Monthly Archives: October 2013

Classical Girl meets The Modern Classic

Terez (2 of 9)

This is The Modern Classic, created by gwenyth. It’s an activewear top and tunic that’s great for ballet, yoga, summer attire, travel days, cocktail parties. All this in one garment. How cool is that? Founder and CEO Michele Cheowtirakul Braxton invited me to give one a test drive and, as I wear exercise clothes of all kinds (in addition to ballet, I do yoga, kickboxing, hiking, weight-lifting) and tend to stay in them for a good chunk of the day, my reply was a decisive, “ooh, yes!” Which, come to think of it, were my words when I first pulled the top out of its elegant little box, and later, when I tried it on. Soft. Luxurious feeling. Stretchy, but holding on firmly in the right places. And just like its name says: modern yet classic.

On gwenyth’s Kickstart campaign site for this new creation of theirs, they feature a  video showing the garment’s versatility on a gorgeous dancer, which is great fun to watch and enjoy. But some of us out there might observe it and think, “yes, excellent on this slim beauty, but how does it look on real people, with real bodies?” Well, folks, The Classical Girl is going to show you just that. Real, over-fifty, gave birth, big-chested me. Here I come; hope the images don’t frighten you.

Terez (9 of 9)

First, ballet. The drawstrings on the side of the garment allow you to shorten it into any length you like. For ballet, I kept it around hip level and tied my skirt  over it, so it looked and felt like the leotard experience. My big chest is always my greatest concern, and therefore the second image you’ll see will be what I call the BG (big girl’s) Challenge.

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Terez (3 of 9)

Yup, passed the BG Challenge. No adjustment required once I’d straightened up. Good. Very good. Next, onto yoga.

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Once again, the BG Challenge…

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Absolutely no worries. As you might be able to tell by the photo, the material stretched with me and the jugs stayed well-covered. Even after a downward facing dog. Even a handstand.

And so, here’s where it gets fun. Cocktail attire! Mom’s night out attire! (Er, maybe not. How about “Mom’s night out on the deck when no visitors are around” attire?)

Terez (8 of 9)

I was traveling last week, and wore The Modern Classic as a tunic over a black cotton skirt, with a gauzy jacket to finish the outfit off. I was in and out of airports and planes all long day, and the ensemble worked well. Nothing bit into my skin and/or constrained me (bye-bye underwire minimizer bra). I’ll therefore add excellent travel-wear onto its utility list, especially when one is living out of a carry-on bag’s worth of clothing for a week and needs items to serve dual purposes.

The Modern Classic was created  when founder Michele, herself an adult beginning dancer, couldn’t find anything she liked for herself for dance class. “I drew my first pattern on some Crate & Barrel Tissue paper,” she shared via email, “and hand-stitched the first (ugly) prototype.” She describes herself as “a recovering Wharton MBA/management consultant, ‘transformed’ by the power of movement after starting dance lessons in my early 30’s.” Her business partner, with a Georgia Tech Masters in architecture, is behind a lot of the design innovation and implementation. Working together, I think they’re on to something good.

Check out their Facebook page here (https://www.facebook.com/gwenythbrand?filter=1) and their Kickstarter campaign here: (http://kck.st/1acuujM) Their online shop is open for business now, and it doesn’t hurt to mention that Christmas is just around the corner, for you AND the [other] dancer in your life. (The various colors they offer the top in, by the way, are delicious.)

And for the record, no, they didn’t pay me to say any of this. I liked the Modern Classic enough to give it a shout-out based on its own merits. Give one a try and let me know what you think.

© 2014 Terez Rose
Photography © 2013 Peter Rose

Ballerina Dreams

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The other night I had a ballet dream. Not a dancing onstage kind, or one of those scary ones where you hear your cue but you’re trapped in your dressing room, two floors down, panicking that you’re blowing it. No, in this dream I was an audience member, not a dancer. I’d been allowed access backstage. Two professional ballet dancers had just invited me to join them post-performance. The good fortune of it produced a shivery thrill, the kind you feel as a teen, sighting a movie star or your biggest crush.

