In “A White Man’s Guide to Rikers Island,” Another Man’s Shoes Is Uncomfortable

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes Barack Obama

It is oft said that until you have walked in another man’s shoes or traversed in his path, you can never understand the pain, the fear, the angst, and the life choices. In Richard L. Roy and Eric C. Webb’s “A White Man’s Guide to Rikers Island” race, class, privilege, and the criminal justice system is examined through the lens of a white man incarcerated among mostly African American and Latino inmates.

Mostly a one-man show, Richard L. Roy tells his real-life story of killing a young Hispanic man in a car accident while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine in the mid-1980s. Sentenced for involuntary manslaughter to the infamous Rikers Island, Roy must navigate the criminal justice system, as well as the particular culture of prison life at Rikers.

Roy tells an incredibly poignant tale of what it is like to be a white man imprisoned at Rikers where the inmates are overwhelming of color, poor, and uneducated. This incredible tale of self-discovery and insight gives a bird’s eye perspective on a broken criminal justice system that victimizes folks with no money, no education, and no white privilege.

Along the way, Richard L. Roy, portrayed exquisitely by Connor Chase White as the incarcerated Roy, comes up with a white man’s guide to survival at Rikers punctuated by prison lingo and slang that is key to making it behind bars. Roy not only distills incredible information about prison culture, but also examines historical and empirical evidence of race bias and class distinctions that establish who ends up doing time in the US prison industrial complex. (Note: African Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the US population, while making up 92 percent of inmates at Rikers Island.)

Though Roy’s stint at Rikers is short—only six months—his insight into white privilege, race and class is worth more than many academicians who’ve spent a lifetime of study on the subject. Perhaps, the most intriguing aspect of this show is Roy’s interaction with his fellow inmates and guards. Roy does a deep psychology plunge into the characters of the inmates he conjures up, particularly, the pre-op transsexual who is kicking a heroin habit but has the wisdom and compassion of great sages.

Images courtesy of Spin Cycle

Sadly, very little has changed at Rikers since Roy’s incarceration in the 80s. And with the recent death of transsexual Layleen Cubilette-Polanco in June of this year highlights that much needs to change at Rikers and with the criminal justice system as a whole.

“A White Man’s Guide to Rikers Island” was originally intended to run for seven weeks starting on July 17. But due to popular demand has been extended to September 26.  “A White Man’s Guide to Rikers Island” is at the Producer’s Club. For more information, go to awhitemansguidetorikersisland.com.

—William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie’s Fall 2019 Movie Roundup

After seeing a drop in their average movie attendance during the summer, the studios are focusing their attention on award season and the crop of films they hope Academy members will take into consideration when filling out their ballots in January. And why wouldn’t they? Some of the fall films are amazing and Fashion Reverie is prepped and primed to keep you informed.

Image courtesy of imbd.com

The Goldfinch

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartlett, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but many were intimidated by the novel’s 700-page length. This hefty tome has been concentrated into an easily digestible two-and-half hour tale of a young boy who loses his mother during a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the continued impact of that tragedy on the course of his life.  “The Goldfinch,” directed by John Crowley, is in theaters beginning September 13, and stars Nicole Kidman, Finn Wolfhard, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, and Sarah Paulson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyfPb8otVNY

Image courtesy of radiotimes.com

Ad Astra

Brad Pitt recently announced his plans to step back from acting, despite raves for his performances in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and now for “Ad Astra,” the story of an astronaut on a quest to save the Earth and solve the mystery of his father doomed space expedition that took place 30 years earlier. 

“Ad Astra” is directed by James Gray and stars Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler, and Tommy Lee Jones. “Ad Astra’ opens in theaters on September 20.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsCNKuB93BA&gclsrc=aw.ds&

Image courtesy of imdb.com

Downton Abbey

Fans of the PBS series can rejoice in a return to the grounds when “Downton Abbey” debuts on the big screen. While navigating a slow slide into a more modern world, Abbey is thrown into a tizzy when it’s announced the King and Queen will be visiting the grounds. Get ready for some savage takedowns by the Dowager!

“Downton Abbey” was directed by Michael Engler, stars Matthew Goode, Maggie Smith, and Michelle Dockery. “Downton Abbey” opens in theaters on September 20.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3mP0c51hE

Image courtesy of imdb.com

Judy

There is already talk that this will bring Renee Zellweger a second Oscar. After having been mercilessly exploited by MGM, her own mother, husbands, and incompetent managers, Judy Garland found herself nearly bankrupt at age 47. Attempting a comeback, the beloved entertainer spent her final days performing in London. Zellweger actually performs the songs in “Judy.” Those who were lucky enough to see Judy Garland perform in London detail that while Garland’s sparkling wit remained, her voice was nearly shot due to decades of hard living. Make sure you bring some tissues. 

“Judy” is directed by Rupert Goold and stars Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, and Gaia Weiss. “Judy” opens in theaters on September 27.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lekmh2KLvM4

Image courtesy of tom+lorenzo.com

The Laundromat

With a roster of A-list stars and the crowd-pleasing director of Ocean’s 11, “The Laundromat” is guaranteed to be rollicking good time. When her idyllic vacation takes a horrifyingly tragic turn, Ellen Martin starts investigating her husband’s fake life insurance policy only to find a cesspool of fraud and money laundering, leading all way to Panama City. Inspired by true events and other illicit absurdities that the super-wealthy indulge in to support the world’s corrupt financial system, “The Laundromat” will not disappoint.

“The Laundromat” is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Sharon Stone. “The Laundromat is in theaters on September 27.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuBRcfe4bSo

Image courtesy of twitter.com

Lucy in the Sky

Natalie Portman plays Astronaut Lucy Cola. After an extended time in space, Cola returns to Earth only to find herself unraveling after beginning an extra-marital affair with a NASA colleague played by Jon Hamm. “Lucy in the Sky” is loosely based on the incredible tale of Lisa Nowak who was once charged with attempting to kidnap a fellow astronaut. 

