Don’t you hate it when real life gets in the way of what you really want to do? It’s been particularly difficult to tear myself away from work and a semblance of a personal life these days. Throw in a family visit last weekend and a bridal shower this coming weekend, and things get nearly impossible. Anyways, some really good things are going on this week. If you attend any of these, please report back to tell me what I missed!!
San Francisco Symphony: MTT plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23: Do you think he calls himself MTT? I really wanted to go see this. A marvelous program at the symphony, continues through Saturday. The program includes a Stravinsky Octet for Wind Instruments, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 with Michael Tilson Thomas as the piano soloist, and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with a fantastic line up of singers including Eric Owens, an amazing artist that stood out even in the standout cast in SF Opera’s Porgy and Bess last summer. This program might be a fun one to watch from the cheap center terrace seats – piano performances are good for these because you get a great view of the keyboard and MTT’s expressive actions. It might not be fun for the singers though, as they face forward. Read sfmike’s take on it, here.
San Francisco Ballet’s Swan Lake closes at the end of this week. My review from last year is here. I will be watching Sarah Van Patten on Saturday afternoon – she hit it out of the park last year in Pointe Magazine’s top 12 favorite performances of the year.
Christopher Wheeldon’s company Morphoses completes their West Coast tour this week with their last show in Santa Barbara on January 29. I’ll be reviewing them soon (hopefully tonight). The company and their repertoire is amazing and challenging – if you want to see the future of ballet, go see it. And for goodness sakes, don’t leave before the last piece, Wheeldon’s Rhapsody Fantasie, as a friend of mine did – it was my favorite piece of the program. I couldn’t help myself, but I saw him strolling in the lobby where nobody recognized him. In a supremely fangirl-y moment, I introduced myself and got to ask him a few questions (one was, “What does Continuum mean?”). I hope I wasn’t rude because I didn’t mean it that way at all, but he was equally nice and charming and so so intelligent, and I was thrilled to meet a choreographer I so admire. SFB principal Pierre-Francois Vilanoba was also spotted in the house.
Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It feels very much like the calm before the holiday sugar-plum sweetened storm, and my life outside the theater has been very busy. The closest to theater that I got to see recently was the festive Christmas parade at Disneyland (in 84 degree weather, I might add). It was a veritable explosion of Christmas spirit, with a song that wouldn’t die in my head and props and costumes to satisfy the most materialistic of Christmas consumers.
Elsewhere, the Nutcracker season has started at New York City Ballet. I especially enjoyed Oberon’s Grove take on the opening night performance. Funny how audience misbehavior can ruin a night, no?
And finally, SF Ballet’s lovely Yuan Yuan Tan is on the cover of Dance magazine this month, as featured on the SF Ballet Blog. I’m always looking for an excuse to buy this magazine (it’s such a luxury, in my limited student budget) and this month, I think I’ll have to treat myself.
And… I’m back! I hope everyone had a very happy July 4th weekend. Sorry I’ve been MIA for the longest time away since I started this blog – this makes for a great argument for how bloggers who blog for free will never replace newspapers and its paid journalists. Real life gets in the way, and when push comes to shove, it’s difficult to prioritize blogging over career and personal life. For a thoughtful analysis of blogging and journalism, click here at Dancing Perfectly Free.
A pixely iPhone photo of lovely fireworks over the Berkeley Marina, with the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and the Bay Bridge on the other.
The last thing I caught onstage at the War Memorial Opera House was a stellar production of Porgy and Bess at the SF Opera, with an amazing ensemble cast and the incomparable Eric Owens. His voice not only embodied vocal power, but also seemed to personify inner strength and fortitude as well. Also, the standing room experience was an absolute riot. I’ve never seen the elderly move with that much urgency (opera fans are truly the most devoted, I think), windmilling their arms to prevent anyone from passing them. I found myself in the balcony standing room, but was thrilled at the quality of sound up there. To my vocally inexperienced ears, the voices sounded miked, and I had to remind myself that the singers had no microphones. Many thanks to sfmike for procuring a highly desired standing room ticket.
