Despite COVID-19, American Ballet Theatre Dancers Are Keeping Busy

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a lover of the arts, you are aware that the arts are in a holding period while nations grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. And it seems as we contend with a second round of COVID-19 infections, it appears that stage performances in New York City and other international capitals are postponed or have very limited access until late spring 2021. That’s right no Broadway shoes, music concerts, and as we move to the holiday season, no “Nutcracker.”

That said; international artists are not sitting on their laurels waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine. Principal dancer Misty Copeland earlier in the year launched a relief fund for ballet dancers that were out of work due to COVID-19 pandemic. This GoFundMe campaign, ”Swans for Relief” is raising $500,000 for unemployed dancers. (Contrary to popular belief, ballet dancers do eat food.)

“In these unpredictable times, ballet companies—like many organizations—are fighting to survive,” Copeland and co-founder Joseph Phillips wrote in a joint statement. “Ballet companies are largely dependent on revenue from performances to pay their dancers and fund their operations, but we are now confronting the uncertainty of when we will return to the stage and once again fill performance venues.”

“Art brings people together to provide a beautiful escape, and ballet in particular is a very unifying experience both on and off the stage, filled with history and imagination,” Copeland said in a statement. “Throughout my career, it has been very important for me to bring more attention and awareness to this art form. The theater thrives on people coming together to experience a performance. Because of the coronavirus, the livelihood and careers of dancers are in jeopardy, and this will continue to have massive effects even after we start to re-open our cities.”

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Misty Copeland is not only ballet dancer keeping busy. (And in case you are not in the know, Misty Copeland 3.1 million-dollar Upper Westside apartment, you missed an elegant treat. During ABT’s layoff, Copeland had time to decorate her apartment, that she purchased in 2018 and have it photographed for Architectural Digest.) American Ballet Theatre soloist Gabe Stone Shayer has partnered with CHANEL to launch “Pas de Deux,” a limited documentary series exploring the intersection of dance and other diverse art forms.

Coco Chanel was big ballet fan, creating costumes for the Ballets Russes’ ballets “La Chatte” and “Le Train Bleu.” And we know that Coco Chanel had an affair with Igor Stravinsky, the composer of the music for the ballet “La Chatte.” In that respect, Coco Chanel was a true collaborator.

Gabe Stone Shayer at the Apollo Theater, courtesy of Gabe Stone Shayer. Alicia Keys by James Bailey.

The limited documentary series “Pas de Deux” are short 15-minute episodes takes viewers into the homes and workspaces of each dancer and collaborator, allowing these diverse creators the opportunity to connect virtually for an exchange of ideas. Pas de Deux is inspired by one of those nights in New York City where you meet interesting people who inspire you,” said Shayer.  “The idea first hit me when thinking about how I could continue to create in quarantine.  I wanted to highlight the innovation that is magnified by an artist feeling stifled.  I’m obsessed with multimedia collaborations and felt this was the moment where we could explore the intersection of art and artists.”

Creative pairings include:

  • ABT Principal Dancer Isabella Boylston with master chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson
  • ABT Principal Dancer Cassandra Trenary with Kat Sullivan, Artist in Residence at RLAB, New York City’s virtual and augmented reality lab
  • ABT Soloist Luciana Paris with visual artist Chloe Wise
  • “Pas de Deux” creator and ABT Soloist Shayer with Grammy Award®-winning singer, songwriter and actor Alicia Keys. Additional dance footage for this episode was directed and filmed by Pierce Jackson.

The first in this series of mini documentaries aired on October 29 on American Ballet Theatre’s YouTube channel and IGTV.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

 

London Brown: One of the Chosen

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Launching a career in the entertainment industry is a daunting task. No matter what anyone tells you—particularly the celebrity wannabees on Instagram—having that desired career as a performer requires taking a lot of risks with no guarantees of success. Still, it can be done!! (The many are called; few are chosen scripture applies here.)

What may be even more of a challenge is maintaining that success. London Brown has done just that.

The Los Angeles-native started his career as a stand-up comedian, hitting all the major comedy venues—The Comedy Union, The Improv, The Comedy Store, and Gotham Comedy Club. In 2013, London Brown won the Robin Harris Rising Star award, as well as Best International Comedian for 2013 Black Comedy awards in the UK. He has also shared stages with Katt Williams, Tony Rock and Kevin Hart.