“Lucy in the Sky” is directed by Noah Hawley and stars Natalie Portman, Zazie Beetz, and Jon Hamm. “Lucy in the Sky” opens in theaters on October 4.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQP-L2pJzmk

Image courtesy of reddit.com

The Lighthouse

Ready for some good old-fashioned horror? In December 1900, the lighthouse keepers of Eilean Mor (an uninhabited island off the coast of Scotland) vanished, leaving few clues. Though many theories abound, the most popular is the extreme solitude resulted from something deeply unfortunate. Director Robert Eggers filmed this unsolved mystery in black and white, highlighting its creepy themes. Hmm, is that Sea Monster? 

“The Lighthouse” stars Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe and is directed by Robert Eggers. “The Lighthouse” opens in theaters on October 18.

Image coutesy of twitter.com

Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy plays the comedian and singer Rudy Ray Moore, who was inspired to branch out and develop an alter-ego he could use on stage, a foul-mouthed pimp named Dolemite. When the character’s direction couldn’t take off on stage or in a comedy album, he took Dolemite to the screen and made a series of Blaxploitation movies starring his alternate persona. Look for some great 70s Blaxploitation fashion in this film.

“Dolemite Is My Name” is set for the release date of October 25 and is directed by Craig Brewer, “Dolemite Is My Name” stars Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Mike Epps, Titus Burgess, TI, and Craig Robinson..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws1YIKsuTjQ

Image courtesy of 1stnews.com

Harriet

Based on the story of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, her escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.

“Harriet” is directed by Kasi Lemons and stars Cynthia Enrivo, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Zackary Momoh, Deborah Ayorinde, and Vondie Curtis-Hall.  “Harriet” opens in theaters on November 1.          

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqoEs4cG6Uw

Cameron Grey Rose

 

Fashion Reverie’s Fall 2019 TV Preview Roundup

Images courtesy of tvguide.com

When Hulu and Netflix began dipping their toes into the world of scripted television many predicted the end of the fall television season. Years later, fall TV is still going strong! These are the shows that has Fashion Reverie throwing the popcorn in the microwave and getting excited for quiet night at home in front of the tube!!

Image courtesy of cwtv.com

Katy Keene (The CW)

This Riverdale spinoff features Lucy Hale as the titular Katy and three other creatives as they pursue their dreams in New York City. Katy dreams of becoming a legendary fashion designer, so expect some fantastic clothes. It’s the CW so expect amazing production values and fun soapy twists.

Image courtesy of Alan Markfield / FOX.

Filthy Rich (Fox)

While Sarah Jessica Parker was hailed as the style icon of “Sex and the City,” eagle-eyed viewers knew it was Kim Cattrell’s Samantha who had style and attitude to make insane outfits work. She returns to TV as the widow of high-powered TV preacher, shocked to discover he has three children outside their marriage. Set in the Texas church community, the budget for hats alone will be through the roof.

Image courtesy of tvline.com

Bluff City Law (NBC)

It has been decades since he appeared on “LA Law,” but Jimmy Smits is back as a Memphis lawyer fighting alongside his daughter to hold big business and corrupt institutions accountable. The fall 2019 season sees a glut of legal show, but this one stands out.

Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

Tommy (CBS)

Four-time Emmy-winner Edie Falco returns as Tommy the first female police chief of Los Angeles when the city is forced by a federal judge to hire a woman. Equal parts political, procedural, and family drama, this show was created by Paul Attanasio, the mind behind “Bull” and “House MD.”

Image courtesy of ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Mixedish (ABC)

The producers of “Blackish” and “Grownish” are back with “Mixedish.” “Mixedish” tells the story of Bo, the matriarch of the “Blackish” clan, and her life growing up in the 80’s. After the government breaks up the commune she lives on with her family, a tweener Bo heads to the suburbs and a mainstream school with her two siblings. Set in the 80’s, this will feature a lot of neon, giant hair, and new wave music.

Image courtesy of tvline.com

Nancy Drew (The CW)

“Veronica Mars’” fans, disappointed with the recent reboot on Hulu, will be thrilled to learn a new “Nancy Drew” will be coming to the CW this fall.  Played by Kennedy McMann, the teen swears off detective life until she finds herself accused of murder. Still reeling from the death of her mother, she’s forced, along with several other teens, to find the real killer and clear their names.

Image courtesy of tvguide.com

Sunnyside (NBC)

Ready for a break from the tragedy of current immigrant life in America?  Check out this bright, lively comedy from the creators of “Brooklyn 99.”  Kal Penn stars as a former New York City councilman who after losing career, finds a new job helping some residents of Sunnyside, Queens become US citizens.

Image courtesy of monsterandcritics.com

The Good Place (NBC)

OK, Fashion Reverie is cheating a bit. This is a returning show, but it’s a favorite. Coming back for its fourth and final season, this fantasy tells the hilarious story of four humans navigating the afterlife. It also features clotheshorse Tahani Al Jamil (played by Jameela Jamil )who upon dying on earth and being plunged into a void, screams for help when she realizes she’s wearing a VEST!

—Cameron Grey Rose

 

 

The Moulin Rouge: 130 Years of Brilliance

Moulin Rouge can-can

OK, you probably have seen “Moulin Rouge!,” the 2001 jukebox musical that starred Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and John Leguizamo. You may even be aware that the musical version of the film opened on Broadway on July 25.

What you may not know is that the film and the Broadway musical are based on a French music hall theatre, of the same name. And the famous can-can dance took root in the Moulin Rouge from its inception in 1889.

After 130 years, the Moulin Rouge is still going strong. And though many of its traditions are still in place, there have been some upgrades and modernizations.

Fashion Reverie spoke with the Moulin Rouge’s principal dancer Claudine van der Bergh Cook and Moulin Rouge press agent Fanny Rabasse about this Paris landmark, its history, and why after 130 years the Moulin Rouge is still attracting large audiences.