Even though it’s summer, there are lots of great things coming up. The San Francisco Symphony’s Summer in the City is going on right now, with great soloists and programs. Don’t miss James Gaffigan conducting an all-Mozart program this Friday, with pianist Jeremy Denk (blogger at think denk) in the Elvira Madigan concerto. Pianist Orion Weiss will be performing later this month as well.
The Stern Grove Festival is great for families with free outdoor performances by the San Francisco Ballet (the only chance to see them off-season, unless you live in China for their tour this summer) and the San Francisco Opera in August. It’s a gorgeous, casual outdoor setting to experience a unique San Francisco tradition.
Cocktails at a favorite pre- and post-concert haunt, Jade Bar
It was my blog’s second birthday yesterday! I wanted to take this chance to send out a big THANK YOU to everyone who’s been reading and engaging in fascinating discussion. I’m so grateful that my blog has survived strong for two years with people continuing to read regularly. I know my blog hasn’t gotten that much love lately (grad school’s not been so fun these days) but there are more exciting things coming up. So go out there and enjoy an evening at the theater and talk about it!
My last night at the theater was Mark Morris’ L’Allegro in Berkeley a few weekends ago with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Morris combines the rarely seen combination of classy Handel music with irreverent, earthy yet ethereal modern dance. Still peppered with Morris’ irreverent genius and wit, I didn’t find it to be my favorite Morris masterpiece. There were sections taken literally from the lyrics and one too many stagnant moments to hold my attention throughout. But that movement where the men vacillate between violent face slapping and dainty hand holding and quirky tooshie-slapping, ingeniously set to the music, was one of the liveliest things I’d ever seen on stage. It was a movement that encapsulated Morris’ humor, intelligence, outside-the-box thinking, and pitch-perfect musicality, all in one, and it was a much needed shot of adrenaline to the concert viewing experience. And as much as I hate to admit it, that’s the one movement that will stay with me the longest about this piece.
Merry Christmas everyone! I’m still working up until the very last minute until my flight leaves, but after having worked all weekend this past weekend, I finally got a break in my experiments when I caught a back to back showing of two Nutcrackers at the San Francisco Ballet yesterday. It was a magical time, and I had a blast with my friends and family. Review coming soon – in the meantime, I still have to pack and cram stuff in (I don’t know how I’m fitting all my presents in my bag). I hope everyone has the warmest of holidays filled with Nutcracker princes, spicy hot apple cider, heartwarming smiles, and lots of much-needed rest!
Maybe my clue was too hard (or no one reads this blog, both of which are equally plausible) but I’ll post easier clues here. Sorry about the lack of updates – in addition to being out of town, my laptop officially crashed, and it has taken over a week to fix and is still in the shop, which effectively limits my computer use to my time at work. This week is going to be a delightfulÂ Nutcracker overload, possibly with me seeing it a total of four times (twice on my TV screen)Â but I still haven’t decided yet, juggling between work and family and my theater obsession (more specifically, my SF Ballet obsession).
Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way? But it’s been a really fun month – lots to see, lots to do, lots to experience. More coming soon!
The view of the theaterÂ from the needle, review coming soon!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope everyone had a good one – I had a deliciously busy weekend along with an much needed day off today (I was in my pajamas for most of the day, changing briefly into a swimsuit so swim in the neighborhood’s 85 degree heated pool). I was expecting the weekend to be theater-free, but it’s funny how things never work out that way. Last night, two friends and I got offered cheap last minute tickets to the Kims of Comedy improv comedy act at the local improv comedy club, with the really funny Bobby Lee (from MadTV) and Steve Byrne and Kevin Shea. I almost injured myself, laughing.
