Tag Archives: center stage

Happy 50th! Thank You Remanso

26 Sep

This is the fiftieth post I’ve written since youdancefunny’s sacred inception.  Fifty is a pretty monumental number, so I shall write about a dance that was monumental to me.  I was actually thinking about saving this for entry one hundred, but after realizing that would take a few more months, I chacked the idea.  The thought of having this thought linger in my brain for a few more months was not one I was fond of, because when I get a good idea I tend to become pretty impatient about it.  After all, the only way to get another good idea is to get rid of the one you’re holding.  It’s all thanks to a combination of the impatience of an Aries and a lust for living in the present moment that comes from being born in the Year of the Rat.  My birthright has thus rendered me virtually incapable of dealing with the long term stuff, in either direction, past or future.  Too much information?  Maybe.

So in honor of post cincuenta, today’s entry is dedicated to first dance that ever inspired me, Remanso, choreographed by Nacho Duato, to music by composer Enrique Granados’ Valses Poéticos.  I was first introduced to this dance by ballet teacher Yen Fang, ages ago.  Well, more like less than two years, but remember that I am indeed one who lives in the present so two years is like half of eternity.  I think I’ve mentioned her a couple times before, as the teacher who swears like a sailor and would beat me in class.  She would also tell me to carry out the center barres because that’s what the boys should do…or rather boy, since I was the only boy in the class.  Despite her abusive ways, I’ll always remember her class because it was one of my first ballet classes ever, where I first heard the mazurka to Coppelia, and where I was introduced to Remanso.  I started taking dance classes at my university, so the approach was always a little more academic rather than just dancing all the time, so teachers would often show videos and have us write papers and the like.  The one Yen Fang showed was American Ballet Theatre Now – Variety and Virtuosity, which one can purchase brand new at amazon.com for a monstrous $97.89.  HOLY BILLY ELLIOT.  Back up, $100?  Seriously?!?  This is not a drill people…although if you own an artifact called a “VCR,” you can purchase a VHS for a much kinder six dollars.

Sticker shock aside, I found that Remanso appealed to many of my tastes.  The first being the music.  I have a strange affinity for waltzes and time signatures in threes, for which I have no explanation.  Anyway, sometimes a solo piano piece is really all it takes to satisfy the soul, and Valses Poéticos does just that.  In fact, I was so in love with the music I rekindled this idea that I could teach myself how to play piano.  I go through this phase every now and then, with varying degrees of success, ranging from purchasing music and never playing it, to learning the first page of a piece before getting overwhelmed.  Quite frankly, piano (or any classical instrument for that matter), like ballet is not something you can teach yourself, but I decided to buy the music anyway.  What should have been a simple purchase turned into an ordeal when I ordered the music in July, got a call from the store that it had arrived, and had plans to go but somehow got distracted and it slipped my mind.  After that initial day, again, as someone who lives in the present, of course I also forgot all about it (plus going downtown is a pain and I always get lost), until a couple months later when the store lady called again, not leaving a message the first time and then leaving a message the day after.  I rushed to the store and picked it up, with a different store clerk helping me, but the one who had ordered it and made the phone calls was also there and she was giving me the evil eye the whole time.  “I’m sorry!  I forgot!  It was an honest mistake!” I pleaded with my eyes, but she would not relent, and I left feeling dirty and ashamed.

Anyway, back to the dance, it is a modern ballet, and Duato’s choreography is so whimsical and charming, and the lightness of his style really fits the buoyancy of the music itself.  Designed for a male pas de trois (plus a mysterious hand of a fourth human holding a rose), the costumes are simple, leotards in solid dark tones paired with black shorts, which allows for a real sense of the dynamism of the male body.  The set and lighting too are minimal, with just a white square on a black stage, which would illuminate with different colors matching the dancer’s outfits.  It’s such a simple, perfect idea, and the minimized production elements really force your eyes to watch the dancing only.  There’s nothing harsh; it’s sweet, chocolate covered and easy to digest thanks to wonderful symmetry, motifs, repetitions and echoing.  No one dancer overpowers another, and they are playful without it being exaggerated.  It’s also pleasing because I believe it is comprised of all seven movements of Valses Poéticos, so you get a variety of tempi so it never settles into one mood for too long, each one on the verge ephemerality.  I think in many ways, this dance felt like “me.”  After watching it, THAT was the moment when I realized I wished I was a dancer, and it was at that moment I realized I needed to have dance be a significant part of my life or else I wouldn’t truly be human without it.  So I immersed myself, and the rest they say is history…a history that is fading into the recesses of my memory.  Luckily, Remanso never will.

So here it is, for your enjoyment, Remanso, danced by Parrish Maynard, (green…and I want his arabesque), Keith Roberts (gray) and Vladimir Malakhov (blue)…thank Billy nobody has to pay a ridiculous $100 for the DVD and Variety and Virtuosity in its entirety is available on YouTube.  You can also catch a glimpse of Julie Kent at the end, who is featured in the next dance.  Now, I hadn’t seen Center Stage at the time, and only knew of it because friend Mama J-bear (with whom I had my adventures in China with) said it was worth watching because Sascha Radetsky is hot, but I’ll never forget the girl in my class who asked “Is that the girl from Center Stage?  I didn’t like her…she was a bitch.”