Claudine van der Bergh Cook

Fashion Reverie: Claudine van der Bergh Cook, could you discuss your dance background?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: I am from Dublin, Ireland. My mother was a classical dance teacher, so I started taking dance lessons at a very young age. I moved to London when I was fifteen and studied full time at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. I did my degree in ballet and contemporary dance and after graduation I auditioned for the Moulin Rouge.

FR: Was dancing for the Moulin Rouge something you always wanted to do or did the opportunity just happen?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: It was a bit of both. I explored lots of option when it came to auditioning and perspective dance jobs. I thought because of my height—5`10.5—I would be well suited as a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. (The height requirement at the Moulin Rouge for female dancers is 5`7 for females and 6`3 for males.) Though my training and my aspiration was to be a ballet dancer, at 5`10.5 and over 6`2 on pointe, I was very tall, perhaps too tall, for a ballet dancer.

I danced for five years in the chorus at the Moulin Rouge and I also served as a replacement dancer for solos. Two years ago, I was promoted to a principal dancer of the Moulin Rouge and I am very happy in the role.

FR: What is your day like dancing with the Moulin Rouge?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: The Moulin Rouge is open 365 days a year and we work six days a week. My day is kind of backward because we work at night. We have two shows, one at 9pm and the other at 11pm. The Moulin Rouge is true French music hall which ties into the history of the Moulin Rouge. We don’t just have dancing, we have acrobatic acts, jugglers, ventriloquists, and lots of other types of acts. All the acts give the audience a break between all the tableaus and set changes.

I go to bed around 4am because I have a lot of adrenaline after the show and it takes me a while to wind down. I get up around 12 noon the next day. I must keep my dance training in check with classes provided by the Moulin Rouge. Classes could be dance classes, yoga, or pilates which is great for stretching and core building which is so necessary for being able to dance with the headdresses with giant plumes.

I also must eat well throughout the day so that I can perform well two shows, six days a week. I eat about five small meals throughout the day.

FR: How did you train to be able to move and dance in the Moulin Rouge’s elaborate headdresses and costumes?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: The classical ballet training did help with knowing how to pull up and support my body, particularly my neck. We also these back packs which are a part of the costumes that help us support the large plumage that extends out the back of the costumes.

We have a month of training to learn how to move and work with the big headdresses and feathered backpacks. There are 60 dancers in the show and there is a lot of traffic backstage, so we must learn how to get around each other and not slow the show down.

Fanny Rabasse: There are 23 dressers backstage to assist with the 1000 costumes in the show. Each dancer has 12 changes in the show and because Claudine is the lead dancer, she has her own dresser and dressing room.

FR: Do you do your own makeup and hair?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: We take a special makeup class when we get hired at the Moulin Rouge. And after that we are responsible for our own makeup. I can do my makeup now in about 20 minutes.

We do our hair at the Moulin Rouge and our wigs are looked after by the Moulin Rouge staff. We are not allowed to change our hair color because then all the wigs would have to change. At the Moulin Rouge we only use real human hair and hairpieces because it is easier to style.

FR: The costumes at the Moulin Rouge must require a lot of maintenance. Could you please talk about what goes into their maintenance?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: Our costumes are maintained by the Moulin Rouge staff. The staff also looks after our feathered headdresses and backpacks, as well as our shoes. Our shoes are made by the Maison de Claire Foy.

Fanny Rabasse: The Maison de Claire Foy was established in 1945 and the Moulin Rouge bought the footwear company in 2007. The Moulin Rouge also own the feather company that creates all our headdresses and backpacks. Maison de Claire Foy is the only company that makes the secret fabrication for our can-can boots. With our can-can boots you can perform 2,500 can-cans.

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: Our can-can boots are very important because the dancers jump high in the air and land in splits and the boots must support all these acrobatic movements. I no longer perform the can-can; but I did in the beginning of my career at the Moulin Rouge. I now open the can-can by portraying the character of La Galoue, who was a famous can-can dancer, and star of the Moulin Rouge. She is immortalized in the can-can painting by Toulouse Lautrec.

FR: Is there topless dancing at the Moulin Rouge?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: We have beautiful costumes in the show, all beaded, using Swarovski crystals. In a very elegant way, there is a little exposure, but not in a way that children cannot come to the show. Children, as young as six years of age, can come to the Moulin Rouge. We are a family show.

Fanny Rabasse: When a dancer is first employed at the Moulin Rouge there is one month of training required. You are dancing the can-can and other chorus roles where there is no nudity or topless exposure. Can-can dancers are never topless in the show. Then after one or two years, you can dance with more topless exposure. It is totally up to the dancer and the ballet mistress. Our topless exposure is not covert, but very tasteful. And when we tour, there is no topless exposure at all.

FR: Has the Moulin Rouge ever been closed?

Fanny Rabasse: The only time the Moulin Rouge has been closed since it opened in 1889 was in 1985 for a special performance for Queen Elizabeth in London. The Moulin Rouge only closes for five weeks when we have a new show. The show that is currently running has been on stage for 19 years. We try to keep the show fresh and interesting, so some aspects of the current show have been updated.

FR: The Moulin Rouge is one of the oldest cabaret houses in Paris and famous for the can-can. How has the Moulin Rouge’s shows changed over the years?

Fanny Rabasse: We had a new artistic team arriving in the 1960s. Jacki Clerico took control of the Moulin Rouge in 1962. The new artistic team of Ruggero Angeletti and Doriss Haug have created 10 shows for the Moulin Rouge since the 1960s. The current show at the Moulin Rouge was created by that artistic team. The investment for the current show was $10 million dollars.

The Moulin Rouge has lots of traditions and one the things that has stayed the same since the time of Mistinguett is lots of people on stage and lots of beautiful costumes and sets, beautiful music, and of course the can-can. What has changed is the technical aspects to the show. The Moulin Rouge is going green. Our lights are now solar powered.

FR: Why is the Moulin Rouge, after 130 years, still appealing to tourists and consumers?