Here are some weekend reads. Enjoy~
The most thorough discussion of blogging vs. theater criticism that I’ve read in a while. Click here, from UK’s The Guardian. Some quotes from the article: from a critic’s point of view: “From that point on I concluded I could no longer view the blogosphere as source material or even mere displacement activity. Now it was the competition.” Another opinion: “‘I do not believe in the democratisation of opinion. I believe in benign authority. And if we undermine the authority of critics then we shall descend into mayhem.’”
Why Yundi Li Got Cut. It’s an age old question – has flashy ostention always been more marketable and valued than quiet solidarity? Li is seen as an anti-Lang Lang. What happened is a little devastating. Although I don’t think Lang Lang is always so bad – I loved his Haydn on his debut CD. He’s performing with the San Francisco Symphony this upcoming week. This article places a Chinese spin on things, focusing only on Chinese classical music artists, but the problem is more universal that extends past ethnicity or classical music.
The results of the Science Dance Contest came out today! The results are really exciting, and more so because of how unexpected they were. I had picked out in my head who I thought was the best in each category (graduate student, post doc, and professor) but none of them won. I was struck most by the fact that the results may partly be explained by being driven by societyâ€™s expectations of how scientists should be.
The stereotypical scientist is wacky, odd, and eccentric, stuck in their own closed world at all hours doing who-knows-what with complicated machines.Â The winners of this contest really seem to reinforce these stereotypes â€“ a little goofy, a little bit of fun, a little quirky. I find it fascinating that the results seemed to reflect the viewers as well as the videos. It seemed to be a lot about how people want to see their scientists.
I was most impressed with each videoâ€™s level of commitment in their own way, and as a viewer, felt a little like a spectator staring into a fishbowl at this odd little world (even for me, as a grad student). These videos went admirably beyond the level of duty to show it.
I’m glad that this competition didn’t set the precedent that you needed the backing of a dance company in order to win. All you need is passion and some brains, right? I suppose that’s true for a lot of things.
It’s funny how there’s a public curiosity about the insular world of scientists and science, where communication to the nonscience world is difficult and the science is often misunderstood. I also believe that this is driving the interest in this competition â€“ a way to view this oddity of a world and to understand science without long scientific terms. It’s no wonder that many think that this is a good teaching tool. Â Or is it the joy of seeing people, anyone, outside of their comfort zone?
So without further ado, I present to you the winners:
Graduate Student: Sue Lynn Lau’s “The role of vitamin D in beta cell function”
That sun is awesome.
Post doc: Miriam Sach’s “Cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs with positron emission tomography. A comparison between single subject and group analysis”
Professor: Vince LiCata’s “Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids”
But more importantly, my picks
Graduate student Lara Park’s “The role of folate in epigenetic regulation of colon carcinogenesis”
Professor Rachelle Gaudet’s “Structural analysis of phosducin and its phosphorylation-regulated interaction with transducin beta-gamma”
I love the explanation of this as well – the two dancing partners represent two proteins in the eye that are important for light adaptation. When the eye is flooded with light, the two proteins bind together and interact; when in the dark (the darkened front of the stage), the protein is unbound and dancing solo. Finally, the interacting protein degrades (my favorite part) when the guy keels over and dies.Â
Oh, and of course, the funniest:
For the rest of the videos, click here. I was really impressed with the breadth of entries, from aerial circus to “hip hop”. Here’s my entry with the background on my video. Thanks for the all the encouragement, kind links and blog endorsements!!
UPDATE: I just got more information about the judges. The judges included the three artistic directors of Pilobilus Jonathan Wolken, Matt Kent, and Emily Milam Kent (I’m cringing right now that these amazing dancers saw my video but too late I suppose), the three winners from last year’s competition, and three scientists from Harvard University. Interesting, there’s actually a science connection with Pilobilus – Pilobilus is named after a fungs that co-founder Wolken researched in his father’s biophysics lab.
What do you guys think about the winners? Other entries?