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Archive for the ‘Ballet’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHIRIM KLEZMER ORCHESTRA-Klezmer Nutcracker (1998).

I love this klezmer version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

The first 7 songs of the disc are the popular, quickly recognizable melodies from the ballet.  But each song has been klezemerfied–which means minor keys and clarinets and spirited dances that are really peppy.

So even though the musicianship is top-notch, there’s plenty of humor here.  As this review puts it

It combines the zany wit of a Spike Jones with the class and craft of a Duke Ellington and recasts the Nutcracker as a Hannukah classic with images of a dancing Latkes Queen and marching Macabees.

The humor even extends to the titles:

A Klezmer Nutracker

  • Kozatsky ’till You Dropsky
  • Dance of the Latkes Queens
  • March of the Macabees
  • Araber Tants
  • Dance of the Dreydls
  • Waltz of the Rugalah

The rest of the disc is made up of Other Klezmer Classics.  Despite the abundance of Satie, these songs don’t quite do it for me.  They are fine, but Gustav’s Wedding and Romanian Rhapsody are a bit too long.  Although Hungarian Goulash is wonderful

Perhaps I just prefer the songs with which I’m familiar.  Having said that, the second half is full of very good klezmer, so don’t dismiss it outright.

  • Gustav’s Wedding 4:25
  • Romanian Rhapsody by G. Enesco 4:40 (see, these two are too long)
  • Gnossienne 1 by E. Satie
  • Gnossienne 2 by E. Satie
  • Gnossienne 3 by E. Satie
  • Hungarian Goulash (based on Brahms)
  • Nekhome–Solace (after “Prelude 4,” Chopin)
  • Turk in American
  • Russian Bulgar
  • Gymnopedie 3 by E. Satie

[READ: July 9, 2017] 100 Girls

I really enjoyed this book (first in a series apparently), and was about to say it’s really good for an Orphan Black-type premise, and then I saw that it came out in 2005–many many years before Orphan Black. So, three cheers for the originality then.

The book begins with Sylvia waking up from a nightmare.  Right off the bat the drawing style is notable–Todd Demong’s style is really interesting–angular and exaggerated but not “cartoony,” the proportions and angles make the story more hyper-real than cartoony, which is pretty great.

When she wakes up, she hears her parents talking about her…how she has changed and become more difficult.  Her dad blames it on her being a teenager, but her mom thinks its something more.  As she walks to school with her friends, we see that a car is doing surveillance on her. (more…)

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polinaSOUNDTRACK: SOFA-Grey [CST002] (1997).

greyIt’s not nice to compare bands to other bands, because it seems like they are copying the original. But since I just mentioned Slint the other day, I thought it worthwhile to mention Sofa today. They have similar sensibilities—noisy guitars, spoken/screamed vocals and a decidedly quiet feel.

I love the way this disc opens with the song “On/Off”—it has a simple bass with syncopated drums. And then the buizziest buzz saw guitar thrown in counterpoint notes. And then the singer comes in, sounding like Joy Division never went away.  The song builds into a cool noise and then backs off again. But song two, “CH. 2 Chi.” changes everything—a blistering punk song with super fast chaotic drums and fast vocals. The guitars are again punctuating rather than keeping melody. And when it plays the two high chords it adds incredible tension. “Monotone” begins a simple song of two notes (and some great noisy guitars). The vocals are less Joy Divison and more spoken punk. But each verse adds something new to the music, which gets more complex. “Current” has a more conventional post-rock sound—buzzy guitars and quiet vocals. It’s a good calming moment.

“80 000” has a slow menacing vibe. It builds a few times into some really noisy chaotic sections, where the guitars are willfully out of tune—and all the while the spoken word lyrics are quiet enough to make you lean in closer. “Red Lake” is another slow number (they could maybe have used a faster one by this point), but I really like the riff and the way the guitars play off of it. And there’s an actual hummable chorus too.

The fast noise comes back on “Comma” with a frenetic guitar line and pummeling bass. Even the stop/start of the chorus are frenetic. And when the song occasionally slows down, the guitars still punctuate with astonishing noise. “The Fence” opens with a cool bass riff and simple but interesting drums. “Travel” is a slow song that opens with just guitar notes and spoken/sung lyrics. I don’t care for these more atmospheric songs (especially when they push 6 minutes) but the band does it well. “Stress” follows this. This is the shortest song on the disc just under 3 minutes of furious mayhem. “Medicine Hat” ends the disc with another slower song, but this one has a lot of interesting components, like the bass and guitar line that interweaves throughout the song.

This was Constellation Records second release (Ian, who plays guitar, co-founded Constellation).  Sofa broke up around the time of this release, which is a shame as it was a good one. I’d like to hear more from them (they have some earlier records with unknown availability).

[READ: April 5, 2014] Polina

This was a simple and enjoyable graphic novel about a young ballerina who grows up in the world of ballet.  (I admit I was attracted to the title because I thought it might be about Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds who I remembered primarily because the name Polina which was unusual to me–it is not about her).

It is a bout a fictional ballet dancer.  When we first meet young Polina, she looks so tiny in the back seat of the car as she is driven to class.  And her teacher, Mr Bojinsky looks like such a large man next to her–with his full beard and large hands.  He is an intimidating figure and all of the girls are afraid of him.  And yet, it is an honor to be even considered by him.

So when Polina unexpectedly gets chosen for his class, she is elated and fearful at the same time.  At first Bojinsky seems really mean and the way his hand more or less covers her whole chest as he gets her into place portended all kinds of things.  But rest assured, and perhaps this is a spoiler, but if is, it is one that I would like to know–nothing bad like that happens to Polina.  Phew. She is not molested, or raped or left dying in an alley. It’s not that kind of story.  Rather, it is the story of a young girl trying to make it as a dancer. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 8, 2012] The Russian Nutcracker

nutcrackWe decided to take the kids to see The Nutcracker this year.  Fortunately, it was being performed at our beloved RVCC by the Moscow Ballet!  I saw The Nutcracker performed by the Boston Ballet about a dozen years ago, and the performance was stunning (it was also expensive).  This performance was definitely scaled down compared to that one, and it was also shorter (which was good for our kids).

I honestly don’t remember all that much from the Boston Performance (except that when the tree gets bigger, I was blown away).  There wasn’t much blowing away with this show.  As I say, it was scaled down tremendously–the stage itself was about half the size.  But that said, it was charming and the performers–especially the men–were amazing.

I really enjoyed the opening which was quite simple, with the families approaching the castle for the Christmas party–it was fun seeing the adults dressed as kids skipping about while the proper adults strolled casually.  Typically the first act is longer than the second and it’s certainly less exciting.  I don’t know the ballet well enough to know if they cut any of the scenes, but it didn’t seem quite as long as I remembered.  The kids were a little less excited by the grown up fancy ball dancing, but they held up very well.

I enjoyed the sequence where Masha (she’s not Clara in The Russian Nutcracker–I wonder just how different the two are) and her brother have a fight over the Nutcracker.  Masha’s brother was quite funny and the broken Nutcracker was amazing in his life-less-ness.  Indeed, all of the “toys” were incredible. (more…)

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