Fanny Rabasse: We give people what they want to see. The Moulin Rouge is famous around the world, and it is one of the places you must go and see when you come to Paris. The venue is amazing, the atmosphere is very warm. For an hour and forty-five minutes you forget everything and experience the excitement and the beauty of the Moulin Rouge. It is the pure tradition of French music hall and people want to see and experience that. 

FR: How much would an evening at the Moulin Rouge cost?

Fanny Rabasse: If you come only for the show, the cost is $150 euro which includes champagne. If you want dinner to accompany the show it costs more. There are many famous people that have performed at the Moulin Rouge from Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Lena Horne to Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

La Galoue as characterized by Toulouse Latrec and in photos

FR: Let’s talk about the origins of the can-can.

Fanny Rabasse: Most people don’t know this, but the can-can was a dance of protest. Originally, the can-can was called a quadrille—which is a traditional French dance style. However, in 1862 Charles Moulton renamed the dance the can-can because the dancers make noise with their boots, clap, and scream. Can-can means to make noise.

In the 19th century the can-can was a way for women to mock the government, the army, and the church. We have a step in the can-can called the cathedrale. Two dancers hold hands and put their legs together so that it looks like the spire of a church. This step mocked the church. The heel stretch step was a way of mocking the army because it looked like a soldier carrying a gun.

The can-can was a dance of freedom women, symbolizing that they were free and didn’t need anyone.  La Galoue, who danced at the Moulin Rouge in 1889, didn’t need a man to support her because she was a dancer and made her own money. La Galoue was the first woman in Paris to have her own carriage. At the time of Mistinguett in 1910, we had the first topless dancers at the Moulin Rouge, while in the rest of France, women could not go topless at the beach until the 1970s.

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: Overtime, the can-can has become more acrobatic. Currently, our can-can lasts six minutes and dancers are doing lots of splits, kicks, walkovers, and somersaults. The timing of the can-can kicks must be very precise or you will accidentally kick another dancer.

Could you talk a little bit about the couture costumes?

Fanny Rabasse: All our costumes are made in our workshop and they are designed by Claude de la Bonucci. The show has been running for 19 years so sometimes we have to remake the costumes. When we do remake a costume, we remake the costumes exactly as it originally was made. The costumes are the expensive part of the show. Some of our costumes can cost up to $12,000 for each costume.

Images courtesy of Moulin Rouge/Fanny Rabasse

FR: What’s next for you?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: I am constantly trying to grow as a performer. I am two years in my roles of ‘nostalgie,’ ‘red,’ and ‘Medusa.’ So, I am trying to grow more in these roles which are so different from each other.

—William S. Gooch

Keith Jacobs’ R&B Formula for Truth Telling

In case you haven’t noticed, R&B is back with a vengeance. Just when you thought singing about true love, emotional rapture, and vulnerability had gone out of style, the sexy pangs of love have come back into style, taking on a new level of authenticity and vibrancy.

Keith Jacobs is one those new R&B vocalists that is facilitating this new explosion of R&B. Defining himself as more than an R&B crooner, Jacobs is the penultimate example of this new breed of R&B artist; an artist that mixes the street-wise, truth-telling of current hip-hop with the soulful melodies of old-school R&B. And his recent single “Saucy” speaks to the melding of these musical genres.

Keith Jacobs spoke with Fashion Reverie about his 90s R&B roots, his musical journey, and his passion for truth-telling.

Fashion Reverie: Where does your love of music come from?

Keith Jacobs: I have been involved in music for almost my entire life. I sang in the youth choir in my local church choir in Houston, Texas. I always looked at music as a chore until I got to college, where I got more involved in the art of music. I always knew I could sing, but in college my perspective changed by taking music classes and understanding my voice and my sound. I began to perfect how I wanted to sound and now I feel I am finally speaking my truth through my music.

FR: Did you major in music theory?

Keith Jacobs: No, I majored in Psychology at Southern University. I wanted to be able to support myself and I wasn’t convinced when I was in college that music was going to provide an income or a lifestyle that I wanted. I thought I would be an industrial organizational psychologist.

I later received my MBA from Southern University so that I would understand the business side of music. Now, as an independent artist I do know music theory; but I am also well-versed in the business of the music industry. I can control my own narrative and how I am represented.

FR: Who are some of your musical influences?

Keith Jacobs: Musiq Soulchild, John Legend, and Frank Ocean. I love Frank Ocean because he has a song for whatever mood you are in.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Keith Jacobs: My style is an urban R&B with a hint of 90s nostalgia. Some of the old-school narrative styles of music spoke about love, transparency, and being authentic. So, the goal for my music is to be authentic, thoughtful, and lucid.

FR: Your style has been described as a throwback, like Jodeci, Mint Condition, those R&B boy bands of the late 80s and 90s. Why have you adopted that brand of musical styling?

Keith Jacobs: That was the kind of music that I grow up on. Also, being from Houston, we were introduced to some of the greatest musical artists of those eras. That said; I must make sure I am being truthful and authentic in my music the way some of those artists of the 80s and 90s were truthful in their lyrics.

FR: Your style has been described as a blend of R&B with some hip-hop influences. Could you elaborate on that?

Keith Jacobs: Going back to my Houston roots, I grew up on Screw. Screw music is a very upbeat tempo radio-based music that is slowed down, with a pop placed on top. The southern style of urban music is based on Screw, where the bass or core of the music is ‘screwed,’ so to speak.

You will find those elements of Screw or the Dirty South sound in my music. I would not call myself a crooner because you will find a lot of different southern urban sounds in my music that go beyond just crooning a tune.

FR: There was a time in hip-hop culture where the music was very self-absorbed and misogynistic. However, that point of view has changed. Hip-hop and popular music now appears to be a lot more inclusive, introspective, though still provocative. The current crop of black male artists seems to be forging this new musical perspective. Where is all of this coming from?

