Looking back, in gratitude

Anna Pavlova and Hubert Stowitts in 'La Peri', 1919 (Photo: Frans Van Riel, courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum)

Anna Pavlova and Hubert Stowitts in ‘La Peri’, 1919 (Photo: Frans Van Riel, courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum)

 

It’s been two years since Ballet to the People won the Top Dance Blog award, thanks to your support. Many of you are not dancers nor regular dance-goers but you seem to enjoy reading about it, for which I am grateful.
 

State of the Union

 

Ballet to the People now gets up to 400 visitors a day, from 70 countries, including the Sudan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Falkland Islands.

We are regularly translated, and receive dozens of e-mails and online comments daily on the blog, Facebook and Twitter. A few express outrage or dismay at my ignorance and narrow-mindedness. Others have asked me to endorse a line of cosmetics, and footwear. (These have been unsuccessful as I can never find time to do more than smear on some eye-liner, if that, and my feet are extremely hard to please – those of you who have been inside Ballet to the People’s closet have seen how few pairs of shoes she owns, and one day she will finally get around to documenting the story of her beloved Ferragamo oxfords that saw her through the 9/11 ordeal and are still in tiptop shape.)

The one thing all my readers seem to agree on wholeheartedly is the look of my blog, which I owe to the insane talents of Peter Van Gorder (tech guru) and Charlie Homo  (photographer).
 

Have tutu, will travel

 

These days you’ll find my by-line regularly on the Huffington Post and Bachtrack. The latter is the largest classical music website, based in London, covering concerts, opera and dance globally.

My gig with the HuffPost started with my contribution to their new online forum for debate. Asked to argue in favor of federal funding for the arts, I was crushed by my brilliant opponent, Ian David Moss. (I suspect his research team was funded by the Tea Party, though I can’t prove it, whereas mine was funded by the Cocktail Party.) The HuffPost editors graciously overlooked my feeble performance and continue to welcome my reviews.

I travel up and down the West Coast and occasionally to farther flung places, to cover dance and a bit of theatre, enduring the indignities and discomforts of air travel and Homeland Security for the sake of art.

Readers caught me partying at the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, crying over the DVD of Milwaukee Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, cheering on ABT in an Ashton-Balanchine-Ratmansky triple bill, dazzled by Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero at Oregon Ballet Theatre,napping after an exhausting interview with Craig Salstein, deciphering Alonzo King’s elegant hieroglyphs, and rubbing shoulders with 3rd graders at an Oakland Ballet Nutcracker lecture-demo.

A couple of my pieces that flew off on a tangent but attracted a sizeable audience: weighing in on the yoga-bashers, and dispensing dubious relationship advice (my response to Charles Warnke’s brilliant, mordant “Date an illiterate girl.”)
 

Raves and rants

 

Highlights of my theatre-going year

 

Flew down to L.A. to spend One Night in Miami… 

Witnessed Marilee Talkington’s epic in vitro fertilization ritual

Pacific Northwest Ballet in a breathtaking modern program

Fairy tales for adults at West Wave Dance Festival

A hilarious and moving take on fatherhood from Scott Wells and Sheldon B. Smith 

The sleek and powerful Triangulating Euclid at ODC/Dance

The ever smart and stylish Smuin Ballet
 

Lowlights of my theatre-going year

 

American Ballet Theatre squandered its considerable talents on a fluffed-up Corsaire 

SPF6: a festival of half-baked experiments in modern dance

Nederlands Dans Theater rampaged through Beethoven and The Magnetic Fields
 

With popcorn and soda, we also watched…

 

Social media deity Daniil Simkin pokes fun at himself in this charming ode to New York City

Milissa Payne Bradley’s mysterious, sensual Athena

Proof that great art is often collaborative, and fleeting, courtesy of Robert Dekkers

The compelling Zhukov Dance Theatre

Ballet, sweat and tears (from the Russians, who else?)

Better than Prozac: Yvonne Borree, Damian Woetzel, Maria Calegari and practically all of New York City Ballet in Union Jack

From the mind of Akram Khan, in the mind of Igor

Edward Clug unleashes torrents of water on stage in his Sacre du Printemps for Maribor Ballet

The Royal Ballet reaches for new audiences

The astute Tamara Rojo untangles the deep mysteries of Swan Lake

Deere John, a most unusual romance
 

Frederic Franklin as the Golden Slave in Fokine's Schéhérezade, with Jeanette Lauret as Zobeide. (Photo: Maurice Seymour, courtesy Ronald Seymour)

The dance world lost a legend in 2013. Here was Frederic Franklin as the Golden Slave in Fokine’s Schéhérezade, with Jeanette Lauret as Zobeide. (Photo: Maurice Seymour, courtesy Ronald Seymour)

