Archive for the 'Dance' Category

Comicon 2010 round-up and wrap-up, Saturday, Sunday

July 26th, 2010

Continuing the Comicon 2010 report from the previous post….

Saturday: I had some thoughts of seeing the Chuck panel, as I was there early enough, but early enough for the panel and early enough for the line are two different things and the line for Ballroom 20 was beyond insane, so I decided to go over to the Indigo Ballroom in the Hilton which is generally less impacted and see the program track there.  En route, I witnessed the line for Hall H, where the movie panels go on.  It had overflowed it’s already insane bounds and gone over across the street, wrapped around the park where the Clash of the Titans games promos were set up and extended into another dimension I think.  The games in the park were all nice: You could have your face painted and have a picture taken in cut-outs as one of Medusa’s victims, you could bounce on a giant trampoline (which did a number on my knee last year at con), you could play boffer wars in a bouncy arena, and you could even climb a rock wall with a cable safety harness.  Almost no one was playing the games, preferring to stand in line, so I decided I’d try the rock wall, which was free.  Unfortunately, I’d sprained my LCL a few months ago and about ten feet up the rock wall I felt it complain so I wussed out.  The guy who was supervising the wall looked more approving after I compared knee surgery scars with him.  In any case, I got a souvenir fan in place of a shield or a medusa headdress and went on to the line for the Indigo Ballroom, which was fortunately short.

I was there in time for the panel for Leverage, which I’d only vaguely heard of.  They had free MASTERMIND and GRIFTER T-shirts.  I took MASTERMIND, of course.  The room was packed and I had an extremely excited fifty-something fangirl next to me who was sqeeing with delight over seeing her favorite actors, one of whom I then noted was Christian Kane who I’d previously seen on Angel and who mentioned that he has a new music debut on iTunes of some song played on the show (explaining why his character Lindsay on Angel went off with a guitar at one point–they were incorporating a talent of the actor into the character) Wil Wheaton was also playing this seasons’ guest villain, Chaos. It looks like a great show, and has a nice simple premise: a gang of modern-day Robin Hoods pulling a heist each week against some bad guys who deserve to get ripped off and then have their money given to charity.  I now have to set my DVR for another show.

Next was the Venture Brothers panel.  It’s a fun cartoon I’ve watched some episodes of and I’ll probably watch a few more.  The actors on the panel were entertaining and generally gonzo, as one might expect.

Then came the Sanctuary panel.  I’ve enjoyed the show, and the panel was enjoyable as well.  They talked a good bit about the Bollywood dance that figured into the last season finale, and also mentioned how they’ve set up a charity which has been helping various groups around the world.  The guy next to me started recording the whole show on his camera, but it wasn’t going to be an unsteady shot, because he’d brought an actual tripod.  I looked around and he wasn’t the only one.

Then came the panel for The Guild, who could teach the rest of Hollywood something serious about work ethic and how to please your fans.  Aside from being at their booth throughout the con with all the actors present doing continuous signings from what I could see, they started the panel with the producer thanking all the fans and telling some production details that were genuinely interesting (as opposed to the twaddle from the guy for the Falling Skies panel, for example).  They then introduced the actors and segued neatly to showing the third episode the current season because they assumed everyone had watched the first two.  I hadn’t, but I can remedy that now, it was fun to see Wil Wheaton back as the villain Faux who had ended up as Codex’s love interest at the end of last season.  They then gave out buttons with the bodice ripper painting of Codex and Faux shown in the episode as a funny bit.  Then, when you wouldn’t think they could top that, they said they’d show the fourth episode, though the editing wasn’t quite done.  So we start into a nice seen with Codex and Zaboo in her bedroom which suddenly organically turns into a Bollywood extravaganza called “Game On.”

Wow.  That was some serious showmanship, and not just for the music video, which was amazing, but for the reveal to the fans.  Obviously they planned this well in advance and I’m pleased to see it such a success.

The guy with the tripod then packed up and left, but I then stayed around to watch a bit of the Community panel.  It was fun and whacky and basically what you’d expect for a comedy set in a community college with Chevy Chase as one of the professors, but after getting a free community college membership card with a discount for buying the DVD, I decided I was tired of sitting and so left too, going back to the convention center to see the art show, which was underwhelming, and more of the art on in the dealer’s room, which was not.