Keith Jacobs: Some people think that this social media-driven culture funnels a lot of negativity. However, social media may have caused an awakening, allowing some black male artists to expose their truth. In past, musical artists were controlled by record labels and those labels could exploit artists and promote propaganda. And fans were forced to believe anything that the record labels put out there.

That is all changing with the direct-to-consumer technology. With this new technology it is a lot easier for artists to define who we want to be and put that out into the world. The paradigm has shifted, and it is time for that. Social media has helped change ideas about masculinity, facilitating a variety of voices on male identity.

FR: Let’s talk about your new single “Saucy.” Where does the concept around “Saucy” come from?

Keith Jacobs: The concept around “Saucy” comes from being in Houston and being in love. I have a love for old school cars, music, fashion, and all those things come together in “Saucy.” I wanted to paint a picture of what was like to be in love with a lady and being in love with her in Houston.

FR: “Saucy” has been that song that is played on late-night radio stations; the song that everyone waits to hear on late-night radio. Could you elaborate on the success of “Saucy”?

Keith Jacobs: “Saucy” is an example of the shift that is happening in contemporary music. It is a shift that needed to happen. People want music that speaks to authenticity. I must make sure that I remain authentic as an artist and continue to give the people what they want and deserve.

FR: Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?

Keith Jacobs: I love nostalgia. I know that I can never go wrong with Ralph Lauren. I grew up on Ralph Lauren. For me, Ralph Lauren is quick go-to for that simple school-boy style, which I love.

FR: You are appearing at Essence Music Festival for the first time. Could you talk about that?

Keith Jacobs: I am very excited about it. We are doing this show entitled “If It Don’t Feel Like 90s R&B.” That show also includes R&B artist Mya. She is also appearing with me in my Houston show before we appear together in New Orleans at the Essence Music Festival.

Images courtesy of 2Rs Entertainment

FR: Who else is appearing with you on “If It Don’t Feel Like 90s R&B” at the Essence Music Festival?

Keith Jacobs: Angela Yeats is on the program, as well as Mya. Additionally, we will be performing some great moments from 90s music. We will do a Jodeci set, as well as other similar sets. Growing up in the 90s, Jodeci and similar groups were the pinnacle of 90s music.

FR: Could you talk about your current tour and what’s next for you?

Keith Jacobs: Currently, I am on the southern tour for my latest album and I will be starting a radio tour after this tour ends. I have crazy project that will drop in October.

William S. Gooch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misty Copeland Triumphs in “Manon”

Image courtesy of dancetabs.com

Since 2015, Misty Copeland has been a principal ballerina with American Ballet Theatre (ABT). Since her promotion, Copeland has had success dancing leads in “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” “Romeo and Juliet,” Kitri in “Don Quixote,” Swannilda in “Coppelia,” Lise in “La Fille Mal Gardee,”  Gamzatti in “La Bayadere, ”and many other great works from ABT’s classical ballet lexicon. Though some of these roles were bestowed on Copeland while she was still a soloist, with rave reviews in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Swan Lake,” Copeland is moving into the realm of ballerina royalty.

That said; Copeland’s performance as the main character in Kenneth McMillian’s “Manon” solidifies her ascendancy. Serving as a testament to Copeland’s expansion into dramatic roles, Copeland brought a new-found confidence to a role that could have easily eclipsed her. Instead, Copeland brought nuance, charm and a steely determination to the lead character that requires an emotional range of character that evolves from adolescent innocence to savvy manipulator to a convicted throwaway.

Modern-day ballerinas must not only excel in the great Petipa classics, as well as certain neoclassical Balanchine ballets, with a smattering of Fokine, Ashton, Robbins, DeMille, Tudor, Ailey, and Tetley thrown in for good measure, they must also prove that they are great dramatic ballerinas. All the great ballerinas were able to rise to that challenge. Cynthia Gregory was a great Lizzie Borden in DeMille’s Fall River Legend, Antoinette Sibley excelled in “Manon,” and the great Natalia Makarova brought her special brand of stagecraft to Ashton’s “A Month in the Country.”

And now Misty Copeland is on her way to being added to that hallowed constellation of ballerinas that have excelled in an extensive ballet repertoire. And no choreographer stretches a ballerina’s dramatic abilities than Kenneth MacMillan. From the dramatic heroines of his “Romeo and Juliet,” “Anastasia,” “Mayerling,” and “Winter Dreams,” Macmillan brilliantly combines technical virtuosity with stage authenticity.

Image of “Manon” rehearsal courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

That said; MacMillan’s Manon gives a ballerina the opportunity to expand her dramatic possibilities in some distinctly unique ways. First, there is the emotional complexity of the main character, Manon, who must evolve from an innocent young girl right out of a convent education to a skilled courtesan with the ability to manipulate wealthy suitors. This character evolution is beautifully demonstrated in MacMillian’s choreography. As a convent-educated, chaste young woman, MacMillan employs beautiful, creamy bourrées, small intricate parre terre, and petite allegro steps. As Manon enters the world of the demimonde, her choreography becomes sensuous, deliberately displaying her worldly charms. MacMillan aptly inserts lots sensuous ronde de jambes, sexy undulations and the ultimate come-hither, dress pulled up to show lower thigh.

For Copeland, the role of Manon opens up a wealth of possibilities. As much as Copeland is loved for her beautiful legs and feet and bringing a reverence to her Petipa roles, one of the things that she often lacks is lyrical abandon. Copeland, at times, is so careful about being correct and delivering the choreography perfectly that it seems that she might be holding back a bit. Not so, in “Manon.” Though she does use her exquisite feet and legs to stunning effect, but what stands out most for Copeland is pulling off the restraints and throwing caution to the wind.

It is also obvious that Copeland is being coached to bring her more authentic self to dramatic roles. In “Manon,” Copeland was fully invested in the character, finding all the appropriate nuances to bring more relevance and tangibility to the role. This was not a Manon that was easily manipulated or a victim to her brother Lescaut’s (Calvin Royall III) craftiness. Copeland’s Manon knew what she was doing even when she is torn between her for Des Grieux (Cory Stearns) and Monsieur GM (Roman Zhubin). Not to be judged, Copeland’s Manon makes choices and pays a heavy price for her choices.