That said; London Brown’s career does not start and end with comedy. He doesn’t rest his laurels with folks’ bellyaching laughter. Brown cut his acting chops on the Fuse network’s comedy-drama “Hustle” as the character D, an aspiring hip-hop artist.

London Brown in Ballers.” Image courtesy of thesun.com

Probably Brown’s most memorable role to date is that of the character Reggie in HBO’s “Ballers.” And while “Ballers” really set London Brown on his path to cinematic greatness, Brown had experienced one of biggest losses prior to working on “Ballers.” Brown’s brother Wendell Lee, 25, was killed in the LA neighborhood that London Brown grew up in.

“[2013] was the best year of my life and the worst at the same time. I was living off my art. I was on one of the hottest networks, living in a Hollywood condo, and working in Miami where the weather is great. I’m like, ‘Cool, this shit happens.’ And then that happens, and it was a reminder that the things I do are bigger than just me,” Brown said in an undefeated.com article. “It’s not about me just working and getting a check to live a ritzy lifestyle. I have to make sure I’m working because I try to be some sort of assistance to my family and take the stress off of them.”

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2013 may been a difficult year for London Brown, but he has not been deterred, and he is currently riding strong. Though 2020 has been a down time for lots of performers, that is not the case of London Brown. Brown is currently starring on STARZ’s “Power Book: 3” and the third iteration of “Tales from the Hood:3.” Which comes out on October 6.

“Fashion Reverie Talks” was fortunate to get to interview London Brown about his career, his roles in “Power Book: 3” and “Tales from the Hood: 3.”

—Staff

Summer 2020 East Coast Resorts for that Quick Getaway Vacation

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Summer 2020 will surely be a summer to remember. 2020 has been, to say the least, a very unpredictable year. Given the positive outcome of social distancing in New York and surrounding states, there is hope and opportunity to get out of the city in July and August. True, it might not be a trip to Europe, but this is an opportunity to explore some places that are a couple of hours car ride away. You can still feel safe sharing the ride with your family or friends you have already been exposed to and avoid crowded planes that have been an incubus of the COVID-19 virus.

Here are five  East Coast beautiful places you can visit without quarantine requirements upon your return.

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Mystic Seaport

The largest maritime museum in the US is in Connecticut. The perfect place for a little excursion for those that enjoy beautiful views and collections of sailing ships and boats. Mystic Seaport, founded in 1929, consists of more than 60 historic buildings. The Museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship and the last wooden whaleship in the world. Mystic Seaport is in Mystic, CT, which is a great place for an overnight stay. By the way; don’t forget to try Mystic Pizza.

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The Pocono Mountains

Nature. Lakes. Valleys. All in Pennsylvania. There are many options in the Poconos. It all depends whether you are taking kids, a romantic date or you are group of friends just looking to spend some time in nature. This is a place each member of your family could have a day of fun. Golfing, hiking, dining and various adventures await along with many accommodation options. The Poconos are known for great resorts, but renting a house sounds like a great idea, too.

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Newport

Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in the New England state of Rhode Island. Its harbor is full of expensive yachts also known for the annual sailing regatta and some clam chowder famous spots. However, for some biggest attraction in Newport are the Gilded Age mansions on Bellevue Avenue. One of the most famous is The Breakers, an 1895 mansion built to resemble a Renaissance palace.

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Nantucket

Nantucket is a small island 30 miles out to sea. It is also a super popular tourist destination. This beautiful island is known for whaling, Nantucket bay scallops, fog, their three lighthouses, charming Main Street, and quite a few signature activities. The iconic cobbled Main Street extends from the waterfront at Straight Wharf to their iconic brick Pacific National Bank. There are many shops and restaurants, so Nantucket sounds like a dynamic vacation! 

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Martha’s Vineyards

Martha’s Vineyards is a bucket list place to visit this summer. Located South of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is a popular summer colony. You can access the Vineyard visit by water or air. There are very charming towns and lighthouses, sandy beaches, and great restaurants. That said; Martha’s Vineyard is rather expensive, so if you don’t have deep pockets a short weekend vacation there is ideal and will not break your bank.