Salute to Center Stage

4 Jul

I like to celebrate the glorious 4th of Jew-lai by watching a certain little movie called…CENTER STAGE!  Some people do barbecues, fireworks, pie…I do the dance movie du jour for us easily pleased ballet freaks and geeks (although I do like pie).  It just so happens that there’s a brief clip where Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent perform the Fifth Campaign/Coda from Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes.  Even though it’s less than 3 minutes of the movie, making the patriotic connection a loosey goosey one, I consider it festive enough for me.  I’d post a clip of the coda, but the Balanchine Trust is really touchy about his material being on youtube, so too bad.  What I can say about the coda is that it’s typical Balanchine, using a Hershy Kay arrangement of John Phillip Sousa’s Manhattan Beach March, complete with pizzazz and those horribly awkward entrechat huit with flexed feet.  It’s an addicting little diddy too…even though as a former piccolo player, I have post-traumatic Sousa disorder, leaving me prone to the vapors whenever I hear his signature work.

As for Center Stage in its entirety, what a deliciously good and awful-in-a-good-way movie.  One of the best things about Center Stage is that it has mostly real dancers and a lot of quality dancing.  You have a few ABT dancers in Stiefel, Kent and also Sascha Radetsky (aka Charlie from Seattle).  Also Amanda Schull in the lead role of Jodie Sawyer, who danced with San Francisco Ballet.  Not to mention many well accomplished dancers in the background (I’m sure there are aficionados who would recognize many of them, and I don’t know enough about the upper echelon of ballet to know who’s who, although I do recognize the face of one guy who was in NYCB’s video dance revival of Jerome Robbins “Opus Jazz,” which I had researched a little for a project).  It’s a real treat to see them perform as well as in various stages of technique class.  Although not a completely accurate portrayal of the ballet world, it’s fun to indulge in the exaggerated ridiculousness.  It’s like a ballet soap opera…the movie.

How can anyone not like badass Eva Rodriguez, who in the real world would have been kicked out for her thorny attitude and mouthing off to the teachers, only to totally venga the smack.down. when prima bitcherina Maureen gave her the role that Eva somehow managed to do without rehearsals, not to mention changing into her costume and going backstage without anyone noticing (and technically Eva was in the corps for Jonathan’s ballet, so who replaced her?).  Oh the blatant logistical errors (of which there are many, many, more)…but that’s Hollywood for you.  They actually did a fairly decent job with the stunt doubles though, including Eva’s, the lovely Aesha Ash.  Zoe Saldana had some background in dance too, so it was fairly seamless.

And then there’s Charlie from Seattle…everyone loves Charlie from Seattle.  The girls love him, and the boys either want to be him, or like Eric O. Jones, love him too.  Incidentally, the scene where they’re all washing the studio mirrors as punishment for getting drunk the night before, Charlie from Seattle is wearing a shirt I recognize only because I used to own it myself.  Navy blue, long sleeves with 2 stripes down them and a little thingie across the middle near the elbow.  That garment hails from Old Navy, but does not make you dance like Charlie from Seattle.  And didn’t we all love the machismo face off he had with Cooper Nielson during the choreography phase of Cooper’s ballet?  Although, if you’ll notice during the actual pas de trois at the end, instead of matching Cooper’s double tour-double pirouette-double tour-double tour-double tour in passé, Charlie from Seattle only did a double tour-single pirouette-double tour-double tour in passé.  But Cooper acts surprised anyway and we’re not supposed to know the difference.  Remember, I have a freakish eye for detail.

And of course, how can we forget little Bambi herself, Jodie Sawyer. The bottom line is, aren’t we all, a Jodie Sawyer?  That’s probably what makes the movie so enjoyable for dancers, as it’s easy to relate to not being perfect and just trying to find your niche in the world instead of pursuing a dream with unrealistic expectations.  She wasn’t all that bad of an actress either…in fact, I found her quite believable.  Incidentally, she will be appearing in a new ballet-related movie called “Mao’s Last Dancer,” a film adaptation of Li Cunxin’s autobiography.  She plays his first wife, who was a dancer so it should be interesting to see how she looks and dances now (albeit a few years removed from retiring from SFB) compared to 9 years ago.

Some A+ music choices too…like Lucien’s variation from Paquita (which incidentally, a friend of mine once told me is the worst ballet ever…haha) and the mazurka from Coppelia in the technique classes, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no.2 for Jonathan’s ballet, and a medley of awesomeness including MJ’s The Way You Make Me Feel (aww, MJ) and Jamiro Quai’s “Just Dance.”  And saving the best for last, The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover of “Higher Ground” from the jazzzzzzzz classssss!  Definitely my favorite scene, for a number of reasons…like that crazy flexible guy who has this ridiculous look on his face when they’re doing battements on the floor, or Cooper Nielson’s slow mo temps ciseux (cause that’s how it happens in real life, yeah?), and it’s just a fun dance to a great song (I even taught most of it to myself just from watching the video).

I have to say though, that the absolute best part of the dance is Ethan Stiefel’s “angry face” that he makes all throughout.  It makes me think of that Mr. Potato Head scene from Toy Story where he says “Prepare to meet Mr. ANGRY EYES!”

Ethan Stiefel's Angry Eyes

Ethan Stiefel’s Angry Eyes

Watch the video:

“Look, just forget about the steps…just dance the shit out of iiiiiit.”

Best. Line. Ever.

Is Center Stage intelligent?  No.  But it’s probably the best dance movie for pure entertainment (any mention of the Step Up sand I’ll scream).  And whatever you do, do NOT, watch the sequel.  It’s a vastly inferior.  I’m still kind of mad at myself for watching it, and that was a few months ago.  And I didn’t pay to watch it either.

Stick with the original, have a seat and watch…and quote half the movie because I know you can.

PS. I’ve figured out the widgets thingie on WordPress, so hopefully my blog is a little more reader-friendly.  Happy 4th everyone!