In that way dreams have of transporting you instantly, next we were in one of the dancer’s apartment, and I’d put together a sumptuous dinner for them. There were, perhaps four or five of us there. Through the room, from time to time, came other dancers, their curious glances directed my way, an unspoken who is this? but I was accepted because I’d been invited by One of Them. How good it felt to be accepted here, by these exotic creatures, professional ballet dancers. And yet after the meal, I was still hungry, not for food but for discourse, yearning to ask more questions, get deeper inside their skin, their experience. It reminds me of when I was younger, still performing and I’d ask my mom eagerly, “what did you think of it?” She’d say, “honey, it was very nice,” and oh, how dissatisfying that was. I longed for so much more detail. How did it feel, inside her, watching me? How did she really see my dancing? Oh, the narcissist’s unquenchable thirst for more description of how they are perceived, how they are admired.

And yet, in this case, it was the opposite of narcissism. Call it the magnet of celebrity, or perhaps the writer in me, relentless in my hunger to delve deeper into the psyche of someone so different from me. Whatever it was, I wanted more. I was desperate to get ever closer to this divine creature, the professional ballet dancer, she who had found and touched The Holy Grail of ballet.

But before I could strike up further conversation, Beautiful Ballerina woman (suddenly there was just the one, but the queen of them) rose, all grace and loveliness, and announced that the food had been wonderful, delicious, thank you, but she was going to go relax now. I smiled back, equally gracious, joking “sounds like my cue to leave,” and was crestfallen when she nodded.

But of course. I was just another fan. This meet-up may have been the pinnacle of my evening, my year, but the feelings were not mutual. Far from it.

She wafted off to her room, leaving me and the other admirer to see ourselves out. Illogically, I decided to first clean up her kitchen. (And for the record? I hate to clean the kitchen. Hate it.) But as I cleaned, I held no grudge. I remained loyal, because I so revere the art, the craft of ballet, and want to do my bit to support it.

How interesting to ponder the dream now, in the light of day and clear logic. Is it ballet itself that I am striving to serve? Am I a lesser creature, merely an adoring groupie? Can’t say I like the thought. I liked being the performer too much to take the eternal back seat now.

And yet, when I consider it closer, I find that “adoring groupie” doesn’t describe it. It’s not a passive position, at all. Yes, I am serving ballet and its professional dancers. The prima ballerinas I write blogs about. The art itself. My art as a writer. My self-professed obligation to the public to take the dance world and write about it in an accessible, lively manner, getting people to read about dance. It’s not a place of subservience at all. I think the world needs this. It needs me in this capacity far more than it ever needed me as a ballet dancer.

But back to the dream. In the last bit, I was dishing the leftover into a container to put in the refrigerator. And I thought, wait, why don’t I take this yummy leftover home for me? I’d bought the ingredients, done all the work, served and cleaned up. A no-brainer. Except that I knew Beautiful Ballerina would enjoy it, and the poor thing wasn’t that much of a cook, that was clear. She needed me. She might never see it that way. But without my support, the nourishing things I’ve given—and you multiply my efforts by a thousand, all those other supporters of the dance world—she would languish. Waste away. Expire.

Subservience, hell no. The ballet world, the performing arts in general, need us. They need audience members to buy for tickets. Patrons who offer donations and grants. They need bloggers and dance reviewers to spread the word.

And so, in my dream, I left the food behind. Left it for her. I’ve learned, after all, how and where to find plenty more.

© 2013 Terez Rose

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Want to read more of my writing? OFF BALANCE, Book 1 of the Ballet Theatre Chronicles is now out in stores! http://www.amazon.com/Balance-Ballet-Theatre-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00WB224IQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429554592&sr=1-1&keywords=off+balance+Terez

OFF BALANCE BANNER

Play the violin in 5 easy steps!