Tijana Ibrahimovic

 

Club Quarantine, The Hottest Summer 2020 Party

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As the globe adjusts to a new reality, the summer music festival season is officially canceled. In its place, the world has been invited to the biggest party on the planet, virtually. The COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to a new type of party, born on social media. “A new temporary way to bond with fans until a return to normal,” says Billboard Magazine. Who knew the power of music and dance could bring people together in times of need? It brings hope as an expressive relief to change the world. With venues and bars shut down from coast to coast, Fashion Reverie helps you jam out to all the hottest live streams and virtual parties during the coronavirus crisis. Without a cover charge, dress code, or drink minimum, feel free to tune in to the ultimate social-distancing dance party.

“I’m excited to see what artists will do following this pandemic,” stated Khyran Shank, a Los Angeles-based artist. It’s safe to say this current pandemic is pushing for not only change in society, but pushing our creativity as well. Integration is nothing new to the fashion world, constantly blurring lines with industry crossovers and brand collaborations. As fashion presentations have started to take place on digital platforms, we recall past fashion shows that utilized influencers, social media, and celebrity guest appearances to their advantage for promoting their seasonal collections. One might ask, how can the fashion industry continue to push the status quo while paving the way for new beginnings during trying times?

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Increasing popularity by breaking the internet, social media platforms give brands access to millions of active users worldwide. Finding creative ways to engage their fan base, fashion brands are prioritizing engagement over sales as an extension of their brand personality and voice. In a branded opportunity for retailers, fashion houses are partnering with music streaming services as a way to remind listeners of in-store experiences. Companies, such as H&M, Forever 21, and Starbucks are shifting social media strategies, using musical platforms to offer more of a lifestyle approach to their marketing.

As one of the favorite music streaming platforms and social networks, Spotify is slowly becoming the music hub for fashion accounts. “People don’t just listen to Spotify, they live it,” says Spotify. As brands have become more receptive to the growing influence of social media, technology, and digital apps, the fashion industry has become hyper-connected with new audiences. Dominated by millennial consumers, Spotify speaks to a magnitude of the fashion-conscious target audience. In collaboration with brands such as H&M, Pull&Bear, and Victoria Secret, companies identify Spotify as a promotional tool for a content strategy to reach and engage with their community.

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Other platforms have gotten in on the action as well. Making stay-at-home a little more bearable, Mashable notes “Instagram has announced a series of features. Co-watching allows users to view Instagram posts together with their friends over video chat. Yes, a watch party for Instagram posts.” Whether you’re working from home, seeking daily motivation, or taking a mental break, many creatives such as designer Timo Weiland, Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director Virgil Abloh, entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman, and even Ellen DeGeneres are hosting weekly breakout sessions on Instagram Live. Stuck indoors, live-streaming digital parties promotes social distancing while eliminating the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus and endangering anyone’s health. Described by Refinery 29 as “the creative genius responsible for the international experience that is Club Quarantine,” DJ D-Nice told The New York Times,“Musically we found a way to use tech to unite people, that’s a beautiful thing.”

Be sure to head to The Roots’ YouTube channel on Saturday, June 27 for The Roots Picnic 2020. In its 13th year, the concert is partnering with Michelle Obama to urge voters to use their voices at the ballots this year. Performers include The Roots, H.E.R., Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby, G Herbo and many others. The event will also feature appearances by the former first lady, Janelle Monae, Kerry Washington, Tom Hanks, and more. The Picnic will be streamed here

Also, tune in on July 4th, as PBS will livestream “A Capitol Fourth” at 8 p.m EST, hosted by John Stamos and Vanessa Williams, and featuring performances by Patti LaBelle, John Fogerty, Renée Fleming, The Temptations, Yolanda Adams, and more.

Fashion Reverie’s Curated List of Who’s Who to Follow on Spotify:

Chanel

Marc Jacobs Mixtape Mondays

Alexander McQueen

Reebok

Victoria’s Secret

Glossier

Prada

Kenzo

D-Nice’s Homeschool Playlist on Spotify

Questlove

Jean Touitou

Telfar

Pyer Moss

Paris Fashion Week

—Courtney Wilkins

2020 Books for the Beach, Summer Outings, and Your Summer Downtime

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It’s summertime and the living is, well, it’s not easy. But as COVID-19 restrictions are being eased, you may find yourself wanting to head to a park or a beach to relax, catch some rays, and lose yourself in a book.  Fashion Reverie has curated a list of new and exciting books that you won’t be able to put down. Make sure you bring some SPF lotion, water, and masks. Because we’re not out of the COVID-19 woods just yet, wash your hands, social distance, and wear that mask! Just make sure you put SPF on your face. You thought tan lines on your shoulders was unseemly, mask lines on your face will be really embarrassing.  

