Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Not So Good Boys of Dance – 309.5

Actually, this may make a good companion piece to the one on Twilight, in that there is me being dissatisfied with art, even though it does have popular appeal. I have to say that the rest of the audience was very enthusiastic at the show. However, the reviewer was pretty lukewarm on it too.

I hadn’t initially planned on going just from seeing the ad, but they had another ad that showed that Jon Drake was with them, and I am a big fan. He danced with OBT, and I have to say he was really impressive. Some dancers have a special energy or charisma about them, so that you can’t take your eyes off of them, and he is one. He reminds me a lot of Gene Kelly—it is a very masculine, dynamic kind of dancing. So, if he was in, I wanted to be in. My mother got me a ticket as a birthday present, and the performance would be on my birthday itself.

There were shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I assume the reviewer went to the Thursday show, I read the review Friday, and then went Saturday. I wasn’t too concerned with the tepid review, because the keyword with art critic is “critic”, and often they have problems that I don’t have, and seem to just be looking for the wrong thing. I wish I’d ended up feeling that way.

Now, one reason that I had not initially been interested was that I thought the “Bad” in “Bad Boys of Dance” might mean really nasty, and I don’t need to see that. They were not that kind of bad. The closest they came to that was that in one number the dancers used blow-up dolls as props. A bit cheeky perhaps, but nothing shocking or horribly offensive. It was just kind of stupid.

I think what they wanted it to mean was “Hey, we are going to totally defy convention and be in your face, full of our mighty testosterone.” I would have been totally in favor of that. Sadly, it was less leaping and stomping (although there was some) than jazz hands and goofing off. Again, a little bit cheeky is all I am coming up with.

It wasn’t incompetence. I don’t think there was a bad dancer in the lot of them. There was one guy who had kind of a weird stance, and often looked awkward, but I think that was the choreography they were giving him. Since the choreography overall was an issue, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And really, with the choreography I think they just didn’t aim high enough.

There were moments when it seemed to be getting somewhere, and I would start to get excited, and then it would just deflate before it went anywhere. The biggest disappointment was one number where they had two of the performers tap dancing, and it started to pick up some energy, and then it became clear that at least some of the tapping (if not all) was recorded, and not really them. It felt like a cheat, and again, they did not really go anywhere. There was some good music, and good dancers, so there was certainly some potential, but it was unrealized.

The group was founded by Rasta Thomas. His wife, Adrienne Caterna-Thomas, founded the sister group Pretty Girls of Dance, and she participated in several numbers. Having a female on tap does give you some extra options, so should have been good, but she was usually really annoying. In her costume and movements she conveyed this vapid pop-tart stereotype whom I kept thinking should be chewing and snapping gum, even though she never actually pulled out any gum. She was just that type. Every time. I bet her group is even worse—two hours of every female dance stereotype and none of it really that pretty.

I think the only other thing I want to mention about them is that the second act was one long medley of Michael Jackson, Prince, and Queen, and those three do not all go together, though I think you could successfully meld Prince with either one. Oh, and the choreography was every bit as cliché as you can imagine when they got to Bohemian Rhapsody.

So, that was my birthday. It wasn’t torture, but it was really disappointing, and I don’t know the next time I will be able to buy tickets to something. I do still have tickets for three ballet performances, so I will need to hope for the best.

In one of my college Spanish classes they sent us to the art museum and then we need to talk about art. I remember saying that art needs to have at least one of three things (at least, for me to appreciate it). It can be beautiful, and nourish the soul that way. It can show great craftsmanship, and make you marvel that way. Or, it can convey something. For example, out on campus there was a statue that is mostly abstract, but it shows a torch and it has allusions to Prometheus, and although it is not particularly beautiful or detailed, it still draws you.

The sum of any of those three is that it draws you up, and there may be art that will drag you pretty far down to get to its point of something better, but it’s still going there. So the intersection of Twilight and Bad Boys of Dance is that they fail. They are aiming to please the crowd, and in many ways they succeed, but they could have been much better, and is it only laziness that prevented them from being better or was there not even the possibility?

For the Boys, maybe they did not have time to do more. I know I rushed through my last contest entry. It is not easy to make a living in the performing arts, so that they are doing that, and trying new things is something, and if there is an audience for that, maybe it will provide an opportunity for someone else to do something good.

Anyway, I don’t want to end on that down note. First of all, I got a second shot at a birthday evening, as my friend Karen took me out last night. We went to see No Time to Die (Ghana) at the Portland African Film Festival, and had Ethiopian food for dinner. It was a good time.

In addition, I’d like to list some of the best dance performances that I have seen—ones that did take me away.

Giselle: It is really just the second act. The first act is okay, but for me it is just filler until we get to the Wilis. I’ve seen it more than once, and it is beautiful every time.