 

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I know, it sounds like a horrible, cheesy infomercial. But the truth is this: if you’ve always wanted to play the violin, or have mused about what it must be like, but you’re thinking, nah, too much involved, well, I’m just saying, the opportunity might be closer than you imagine.

1) Go to a music store that rents stringed instruments. There are many. Think of all the kids doing it for school orchestra. Slap down that credit card and for $20, you have a violin for a month. Comes in its own case, with a bow. A bad one, but a bow. Consider buying a shoulder rest for greater comfort. Or not. Some violinists feel they play better without one.

2) Ask staff if they know violin teachers. Odds are high they’ll know several, because kids renting violins are likely going to be having the occasional private lesson in addition to the student orchestra. Arrange for a few lessons. Even just one. Or don’t.

3) Take the violin home. Pull it and the bow out of the case. Tighten the hair on the bow so it’s taut, with a pencil’s thickness between the bow and the hair. You do that via a little adjuster thingy on the base of the bow. Which is called the frog. Don’t ask me to explain.

4) Run the bow in a downward/upward motion across the strings. Try to make it straight, like a bowling ball going down its lane.

5) Look at yourself in the mirror. You are playing the violin. Okay, maybe the sound produced doesn’t qualify as music. But understand this. You are playing the violin.

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You might be saying right now that this is wildly simplistic. Sure. I’ll give you that. But I’m going to argue, from the “just do it” philosophy of life, in the way someone who’s never written a novel before can just start writing one and be doing it, and the way any endeavor, whether big or small, commences. You just do it. You throw yourself in and cheerfully blunder your way through it. I’ll never forget doing my own first steps, renting the violin, chatting with the teacher who agreed to take me as a student, even though it might only prove to be three or four lessons (it was, initially, merely research for a novel I was writing). I knew I was not a musical instrument person. I sang, danced. The world of actually making the music felt very foreign to me. But I’d always been fascinated by the violin, its repertoire, the range of sounds the instrument produced and the emotions it evoked. Now here it was, finally, in my hands, in my home. And yes, I was bumbling. I sounded awful on that violin, the scratch of the bow producing honks and squeaks that sent the cat running from the room.

But I was playing the violin.

You can try self-teaching, but seriously consider the lesson idea, if only to get feedback on bow hold, chin and hand placement. There’s nothing intimidating about it. Week one, my teacher had me plucking the notes of a one-octave scale with my finger. Singing along with the notes. The next week, the bow got introduced. The next week, I learned and practiced a rudimentary song. After that, the hunger to do more seized me, and I signed up for permanent lessons.

There are lesson books out there that don’t make you feel like a moron. (I’ve enjoyed the “All For Strings” series by Gerald E. Anderson and Robert S. Frost, and “Beautiful Music for Two String Instruments” by Samuel Applebaum.) There are tunes in these books that are easy to follow that make you feel —gasp!– like you are playing real music. Within a month, I was succeeding. Still sounding thin and scratchy, I’m sure. But the concept astonished me. I was making music, on the violin. This thing I’d long considered out of my reach, out of my realm. It was that easy, in the end.

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This post isn’t intended to be a true “how to.” There are dozens of blogs that devote themselves to every step of the process. Violinist.com (http://www.violinist.com/discussion/) is a wonderful community of violin-playing teachers, students, professionals and amateur enthusiasts. I’m here today simply to reiterate this: if you harbor any interest in learning how to play the violin, or if you’re merely curious to see a violin up close, examine how it works, what’s stopping you? For $20, you can rent this fun toy of an instrument (I say that because the violin is so darned cute and pretty, part of my satisfaction is just looking at it, tucking this pretty thing under my chin), and goof around.

You are not too old to start. It is not too hard. You are not too broke. It is not too inconvenient.

Just do it.