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Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley

The larger than life former creative director of American Vogue details his career from working with Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institute to stints at Ebony, Interview, WWD and finally working with and developing an unlikely an intimate friendship with Anna Wintour.  Talley pulls no punches in describing the backbreaking work that goes into producing a magazine whose subscribers’ number in the millions. He also broaches the delicate subject of race and how he not only survived but thrived as a black man in the cutthroat world of fashion. There is an entire chapter on Eunice Johnson, and her groundbreaking Ebony Fashion Fair which made it possible for black communities to see haute couture fashion. This man has stories to tell and he is a skilled and talented wordsmith. Fashion Reverie cannot recommend this book enough.

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 The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh

Award-winning writer Laura McHugh returns with another compelling mystery novel set in rural Kansas.  As the town of Blackwater is overrun by the opioid crisis and rampant crime, the local police can’t even fake interest in the death of Sadie Keller’s brother. But Sadie is determined to find out how her brother died, even if no one else thinks it’s worth investigating. Long-buried secrets boil over as the danger intensifies and Sadie comes closer to discovering the truth.

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Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters unable to be in the same room together. Their community is rocked when a 9-year-old goes missing. When Dara disappears, Nick is determined to find her sister and reconnect, but uncovers far more than she bargained for.

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#MurderTrending and #MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil

While these books were written a few years ago, their themes of police corruption and false convictions seems painfully timely. Welcome to an America where a reality star is the President and good citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0. The book cuts back and forth between the POV of the falsely convicted Dee Guerrera and the message boards where she, her fellow convicts, and their wildly creative executioners, aka Painiacs, are discussed. Action-packed and surprisingly funny, #MurderTrending and its sequel #MurderFunding are engrossing reads. The third book #NoEscape is due out in September.

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Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from my African American Kitchen by Alexander Smalls

Celebrated chef and world-renowned opera singer Alexander Smalls combine his two passions”—food and music”—in Meals, Music, and Muses. Smalls takes his readers on a mouthwatering tour through the South, exploring the recipes that have shaped the area. Each chapter is named for a type of music, guiding readers into the heart and soul of these delicious foods.

This book contains many classic Southern recipes as well as twists on old favorites, including Hoppin’ John Cakes with Sweet Pepper Remoulade, Carolina Bourbon BBQ Shrimp, Okra Skewers and main dishes like Roast Quail in Bourbon Cream Sauce, and Prime Rib Roast with Crawfish Onion Gravy.

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios is excited for the summer when her father will visit her in the Dominican Republic. But when she goes to meet his plane, she finds crowds of people weeping. Meanwhile, in New York City, Yahaira Rios is summoned to the principal’s office, her mother is waiting to give her the bad news that her father, her hero, has died. Separated by miles and their father’s secrets, the two girls try to adjust to a new reality only to find out they have a sister.

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What We Inherit by Jessica Pearce Rotondi

This stunning nonfiction book centers around a real-life mystery. When her mother passes away, among her belongings Jessica finds, letters, declassified CIA reports, and newspaper clippings shedding light on a family ghost; her uncle Jack who disappeared in 1972.  A memoir, a spy novel, a travelogue, and an investigative report that moves with the energy of a thriller, this haunting true story will stay with you.

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The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward

With restrictions on international travel pretty much killing all of our summer plans, why not take a literary trip through Athens and Rome?  When Charlotte Perkins wins a family cruise, she decides to use the time to reunite with her estranged children. Delicious and smart, this book was chosen by Reese Witherspoon for her book club.

