What are YOU doing here?

29 Dec

Well I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays!  Still got New Years coming up (one of my personal favorites) but now we’ve entered that lull of wondering what we should do with ourselves until then.  Me, I didn’t really get anything on my wishlist although there’s still hope for the tote bag…assuming I actually buy it for myself.  Which, I may very well end up doing because I’m making a lot of trips to the library these days and need something to carry books and such in.  They have some plastic bags, but I try not to use them in order to be eco-friendly (you bet I watched Captain Planet when I was a kid), and I’m always afraid I’m going to drop something in the parking lot.  Now that it’s actually starting to snow a bit, the likelihood of such an event increases in probability by much more than I would care to share.  For whatever reason, my ability to dance in the studio does not translate to the mundane movements of life.

‘Tis the season though, for going into bakeries and eating little yum-yums and not give a damn about whether they’re good for you or not and burrowing into blankets to read a good book.  I like wedding cake (the cookies, not actual wedding cake…and I still don’t understand why/how they are called both Italian wedding cookies and Mexican wedding cookies.  That has to be the coincidence of the eon for them to emerge simultaneously in vastly different parts of the world.), gingerbread men and white-fudge dipped Oreos.  Pattycake Bakery, a Vegan bakery here in Columbus (and for the record I am not vegan, but I like to try new things) also makes good sugar cookies, which I bought a few dreidel shaped ones for friends.  I’m pretty sure that during the month of December, these items have zero calories.  However, snacking often goes hand in hand with reading for me (it seems like the most opportune time), hence my trips to the library as well as Half Price Books, a somewhat national chain that sells cheap books.  Some say it’s a pain that they have no computer inventory, but I love wandering through the store looking for some old but not ancient book, with dated photos and even the favored fonts of the time.  Naturally, I gravitate towards the dance/performing arts section and unsurprisingly my latest purchase includes Joan Lawson’s A Ballet-Maker’s Handbook (published in 1991.  Old, but not ancient).  While I normally try to avoid the “How to…” type of book, I was wildly entertained by this find…here’s to hoping it turns out to be a gem.

But it’s funny how dance permeates other spheres in life and this happened when I made my way over to the ancient history/mythology section like you do.  I was browsing the books on mythology which ranged from textbooks students had dumped for cash (not that I blame them) as well as one book that included a personal message from a “Jenefyr” telling a boy whose name I’ve forgotten, that she wanted him to have this special book forever.  During my perusing rituals, I can immediately identify two things…can it be?  Why yes, the female variation from Walpurgisnacht, followed by Mozart’s aria from The Magic Flute, Der Hölle Rache.  Both little diddies are easily recognizable to a certain populace (we know who we are) and I have to say that I took a brazen moment to bask in my geekiness, a new level that can only be achieved when reading up on Greek mythology in an discount book store with no computerized inventory system, while ballet and opera music you can name plays in the background.  If this is a typical day for you, then you are far geekier than I.  Hats off to you…I can only attempt to approach such nobility.

Anyway, I was flipping through Mark P.O. Morford/Robert J. Lenardon’s eighth edition of Classical Mythology, looking through the indices (I’m currently reading up on the myth of Niobe…note to self: don’t trash talk Leto) and what do I see…Fokine, Michel.  Of course I jumped the gun and thought “what the hell is Fokine doing in a Greek mythology book?” but of course he had his reasons (as thin as the mention itself was), as Morford/Lenardon devote the final chapter to the survival of mythology through music, dance and film.  It’s a very brief survey of different works that is much too brief and yet still pretty substantial.  Most of the thorough examples are in American dance and unfortunately they glaze over classics-inspired dances overseas, with the glaring omission being Ashton’s Sylvia.  I guess one could put in an argument Symphonic Variations as well, although I can forgive that because how could anyone possibly expect them to have even SEEN it and it’s also possible to argue that some of the imagery in Symphonic Variations is inspired moreso by Greek art as opposed to the mythology itself.  I guess we’ll never know…BUT, it turns out Lenardon is actually professor emeritus of classics at Ohio State!  Small world!  I’ve found his OSU e-mail and I’m quite tempted to write him a letter telling him about Sylvia (OSU’s library has copies of the DVD as well…score!), as his short bio states that “the afterlife of classical subjects and themes in literature, music, film, and dance have also become favorite areas of teaching and research.”  Chances are he may have even written the majority of the final chapters if that’s the case.  I only hesitate because I haven’t watched Sylvia myself, read Aminta the play by Torquato Tasso and I’d feel like stupid if someone has already informed him about the ballet (or if the omission was intentional!).  Not to mention the fact as an amateur enthusiast for the classics, he would probably start saying a lot of things I wouldn’t understand.  The DVD and play I can take care of this week…but whether I should write to him or not?  Undecided.

At any rate, while not specifically a dance related book, I’m always amused how dance osmoses into other things in life…well, the important things anyway.  Sadly, osmosifies is not a word, but Classical Mythology is a thorough reference source and of course I’d recommend it just for the dance portion alone, but I find it interesting nonetheless.  As far as the section on dance is concerned, the authors focus mostly on Greek classical themes in American modern dance, speaking very favorably of Isadora Duncan, Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, and Martha Graham.  Graham’s Night Journey (which I have seen thanks to Dance 161) gets its own special page and everything.  Of course he includes Balanchine’s Apollo, Orpheus and Agon (which I never knew was intended to be a triad of Greek works for NYCB) as well as Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune (Afternoon of a Faun) and Vaganova’s Diana and Acteon.  Of the other works listed the one I want to see the most is Graeme Murphy’s Daphnis and Chloe, based on the novel by Longus and choreographed for the Sydney Dance Company.  Maurice Ravel’s score of the same name is stunning, gorgeous, immensely pleasing to the ear and calls for alto flute!  Hardly anything has a part for alto flute!

At any rate, it is a textbook though, so not really something you take with you to read on a beach, but it always seems like a good idea to have a comprehensive and concise source on Greek myths.  I’m just now realizing the scope of what it means to be reading a textbook for entertainment…but whatever.  Here are excerpts from specific performances that the book takes great care to mention, which are Martha Graham and Bertram Ross in Night Journey and Rudolf Nureyev and Svetlana Berisova in his revival of Diana and Acteon.

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