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September 30, 2005

Ballet as vocabulary rather than tradition

Via Ballet Talk, Alonzo King talks to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Somehow, people think that ballet sprung up in Europe, but that's a complete fallacy," he says. "Their definition of what ballet is and what it is not are two different things. Ballet is not a style. It's a science of movement.

A very interesting, very large point and one that goes to the crux of where ballet came from and where it is going. It opens an entire philosophical can of worms about otherness as well. King, who is African American, is insisting on his place and right to the form [added 10/1/05 in the greater sense - he's been a success in the field for years - it isn't as if he's trying to break into ballet] , and his right to completely discard traditions that he feels exclude him and substitute his own. As they say, history is the story told by the folks in charge and people are always trying to write rival histories. I think an argument can be made to defend King's position [added 10/1/05 - about ballet being science rather than style. Ballet did start in Europe and its roots are in European folk dances - one can argue that European folk dance may have come from somewhere else, but at some point you are no longer talking about direct influences]; one can certainly see the results in King's work and in dance today.

Otherness is a powerful driving force in art but one I've rarely felt, which is at least part of the reason I'm not a radical and also why I'm not an advocate of King's position. I don't believe in the results. I have always found King's work structurally weak and too much of a hodge-podge; it's generally in sections and I think if you altered the order of the sections it would not affect the work. In my book, that's a defect. For all I know, he might argue that structure is unnecesssary or outdated just as he's already argued about style. But for me, ballet is not merely work danced on pointe, using turnout and ballet vocabulary. Style is central, essential and the most beautiful thing about ballet. If the work doesn't reference ballet's style and structures it stops being ballet and becomes something else.

Absolute purity is not necessary or necessarily desirable, but to use a favorite analogy, grafting a style to ballet is like flavoring a steak. If you put a teaspoon of soy sauce on a pound of steak, you have steak with an Asian flavor and it's more interesting for it. If you use equal amounts of steak and soy sauce, you have something inedible . Proportion is everything; you need to decide what's home base, what's flavoring, how much is enough and how much is too much.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 4:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

Random observations

I just got an advance copy of The Ballet Companion. My positive opinion from the galleys is confirmed; it's a good trustworthy reference and Eliza should be very proud. The dance professionals I have shown it to have been extremely impressed and want to purchase it for their school or recommend it to students and parents. I'm proud of my contribution to it, not that I always remember correctly what that was. I looked at a few sections and thought "I didn't write that", then looked at my drafts and found out that, no, I had - at least in initial draft. There's very little I wrote that went into the book as is, but that is to the good. Still, I've written so much over the past few years that I'm starting to not remember what I've written after another 40-50 thousand words have passed in the interim.

There was only one thing that I immediately and correctly thought "I didn't write that." - a single "indisputably" in the section on Balanchine. I didn't have a problem with Eliza's assertion (a case can be certainly made for Balanchine being the best choreographer of the 20th Century, especially on this side of the Atlantic), but I'm a cover-your-ass kind of writer and to me, writing "indisputably" is like taping a sign to your book that says "DISPUTE ME". Also, especially after a year where I've tried to concentrate on Ashton as well as Balanchine, I'm less interested in who's top dog. It doesn't matter.

The book tightened my writing and it made me notice the rhetorical constructions I use on the first draft that need to be combed out when editing. "Really", "actually", "in fact", "I think that" or "in the end" don't contribute to the thought; they're leftovers from the thought process. Writing weekly for Danceview Times continued the tightening process. Ballet Review isn't laissez-faire about copy; they edit the most rigorously of the places for which I have written. But it's a quarterly and Alexandra's background is The Washington Post. Newspaper writing is less leisurely and more muscular. I was finishing the article on the Royal Ballet for B-R this week and started trying to put together a "lede" - something I never thought about before writing for DVT. I didn't do a lede; the article is a 4000 word piece about several performances. A punchy intro wouldn't have fit the same way it does in a 700-1200 word piece about a single performance.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 2:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Latest Dance Article

A brief at Danceview Times about Ashley Bouder's guest appearance in Capriccio.

She entered with two cavaliers as the newest discovery of an impresario, did a brief and charming dance and another scene where she proceeded to devour a cake as greedily and messily as she could.

While you're at it, Lisa Rinehart is a new writer at Danceview Times. Her review of Jennifer Monson is both judicious and well written. Check it out.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 6:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 25, 2005


This weekend was Miss Mary's 40th Birthday party. I gave her the Razor Shell shawl but alas, there are no photos; it was too dark and I forgot to put the photo card back in my camera!

At Mary's parties I am Official Purveyor of Dips. I usually make a variety - some new to me and some tried and true.