One artist I should point out to everyone is Echo Chernik.  She does some amazing art nouveau illustrations.  Another is Jeremy Bastain who does the Cursed Pirate Girl comics.

I then picked up with Albert and a couple of his friends and we went to Dick’s Last Resort which was a good deal of fun, especially since they were into the Comicon spirit and the waiters were in costume.  Ours was dressed as a white Mr. T with a Brooklyn accent, which was entertaining, and the food was good.  Pete, who’d joined us for dinner late, told us about the really cool Tron set-up they’d had off-site from the convention center.  I wish I’d been able to see it, but there’s always too much stuff to see, but what he showed me on his camera was pretty amazing.  We ate and ordered too much, which in hindsight we shouldn’t have because the next stop was the House of Blues where one of my publishers, SmartPop, had invited us to a party.  There was a buffet with too much delicious food, and also copies of their latest essay anthology A Taste of True Blood which the editor, Leah Wilson, was signing for all the guests.  There was fun talk about anthologies and the usual convention party fun.

Sunday: The last day of the con, I decided to catch Ann and Jeff Vandermeer‘s panel where they talked about upcoming projects, including steam punk anthologies and various curious and whimsical things.  I then did the dealers room floor, snagging up various things that caught my eye as purchases for the final day sales and also getting the final day swag.

The most interesting/fun bit of swag came in the WETA Workshop booth where a guy got up on a chair and announced that in partnership with TheOneRing.net were doing a trivia contest based on The Hobbit. Now, I pride myself on having a semi-eidetic memory, so I thought my chances of winning something with trivia from a book I’d read over thirty years ago were not half bad if I played my cards right.  After flubbing one question, I got called on for another, wanting the names of two of the swords Bilbo found in the troll’s hoard.  Now, if I racked my brains I might have been able to recall the fancy elven names, but they just asked for names, so I immediately gave the orcish ones: “Biter and Beater!”  The Weta guy looked at me as if I’d gone slightly mad since he was reading the card and those were not the names he was looking at but I just grinned and nodded to the OneRing guy for arbitration, and he admitted that those indeed were two of the names for the swords.  Not the names they were looking for, but names from the book.  I was asked if I knew the elven name, which I didn’t, but a guy next to me did: “Glamdring and Orcrist!”  The OneRing guy decided that that question was sufficient to advance us both to the finals after we’d answered a couple other questions.

The final round was me, a woman, the elven scholar guy, and a kid who I expected had read the book recently.  The elven scholar won the first question, selecting a miniature shield as his prize, the kid then correctly said that Gandalf had asked for red wine in Bilbo’s house and got the map of New Zealand as Middle Earth, and I then answered the next question correctly and got my choice of fancy rubber Hobbit ears or a red T-shirt for TheOneRing.net with the slogon “Talk Nerdy to Me.”  I’m not much of a cosplayer, but a T-shirt in my size?  Excellent.

After that, Albert gave me a ride to the airport and my friend Michael picked me up.  All in all an excellent Comicon.

Dance The Knife Cutting Through Worlds

January 14th, 2008

Pullman’s His Subtle Knife

Choreographed by Merce Cunningham;

Danced by the Cunningham Company

Alternate Worlds Moving on Two Stages, Performing for One Audience

I’ve been attending the revelatory Merce Cunningham ‘events’ all my adult life — on occasion the spouse has been honored as a composer for an edition of these events, so famous, for so long, in the world of art and dance. These were informal gatherings of audience and company in the Cunningham studio, devised for choreographer, dancers, composer and audience to exchange energies via the matrix of Cunningham at play, with his constant playmates, time and space.

This weekend the Cunningham Company held an ‘event’ at the glorious Dia Art Foundation – museum, which is located outside of Beacon, NY. I can personally testify that the land upon which the beautiful building is sited, provides a canvas of seasonal light and shadow display that is breathtaking, no matter the weather or the time of year. This weekend’s event at Dia included choreography inspired by Pullman’s The Subtle Knife. The NY Times dance critic describes the event thus:

[ To watch his company on Saturday afternoon in the first of two Cunningham Events last weekend at Dia:Beacon was to see a poetically compelling exposition of parallel-universe theory. Before at Dia:Beacon, Mr. Cunningham has staged events on two or more stages at the same time. In 2004, working on three stages at the Tate Modern in London, he employed a barrier that prevented audiences from seeing all three at once unless they looked up to the lofty mirrored ceiling in Turbine Hall (where the full action was visible, though very distant).