 

Dancers who made my year

 

The glorious Vanessa Zahorian and the gallant Davit Karapetyan in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella at San Francisco Ballet

The American Ballet Theatre corps, led by Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, and Gemma Bond, who collectively triumphed in Ratmansky, Ashton and Balanchine this season
 

Loitering on social media

 

When I get too lazy to write a full-on review I engage in live-tweeting under the Twitter handle @unexpectedsolos. Theatres and opera houses look indulgently on this, as long as you do it at intermission and curtain calls and not during the 32 fouettés. I sometimes gather my tweets into “bite-size reviews”  and fool around with Storify, when I’m in an obsessive-compulsive mood.

Yes, Twitter is the street corner for dance. Come loiter with @unexpectedsolos and hundreds of other balletomanes from around the globe. I know many of you love Tumblr and Pinterest, but those sites tend to spawn way too many gauzy photos of ballerinas in arabesque, whereas Twitter is a more eclectic playground for dance-lovers. And no one can ever get tiresome on Twitter because that 140-character limit ensures that you promptly exit stage right, even if the audience is clamoring for more. Twitter is where I stumbled on @liebestrauma, who penned this wacky and fabulous series of Nutcracker sticky note illustrations.
 

The defeat of the evil Mouse King by the Forces of Ballet (illus. by @liebestrauma)

The defeat of the evil Mouse King by the Forces of Ballet (illus. by @liebestrauma)

 

You can also find her on Facebook under the nom de plume Dances with Pencils.

Went out on a limb and bashed anonymous critics, which didn’t sit well with some, including one blogger whom I admire: Cream of Vampire Soup.

Tried to keep readers abreast of the juicy happenings in the world of dance: the scandalous goings-on in the Russian ballet world, the disgraceful eviction of a 34-year-old New York City institution,  and the appointment of Benjamin Millepied, a.k.a. L’Homme Libre and Mr Natalie Portman, to the helm of the Paris Opera Ballet:

 

A new voice on Ballet to the People!

 

Welcomed Leigh Donlan onto the blog. A former ballerina, a gifted teacher, and a visual artist and poet, she comes to see dance with me and we end up squabbling. I realized I needed another voice on the blog! Her review of West Wave had me in stitches.

Leigh and I would love to hear what you’d like us to cover in the blog in the new year.
 

What lies ahead in the Year of the Horse

 

Perhaps my most exciting project for 2014 will be a film whose working title is “Glass Dances.” Earlier this year I became a Google Glass Explorer, after entering a Twitter competition launched by Google to identify the next round of beta-testers for their futuristic device. (Some marketing genius at Google thought “Glass Explorer” would sound racier than “computer-on-your-forehead beta-tester.”)

In my competition entry, I vowed to round up a gaggle of Bay Area choreographers to make a dance using Glass. So now I am making good on that promise. I have corralled four accomplished young dance-makers working in ballet, modern dance and hip-hop, handed them my Glass, and given them carte blanche. I have no idea what they are cooking up, but once they produce some early clips we will be bringing them to you… You heard it here first, so stay tuned!

My first challenge of 2014, however, will be my first-ever jury duty as a U.S. citizen. I plan to test the limits of the American judicial system by attempting to live-tweet my jury selection experience. If I get put on a long, grisly murder trial, will someone please go see SFB’s Giselle and Wayne McGregor’s RandomDance in January and tweet me the blow-by-blow?
 

From the Triadic Ballet by Oskar Schlemmer, 1926 (Photo: Karl Grill, courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum)

From the Triadic Ballet by Oskar Schlemmer, 1926 (Photo: Karl Grill, courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum)

 

Come dance with us!

 

All evidence to the contrary, I’m not actually tethered to my high tech devices 24/7. Though I am incredibly lazy and prefer to lie on a couch all day eating chocolate and watching Paris Opera Ballet on YouTube, what propels me off the couch are the dedicated students who show up at the ballet studio on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. If you’re ever in San Francisco or Sausalito, do drop in!

In the hopes of enticing you into the studio, here’s what we’ve been dancing to: Ballet to the People’s class playlist.

 

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3 thoughts on “Looking back, in gratitude

    • Thanks, Adria! Looking forward to another great year for dance, and gossiping about it with you on Twitter!

  1. Just in from a Jakarta-based reader:

    Dear Ballet to the People,

    From a member of your Jakarta fan club, dancing now amidst the puddles and sometime torrents that grace our city’s streets during this most rainy season, a very wonderful 2014 to you and all the members of your accomplished troupe!

    With love, jjakarta

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