Inevitably the one that people eat most is . . . yes, Spinach Dip. Made with vegetable soup mix. They eat twice as much as any other. Foodies, swallow your pride and just make it.

The recipe is on every soup mix envelope, but here it is again:

1 10 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed
1 envelope vegetable soup mix
16 oz sour cream
8 oz mayonnaise

Squeeze the water from the spinach (it can be used in stock), place the spinach in a bowl and separate with a fork. Add other ingredients, mix and chill for at least four hours. This goes well with chips and crudités. If you're feeling suburban, serve in a hollowed out rye bread.

The other successful dip was a black bean-lime dip. Like the spinach dip, it is best made ahead to give the flavors time to blend.

1 cup grated carrot (I used three carrots)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Chop herbs in food processor, transfer to a large bowl. Grate carrots, transfer to bowl. Puree beans in a food processor until almost smooth. Combine all ingredients in the bowl, stirring until well blended. Let stand at least 30 minutes, preferably several hours.

Next time I make this I will probably add a bit of cumin and a diced jalapeno as well. It tastes best with tortilla chips. It's also healthier than the average dip.

The next two did not come out as well. For the roasted red pepper dip I pureed a 20 oz jar of roasted peppers (drained) and then added sour cream, a little Tabasco and 1 tsp curry powder and then the fatal error - an envelope of onion soup mix. That totally overpowered everything else - it would have been quite good without it.

The smoked oyster dip uses a standard dip formula: Blend cream cheese with sour cream and mayo, add spices, (in this case horseradish, lemon juice and onion flakes) and seasonings (salt, pepper, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce). That was dandy. Then I added the smoked oysters. Smoked oysters are nasty little critters with one powerful stink. I won't use them as an ingredient again.

I did not make Beet Relish Spread at this party because beets can stain if spilled but it's a favorite at other parties. It's pretty and tasty, even if beets give some folks the willies. This recipe is from the 1959 General Foods Cookbook.

1 (16 oz) can beets
1/3 cup raw onion
3 hard cooked eggs
1 Tb vinegar
3 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp horseradish
1/4 c. sour cream

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and chop finely. Chill for several hours before serving.

Happy dipping!

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Dark Secrets of my mp3 player . . .

I invite you to play along.

These are the top 5 shameful secrets of my mp3 player. Yes, I really listen to these and even worse, I enjoy them.

C'mon everyone - confession is good for the soul.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 2:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Tense agreement

I just finished a first pass through a long article on the Royal Ballet. Yes, from June. It's quite late; it just didn't seem to want to get written. I had to comb through it to achieve some consistency in tense usage - something I always have to watch for. My notes are usually written in present tense and it gives a sense of immediacy, but it reads strangely if you're reading the article months after the performance.

In this article and in most of my current work, I'm using tenses as follows.

Discussing "eternal" qualities of the production that will not change (even if the person discussed is dead) - present tense: Ashton's use of pointe work is subtle.

Discussing qualities of a dancer that extend beyond the instant performance - present tense: He is more comfortable dancing than acting.

Discussing the qualities of the specific performance - past tense: The dancers performed as if by rote.

I'd be interested in hearing how other people handle tense usage.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 1:05 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Dentists invade Philadelphia!

And they're in every hotel.

I'm going to see Swan Lake on October 8 and want to see the matinee and the evening show, but the ADA is having their national convention in town and most of the usual Priceline suspects sold out or reporting rates of $300 and up. I think finding a hotel is going to be quite a feat.

Another lesson learned. Even a city that's usually a pushover for Priceline rates can be overrun by . . . dentists.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Current Knitting

Socks for Dad:


The pattern is simple and suited to circular knitting.

Multiple of 12

Round 1: SSK, K6, M1, K4
Round 2: K

Both the bolded knit sections can be adjusted up or down to achieve a convenient multiple. It's not a difficult pattern, but it isn't as quick to work as something like Twin Rib, which barely takes any attention. That might also be because of the small gauge on 2mm needles. I usually knit socks like this at around 10 sts/in. However, it seems to me to be a very good stitch pattern for men, because there's textural and knitting interest, but it is still subtle - and this is best shown in plain yarns. The one problem I see that I'm getting ladders between the repeats because of the ssk's. Anyone have any tips to prevent it - I'm using Addi 12" circular needles, so it is not because of dpns.

Here's the sock in closer detail.


And for Stephanie, here is the Red Leaves shawl pre-blocking. The recipient's birthday is in November, so the finishing probably won't happen until then.


and in detail:


Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Karole Armitage - when the avant-garde mellows

via Ballet Talk, a very interesting profile of Karole Armitage in the Houston Chronicle. Interesting to see what happens when an enfante terrible is no longer enfante or terrible.