Twilight: Ha! Not that one. I refer to the breathtaking pas de deux from Helgi Tomasson. Lovely.

Catapult: This was a piece by Diavolo that was absolutely amazing. I hope I get to see more of their work sometime.

Anything Goes: Great fun set to the music of Cole Porter.

Before seeing Anything Goes, I would have said the two pieces everyone needs to see to get the range of ballet would be Giselle and Company B, but Anything Goes displaced Company B, which is still a fine piece of work. That leads us to honorable mentions.

Like a Samba: I don’t know if this would have been as good without Karl Valkili, who again is amazing, and has that “it” factor. However, I will say that the music stayed with me for days. This leads to…

Trey McIntyre: You know, I haven’t seen any of his work since Stowell took over, and I haven’t seen him dance for much longer, but I can firmly say that his musical taste is impeccable, and I have found of a lot of music that I love through him.

Il Nodo: This is very much a piece that I would not expect to like, and yet I always end up enthralled in it.

James Canfield: I really have not gotten do see him dance much, though I did see him in Romeo and Juliet with Patricia Miller, but he produced amazing pieces, and when I went to see The Nut Has Finally Cracked (which I did not really like), he came on for a bit, and he did start to dance some, really, it was basically goofing off, but there was that magnetic physicality again. I guess some people just have it, and they don’t lose it. And on that note, just a few more amazing dancers that I have been lucky enough to see…

Guillermo Merlo and Fernanda Ghi: Where I saw them was really pretty much a dance recital by local tango teachers, but they wove the numbers into kind of a story, and somehow they got these incredible professionals to come on and do several numbers, taking everything up a notch. Breathtaking.

Alvin Ailey: Especially Revelations. It’s kind of amazing that the audience doesn’t end up getting swept up and dancing along, but I think we all just stayed watching.

Savion Glover: Talk about energetic! And not in a really frenetic way, necessarily, but more of a marathon. I can’t even fathom the stamina it takes to keep going like he did, as we watched his shirt darken with sweat. That sounds gross, which it wasn’t really. It was just one more thing that was amazing about him.

Mikhail Baryshnikov: I saw him with his White Oak project. I have to admit, I didn’t really like his Japanese-inspired number, and The Argument is more interesting with more people (I got to see it later with Mark Morris, and I think he used twelve), that being said, he is still the master.

So really, I guess I can’t complain that much about the Mediocre Boys. I’ve had some great dance experiences, and I should have more. I’d like to see Will Kemp some time, but even if I don’t, I do still have three ballet performances left, and some day I will be employed again, and buying tickets to things, and for now I have memories.

Besides, Bad Boys of Dance were still way better than The Holy Body Tattoo.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Twilight Time – 306.5

I generally try to be respectful of other opinions and preferences. After all, life is much more interesting with us all liking different things, and probably allows for better distribution of resources. Every now and then, something annoys me more than is logical. I once vented my spleen on The Family Circus, along with soft fluffy towels and “the f-bomb” (, and now I have something else. I hate Twilight.

I have nothing against it as a time of day, or a condition of the light, or even as a type of zone, but as a popular book series it sticks in my craw. I know I’m swimming against the current on this one, but I am not alone.

My first contact with the series came in Hawaii. Maria had rashly invited a friend on our trip, not fully grasping at the time that enjoying a trip to the mall with someone does not necessarily translate into enjoying spending eight days straight and sharing a hotel room with someone.

It ended up being a bit of a drag for the trip. We like to see and do lots of things, and never planned on lying on the beach flirting with cute boys, which was all the friend wanted to do. We just had different ideas of what the vacation should involve, which resulted in conflict. For example, she didn’t want to go to Pearl Harbor, but she did want to go to the swap meet, which was our next stop after Pearl Harbor (they are really close together). She was worried she would not be able to manage meeting us there, though, so she decided to come, and almost decided to go out to the monument until she learned that they make you watch a short film before going over, so she stayed on the grounds and sent text messages while we went over. Call us snobs, but we were a little dismayed by her lack of intellectual curiosity. She was a huge fan of Twilight.

It was not a craze yet, or at least I had not heard of it, but she had brought the book along and was re-reading it, and rhapsodized about it when asked. It was so romantic, because he was so strong that he couldn’t even touch her (huh?) and they were playing baseball and hitting the balls over the mountains. I thought it sounded stupid, but I shrugged it off.

I guess it continued to grow in popularity, but my next memory is when the third book came out, and there was all this buzz on Amazon and on message boards. Bella was finally together with Edward, but there was a strong contingent that felt she should have chosen Jacob. Okay, no big deal. The disgust did not start until the fourth book.

I often check in with, and sometimes with the sister site, thebookspoiler. I read the spoiler for Breaking Dawn. Okay, I had to skim some, because when you are not invested it is hard to stay with the whole thing, but I picked up three things.