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Smuin: the other San Francisco ballet

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Confession time: I didn’t know about the Smuin Ballet until just a few years ago. I knew Michael Smuin’s name from San Francisco Ballet lore, where he’d been a principal dancer, a choreographer, a co-director from 1973 until Helgi Tomasson’s arrival in July 1985.  Smuin founded his own company nine years later, by which time he’d also choreographed numerous Broadway shows and movies, winning an Emmy in 1984 and a Tony Award in 1988, while setting work on the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Washington Ballet, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and others, as well. For his own company, Smuin, never afraid to be eclectic, theatrical,  appeal to broad audiences, wanted a troupe that was small, innovative and crackling with energy. He succeeded. I can only imagine how his death in 2007, at age 68, was a blow to company members, audiences, and the dance world alike.

I’d heard that Smuin Ballet had a strong local following. Having finally seen them, in the October 5th performance of their latest, “XXtremes Dance Series,” celebrating their 20th anniversary season, I now understand why. A troupe of only eighteen dancers, these guys rock.

I wrote a review of their Saturday matinee performance, part of a fun new gig for me as a dance reviewer for Bachtrack.com. I’d love it if you gave it a peek. http://www.bachtrack.com/reviews/view/3438

But since you showed up at this site looking for entertainment, I’ll offer you pics and summaries. Sound fair? (Photo credits: Keith Sutter, David DaSilva)

Ballet #1: Dear Miss Cline, set to songs by 1950’s country-pop legend, Patsy Cline. An energetic romp of a ballet, complete with crinoline-skirted costumes and flirtatious exchanges and some great partnering work.

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Ballet #2: Jirí Kylián’s irresistible Return to a Strange Land. All the hype about Kylián is right on. This ballet was created in 1974 and dedicated to the legacy and memory of his beloved mentor John Cranko, who’d just died. Love, loss, longing  are all rendered in soulful, sensuous fashion. His work is so renown in the dance world, so fascinating to me, that I think I’m going to have to save any further elaboration for a blog of its own.

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Ballet #3: Michael Smuin’s acclaimed Carmina Burana, featuring the über-dramatic music of 20th century composer Carl Orff, cinematic lighting, curlicues of fog billowing from the wings, vibrant unitard costumes, passionate, exuberant exchanges and movements in twenty-two vignettes. A hell of a show.

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All the Smuin Ballet company members are strong, energetic, and wonderfully talented. Here are a few I particularly enjoyed watching: Jane Rehm, Terez Dean, Pauli Magierek, Erica Felsch, Jo-Ann Sundermeier (the latter three having stepped in, mid-performance, to replace an injured Nicole Haskins in the third ballet, an astonishing feat all the more impressive in its un-noticeability), Jonathan Dummar, Aidan DeYoung, Weston Krukow, Eduardo Permuy, Joshua Reynolds and Christian Squires.

Okay, that was a tease, and this is where you hurry on over to my full review at Bachtrack. (http://www.bachtrack.com/reviews/view/3438) Check it out and I’ll send kisses your way. Post a comment there on how great the review is, and I’ll make them chocolate kisses.

I’ll end with just a nub of that review.

It seems to me that a lot of people go to the San Francisco Ballet because they enjoy the ritual of “going to the ballet.” People go to the Smuin Ballet, I will venture to say, because they love dance. They love watching the art. They love the Smuin Ballet because the venue and the program are family-friendly, “come as you are” friendly. The dancers pour their heart, soul, craft and considerable talent into every movement. It’s a thrill to discover this local treasure.

Move over, San Francisco Ballet. There’s another pretty girl in town.

Things to know about Smuin Ballet’s “XXtremes” Dance Series  

  • Where: Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco.
  • When: now through Saturday, October 12, 2013.
  • Why: Because live Kylián performances are rare in the Bay Area and Return to a Strange Land is good enough to seek out, as is the Smuin Ballet’s performance of it.
  • Tickets: $25 to $72
  • Contact: (415) 912-1899, www.smuinballet.org
  • And if you can’t make these dates: the program repeats in March in Walnut Creek and Mountain View.