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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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We Interrupt your Election Coverage for World Ballet Day

Yes, it’s that time again. I know, it snuck up on me too.

It’s World Ballet Day. This is the day when world class ballet companies all over the world invite you to attend their classes, live, and take you through rehearsals with their principals and soloists.

My current favorite ballet company, the Royal Ballet, will be streaming their events on its facebook page.

Joy Womack, currently a principal at the Kremlin Ballet in Moscow, will also be putting up videos. Check her youtube page out here for more of her videos.

Finally, I leave you with one of George Balanchine’s first ballets choreographed in the United States, the lovely, ethereal Serenade with music by Tchaikovsky.

 

Take a break, chill, sip your mug of hot spiced cider, grab your chair, do some plies, listen to some glorious music.

Enjoy.

 

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Bluebirds, Flowers and Lamb

It’s been awhile since I posted ballet videos but you know how much I love ballet.  In honor of spring, here’s one from the Royal Ballet.  It’s one of the variations from the bluebird pas de deux in Sleeping Beauty.  I’m not a fan of story ballets, especially the kind that consists of a casts of thousands and silly variations (the finger fairy, for example.  Really, Petipa?  Having a bad day or what exactly??)  There are some good solos, don’t get me wrong.  The Rose Adagio is sublime.  But most of the choreography for the other cast members looks like stagey posing with movement thrown in between.  I just want them to dance already and get on with it.

And then there is Sarah Lamb.  She is so light and ethereal.  The movement in her arms never stops like each limb and finger is gently rustled by a soft wind.  This variation video was from her soloist days.  I’ve seen other Royal Ballet soloists perform Princess Florine but none as delicately as Lamb.  She’s a principal now and performances like this one demonstrate why the finishing touches count.

Happy Spring!

Boy meets swan

I know what you’re all thinking, Swan Lake has got to be the most boring ballet on the planet.  There are several full length Swan Lake ballets available on youtube including ABT and Kirov versions but I can’t get past the scene where the queen stupidly gives her son, Siegfried, a crossbow to play with.  All the silly dancing around a maypole in the first act just puts me to sleep.  Literally.  I wake up somewhere around one of the many zillions of pas de deux he and the white swan have and wonder when it’s ever going to end.  And what’s up with that weird little quartet of swans that has been the butt of ballet jokes for years?

As for the story, Romany Pajdak of the Royal Ballet lays it out for us, first in mime and then with a narrator interpreting:

But Sigfried blew it.  The evil sorceror (there’s always one but I prefer Kashchei from Firebird) sends a black swan lookalike, Odile, to seduce Siegfried. He doesn’t realize he’s been tricked until it’s too late.  Many more endless pas de deux follow before he and Odette crash and burn.

It’s a mystery why so many ballerinas say they want to play this part.  If the black and white swan parts are danced by the same person, the whole thing must be just grueling.  Is it like singing Wagner?  Once you’ve done it for a season you’ve pretty much shot your vocal cords? Maybe it’s the last big role principal dancers get, if you know what I mean. Theoretically, it’s more fun to dance the bad swan but in so many interpretations, the ballerinas don’t differentiate the two parts very well. Except for the 32 fouettes in the black swan’s coda, the swans are pretty much indistinguishable but for the costume.

But here’s a version of the black swan pas that is a bit more edgy.  This one is danced by Alys Shee at an International dance competition in Helsinki where she won gold.  She’s something like 17 or 18 yrs old, a very young dancer and just after this performance joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet in the corps, so she won’t be dancing this part professionally for a looooong time.  While Alys is still lacking the finish of a principal, she nails the black swan attitude.  I love the “Hey, buddy, Pay attention!” tap on the shoulder she gives Siegfried when he starts daydreaming about Odette:

All well and good, you say, but meh, it’s just ballet.  Ok, well, check this video.  This is a snippet of a white swan pas by the acrobats of a Chinese circus.  I have no idea how the dancer does what she does without wires.  Seriously.  Most professional dancers of even the highest caliber can’t stand on pointe like this for more than a few seconds.  Maybe some of the world’s best ballet schools should make a trip to China to see how they do it. The rest of the Chinese choreography looks out of place in a ballet with Tchaikovsky’s music but at least they don’t make it boring.

I can’t remember the NYCB doing Swan Lake when I was a kid.  From what I can recall, Balanchine only choreographed a part of it, probably because he found it stilted and melodramatic.  He preferred to choreograph ballets without stories, which is how the Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux I posted before came to be.  According to legend, the music for the Tchai PDD was requested for the original Swan Lake in Moscow so Tchaikovsky wrote up yet another pas de deux.  In the end, some editor mercifully decided it was one pas over the line and took it out of the final ballet.  Balanchine found the music in an old score for Swan Lake and choreographed a pas without all the frou-frou and feathers.  Divine.

Tamara, Isadora and Brahms

Brahms wrote some lovely little waltzes that Isadora Duncan danced to.  Tamara Rojo of the Royal Ballet recreates two of them in the video below.  I’m partial to the second one with the flower petals.

Nighty-nite.

Friday: Bits and Pieces

Is anyone out there a balletophile besides me?  If so, and you have time today, go to youtube and find RoyalOperaHouse channel.  England’s Royal Ballet is streaming the whole day’s worth of classes live.  You can watch dancers in their technique and pas classes.  Too cool.  They’re doing pirouettes and turns right now.

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Dr. Elisabeth Cornwell explains why women need secularism:

The “war on the womb” is not just about the bizarre notion that a blastocyst should be considered a human being, thus banning all forms of viable contraceptives. No. It is much more insidious than that. It is the radical Christian version of the burka–designed to keep women in their place, subservient to men.

If women can’t determine their own reproduction, women will lose in the workplace, in education and in the right to live their lives as they choose. They will lose all they have gained over the past decades in terms of equality and opportunity. This holds true whether a woman is single, married, or divorced. Couples will no longer have the right to plan their own lives–to plan, for example, the number of children they want and when they want them. Some politicians and activists believe it is their ‘God-given-right’ to interfere in the most private of decisions of both women and men. They want to own the family and police the bedroom

I have to say, I am really angry. I am beyond the age of having children, so it has little to do with my personal life-style or life-choices any longer. But I know from experience how important those choices were to me as I entered adulthood and the work force. I made personal decisions, and had the means to follow my dreams and ambitions. Such choices that were never afforded to my mother or grandmother. I want my niece, and others like her, to be able to make her own decisions about her life and her body. I want her to dream and work and struggle for whatever she wants to achieve. I don’t want her dreams to die at the hand of those who would take this broad future away from her.

Please join me in rallying for taking back our rights as individuals from those who seek to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us. Stop the new radicals from enforcing their fanatical views and ignorance by way of the government. Don’t let them cloak our daughters in invisible burkas.

 Here’s something we should consider.  What if it is just so conveenient to use religion as a way to get women out of the workplace, freeing up salaries and jobs for men.  It’s all being done with a wink and a nod and what the so-called “war on women” is really is the political parties trying to get the white male vote.  That’s why the Republicans are pursuing this strategy so vigorously and why Democrats are defending us so weakly.
Women have very little to gain from the Judeo-Christian culture.  It’s not a religion.  It’s a weapon.  Time to find a new God.  Or no God at all.
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In Philly today.