschi’s choreography will be a part of Barnard College/Columbia Dances at Miller on April 21 & April 22.

New Theatre Ballet Programs Vintage Works with New Ballets

NYTB's "L'Apres Midi d'un Faune"

NYTB’s “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune”

In this political and economic climate, how does a New York City–based chamber ballet company continue to attract audiences and keep itself afloat? Though New York City is a global dance capital, for quite a few decades it has not been kind to small dance companies.

In past decades, New York City housed such varied dance companies and collectives as U.S. Terpsichore, Ballet NY, formerly the Feld Ballet, New York Chamber Ballet, Dennis Wayne Dancers, and more recently Complexions, which has since relocated to Atlanta. The list goes on and on. Even Joffrey Ballet moved to Chicago two decades ago.

Higher rents, fewer resources, and surprisingly a decreased number of high-quality dancers with a strong technique have made maintaining small dance troupes presence in New York City almost a herculean task. Still, after 35 years New York Theatre ballet has soldiered on, managing to do almost the impossible.

For their season at New York City Live Arts, New York Theatre Ballet presented six works. New York Theatre Ballet has been a reservoir of presenting iconic ballets and not often-performed works from some of the most beloved choreographers. Three decades in their reconstruction/conservation efforts, New Theatre has presented rarely seen and/or iconic works by Frederick Ashton, Bronislava Nijinksa, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anthony Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Jose Limon, and many others.

NYTB's Elena Zahlmann and Steven Menendez in "L'Apres Midi d'un Faune"

NYTB’s Elena Zahlmann and Steven Melendez in “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune”

The most anticipated ballet of the evening was Vaslav Nijinsky’s seminal work, L’Apres midi d’un faune. L’Apres midi d’un faune was Nijinsky’s first choreographic work for the Ballets Russe and this extraordinary work rest almost entirely on the performance of the faune, portrayed in its debut by Nijinsky himself. Great male dancers have performed this role—Serge Lifar, Nureyev, and Faruhk Ruzimatov—and following in that tradition the male dancer must have a sensual, animalistic, otherworldly quality. Unfortunately, New York Theatre Ballet’s faune, Joshua Andino-Nieto, didn’t have the necessary qualities to render a memorable faune. Andino-Nieto struggled with the exotic, otherworldliness that Nijinsky and Ruzimatov brought to the role. And the wild, animalistic quality that Nureyev brought to the role was far beyond Andino-Nieto’s abilities.

Elena Zahlmann in NYTB's "La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme"

Elena Zahlmann in NYTB’s “La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme”

Elena Zahlmann adequately danced Frederick Ashton’s La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme. As showpiece for the great British ballerina Meryl Park, Ashton in this solo work choreographed in all the nuances and idiosyncrasies that made Meryl Park had a great ballerina. Zahlmann was able to pull off with some aplomb Meryl Park’s bouree flutterings, and fast allegro footwork. Though this solo was quite charming with its feline characterizations, it is one of Ashton’s minor works.

Amanda Treiber and Steven Melendez in NYTB's pas de deux from "Such Loving"

Amanda Treiber and Steven Melendez in NYTB’s pas de deux from “Such Loving”

Richard Alston’s pas de deux from Such Longing was well performed by Amanda Treiber and Steven Menendez. The beautiful music by Chopin added to the ebb and flow longings of a mature couple. Alston’s whose background was from London Contemporary Dance Theatre was ever present in this lovely pas de deux. Typical of the movement style of London Contemporary Dance Theatre of the early 1970s, there were lots of posed movement and modern dance couple work interspersed with modern ballet partnering, all well dance by Treiber and Menendez.

Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto in NYTB's "She Holds Out Her Hand." All images courtesy of Rachel Neville/Michelle Tabnick Communications

Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto in NYTB’s “She Holds Out Her Hand.” All images courtesy of Rachel Neville/Michelle Tabnick Communications

Antonia Franceschi’s She Holds Out Her Hand was a very good ensemble work for the company. The work was fresh and contemporary with a slight nod to Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. The ensemble work was well done with some intricate and innovative partnering for the main couples.

Works of this nature should be more a part of New York Theatre Ballet’s repertoire in that these types of work stretch their dances and gives them to opportunity to dance choreography that is more accessible to younger audiences. Standout dancers in this work were Amanda Smith, Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto.

New York Theatre Ballet appears to be prepared to weather the storms of upcoming national cuts to the arts. Though they been through this cycle before, it would be nice if concert dance companies of this caliber didn’t have deal with the kind of ignorance and misunderstanding of what they bring to the world at large.

—William S. Gooch

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