Misty Copeland Does Don Quixote Her Way

 

Image courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor/ABT

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 2nd 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 was extremely fast, keeping time with the conductor’s tempi.

bb_don_quixote_2_Jeffrey_CirioCopeland has in 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 II whose Espada was intense and passionate; Luciana Paris’ fiery Mercedes; Veronika Part’s pristine Queen of 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

Everything Adds Up for Brianne Davis in “Six”

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Some actors go from triumph to triumph. Brianne Davis is one such actress. Well, at least it seems that way.

If you reflect on Brianne Davis’ early success in “Dawson Creek,” that success was 16 years ago. Still, Brianne Davis has gone from one hit film or television series to the next. And with each new role her acting achieved more depth and nuance. From reoccurring roles in “Dawson Creek,” “Hollywood Heights” “True Blood,” and “If Loving You Is Wrong” to supporting roles in “Jarhead,” “Prom Night,” “American Virgin,” and “Magi,” Brianne Davis has proved that she is not going anywhere but up!!

Making the transition from adorable teen actress to acquiring more mature roles is a difficult challenge for any actress. In a culture that trades in young ingénues like a business man changes his shirts, Brianne has weathered the vicissitudes of  Tinseltown; in fact she has triumphed. And “Six” is her latest triumph.

In “Six” Brianne Davis plays Lena Graves, the wife of a Navy Seal serviceman who has recently loss her four-month old daughter. Brianne Davis talked with Fashion Reverie about her role in “Six,” her acting career and fashion.

Fashion Reverie: What first attracted you to your character Lena Graves in “Six”?

 Brianne Davis: Lena is such a strong, reserved, quiet and dignified character. I have never had an opportunity to play a character like her. She has stay strong for her husband to do his job. If she breaks, the family dynamic disintegrates. Her husband is a Navy seal and his job is very stressful. So, he needs the support of his whole family.

Lena is a schoolteacher at home while her husband is off on military duty. This is a very intense character. Lena and her husband were high school sweethearts and they lost their four-month old daughter. So, in this first season we deal a lot with the loss of their daughter.

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

FR: While your production team was shooting “Six” were you going back and forth between shooting combat scenes and Lena’s life back home in the States?

Brianne Davis: Yes, the Navy Seals are not like other military servicemen. Sometimes, they leave on a Thursday and come back the next week and have to readjust to civilian life until they are off on military duty again. The most difficult part is when the spouses leave, you don’t know where they are going, they cannot reveal their location and you don’t know when they will return. So, how do you navigate a relationship when there are so many unknowns? It is a huge challenge

FR: Your character is a military wife and your mom was a military wife. Did your experience with your Dad serving in Vietnam provide could source material for this role, and why?

Brianne Davis: Completely. My mom is a strong businesswoman. She really kept our family together when my father wasn’t able to. I definitely got a strong work ethic and independence from my mom. So, I did bring those childhood influences to my character on “Six.”

FR: Is this your first time playing a wife and mother?

Brianne Davis: I have played a wife before, but this is my first time playing a wife and mother, although my child is deceased in “Six.”

FR: What aspects of the character do you most identify with?

Brianne Davis: I probably most identified with Lena’s strength. She is a very strong individual. I least identified with how she expresses herself. When Lena speaks her words are very thought out; everything she says is for a reason. She is very contained. Lena also comes from a military background, so she knows how to communicate in a careful manner in certain situations, thus she chooses her words very wisely.

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

Images courtesy of the Anderson Group

FR: You garnered some tangible experience for this role by starring in “Jarhead” with Jake Gyllenhaal where you got to meet servicemen in Afghanistan. Could you talk about that?

Brianne Davis: William Broyles wrote the “Jarhead’s” is screenplay and is “Six’s” show runner and creator. When I came in to read for the part, he couldn’t believe how much I had grown up. (“Jarhead” was filmed in 2005.)

My character is different in “Six” compared to my character in “Jarhead;” however, I was informed by the army veterans I met in Afghanistan while filming “Jarhead.” “Jarhead” did give me some good source information.