On Saturday at Dia:Beacon he placed his two stages adjacent but on either side of a square doorway. Wherever you were sitting, you could see only part, never all, of the stage on the opposite side. That door, leading from one world to a parallel stage, evoked the controlling image of The Subtle Knife, the second novel of Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials. In it the young hero can cut his way "slicing a square aperture in the air" from this Oxford into different worlds, at least one of which contains an alternative Oxford.

As the event began, the stage farthest from me looked breathtakingly like a mirror of the one closer to me. One group of dancers was moving in slow, controlled adagio, stepping, arching and bending with precision, while another, dressed identically, was doing the same but facing the other way.

Then, more than a minute into the dance, the denizens of the through-the-looking-glass world started to move in other steps and in a different tempo, whereupon the dichotomy between these two now dissimilar stages became both frustrating and entrancing. Here the dancers were balancing, fixed, waiting; there they were leaping fast across the space, caught up in some rush of which we could see only a fraction. And, like characters in the Pullman novels, dancers moved from one world, or stage, to another and back again. ]

Watching a Cunningham choreography, whether from early in his career (he’s now 91), or one just recently created, one feels she has left this world and re-entered another that has been lost, a world in which the sacred exists, as both sublime and far beyond any rigid and short-sighted religion, to a world that has existed long before this one, and which will survive hard and passionate once we have departed. It’s a privilege that everyone should be entitled to experience.

So it’s natural that this man would be drawn to a book by a YA author that speaks to slicing open gates into parallel worlds.

Love, C.

(5) Virgin’s Diary: The Immigrant Seducer-Thief-Rapist

July 1st, 2006

Deep Genre; Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 6;

Part 5

“It’s a seductive story: a mysterious foreigner, a beautiful young woman, blood and passion.” No wonder Lucy went pole dancing after Dracula jabbed her. Since this is also a ballet, in which the characters are played by beautiful faces and bodies,  this is a very different  vampiric ‘eastern’ threat than the hideously non-romantic dark force of Nosferatu, the cinematic model, who brings the Black Death to Europe.

Though the immigration theme is the weakest part of Virgin’s Diary it still is of interest in the concluding scenes.

“Stealing the substance of the west,” says the title card as Dracula steals Mina (danced by CindyMarie Small) away from the convent through a mysterious crack in the wall that leads to his castle realm.

Dracula’s coffin is stuffed with glowing green cash.  “Money stolen from England!” the title card informs us.

Immigrants steal our heart’s blood and our money, which in aggressive capitalist cultures, are interchangeable.  Stab Count Dracula, as Van Helsing does in the Diary and cold gold coins burst out of him, not hot blood.  The money scenes are the most colored of this mostly black and white film – green for money, gold for coins, red, of course, for the blood.  Stoker’s novel is permeated with references to cash and capital and the value of things.

The Outsider, the immigrant, also steals our women, our rightful possessions, and changes our women into the Other.  They lure our women with the promises of what we do not have –more hair, more exciting love-making (for being primitive they are less repressed, and more, um, endowed, so goes the mythology), a more open life.  They also steal the life force from True Men, if you wish to do a freudian reading in which the neck can stand in for the phallus.  These primitive forces rise against us, attempting to turn us into weaklings, female ourselves. Continue Reading »

(4) Virgin’s Diary: Mina the Authentic Virgin

June 30th, 2006

Deep Genre; Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 5; Part 6;

Part 4

In Stoker’s era a woman who had sexually sinned was infectious, a contagious miasma. She who violated the sexual rule that she never submit but to her husband’s sexual appetite needed to be quarantined from all other respectable persons, especially other women, for they too might catch her evil taint. Therefore, as in Stoker’s novel, Mina (danced by CindyMarie Small) is not present during Dracula’s seduction of Lucy. In the film Mina’s at the nebulously located convent where her financé, Jonathan Harker, has taken refuge, ill from the erotic fog Dracula’s vampire harem cast over him.

