Tag Archives: john ross

2010 Year in Review: Contest Winners!

15 Jan

Ladykitties and gentlecats, I have selected winners for the You Dance Funny 2010 Year in Review contest!  Among the array of entries that I oh so subtlety twisted your arms to get, these were the three that stuck out to me.  Two of them long, and one of them short, I value all of your feedback equally and have much food for thought in terms of future writing!  Please know that just because the contest is over that you have no opportunities to tell me what you’re thinking…comments are always appreciated and e-mails the same (even if I don’t get to them right away!).  Dialogue and discussion are incredibly rewarding for all parties involved, which is why I hope you’ll also take a moment to read how fellow readers have been responding to my posts…I hope you find them as enlightening as I have!

Winner: Mark

Photo Chosen:

Ballet Preljocaj in 'Near Life Experience' (Photo ©John Ross)

 

(In response to the post, ‘Muse Musings’)

This is kind of my favorite post! Not because it is so funny, actually, but because it’s a little more on the cerebral side. As somebody who grew up with dance as an integral part of my life I guess I just take “that grey matter—the substance between choreographer and teacher” for granted! But I enjoyed very much hearing how you were able to identify that…try to pin it down…very interesting!

Note from me: Short, sweet and to the point, I really appreciated this feedback because first of all, I kind of pulled that post out of nowhere, so I wasn’t sure there was even anything of substance in it, so I’m glad someone had a strong reaction to it, and second that the analytical aspects really resonated with you…I feel very encouraged to think deeply for future posts.  Thanks Mark and congratulations!

Winner: Catherine

Photo Chosen:

It seems Catherine and I (and many more) share some favorite dancers in common! (Photo ©John Ross)

Today I’ll be mostly talking about my favourite You Dance Funny post of 2010, and the winner is… 10th May, “Jerome Robbins’s In the Night“.  The main reason I love this post is that it introduces a ballet I’ve never seen before, entirely watchable within the post on Youtube, alongside a lively and observant commentary.  Strike one: I learned something! Strike two: I loved the ballet and got way more out of watching here than from Youtube alone (and heaven knows it is hard enough to link to short dance clips without them mysteriously disappearing, let alone a whole ballet).   Words like “inhaling and exhaling”, “floatacious”, “a hot mess” and “energy through the fingertips” prod one into watching more closely.  I enjoy reading your opinions even if I don’t always share them – the second pas de deux that you found “stoic, calculated and….a little abrasive” struck me as beautifully harmonious and moving in its portrayal of repressed affection (blame this on my period drama – loving TV habits) whereas when you wrote “I constantly wanted to yank her bodice up” for part 3 I thought, yes! So do I!!

In general this post also showcases two other things I like about your blog: firstly it mentions your latest DVD find from the library – this I love as for me ballet is strictly pleasure, and I have huge admiration for people who like to study it in a more scholarly fashion.  Even the most casual research really adds value to the enterprise and makes it easy for us to explore right along with you. Secondly, the lovely chatty intro “blurb” giving us entertaining insight into your life and mindset that day (“circling the shopping center like a vulture keen on carrion”) means that we get to know you and can see where your opinions are coming from, not to mention breeze through a pretty long post as easily as catching up with a friend.  This is a real gift of yours – writing in a totally informal way that is fun to read but with true balletomane attention to detail.

In summary: videos – good, opinions – good, chatter – good, research – good.  Oh, and knowing that you are also a student of ballet with a self-deprecating sense of humour is a bonus:)

Bravo and here’s to an even greater 2011!

Note from me: I’ve actually been thinking of revisiting a discussion on In The Night, as new videos have popped up (I think by a Russian company) and rumor has it Pacific Northwest Ballet will be doing it next season.  I’m glad you enjoyed this post because it specifically introduced a new ballet to you (as it did me!) and I’m also happy to hear that you disagree with some of my ideas too…that creates potential for interesting discussions!  Also, that my made up words don’t entirely horrify people.  Many thanks Catherine, and enjoy your prize!