This production also has notable performances for Cory Stearns as Manon’s lover Des Grieux.  Steans performance was on an operatic scale, exhibiting incredible ballon in his leaps and an impeccably clean technique. Yet, his portrayal of Des Grieux went beyond Stearn’s pyrotechnical acumen. Stearns’ Des Grieux was passionate, if somewhat reckless, and committed to his love for Manon, is spite of her dalliances.

Calvin Royal III’s Lescaut was full of wit, charm and technical brilliance. Royal has the potential to be a great dramatic danseur in the mold of Antony Dowell, Irek Mukhamedov, and Kevin McKenzie. Notable mention goes to Catherine Hurlin and Lescaut’s mistress and Roman Zhubin as Monsieur GM.

Image courtesy of ABT

Still, the star of “Manon” was Misty Copeland. With her conquest of Manon, let this be a signal to American Ballet Theatre that other great dramatic roles should be in her future.

William S. Gooch

“All Is True” Recounts an Unknown Period of Shakespeare’s Life

How much do we really know about William Shakespeare? We know that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was educated at Kings New School.  He married Anne Hathaway at 18 and had three children with her. And most importantly he wrote at least 37 plays between 1590 and 1613.

Kenneth Branagh’s “All Is True” examines the last dark decade of Shakespeare’s life and what has been speculated about his last years. In this last decade, Shakespeare had quietly retired to his birth home of Stratford-upon-Avon with his wife and two daughters. His beloved son Hamnet died of unknown cases in 1596. The death of his son is the seed narrative for “All Is True.”

The films open with Shakespeare’s beloved (Kenneth Branagh) Globe Theatre burning to the ground with Shakespeare watching accompanied by a very young boy. Shakespeare returns to his home in Stratford-upon-Avon and attempts to mend his tedious relationship with his wife and two daughters.

Shakespeare’s oldest daughter Susanna (Lydia Wilson) is married to a self-righteous doctor John Hall (Hadley Fraser) while his younger acidic daughter Judith, brilliantly portrayed by Kathryn Wilder, and his wife (Judy Dench) have remained at the family home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Dench and Wilder are two opposite sides of the same coin. They have both experienced the fame and absence of Shakespeare while responding to absence in different ways. Dench refuses him access to the marital bed and Wilder bitterly criticizes almost everything he does. This is the household that Shakespeare in his later life must settle down to.

At the core of this uneasy family reunion of sorts is Shakespeare’s mourning over the death of his son Hamnet, Judith’s twin brother. Believing that his son possessed a great talent for writing, Shakespeare continues to bemoan Hamnet’s death many years after his son’s passing. Judith has become a bitter shrew believing that her father would have preferred her death over her twin brother, and Anne, Shakespeare, has settled done to a frustrated existence of mundane normalcy.

Though “All Is True” is a slow-moving film, Branagh has done an excellent job at recapturing the norms and attitudes of post-Elizabethan England. His Shakespeare is both wise and blithely unaware at times. Having spent so much of his time being a man of the stage, the pedestrian humdrum life of Stratford-upon-Avon is a relief from the hustle and bustle of London, and at other times a lifestyle to be tolerated. Reintegrating himself into family life is proving to be tedious at best. And often, Branagh’s Shakespeare is treated like a stranger in his own home.

Dench’s Anne Hathaway is a resolute and tempered matriarch who has written her own narrative about the circumstances of her marriage and the death of her son. Her narrative is her only truth. No other truth matters.

While Dench and Branagh’s characters are fully fleshed out portrayals, it is Wilder as Judith that really gives viewers insight into norms and morays of post-Elizabethan England. Women are just an appendage to men with no real power or consequence. And they wear their unhappiness like a heavy shroud.

Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures

Though “All Is True is not for a mass audience, Branagh does give an interesting perspective on Shakespeare’s last days with an interesting twist on his sexual preference thrown in for good measure.  The challenge is if audience will really care about this depiction of William Shakespeare. Hmm, it is a hard call.

“All Is True” is a Sony Pictures film, directed by Kenneth Branagh. “All Is True” opens in select theaters on May 10.

 —William S. Gooch

“HYMN” Looks Back at the Ballets Russes

Is it possible to recreate a classic from the Ballets Russes’ repertoire and make it palatable for contemporary audiences? It is an arduous task, but on more than a few occasions ballet historians and dance archivists have aided dance companies in this endeavor and the success of their collaborations is easily measured by the box office success of these programs.

Founded in 1909 by the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes presented dance works of incredible beauty and innovation, merging the worlds of dance, music, art and fashion.  Diaghilev collaborated with such great artists, musicians and designers as Chagall, Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, Rimbaud, and many others. And the dance works that came out of these collaborations—“Petrouchka,” “Rite of Spring”, “Firebird,” “Les Biches,” “Apollon Musagete,”L’Apres Midi d’un Faune,” “Prince Igor,” and “Les Sylphide”—are legendary.

In the 1980s the Joffrey Ballet had a very successful program of works from the Ballets Russes with its resurrection of Nijinsky’s “Rite of Spring” in 1987. Earlier the Joffrey performed a series of programs with Rudolf Nureyev performing lead roles in the Ballets Russes’ “Petrouchka” and “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune.” American Ballet Theatre has kept some classic Ballets Russes ballets in its repertoire in every recent decade, namely “Les Sylphide,” “The Prodigal Son,” and “Firebird.”

In collaboration with NYU’s The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum presented Hymn to Apollo: The Ancient World and the Ballets Russes, the first exhibition to focus specifically on the role of ancient world and the Ballets Russes, with costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung using original Ballets Russes costumes and designs as their point of departure for this Works & Process costume and dance commission featuring Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe.”