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Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez

Tom and Lorenzo, of the eponymous enthralling fashion blog and deliciously sassy podcast, have written a fascinating tome that looks at last century of queer history through the prism of the gayest show on television, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Like settling in to hear stories from your favorite bitchy uncles, this delightful book takes you through the queer history that has been left out the mainstream academia. It’s not a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” book. It uses the show as a jumping-off point and a connection to the mainstream—as arguably it’s the largest connection to queer culture. Really though this is a history book full of color, life, and determination in the 20th century.

—Cameron Grey Rose

The All-Balanchine Program Showcases a New and Improved New York City Ballet

Image of Maria Kowroski courtesy of danceviewtimes.com

The New York City Ballet (NYCB) of today is not the New York City Ballet of George Balanchine. And it shouldn’t be. Even George Balanchine did not expect his company, the NYCB, to have the same look, dance aesthetic or point of view of its Golden Years of the 1950s through the 1970s. In fact, Balanchine even stated that he didn’t expect his ballets to survive.

Balanchine’s ballets have  survived and have remained with their structure in place with similar musicality and verve. Still, the company is not the same.

The technical ability of the current dancers far outweighs the NYCB dancers of half a century ago—and that is a given. But the differences go beyond technical acumen. And those differences—if one is old enough to remember the NYCB of yore—are most evident in all Balanchine programs; particularly, the program—Allegro Brillante, La Source, Firebird— presented by the company at the January 25 matinee.

“Allegro Brillante” images courtesy of tumblr.com

Allegro Brillante was brilliantly danced by Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle. Developed as a star vehicle by Balanchine for Maria Tallchief in 1956, Allegro Brillante is set to an energetic, yet lyrical Tchaikovsky score.

Tiler Peck danced the main ballerina role with all the lush virtuosity and lyrical sensitivity that Balanchine intended for this work. Yet, Peck went beyond what most ballerinas in NYCB’s vast history were able to bring to this role. Peck represents the new NYCB ballerina where technical virtuosity, speed, and lyricism are expected. And maybe even stage presence. What Peck embodies in this vein of NYCB ballerinas is supreme confidence. There are no struggles, no visible technical imperfections, no easing into a role—particularly Balanchine’s abstract works. Just sit back, enjoy, marvel, and be transported!!

La Source was another matter. Created for Violette Verdy, this sweet concoction of a ballet embodies French ballet style, perhaps, more than any Balanchine ballet in the repertoire. The company demonstrated Balanchine’s version of precise, crystalline French technique expertly. There was wit, sparkle, and frothiness.

“La Source” image courtesy of pinterest.com

Erica Pereira was just the right combination of exactitude and spun sugar. Perhaps, there could have been a bit more sauciness in her performance, but that’s forgiven in that no one can bring Violette Verdy’s piquant style to this work. Harrison Ball was just fine as the Pereira’s partner, bringing a measured amount of regal gentility and technical buoyancy.

Perhaps, the most vivacious element of La Source is the second ballerina’s solo and subsequent interactions with the corps de ballet. Rachel Hutsell captured that special whimsical sauciness that is so emblematic of this Balanchine work. Additionally, Hutsell represents the direction NYCB is heading with Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan at the helm.

Currently, NYCB has 10 African American dancers, a record number for any classical ballet company other than the Dance Theatre of Harlem. At this performance there were two black dancers in major roles.

That is not to say that Balanchine was against inclusion. After all, Balanchine and Lincoln Kirsten put Arthur Mitchell  as lead dancer in many ballets in the 1950s and 60s in spite of death threats and bomb scares. However, Balanchine was only able to accomplish so much, and his dream of a fully integrated company is coming to fruition under Stafford and Whelan.

Balanchine’s Firebird, another star vehicle for Maria Tallchief,  is based on a truncated Stravinsky score. A bonified hit for the NYCB in 1949, Balanchine’s Firebird has gone through many revisions with Jerome Robbins providing choreography for Kotchei, the monsters, and golliwogs.

This particular Balanchine version works very well, with excellent airborne choreography for the firebird, which Sara Mearns inhabited so convincingly. The challenge with this particular version is that some of the story is lost amid inadequate mime sequences. And unless you already know the story, the plot is confusing.

“Firebird” image courtesy of newyorkballet.com

Then again, Balanchine was not big on story ballets. And the joy of Firebird is Stravinsky’s rich score and Balanchine’s ability to create very athletic steps for the firebird without looking like an Olympic hurdles’ competition.