Winner: Karena

Photo Chosen:

I've seen this one before...is there anything more pleasing than four dancers in fourth position? (Photo ©John Ross)

 

I have a problem with favorites. For instance, when someone asks me what my favorite color is, I never know what to say. Are we talking color to look at, or color to wear? Am I wearing it as a splash of accent color, or as my main clothing item? And what’s the weather like, anyway? And favorite food? What meal is it? What have I been doing that day? Am I above or below my RDA of chocolate? So rather than picking a favorite post, I will just say that at the moment, in my current situation, given today’s weather and the fact that apparently I am a Leo instead of a Virgo (blasphemy! I am routinely harassed for how Virgo I am…), the post I feel like commenting on is February’s post on the Merce Cunningham show.

So first off, the feedback that you probably can’t make be widely applicable (I’ll try to be constructive in a moment). What got me going on this post were the two paragraphs about Karen and Dave’s pre-show talk. They made me all warm-fuzzy nostalgic about Karen and Dave (I miss them!) and how wonderful they are. I especially like the bit about Karen exemplifying dance as the fiber of one’s being. Yup, that’s her. Sadly for many of the readers of your blog, they don’t know Karen and Dave, so they might not realize how awesome that pre-show talk must have been. But it made me happy. Feel free to continue to write about them.

But another reason that I fastened upon this post is a quality that you have in many of your posts. You do this tricky thing where you bring a fresh perspective, the eyes of someone new to dance (or at least to a particular dance), yet also speak in a knowledgeable and well-researched voice. (Now if this were a school essay, I would rework that last sentence to make clear that what you are saying is well-researched, not the sound of your voice. Because I’m reading your writing. So I don’t hear your voice. But the sound of your voice may be well-researched too, I don’t want to try to say that it’s not.) I think a lot of people who haven’t seen dance spend a lot of time worrying that they will come up with the “wrong” answer when watching it, and then let themselves be intimidated out of watching dance. (Meanwhile, a lot of dance insiders tend to bring the baggage of their preconceptions to a show, and preconceive themselves out of watching the dance that’s going on in front of them.) I like that with the Cunningham show, as with others that you have written about, you can come to it saying “I haven’t seen it before, don’t know if I’ll like it or get it” and then are able to just pay attention to your reactions and run with them rather than run from them. Meanwhile, you do enough research about what you are watching that you can then proceed to put your reactions into a wider context, giving them background and support. I can see a post like this being a useful guide to someone trying to figure out how to watch and think about dance, while it is just as (even more?) fascinating for the knowledgeable dancer/reader for its astute and detailed observations about the performance. You do get a few demerit points for putting into words what I’ve been trying to say when describing Cunningham to people: “Life itself is a string of unrelated events that have no meaning and yet they do when we decide to attach that meaning. Cunningham merely provided the series of events while I attached the meaning. It was very empowering, which is the magic of being an audience member of a Cunningham dance.” But if you let me steal those sentences, I’ll try to be a little less bitter.

Note from me: I’m really proud of this post so I’m glad it stood out.  The stories Karen and Dave shared were just so beautiful and I’ll never forget how the epic the whole experience felt.  Also, that some of my posts on modern dance are enjoyable amongst the sea of ballet themed ones.  Here’s something I haven’t shared about this post though…shortly after the inaugural performance of the Legacy Tour, I received an e-mail from Carol Teitelbaum, the faculty chair at the Cunningham studios in New York, who told me that the post was passed on to all of them from someone at the Cunningham organization!  Of the thanks she gave, I was most touched by this:

It is gratifying that Merce’s mission is being so satisfyingly realized by his company that you could have the experience you did, and write about it so clearly.

Talk about feedback!  It was one of the first times I felt like I had really made a difference with my writing, and am so grateful that you saw something special in that post too.  Thanks Karena, and congratulations on your winning entry!

Well folks, that rounds it up…I hope you’ll keep this contest in mind as 2011 has begun.  There’s a good chance this will happen again.  As in, I’m totally doing this again in 2012!  So make it easy for yourself and keep your favorites in mind this year, okay?  Wink wink.