That said; this Works & Process commission is not a remounting of the Ballets Russes’ original “Daphnis and Chloe.” This “Daphnis and Chloe” is a working and re-imagining of the classic dance work, seen through the choreography of Christopher Williams and Netta Yerulshamy.

Though both choreographers use excerpts from Ravel’s original score, their approach is quite different from each other and from the original Michel Fokine choreography. Yerulshamy’s choreography is steeped in modern athleticism with occasional references to plastique motifs found in the choreographic movement style of Isadora Duncan. And though Yerulshamy’s work is an abstract interpretation of Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe,” you can see the references to Isadora Duncan’s influence of Michel Fokine. Additionally, Harriet Jung’s utilitarian costumes are both versatile, beautiful, as well as free flowing, perfectly aligned and relative to Yerulshamy’s interpretation of the Ravel score.

Christopher Williams chose to focus on the pirate scene from the “Daphnis and Chloe” ballet. Williams’ choreography demonstrated his deft ability to create unencumbered group choreography. Williams has the daunting tasks of creating movement for not only Chloe and the pirates, but nymphs and creatures of Pan.Perhaps, the most interesting part of Williams’ choreography is the parts he created for New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns. For those not familiar with Mearns celebrated career with the New York City Ballet, Mearns has been given accolades for mastery of most of Balanchine repertoire, and particularly in Balanchine ballets that require virtuosic brilliance.

Christopher Williams’ choreography is a departure from what Sara Mearns gets to perform at the New York City Ballet, even from New York City Ballet’s more modern choreographers that use a hybrid of dance styles. With that in mind, Mearns triumphed in Williams’ choreography, exhibiting and understanding of William’s movement style that was both illuminating and provocative.

Images courtesy of Michelle Tabnick Communications

What stood out most about these two dance works that pay homage to the Ballets Russes’ “Daphnis and Chloe” was how choreographers of the 21st century can draw inspiration from a ballet that is over a hundred years old and rework the dance work in a way that’s palatable to modern audiences while evoking a movement style of the past. The Guggenheim’s Works & Process program should be commended for facilitating such dance scholarship.William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Berry Boo, Doing It Her Way

Lady Gaga she aint, she’s something better, she is herself, Berry Boo.

In an industry that is oversaturated, it is extremely difficult to get market traction. Every record label is looking for the next best thing; the artist with that extra special something. Well, look no further, Berry Boo is in the house!!

From performing backup vocals from such top artists as Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Melonie Fiona, and Robin Thicke to branching out and creating her own solo projects, Berry Boo is ready to take the music world by storm. With the release of her chart-topping female-empowering hit “Gunz and Black Roses” from her EP “Clutch” to her recently released R&B single “Uncertainty,” Berry is posed to make her mark in the music industry.

Never apologetic about who she is and with a fashion style that is all her own, Berry Boo creates lyrics and performs on stage like there is no tomorrow. While on tour, Berry Boo graciously spoke with Fashion Reverie about her love of music, her personal style and her no-holes-barred bravura.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get the name Berry Boo?

Berry Boo: Berry is my last name. As a kid my last name was always made fun of. I was called berrylicious and all kinds of variations on my last name and my best friend always called me Boo or ended our conversations with calling me Boo. So, I took my last name and the affectionate nickname Boo and came up with Berry Boo.

FR: What is your musical background?

Berry Boo: I grew up in church and almost everyone in my family sings. I always listened to a lot of Motown, R&B, Pop, and Hip Hop, especially Hip Hop. So, you could say my musical background and taste is very blended.

FR: What musical artists inspire you and why?

Berry Boo: I always listened to Aretha Franklin. She is the diva of all divas. I also listened to Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot. I always have admired female rappers because I sing, and I rap.

FR: When did start singing background vocals, and how did that all come about?

Berry Boo: The legendary Ashford and Simpson had an open mike at their bar/club, The Sugar Bar. This was in 2009 before Nick Simpson passed away. I started singing at The Sugar Bar and from there, I started singing background for a lot of artists. People would hear me sing at The Sugar Bar and I would be asked to sing background which eventually turned into me singing background for major recording artists.

FR: Now, you are performed background vocals for such artists as Nicki Minaj, Melonie Fiona, Robin Thicke, and many others. What are some of the biggest challenges when singing background?

Berry Boo: I lot of people in the music industry don’t give background singers the respect they deserve. You really must learn how to blend your voice with other people. Also, now that I solo recordings and solo projects in the works people expect my music to be like people I have sung background for. I can only give you Berry Boo!!

This is a challenge for most background singers when they go solo or create sole projects. People in this industry want to put you in a box.

By the way, I still sing background for various artists. I love singing background and it has great for my career. It also pays well, and you get to travel the world at the expense of the label. It is wonderful to travel the world and get to do that.

FR: Who were some of your favorite artists to sing background for and, why?

Berry Boo: My favorite artist to perform background vocals for is Melonie Fiona and that is because I have witnessed her evolution and growth as an artist. I started singing background vocals for Melonie Fiona before she become a household name and before she scored a number one hit on Billboard. She is also won of the most humble and down to earth people you will ever meet. We became very close as I was touring with her. Most artists I have performed with have been wonderful.

FR: You recently transitioned from singing background to your own solo projects. What has that transition been like?

Berry Boo: I dropped my solo project in 2017, and when the project as first released it took a minute of folks to get used to me as a solo artist because they were so familiar with me doing background vocals. One of the challenges was being understood as an artist because my solo work is so different from my background vocal work. So, an adjustment has been made to accept me as someone so different from singing background and dancing behind established artists.

Once folks have came to my show they began to realize my intention and my creative point of view, so perceptions around who I am are changing. I know that I am sing, I am going to rap, I am going to dance some; and it’s all good.

FR: I love “Gunz and Black Roses.” How did you come up with the title “Gunz and Black Roses”?

Berry Boo: I wrote “Gunz and Black Roses” with my co-writer JJ (Jonathan Jennings). We’ve been working together for a very long time. We came up with the concept of “Gunz and Black Roses” together. The song is speaking from a woman’s perspective. It is about a woman being confident and knowing who she is and she’s telling a dude that she is not like the average woman.