Mearns’ firebird is an example of the new kind of dancer that is filling the ranks at NYCB. Mearns’ firebird would have been anomaly at the NYCB of the past. Always, a very athletic dancer, Mearns’ firebird is all that and much more. Her firebird is powerful, determined, lyrical, but most of all free, never an enslaved creature. And Silas Farley’s Prince Igor is the epitome of a prince; respectful, gracious, and regal.

The new NYCB is perhaps what Balanchine had envisioned all along. And with the company’s new leadership, the NYCB is primed to unearth and present some new truths, new colors, and a layer of unfettered beauty.

—William S. Gooch

Exotic Arab Winter Travel Destinations

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 Travel is the best cure to escape chilly temperatures and travel can facilitate a new narrow about diversity and different cultures. Travel can also be a great life reboot. It can promote happiness and a more positive attitude. 

If you are in a country where winter months get a bit depressing and you have already done Florida or Mexico to escape cold, Fashion Reverie has an idea!! Why not go for an exotic adventure? A mysterious place you may have heard about but seems a bit too different in customs and lifestyle? Take a leap! Fashion Reverie has come up with five destinations we are waiting your postcards from! 

Image courtesy of Gulf News

Qatar

Qatar is a beautiful small country known for futuristic skyscrapers and very modern architecture surrounded by dunes and beautiful beaches off the Persian Gulf. It’s capital Doha has a gorgeous Corniche waterfront promenade with lots of Dhow traditional boats awaiting to take you for a pleasant ride. Souk Waqif is popular for evening strolls, and there is a very lively market you can visit for shopping jewelry, spices, and take in all of Doha’s beautiful energy. The kindness of Doha locals is pleasantly overwhelming. 

For more information, go to www.visitqatar.qa

Image courtesy of Travel Guide Morocco

Morocco 

We have all heard so much about Morocco as its influence can especially be felt in large cities in the US and Europe.  If you are into good food, shopping, and fashion, you have to visit Marrakech.

This once imperial city has beautiful palaces, gardens, and the typical old town family homes riads; many of which are transformed into luxury hotels. The medina or the old town feels like a labyrinth of shops with textiles, pottery, and jewelry. Your point of orientation should be the Koutoubia Mosque, a minaret of 12th-century very close to the famous square Jemaa el-Fna. 

For more information, go to  https://www.visitmorocco.com

Image courtesy of eturbonews.com

Saudi Arabia 

For the first time, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to tourists. 

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for a visa and this is a big step towards Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform program Vision 2030 to boosts the country’s economy through tourism and entertainment. 

There are lots of UNESCO world heritage sites to visit, including the Mada’in Saleh in Al-Ula, which is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans, south of Petra in Jordan, and At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah, the first capital of the Saudi state. The capital  Riyadh and Jeddah on the Red Sea are two of the most popular places to visit. 

For more information, go to https://www.visitsaudi.com

Image courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Sultanate of Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is another popular Arab country. Fun fact:  The Sultanate of Oman is the oldest human-inhabited country. It is also one of the safest and most secure countries in the Arab world. Its capital is Muscat. 

One of the must-see places is The Al Bustan Palace, which is a Ritz-Carlton property that hosted some of the biggest celebrities including Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton. It’s a six-star property and it literally resembles a palace! There is an old and new Muscat, including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, and of course an amazing Souk. The flora and fauna is beautiful and there are some incredible beaches. 

For more information, go to https://experienceoman.om/

Image courtesy of iexplore.com

United Arab Emirates 

We are all very familiar with Dubai.  Very friendly and open to Westerners. Probably least conservative of the Arab countries. Dubai is known for luxury shopping, rich nightlife, and ultra-modern architecture. If you already visited Dubai, a new reason is to visit is to stay at one of the tallest hotel in the world, the Ciel Tower, which is yet to be completed. The Ciel Tower will reach 360.4 meters upon completion, featuring 1,042 rooms and suites spread across 82 floors.