You Dance Funny’s 2010 Year in Review Contest!

29 Dec

Well folks as we head towards the end of the year, I’d like to announce my Year-in-Review Contest!  Excitement!  I thought of writing my own year in review entry, but it seemed like a lot of work to go back through all of my entries so rather than do that, I thought I’d enslave my readers to do it for me!  Yay!  Oh…

Your motivation?  The fabulous prize of dance photography by London based photographer, John Ross!  I myself purchased a couple of prints from him (you can read about it here) and they are stunning.  In addition to having some fun with this blog and rewarding my faithful readers, I thought this would also be a great way to get people interested in his work.  Three lucky winners will receive one 8 x 10 of their choice, meaning winners will get to browse his extensive galleries at Ballet.co and request whichever photo they want!  It’s like being a kid in a candy store because the selection is virtually limitless.  Just as a teaser, here are a few photos I’m fancying at the moment, which is just a sampling from the many you can choose from:

Angelic Marianela Nuñez and Bobo in George Balanchine's 'Serenade' (photo ©John Ross)

Johan Kobborg and Coco in Sir Frederick Ashton's 'La Fille mal Gardée' (photo ©John Ross)

Roberta Marquez and Thiago Soares in John Cranko's dark and moody 'Onegin' (photo ©John Ross)

How to enter:

Find your favorite You Dance Funny post from 2010 (pick ONLY one…yes, I know many are fabulously entertaining but you can only pick one this time), and write in 500 words or less why it’s your favorite (don’t stress over the number of words…I’m not THAT picky).  Obviously, this contest is my blatant attempt to lure in depth feedback out of you, by giving you a material reason to speak up, so be descriptive and tell me more than “this is my favorite post because it’s funny and Sleeping Beauty is my favorite ballet.”  International applicants are of course welcome and encouraged to enter!  While the short essay must be written in English, don’t worry about grammar and such if English is not your native language…your ideas are much more important to me.

Submit your entry by e-mail (e-mail Steve) by January 9th (now 14th!) 2011.  I will be judging this contest myself, and will select the winning entries based on various criteria like creativity and how helpful the feedback is for me (basically, the ones I like the most…but don’t worry, I pledge to judge objectively and fairly…attempts at using trump cards like an Ashton ballet, or following me on Twitter will get you no special treatment).  I will announce and post the winners in my blog on January 12th (now 15th!) and once selected, winners will receive further instructions by e-mail on how to collect their prize (please note that winners will need to submit a valid postal address in order to receive their photos…common sense, I know, but it has to be said).

Please also note that the photographs are for your personal use and are not be used or distributed for commercial purposes.  Doing so can get you into a heap of legal trouble and the last thing you’ll want is to be slapped with a lawsuit!

Also, here are a few basic rules for the contest:

  1. One entry per person
  2. No cheating, no plagiarism.
  3. Be mindful of the fact that winning entries will be posted here, so don’t say anything too racy…chances are if you do, you probably won’t win anyway, because I’ll be filtering the entries as I read them.

Other than, get cracking and have fun with it!  I look forward to reading your thoughts in the New Year, as you have mine.

Many thanks and much love,

Steve

(Hey look, this entry is around 500 words!  Okay, 600)

Photography by John Ross

27 Jun

You can’t call yourself a true blue ballet zealot until you require that it infiltrate the décor of your home.  After all, fans of dance tend to have an eye for shape, color, movement and harmony (or discord if that’s your preference).  Such qualities can also be seen in interior design and I figured…ABSOLUTELY.  So in order to sate the beasty mcbeast, I turned to photographer John Ross, who has several galleries for your perusal (link at ballet.co).  I was excited to see that prints were available for purchase so I contacted Mr. Ross and after much deliberation selected a couple of photos that appealed to my senses.

Take a gander!

I don't normally display phoos on easels by the way...it's going to go on the wall!