· One, Bella has a daughter. Clearly this will allow Jacob to have a love of his life, and it is nice to throw the dog a bone.
· Two, she managed this by having sex with Edward while still human. Based on my earlier understanding, this sounds like the opposite of safe sex, but if we rule out the possibility of humans and vampires having sex there will be a lot of disappointed Goths, so okay.
· Three, and this is where the hate started, Renesmee.

Yes, I get the origin and meaning of the name, but what a stupid, jacked-up name. I remember once talking to a five-year old girl whose parents had gotten her and her sister pet goats, and she was telling me the names, and those goats had really long names. I think between the two, the names Princess, Rainbow, and Sparkle were all used, along with some other things, because obviously they wanted their goats to have the most beautiful names possible. If you leave out something good, how will others know how special this goat is? For her, it was kind of adorable. Stephenie Meyer should know better.

With a food allergy, generally there is initially a small reaction and then it builds up with each exposure. A good hatred is like that too. I only kind of hated Twilight and thought it was stupid here. I needed more exposure to really hate it. That came. It came through millions of teenage girls, and also adult women. It came through my own sisters.

A friend loaned them the books, and they fell hard for Edward. They had some embarrassment over it, but they kept reading anyway. Maybe I was wrong, so I tried. I was not wrong.

First of all, the prose is so bad that I cannot read it through. I have to skip around. I suspect there will be no further attempts, but here are some highlights.

· Edward tells Bella that he used to come in and watch her while she slept. She does not realize how creepy this is because she is too busy contemplating the wonder of having “this god” in her room. Girlfriend, it is terribly creepy. Boundaries are really important. Also, horrid, florid, clumsy prose.
· Vampires sparkle? That’s exactly what you’d expect from someone who came up with the name Renesmee.
· Edward’s “siblings” get Bella a car stereo as a birthday gift, which she is not interested in and they obviously know, because the install it for her while she isn’t looking so she can’t take it back. Ingrate.
· Bella gets angry at her new vampire family for picking overly fancy clothes for her and her child. I’m not saying that some irritation is not justified, but clearly this family loves you, for reasons I am missing. Try and appreciate that. Then again, she didn’t seem to appreciate her human father much either.
· Edward seems to tell Bella (lovingly) about how much she used to stink. I’m not sure if it was the struggle not to bite her because she made him so hungry, or just that humans stink and she was lucky to no longer be one.
· Finally, the sex. I don’t know exactly how often Bella thrills and has her eyes roll back in her head a little, but one thing I do know is that it’s irritating and stupid. To be fair, writing about sex usually does end up sounding stupid. For the sheer mechanics you are either being really crude, or throwing in euphemisms that are almost invariably cheesy. I won’t deny that it works well as movement, but as words the whole thing becomes kind of preposterous. I think it can be hinted at fairly deftly, but this was not done.

These are all excellent reasons for me not to read the books, but I’m not sure that it justifies my revulsion. I mean, I have never tasted anything more disgusting than oysters, but it doesn’t bother me that other people eat them.

Part of it is probably the hype. It was fairly recent that the movie came out, and everyone was reading the books again, or lucky to get tickets to the midnight showing, or some such nonsense.

Also, the fixation on Edward was, I think, a bad thing. My sisters liked that he was totally devoted to Bella, and taking care of her, and they don’t see that happening in real life, and I kind of get that, but he is a moody, inflexible stalker, and Jacob seems to have anger issues. I don’t think living with either of them would be a picnic. And I guess one of their friends asked her husband why he couldn’t be more like Edward. That is not constructive criticism.

I don’t automatically mind hype. I didn’t mind with Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings, and I was okay with the hype over the new Star Wars movies until they turned out to be major disappointments. Then again, the hype really turned me off of The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps it is a combination of factors.

For a literary hero I could actually fall in love with, I think the best so far would be Joe Harman from A Town Like Alice. He’s someone you could follow across the world and live with once you got there (and I’m pretty sure the last part is more important than the first part).

So that’s where I’m at. I not only hate it for myself, I have a visceral reaction to other people liking it. It irritates me. Somehow a twenty-nine year old mother of three was able to hold on to the fan-girl attitude and writing style of a girl half her age, and it’s making bank. At least they’re reading, some will defend, but I say “Garbage in, garbage out.”

I should also mention that I really meant for my next post to be about dancing, but I was thrilled to find that Stephen King was quoted saying that ‘Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn’, and it filled my sour little heart with joy. I posted the link, and got some interesting comments, so poured out all my thoughts here, as I do. And you know, King isn’t always to my taste either. He goes for crude a lot and I don’t like it, but he is inventive, effective, and prolific, and even if he is not my first choice, reading his work does not make me cringe in pain and have to stop. It’s just different.