The ballet enacts this via Mina’s reading of his journal.

In Stoker’s novel Mina’s letters, journals, her cutup of information out of newspapers and other sources (very modern structural technique here, as critics have noticed with joy), her skills with typewriter and stenography and knowledge of train schedules and all the other technical tools of Victorian capital administration are utilized by her. She tries to defeat Dracula by exercising the powers of her formidible mind – the mind that Van Helsing so admires that he elevates it to the status of her soul. Mina is active in her work to save Jonathan and herself, to track the monster, Dracula. Lucy merely submits. Writhing in voluptuous acquiescence, Lucy invites him in.

Continue Reading »

(3) Virgin’s Diary: Lucy

June 29th, 2006

Deep Genre; Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6;

Part 3

[Sidebar – Last night Vaquero did a solo concert of his songs and music at the Bowery Poetry Club.  When friends ask what I was doing this summer, my stock answer was, "I'm writing about vampires."  Every single one of them responded, "Real ones?"  This left me puzzled until a political journalist from one of the weekly's responded, "Good for you.  Everybody should be writing about them."  Lightbulb.  Everyone thought I was writing about the inhabitants of that crypt called Washington, D.C.  The ruling class characterized as vampires is a long tradition.  See the political cartoons, for instance, of Stoker's era, depicting the Anglo-Irish landowners as vampires sucking the blood of the Irish people.  There will be more about this later.]

Virgin’s Diary skips Harken’s journey and begins within what would be Stoker’s Chapter 5.  Lucy Westenra (danced by Tara Birtwhistle) narrates that she’s received three proposals from three different men, all on the same day.  Lucy wonders why things are such that she cannot have all three of her suitors.  The title board says, “Why need I settle for one?”

Continue Reading »

(2) Virgin’s Diary: Form as Gender Destiny Correlative

June 28th, 2006

Deep Genre; Introduction; Part 1; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6;

Part 2 

The silent and expressionist film and ballet techniques of exaggeration allow Virgin’s Diary to particularize, to emphasize, the mirror-aspects of  Stoker’s tale, in which each era sees its own varieties of sexual and gender conflicts reflected.  Thus it is interesting to note that Virgin’s Diary lacks one of the primary conventions of Stoker’s vampires, the absence of a mirror’s reflection.  Perhaps that is because movies and ballets are conventionally played to a multi-member audience. The players are the audience’s mirror of whatever self the members project upon them.

The art of ballet, like Stoker’s classic vampire tale, stands as a correlative for the use of women until they are used up whether within or without the marriage bond.  The rigors of the ballet art break down a ballerina’s body.  Sex, which leads to the rigors of childbirth break women down, as is Lucy Westenra’s mother is broken down, who dies in both Stoker and Diary, because she’s of no use now, not even to the plot.  It has been considered a puzzle, this inclusion of frail, sick Mrs. Westenra and her death, whether in Stoker or the Diary.  It is considered an irrelevancy that distorts the tale.  However, her inclusion and her death underlines (exaggeration and distortion) that this is the life trajectory of women: from freshness (once she was as Lucy is now), to injury-illness-invalidism, monsterhood, death – to be immediately replaced with fresh, untainted virginal blood, like the new, 17-year-old prima replaces the injured prima ballerina assoluta, like the pure Mina Murphy-Harker replaces Lucy Westenra the Monster. Continue Reading »

(1) Dracula: Pages From A Virgin’s Diary (2003):

June 27th, 2006

Deep Genre; Introduction Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6;

Part 1

This is an admirable addition to the canon of vampire films.

 

 

Virgin’s Diary is particularly intriquing because it combines 3 creative forms: novel, film and ballet. Additionally, Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and German director Murneau’s Nosferatu (1922), on which this film-ballet is based, are both progenitor works of vampire genre, making Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary a derivative work, that is also an original work. (The ballet was choreographed by Mark Godden for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company in the late 1990′s.)