At this point I figured I’ve made my preferences somewhat predictable so I hope that it comes as no surprise that one of the photos I picked was from Symphonic Variations.  There are so many wonderful, picturesque moments from the ballet and Mr. Ross even has picture sets from two different performances.  It was hard to decide but ultimately I went with something that was visually dramatic but technically simple.  It has the three women and one male dancer linking hands, with the women en pointe in fourth position, heads tilted just a romantic itsy-bit.  The photo is a lovely close-up so many of the costume details, hair accessories and the minor fact that the picture was taken a split second before the dancer on the far left actually had any weight on her front foot are easily seen (especially when you buy a 12” x 16” enlargement!).  As striking as the photograph is by itself, it’s like a ballerina without a partner in a pas de deux…it needs framing.  Furthermore, I am of the school of thought that matting is a must.  When the question is “to matte or not to matte?” go with the latter.  Not only does such fine photography deserve it, but matting is a perfect opportunity to enhance visual interest.  I purchased pre-cut, double layered matting that was white on top with a black layer underneath and paired with the wide black frame, it echoes the design of the man’s costume.

Now a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a room needs a thousand and six.  I paired the photo with a curtain from Anthropologie, the store where the trendy woman’s mantra apparently becomes “resistance is futile.”  I have never purchased anything from said store…nevertheless I was most astonishingly inspired by that curtain.  In reality it’s a shower curtain but I’m taking it upon myself to use it as a portiere for a storage closet that is without a door.  Unfortunately it’s not sold in US stores anymore but they can be nabbed on ebay for significantly discounted prices.  It’s called “Knotted Vines,” but it should really be called the “Symphonic Variations” curtain because the design has the same sort of sweeping movement and greenish-gold coloring of the backdrop.  That’s probably why I was attracted to it in the first place and although green, yellow and gray are not colors I normally gravitate towards (I have a weird thing where artificial greens never look right to me…I prefer natural greens in plants, like those that can be seen outside my abnormally shaped window in the background), the it just works for me.  One photo is never enough though…

A cooler color pallette...

Here we see a couple of things…a super-cute poster sent to me by the Bag Ladies of The Ballet Bag for playing ballet mad-libs and the other photo I purchased of Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli (BoBo) in Jerome Robbins’s Dances at a Gathering.  Of course I had to have some Rojo adorning my walls; I’ve recently begun Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton and the first few pages discuss how inspired Ashton was as a little boy when he saw legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova on stage and it immediately reminded me of the way I felt when I saw Rojo dance Manon (the anniversary of which was yesterday!).  Her dancing (and the Royal Ballet) completely changes the way I saw dance and I guess that makes her my muse in a way.  Coincidentally (well, not really) I stayed in the same sort of era with this second photo and again went for something technically simple but visually dramatic, with Rojo in arabesque and BoBo in a forward extension (développé croisé devant?  I’m awful with the direction words and such).  It’s hard to see in the above photograph, but the background is a dark blue and her costume is lavender, which I like with the periwinkle blues of The Ballet Bag poster and as Stacy London of What Not to Wear would say, the “pop of color” with the contrasting orange.  I really loved the simplicity of line and the connection between Rojo and BoBo’s faces—it’s a very subtle electricity and really breathes life into the photo.  The frame and matting are the same (I purchased them at Aaron Brothers in downtown Seattle) as the store was having a sale of “buy one get one for a penny.”  Perfect!

The only thing missing is a third photo of Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux to complete my neoclassical triad, but I couldn’t find a picture of the Royal Ballet performing it in the galleries so I’ll have to put that dream on hold (there are a few of the Mariinsky, but Russian dancers’ performances of it have often left me unsatisfied so it just wouldn’t feel right).  At any rate, I am beyond thrilled and satisfied with my purchases from Mr. Ross so if anyone’s interested in his photography, do send him an e-mail!  My experiences were A+ and he offers multiple sizes of prints for excellent prices.  He is based in the UK, but has a son in California so US buyers can pay by check in US dollars and avoid the hassle of dealing with foreign currency or additional bank fees.  It couldn’t be easier to add beautiful ballet photography to your home and support another artist along the way.  Do it!