For more information, go to https://www.visitdubai.com

Tijana Ibrahimovic 

 

For Ballet Hispanico, Human Experience Is Always the Vehicle for Brilliant Storytelling

Ballet Hispanico in “Tiburones”. Image courtesy of Paula Lobo

What can be said of Ballet Hispanico? Since its inception in 1970 under the tutelage of Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispanico showcased the depth and brilliance of the Latin diaspora as seen through the lens of an amalgam of dance styles and idioms—be it flamenco, Graham, Horton, Limon, and Dunham techniques, ballet, lyrical jazz, hip-hop, vogue ballroom, and Latin social dances. And Ballet Hispanico has brilliantly accomplished their initial goal and motivation.

That said; we are now in another era of Ballet Hispanico. With the primary of goals of founder Tina Ramirez accomplished, one could ask, what’s next for Ballet Hispanico? With the programs assembled by current artistic director Eduardo Vilario, Ballet Hispanico has solidly placed itself in that constellation of superior dance companies that not only have a signature voice and aesthetic but are also expanding the definition of what a repertory company is. And for Ballet Hispanico that means exploring and implementing a new definition of what a Hispanic-based repertoire can include.

The program that Ballet Hispanico assembled for its performances at the famed Apollo Theater—Naci, Tiburones, and the ever-popular Con Brazos Abiertos—demonstrates how the company has evolved, but also shows where Ballet Hispanico is heading. And Ballet Hispanico now has the company members that can deftly perform with nuance its varied repertoire.

“Con Brazos Abiertos” image courtesy of arts.gov

Michelle Manzanales’ Con Brazos Abiertos has been in the repertoire for quite a few seasons now, and in each performance the company finds new nuances and meaning in this highly favored work. Manzanales explores the immigrant experience in this work—which is detailed through the Cheech and Chong vocals and the Maria Billini-Padilla poem. This work references Mexican folkloric dance as evidenced in choreography that employs the undulations of flowing skirts, as well as an injection of Spanish dance with sombreros.

It is easy to see why Con Brazos Abiertos is an audience pleaser. There is something, or several things, in this work that can appeal to everyone.

In the ballet Naci, choreographer Andrea Miller draws from her Hispanic and Jewish backgrounds, and from the sense of being a stranger in a new land. And that new land being the New World. In this New World there is a sense of homelessness, and not belonging. In this remembrance of homelands and things lost, Miller choses a song that contains lyrics that speak to having no country, no love, and no home.

Gabrielle Sprauve and Lyvan Verdecia in “Naci”. Image courtesy of Paula Lobo

Interestingly, as Naci speaks to abandonment and a sojourn to the unfamiliar, the choreographic content is very rooted in being earthbound with dancers really using the ground, or floor stage, as the source of strength and undulating and churning in and out of movement that is very terrestrial and grounded. Standout dancers in Naci are Dandara Viega and Lyvan Verdecia.

Perhaps, the most interesting work of the evening was Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Tiburones. Ochoa has several ballets in Ballet Hispanico’s repertoire, but, perhaps, Tiburones is the most moving and provocative. As a Ballet Hispanico world premiere, there was lots of expectation, and Tiburones did not disappoint.

Ochoa explores stereotypes and discrimination that Hispanics face in entertainment and media in Tiburones. The company is assembled on stage with one cast member serving as a film/media director equipped with a cut board. The director tells the dancers how to pose, move, and position themselves. Though most of the dancers go along, there is discomfort and resistance, until enough is enough.

Damdara Veiga in “Triburones.” Image courtesy of Paula Lobo

Ochoa carefully in Tiburones examines how stereotypes, particularly those around gender roles, diminish Puerto Rican voices. (There is a vocal of Rita Moreno discussing how the Hollywood film “Westside Story” will portray Puerto Ricans.) Ochoa deconstructs these contrived gender stereotypes—putting male dancers in high heel—to get to the true voices of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora.

Triburones is a powerful dance work, facilitating Ballet Hispanico’s ability to not only demonstrate their mastery of the dance lexicon, but also to showcase their acting ability. Standout dancers in Triburones are Lenai Alexis Wilkerson, Lyvan Verdecia, Gabrielle Sprauve, and Antonio Cangiano.

With its current appearance at the Apollo Theater, Ballet Hispanico is proving that it is one of the premiere dance companies in the US. Understanding that world dance is always about telling and speaking to the human experience, Ballet Hispanico has positioned itself as one of the best dance vehicles to do just that!! Ballet Hispanico, job well done!!

—William S. Gooch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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