In this film Canadian director Guy Maddin employed the silent cinema conventions of superimposed images, irises, odd angles and title cards. From director Murnau he borrowed the signatures of expressionist cinema – distortion, exaggeration, and extreme metaphor, with an emphasis on composition and shadow play – perfect for filming a vampiric story ballet.  Murnau’s was the first way we saw vampires on film (there were stage productions of vampiric works even before Stoker’s novel was published).

 

 

Maddin added gouts of color here and there throughout the film: scarlet blood, glowing green and gold money, the dark, sticky crawl of the vampire’s trajectory out of the primitive east to civilized England. The soundtrack is Gustav Mahler, thickened with occasional source sound additions such as the penetration of fangs and stakes, the ugly whack of a beheading.

Maddin mated the film techniques of Murnau’s plague infestation theme with Bram Stoker’s delirious sexual confusions. The title card texts are direct quotes from the Stoker novel.  The characters are Stoker’s, played by dancers in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company.  Though there’s a veneer of  irony, it’s very thin, for this is a ballet based on a work from the era of melodrama theater, where Stoker spent much of his working life. Dracula was adapted to the stage almost immediately upon publication.  (An interesting aside: the same year Dracula was published,  Kipling wrote his poem, “The Vampire,” to accompany an exhibition of painting by Philip Burne-Jones.)

Many of the actors in the movies from the silent era received their training in the theater, a theater before microphones.  Their exaggerated gestures and expressions were meant to project from down stage to the back row of the house; they evolved out of pantomime and earlier public entertainment forms.  With certain refinements these are still used by ballet dancers, the best of whom are actors as well as dancers.  Their technique is a rigorously trained combination of controlled exaggeration and perceived delicacy.

This rhetoric of ballet technique is an informative mirror in which to reflect the Dracula text, while unpacking the erotic contradictions and cautions embedded in the text.  Stoker’s vampire novel is about the ever-shifting values of sex and gender.  What is womanhood? What is manhood? Is sex evil?  These questions are asked on nearly every page. Since these confusions and conflicts are present in any era, in any person’s life, it is unsurprising that Dracula has never been out of print since its publication.

The ballets in the film delineate in clear actions of the body these conflicts and confusions are.  The Blood Brotherhood of True Men, led by Van Helsing, are mirrored by the Vampiric Harem Trinity, submissive to Dracula. The medical examination of Lucy by Van Helsing is as invasive as Dracula’s fangs, equally lascivious but without the seductive glamor and pleasure of the Dark Kiss.  It is comic, but it is ugly, not fun.  Nor does Lucy respond to Van Helsing’s clumsy gropings – she lies unconscious, inert, whereas touched by the Dark Lover’s delicacy, she responded with every part of her body.   All actions are mirrored by their opposites, but their state is fluid.  It is ‘good’ for Van Helsing to examine Lucy, but it is demeaning.  It is bad for Dracula to bite Lucy, but it is breathtaking, and the bite lifts her out of herself.  What is good today tomorrow will be evil. We are lost in a hall of mirrors.  There are no final answers.
 

Intro: Deep Genre In Action – Bloody Ballet – Dracula

June 26th, 2006

(This is the first of about 6 installments that will be coming daily, reflecting the thoughts I’ve had around genre, using as a launching platform this film, vampires and Dracula.)

Introduction:

TO START WITH:  Confession. Vampires per se haven’t much interested me, as creatures or as a genre.  I have friends who have remained fascinated by vampires their whole lives, from childhood until now, way up in adulthood.  My first encounter with vampires was the movie Black Sunday, when I was a little girl, at a slumber party, on our local television station’s weekend Horror Theater.  All around the living room girls screamed, squealed and shrieked and hid their faces in quilts and sleeping bags and pillows.  I did not understand why.  The exotic setting with grand ruins, brooding skies, horse drawn coaches did appeal to me, but that was about it.

I did read Bram Stoker’s Dracula the first time I found a copy in my university library, and have re-read it 3 times since.  I did read Interview With a Vampire, and liked it enormously.  But it did not hold up to a second reading, and the subsequent volumes were of even less interest (to me, let me stress – obviously a lot of readers feel quite different about that!).

On occasion, at a friend’s home, I tried to watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer, since so many people I like and respect were mad about the show.  Couldn’t get anywhere with it, I’m so television-challenged (have lived without a television since I left high school).

Continue Reading »