FR: “Six” is on the History Channel. Why the History Channel than a more traditional network?

Brianne Davis: The History Channel is the perfect network for “Six” because in a sense this show is the history of what is going on military life right now.

FR: What do you hope audiences will get from this series?

Brianne Davis: I hope they see how much Navy Seals give up for our country. These families are sacrificing just as much as the Navy Seals themselves. Whether you agree or disagree politically with the military presence in certain countries, we should support the soldiers and their families. “Six” is a real, authentic look into the lives of military families and I hope audiences can feel the emotion, heartache, and joy of their experiences.

Brianne Davis in "ChromeSkull," "True Blood," and "Dawson Creek," respectively.

Brianne Davis in “ChromeSkull,” “True Blood,” and “Dawson Creek,” respectively.

FR: You have had reoccurring roles in “Hollywood Heights,” “Murder in the First,” “True Blood,” and “If Loving You Is Wrong.” What was your favorite reoccurring role, and why?

Brianne Davis: That is really hard, but if I had to pick, I would say “True Blood” because of the fantasy aspect of the show. Also, “Murder in the First” was fantastic because who would not want to be a part of a Stevhen Bochco show.

FR: Let’s look back at some of your earlier roles. Could you talk a little bit about “Dawson Creek”?  You were on that show while you were high school.

Brianne Davis: “Dawson Creek” was filmed in Wilmington, NC and I am from Georgia. So, the only way I was able to be a part of the cast while in high school is because I didn’t live that far away from the film location.

Being a part of the cast was amazing. First, I was star struck with all my cast mates. “Dawson Creek” was my first television series. James Van Der Beck was such a great person to work with. I was so knew to television and film and he was so encouraging.

FR: You are a great beauty and you started commercial modeling at the tender age of 12. What made you switch to acting?

Brianne Davis: I am naturally a very shy person and modeling didn’t really allow me to come out of my shell and express myself as much as acting did.  I love fashion and shooting editorials; however, in fashion I felt more like a prop instead of a person. And for me that was not fulfilling enough. The moment I took an acting class, I knew acting was for me. Acting brought me closer to myself and out of my shell.

Images courtesy of pinterest.com, zimbio.com, and amazoncom, respectively

Images courtesy of pinterest.com, zimbio.com, and amazoncom, respectively

FR: Who are some of your favorite designers?

Brianne Davis: I love Donna Karan and Calvin Klein because both of these designers have a minimalistic aesthetic that appeals to me. I am one of those consumers that could have an expensive bag from Philipp Plein and pair it with something from H&M and Zara. I love to mix and match; have one expensive item and everything else you could find a lower priced retail stores.

FR: If you had a fashion fantasy of wearing a particular designer to the Oscars, which designer would you wear?

Brianne Davis: I would wear vintage Donna Karan. However, you cannot go wrong with Tom Ford or Oscar de la Renta.

FR: You have segued into directing, has that made you a better actress?

Brianne Davis: Yes, it has because being on the other side of the camera you see how important continuity is. Continuity is doing something the same way every time in a scene. Being on the other side of the camera you recognize what is important to a scene, you began to understand the whole story and how all the elements must come together. Also, you understand more fully that any direction that the director gives an actor is not personal. The direction is to get the scene to work better. Sometimes actors can be very sensitive and emotional. Working on the other side of the camera you learn how direction is not personal

FR: What’s next for you?

Brianne Davis: We are waiting to hear about season two for “Six.” I just finished my application for the Warner Brothers directing program. If I get accepted, that would be amazing. I have a series that I created with my husband for our production company, Give and Take, and we are starting to pitch that. I have also been asked to direct the film, “The Place Apart.” And also I like most actors, I continue to audition.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie’s 2016 Holiday Movie Picks

Just as diversity was front and center in a lot of fashion publications, so was 2016 a year of films that featured diverse casts and stories that put people of color front and center. This holiday season several holiday films feature strong performances by actors of color. From Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (“Fences”) to Taraji Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) to Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), 2016 has turned into a year where Hollywood embraced the wide swarth and tone of the African American narrative and voice.