 Most of the times you hear about a woman from a man’s perspective. This is the reverse, a woman is telling a man who she is.  And “Gunz and Black Roses” really showcases my vocal ability.

FR: Let’s talk about your new single, “Uncertainty.” You go from female empowerment in “Gunz and Black Roses” to a woman who hasn’t quite found herself in “Uncertainty.” Could you talk about that and what was the motivation behind “Uncertainty”?

Berry Boo: I wanted “Uncertainty to be about all the emotions women experience. I think women can identify with this song.  All women experience insecurities, whether they are insecure about a new job or career move or a new relationship, it is a challenge to adjust to new experiences. And sometimes women want to hold on to their former life or relationship, even if it’s not working.

“Uncertainty” has an R&B, soulful vibe. And I wanted to show that I am adept at singing R&B. People know I can sing pop and hip hop, and I wanted to demonstrate my versatility with “Uncertainty.”

FR: You wear a lot of provocative clothing in your videos and on stage. Where does your sense of style come from?

Berry Boo: My style is just who I am. I love a woman’s anatomy. I work out and stay in shape and I like showing off all my hard work in the gym in a tasteful way. I like to dress based on what my mood is. I am just having fun with fashion. I like to express myself through my clothing and I am expressing myself for me and no one else.

Photos courtesy of 2R Entertainment Media PR

FR: How would you describe your fashion style?Berry Boo: My fashion style is sexy with an edge. It is very street style. I was not to the manor borne, so I had to learn how to mix and match and find ways to develop my own signature look without spending a lot of money. I shop a lot of vintage stores and outlets.

FR: Now, that your pockets are deeper, who are some of your favorite designers?

Berry Boo: Interestingly, I sample product from emerging designers. I love Brooklyn Creative, Gifted Apparel, and Kicky Wicky. I am not big on name brand designers. Sometimes, I will purchase a garment and by the time I render that garment, sometimes die it a different color, it could be unrecognizable from the original garment. I also at a lot of boutiques in the East Village.

FR: What’s next for you?

Berry Boo: Right now, I am on a domestic tour. I did the Grammy’s this year. Things are popping up all the time and I am still in the studio creating new music.

Berry Boo is currently on her “Clutch” promotional tour in support of the recently released EP. Stops includes; Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Philadelphia.

William S. Gooch

“The White Crow” Examines Nureyev, the Early Years

Image courtesy of theeconomist.com

There is no doubt that Rudolf Nureyev was a legend in and out of the ballet world. At the peak of his career in the 1960s and 70s, Nureyev was a larger than life character that traversed the worlds of dance, theatre, film and celebrity. No other dancer, until Nureyev, achieved the international stardom and media proliferation that was a constant companion to his unbelievable stagecraft.

And though Nureyev career and life has been studied, dissected, and examined almost ad nauseum since his untimely death in 1993, very few of the many documentaries have looked closely at his childhood and his life before he became an international ballet star.In David Hare’s “The White Crow,” Nureyev’s life, before he become a media star, is carefully examined, from his poverty-stricken existence as a young boy in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia to his student life at the prestigious Vaganova Choreographic Institute in Leningrad, Russia to his escape to freedom at the Orly Airport in Paris in 1961. These previously unexamined years gives a unique view into the brooding personality of Nureyev. And though there is no doubt that Nureyev loved the spotlight and adoration of ballet fans, he was, at times, introverted, cautious, untrusting, and extremely arrogant. If any artist possessed qualities that could be found of both sides of the coin, Nureyev did.

Image courtesy of variety.com

Oleg Ivanko as Nureyev possesses many of the qualities of a young Nureyev. He has a prodigious ballet technique, deep brooding eyes, the same flaring nostrils—a true sign of genius—and a high opinion of himself. In Ivanko’s Nureyev we also see an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and all things Western.What perhaps stands out most about Ivanko’s Nureyev is his obsession with making himself the Kirov Ballet’s premier danseur. In “The White Crow” we witness Nureyev’s unrelenting drive to make his technique and his artistry unsurpassable by any other dancer at that time. Interestingly, the male ballet star of the Kirov at the time of Nureyev’s defection was Yuri Soloviev (Serge Polunin). Soloviev was a classical dancer more in the vein of what the Kirov respected, unlike Nureyev wild, pantherine presence on stage. And though the authorities were putting all their hopes and press of Soloviev, Nureyev became the star of the European tour.

Much has been written about Nureyev’s relationship with Alexander Pushkin, his ballet teacher and mentor. Ralph Fiennes, who also directed this film, portrays Pushkin as a quiet, elegant man who is slightly cuckolded by his wife Xenia (Chulpan Khamatova), with whom Nureyev later had an intense sexual relationship. Fiennes superbly demonstrates how Pushkin’s measured by firm mentorship of Nureyev helped restrain some of his unruly behavior without watering down his artistry. Fiennes also brilliantly captures in this film the austerity and blandness of every day life in Soviet Russia and how something as magical as a ballet could bring fantasy and joy to the human spirit.; particularly, in a society where artistic freedom was carefully monitored.

Image courtesy of sundaytimes.com

Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of “The White Crow” were the scenes where Nureyev (Oleg Ivanko) is exploring the seedier sides of Paris before his defection. Cases in point were smoky cafes with same-sex couples and back alleys with subversive characters. All these influences feed Nureyev’s curiosity and imagination, which made it only natural for him to defect, especially after his affront to KGB authorities was to end his career at the Kirov Ballet.

Image courtesy of thetimes.com

With “The White Crow” audience will witness all the tragedy and passionate vibrancy that made s young inchoate Nureyev the great artist that the world would come to adore. Out of the seedling of talent, determination and boldness was borne a dance artist that forever changed the image of male ballet dancers. And “The White Crow” details how it all began!!

“The White Crow” opens in select theaters on April 26.

—William S. Gooch

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