"Fences" images courtesy of postgazette.com

“Fences” images courtesy of postgazette.com

Since opening on Broadway in 1984, there has been much talk about bringing this epic African-American story of love, strength, betrayal and forgiveness to the silver screen. Finally, August Wilson’s great American story has come to the big screen and Denzel Washington and Viola Davis do the late August Wilson pride in the pivotal roles of Troy Maxson and his wife.

Set in segregated Pittsburgh of the 1950s. Sanitation worker Troy Maxson, played with nuance, passion and strength by Denzel Washington denies his son’s chance at a football scholarship, opting for a trade career for his son. Maxson own career as a professional ballplayer was deferred due to his age.

The long-suffering wife, played magnificently by Viola Davis, as the tensions between the human triangle reveals raw wounds, witnesses the tension between father and son. Wilson’s “Fences” is in the great tradition of “Death of a Salesman,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” and with exquisite film adaptation global audiences can finally witness its glory.

"Moonlight" image courtesy of highlighthollywood.com

“Moonlight” image courtesy of highlighthollywood.com

In a somewhat opposite vein is “Moonlight.” Set during the ‘War on Drugs’ era in Miami, “Moonlight” centers on a young man dealing with his sexual proclivities while struggling with a dysfunctional family. Told in three stories as the protagonist Chiron moves through childhood to young adulthood.

This poignant film, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, not only examines the raw, sometimes violent life of drug communities in Miami, but also the emotions of abandonment, sexual ambivalence, and denial. Though dissimilar from “Fences” in many ways, the thread of deferred dreams also runs through “Moonlight.”

Amy Adams in "Nocturnal Animals." Image courtesy of variety.com

Amy Adams in “Nocturnal Animals.” Image courtesy of variety.com

Most people know Tom Ford from his stint at Gucci and later as the creative director of eponymous brand. With “Nocturnal Animals,” consumers will get to see Ford in a different light.

Based on 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, “Nocturnal Animals” is a neo-noir psychological thriller that looks at the dark truths that people run away from.  Haunted by a script by her first husband that arrives unexpectedly, Amy Adams is forced to look at her own deep past that has lots of secrets.

"Jackie" image courtesy of salemwebnetwork.com

“Jackie” image courtesy of salemwebnetwork.com

Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of classic style and regality. As the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy distinguished herself as the FLOTUS that brought style and sophistication to the White House. Jackie as the FLOTUS used luxury designers to dress her, namely Halston, Oleg Cassini, Coco Chanel, Givenchy and Dior.

In the biopic “Jackie” after John Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie’s (Natalie Portman) world comes apart. Over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the White House and planning her husband’s funeral. Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy—and how she herself will be remembered.

"Hidden Figures" image courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

“Hidden Figures” image courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

Did you know that African-American women in the early 1960s played an important part in the development of NASA, putting the first American man into orbit? You probably didn’t know that fact, most people don’t.

“Hidden Figures” tells the untold story of three African-American women that played an indelible role in NASA’s early history. Taraji Henson, Olivia Spencer and Janelle Monae portray three African-American mathematicians who must deal with racism, sexism and bigotry as they build their careers and fight for the opportunity to play a significant role in launching the first American astronaut into space.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Feature: Andy Warhol’s Letters and Cadillac

Image courtesy of knockturnal.com

Image courtesy of knockturnal.com

America has perhaps lived through one of the biggest rejections in its current political history. Strangely enough this rejection was not based on the majority of the US electorate, but the result of a critical mass that rejected governmental power, as we know it, and opted for the unknown.

Paradoxically, rejection often comes from a fear of the unknown. However, for this recent rejection, the unknown had a wide appeal. That said; rejection is a part of life, and for most artists, rejection is a constant bedfellow. As popular as Andy Warhol was in life and posthumously, early in his career as with most artists of his ilk, he was not immune to rejection. This early rejection and other letters from his archive, housed in the Andy Warhol Museum, is the subject of a traveling exhibit, the result of a collaboration of the Cadillac House and the Andy Warhol Museum.

The “Letters to Andy Warhol” exhibition features rarely seen material from the museum’s archive, including artwork and Warhol’s personal correspondence, plus artistic contributions from several modern-day cultural creators including Brian Atwood, Sienna Miller, Sean Lennon, JJ Martin, Zac Posen, Chiara Clemente, Aimee Mullins, David LaChapelle, Francesco Clemente, Nick Rhodes and more. The “Letters to Andy Warhol” exhibit features five interpretations: Mick Jagger’s letter to Warhol asking the legendary artist to create the artwork for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 “Sticky Fingers” album is brought to life by Sean Lennon via a virtual reality experience; Warhol’s letters to Truman Capote discussing fame, determination and ambition are explored in a short film directed Chiara Clemente featuring Sienna Miller, Zac Posen, David LaChapelle; a letter from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) rejecting Warhol’s “Shoe” artwork into the museum’s collection is interpreted via an illustrated children’s book by shoe designer Brian Atwood;  and a letter from famed designer Yves Saint Laurent expressing his gratitude for Warhol’s friendship is explored in a portraiture series by writer and author Derek Blasberg.

Images courtesy of Kovert Creative

Images courtesy of Kovert Creative

“This collaboration came [with Andy Warhol Museum and Cadillac House] together to celebrate two American icons. Andy celebrated Cadillac as a brand along with Campbell Soup and Coco-Cola,” detailed Patrick Moore, interim director of the Andy Warhol Museum. “That is where the idea behind this exhibition started, but as we got to immerse more into Andy’s world we developed a deeper relationship. We were really inspired by these letters from his archives, and we realized that some of things that we found in his letters reflect the Cadillac story of today. The Cadillac story of today is about reinvention, perseverance, innovation, and challenge. These are some of the themes we find in these letters that we are bringing to life in a really immersive way.” “This exhibit also demonstrates Cadillac’s commitment to redefining the role of a brand in culture. A brand should be a producer of culture and not just an advertiser who takes advantage of culture. We talk about Cadillac redefining what a patron of the arts can be, and really supporting the arts in an immersive, experiential and added-value way.”

Perhaps, the most innovative feature of the exhibit was the 100 ft., life-size,  illustrated children’s book, “Bobby’s Brilliant Heels” illustrated by shoe designer Brian Atwood with text by JJ Martin. “Bobby’s Brilliant Heels” is about a young boy who likes to dress in and design women’s clothes and how his family and friends support him. The book is loosely based on Brian Atwood’s childhood with shoes produced by Atwood as a part of the exhibit display.

Image courtesy of Kovert Creative

Image courtesy of Kovert Creative

“I was approached by the idea of this collaboration by a friend. The rejection letter that Warhol received from MOMA inspired me to write a children’s book based on the rejection letter. I approached my writer friend JJ Martin because I had never written or produced a children’s book,” explained Brian Atwood. “The book was based around the Warhol shoe photo that was rejected by MOMA. We didn’t want the high heel in the book to be a heel for a little girl, we wanted it to be more contemporary and celebrate creativity” … “This book is also about rejection and redemption. Who would’ve thought that Andy Warhol experienced rejection in his career, but he did. Everyone does, and everyone has to figure out their of moving past rejection, and this book is about that.”

“Letters to Andy Warhol” will be on display at New York City’s Cadillac House through December 26 and then will embark on a national tour. For more information, go to cadillac.com/experience/cadillac-house.html.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Laura Michelle Conjures up “Chuck Norris” and the “Rockstars of Fashion”

Laura_Michelle_Chuck_Norris_05The synergy of fashion and music has become such a constant presence in music videos that the hard work, the style options and the delicate balance that’s necessary to create that seamless flow is not obvious to most viewers. Still, when it all comes to gather—which is a miracle in itself—the videos can create an indelible impression in consumers’ memory.

Who can forget Madonna in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s cone-breasted bustier in “Vogue,”  Michael Jackson’s leather jackets in “Beat It,” Toni Basil in cheerleader gear in “Mickie” or Janelle Monae’s androgynous style in most of her videos. Being styled in certain fashion can bring more audience engagement to fashion designers and/or help launch the career of style. (June Ambrose holler!!)

This cross-pollination of music and style has created some iconic music videos. And the evolution of fashion and music continues with Laura Michelle’s new video “Chuck Norris.” And though the Chuck Norris reference doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of high fashion, stylist Jill Christiansen has injected some Alexander Wang, Alexander McQueen, Gucci and some Louboutin’s into this off-beat video.

After the release of “Chuck Norris,” Laura Michelle spoke with Fashion Reverie about her personal style and how Chuck Norris served as a reference point for this wacky, but stylishly chic video.

Fashion Reverie: How would you describe your musical style?

Laura Michele: That is always such a hard question because my taste in music is very eclectic. However, my musical style can be described as pop rock. The “Chuck Norris” video is more pop, but the rest of the CD. “Novel With No End,” is more pop rock.  There are a lot of influences in my music. One time on the way to the studio to record I was listening to country music and when I got to the studio my sound came out sounding very country western. So, the technician at the studio said ” No more country before you come into record.”

FR: Your have an eclectic musical style, as well as an eclectic fashion sense. Where does this all come from?

Laura Michele: I have always been really silly and quirky, although I was shy as a child. My Dad was always sick when I was kid so I would use humor to try to cheer him up. So, that is where my quirky side comes from. Plus, my whole family loves to laugh and likes to make jokes.  We are a silly family and that quirky silliness comes out in my music and my fashion style.

12_TopOfTheWorldFINAL2FR: I read in your bio that one of your early musical influences was Donny Osmond in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Laura Michele: My mom would buy me these CDs and she brought me “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with Donny Osmond. I must have worn that CD out, playing it over and over again. Once when my family was in Hawaii on spring break we found out that Donny Osmond was performing in the show in Maui. My Dad couldn’t get us tickets and later I found out that that particular performance was the last time Donny sang in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” I also love the song he does in the Disney movie “Mulan.”

FR: Who are some of your other musical influences?

Laura Michele: When I was really little I loved all the music from the Disney musicals. As I grew older, I was enchanted with Celine Dion. I couldn’t have a good day at school unless I started my day listening to Celine Dion. Then, I transitioned to N’Sync and Britney Spears. Now, my tastes are all over the place. I find inspiration from so many artists; there are so many good musical artists on the scene right now.

Image courtesy of Venone PR

Image courtesy of Venone PR

FR: Could you talk a little about your musical training?

Laura Michele: I started voice lessons in the third grade. I started with a guy with named Jim Beckford. I started recording in my senior year in high school. And Beckford taught me a lot about studio singing. I later studied with David Corey in LA and he was been vocal coach ever since.

FR: Why did you choose Chuck Norris as a cultural reference point for this video?

Laura Michele: As I mentioned earlier my Dad was sick for most of life and in the last four years of his life we watched a lot of  “Walker, Texas Ranger” that starred Chuck Norris. And I found out that Chuck Norris also gives a lot to charities and his own foundation. And who is more badass than Chuck Norris?

FR: So in a way in this video an homage to your Dad.

Laura Michele: To some extent, this video does give honor to my Dad. I kept thinking when we were shooting this video about how much my Dad would have gotten a kick out of this video. In the video I am wearing a diamond heart pendant necklace my Dad gave me. There is also a framed photo my Dad and me in several scenes of the video.

Images courtesy of Venone PR

Stills from “Chuck Morris” video. Images courtesy of Venone PR

FR: What are some of your styling choices in this video?

Laura Michele: My taste is very eclectic. There some very 50s silhouettes mixed with rock n’ roll.  That is what I am very drawn to. I am also very drawn to comfort that is one of the reason I love Alexander Wang and he clothes are used quite a bit in this video. In the waiting room scene I am wearing Alexander Wang. Jill Christiansen, my stylist, really understands my style aesthetic and is always directing me to get great garments for my own personal wardrobe.

FR: How did your relationship with Jill Christiansen develop?

Laura Michele: I met her through Matt Beard who is the photographer for my current CD. I have known her for ten years and we hit it off immediately. She is so hard working, really understands my aesthetic and so easy to work with.  Most of all she never tries to dress me in clothes that I am not comfortable in. And consumers can see when you are not comfortable in certain stage costumes or clothes in photo shoots.

FR: You are somewhat of a curvy girl, does being curvy dictate how you choose fashion and which designers you are attracted to?

Laura Michele: I gravitate toward what I like and in reality I really only a size 6. Sometimes because of the curves, consumers think I am larger, but I am really only a size 6.  My style is geared toward more what catches my eye.

Images courtesy of Venone PR

Images courtesy of Venone PR

FR: What’s next for you?

Laura Michele:  I filmed a Comcast on Demand special and that should be airing soon. My new CD comes out August 7. I will be touring and doing shows in the fall and I am already working and writing music for my next CD.

For more information on Laura Michelle, go to www.lauramichelle.com. And to check out Laura Michelle’s “Chuck Norris video, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UFllztXKU4

—William S. Gooch

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: “Devious Maids’” Sol Rodriguez Transitions to American Television and the Big Screen

Image courtesy of the Anderson Group

Image courtesy of the Anderson Group

Latina women are becoming a regular presence on television and the big screen. From the groundbreaking performances of Sonia Braga in the late 80s to Academy Award–winning and nominated performances of Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek, Latina women are making an indelible imprint in Hollywood.

Nowadays, Latina women don’t have to just play the stereotypical exotic, docile beauties or the fiery sex kittens that Rita Moreno and Rita Hayworth played half a century ago. The roles are becoming more diverse and multi-layered, particularly for Latina actresses in their 20s and 30s. And the good news, an accent is not necessarily an impediment.

Image courtesy of lifetime.com

“Devious Maids” season four image courtesy of lifetime.com

Sol Rodriguez is primed to be one of those Latina breakout actresses. With her new role on the fourth season of “Devious Maids,” this Argentinean beauty will get the chance to show the width and breath of her acting chops.

Fashion Reverie was given the opportunity to chat with Sol (short for Soledad) Rodriguez on the eve of the premiere of the new season of “Devious Maids.”

Fashion Reverie: You are from Argentina; did you aspire as a child to become an actress?

Sol Rodriguez:  I never wanted to be an actor as a child; I just kind of stumbled on it. I moved to Miami when I was a teenager and I signed with a talent agency in Miami to do commercials for extra money. The agency sent me to an acting audition although it was not my intention to become an actress. At any rate, I learned my lines and I got the job that turned out to be on Nickelodeon’s teen show “Grachi.” And I have been in the acting field ever since.

FR: So, in some sense acting was by accident.

Sol Rodriguez:  Exactly. When I got the job on “Grachi” I had never taken one acting lesson. I was studying travel and tourism in college and when I landed the lead role on “Grachi,” I had no time for my studies, so I had to make a choice, and I chose acting.

FR: From “Grachi” you started acting in Spanish telenovelas.  Could you talk about that?

Sol Rodriguez:  From “Grachi” I moved to acting in Spanish telenovelas; three to be exact. And about a year and a half ago I made the big move to Los Angeles to expand my choices of roles.

Moving to Los Angeles was scary. It was like starting all over again because I was working on Spanish telenovelas nonstop in Miami. I had a very secure acting life working on Spanish telenovelas, also my family lived in Miami.

It was a hard decision, but I knew I wanted to work in the American market. I knew the writing and directing in Hollywood was better than what I was getting in Spanish telenovelas. The work on those kinds of soap operas was no longer fulfilling. I am not the typical Spanish telenovela female leading glamorous character with big hair and lots of curves, so the roles were limited to me always playing ingénue supporting roles.

I just wanted more diversity in roles and more opportunity. I grateful for the opportunity Spanish telenovelas gave me, but it was time to move on. I knew I could reinvent myself in Hollywood and go after roles that were grittier and more multidimensional.

Sol Rodriguez as "Daniela Mercado" in "Devious Maids," image courtesy of Lifetime

Sol Rodriguez as “Daniela Mercado” in “Devious Maids,” image courtesy of Lifetime

FR: Let’s talk about your character, Daniela Mercado on “Devious Maids”?

Sol Rodriguez:  She is a new character this season on “Devious Maids.” I play Carmen’s (Rosalyn Sanchez) cousin who has come to Los Angeles from Puerto Rico to pursue an entertainment career. I crash in on Carmen’s life and unintentionally make her life miserable. Daniela is young and very impressionable, and creates a lot of drama. Daniela also finds out that Carmen is not really her cousin, but her mother.

FR: We know that you love clothes because you’ve been voted 10 Best Dressed for the 2013 Latin Billboard Music Awards. That said; who are some of your favorite designers and how would you describe style?

Sol Rodriguez:  I really like Calvin Klein for the simplicity of the brand’s design. The clothes are very easy to wear due to the minimalist aesthetic employed throughout the collections. Also, I don’t like clothes that fit too tightly and you can be comfortable and chic and Calvin Klein allows me to be that.

My personal style is very eclectic. I lived in Guatemala for a few years and fell in love with the indigenous culture, so you will see tribal prints and indigenous designs pop up in some of the things I wear. I like to mix Central American design motifs with vintage clothes from the 90s.

I really like to be comfortable, so you will not see me in high heels unless I am attending a red-carpet event.  I like to wear crop tops with loose-fitting jeans, and tennis shoes. I like to mix in a lot of different style from all over the world that expresses my mood and how I feel.

Image courtesy of the Anderson Group

Image courtesy of the Anderson Group

FR: How would you describe fashion in Argentina?

Sol Rodriguez: Fashion in Argentina is all over the place. I left Argentina when I was eight and I went back to visit when I was sixteen and a couple of years ago, so my opinions are based on visiting, not living there. However, when I visited my homeland, I saw women wearing platform shoes with boyfriend jeans and crazy floppy hats.

Women in Argentina don’t wear a lot of makeup; they prefer the natural look. I never wore makeup until my early 20s, and even now I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup. I guess I get that from my Argentinian roots.

Some of the fashion is very European with very loose-fitting clothes, not showing off your curves. Just dressing to be comfortable with a sense of individual style.

FR: In popular conversation, there is a lot of conversation of there are not being enough roles for Latina women in Hollywood. But we see that changing with “Devious Maids,” and Sophia Vergara in “Modern Family.” What has been your experience?

Sol Rodriguez:  I am very excited to be living in the era where there are more opportunities for Latina women. This progression is very new and I am a part of it!! A couple years ago it was very difficult for someone who looked different and spoke English with an accent. But, that is changing, for me to have such a big role on “Devious Maids,” is incredible, I feel so lucky.

I look Latin, Sophia Vergara, Rosalyn Sanchez and Eva Longoria, we all look Latin, not a European version of a Latina woman. I hope girls we look like me, and have an accent will see that it is possible to look Latina, have an accent and be successful in Hollywood.

Image courtesy of the Anderson Group

Image courtesy of the Anderson Group

FR: You love to give back to your community with such non-profits as the International Women’s House and PETA Latino, could talk about that?

Sol Rodriguez:  Actors have a lot of free time between acting and other projects. I have been so lucky to have the kind of life I have, so why not give back to people that are less fortunate. And because I am in a career where I have downtime between projects why not volunteer to charities and give back. I volunteer at shelters in Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

I have volunteered to help at a pet shelter here in LA. In Atlanta, I volunteered for refugee kids in a shelter. I would help them with homework and social activities. In Miami, I would always rally and protest outside of big circuses against their cruelty to animals.

FR: What’s next for you?

Sol Rodriguez:  I have two English-speaking movies in post-production. I am in “Going Under” with Bruce Willis and the other is “You Are Going to Miss Me.” And I am waiting for the premiere for the fourth season of “Devious Maids” which airs on June 6.

“Devious Maids” season four premieres on the Lifetime Channel on June 6, 9PM, EST.

—William S. Gooch

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