I didn't agree with all of Armitage's opinions, but that was more personal preference than considering her in error. I am in complete agreement with this last paragraph. It's certainly not the words of an iconoclast.

Unlike many younger choreographers, however, she doesn't think the classics need tweaking. "Ballet companies have a real obligation to do work of our time. And dancers should do things off pointe, because everything is about the body," she said. "But decorating classics in a new way is ridiculous. What is brilliant about Swan Lake is great choreography with a tremendous understanding of the human psyche. Newer versions are never as deep. It's good for commercial reasons, but it's superficial. I don't think it's advancing the art form."

I agree fully with her first two statements. My own view of classical art is that it's additive. Each generation needs to throw what it has to offer into the pot and stir. So contemporary work is essential. The question becomes, what are we going to add to the pot? Work in soft slippers is valuable to the dancers as well, because there are things a point shoe can do that a soft slipper cannot, built also all sorts of intermediate positions of the foot that are possible in a soft slipper that are impossible in a pointe shoe. We need both.

My personal opinion on the classics may even be slightly more radical, though my guess is Armitage would have presented a more nuanced argument had there been space and time. She sounds thoughtful. I personally believe that the classics must change over time but that change is gradual, rather like continental drift. But when you look at a work after fifty years, bodies have changed, fashions have changed, cultural mores have changed. The work needs to stay in context and that will mean small changes. The stagers of the work need to view themselves as advocates for the work and ask themselves as they set it, "What does the work need to look and feel to the present audience as it did to the audience of its time?"

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 3:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Stranger in a strange land

My two second cousins gave their parents a surprise 30th anniversary party. They did a lovely job; their mom (my cousin) was quite stunned and delighted.

Besides enjoying the good food, the thing I left the party thinking was that I don't feel like myself in the straight world. I feel comfortable around straight people, of course, especially my relatives, whom I like very much. I don't like exclusively gay situations because the view becomes too narrow. But when I'm in a room full of people who are going to get married, buy houses, have children . . . I'm the outsider.

I was talking with my cousin about the hesitation of moving from New York to smaller cities because I was worried about feeling different. "But they have a Jewish community," she said. Yes, she missed the exact reason, but she got the concept anyway. In Westchester, Janet can live a life as a Jew among Jews. She's home, and it's something she could even take for granted. I want that too. I don't want to spend every day having sensibilities that everyone tolerates, but no one shares. If I'm being swallowed into a life that isn't mine, I become strident and out myself gratuitously just so I can maintain a sense of self.

I've rarely felt like the Other in my life, probably because though I'm in a few (non-disadvantaged) minorities, they're not minorities where I have lived. I've lived my life in a world where my identity lies at the common center with a large community. What would it be like to no longer have that?

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 12:50 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 18, 2005

Latest Dance Article

This one was an interesting challenge. I suggested to my editor (Alexandra Tomalonis) two concerts I thought were worthy of coverage, but asked not to do them because I felt I knew both people (Glen Rumsey and Miro Magloire) too closely to have "clean hands". But other reviewers were doing other assignments and it came down to - if I wanted them to be covered, I would have to cover them. I'm a walking conflict of interest in the very close-knit dance world, so I have already had experience walking this tightrope, I think with some integrity. It's impossible to write as if you didn't know and like the people you review. I wouldn't have asked for them to be reviewed had I not felt their work deserved - and could handle - coverage. If I had hated it? Like most other reviewers in that situation, I would have probably asked not to file. I also think it's important to make your connection to the artist clear, but it's difficult to do that without being "noisy". I've had the disclosure removed by editors in some articles because they felt the work didn't need it - which made me slightly uncomfortable but also proud that I could maintain my objectivity.

I don't mind being openly supportive or partisan (it's done honestly), what's harder is keeping myself from pulling punches and switching allegiances. Ironically, this belies my previous post. When I am writing about colleagues and friends, I can't say the dialogue isn't directed at them in some way. I know they're reading it and yes, I am trying to think about the reader first, but I can sense the difference in tone because the intended audience has shifted slightly. That said, I still stand by what I wrote in more usual circumstances.

Glen Rumsey Dance Project and New Chamber Ballet


Plastic sheets like overgrown shower curtains were hung from the poles as scenery, forcing the audience to shrink away or duck through them to get to their seats. The atmosphere—intimate, close and shrouded—was like a jamboree at a sex club.


New Chamber Ballet is a barebones operation rigorously pared down to the essentials. Small casts, simple leotard costumes and no lighting beyond a dimmer are all part of an ascetic approach. But there’s also glorious live music, Bach played so beautifully on violin and piano by Melody Fader and Erik Carlson that it could make the most uncomfortable folding chair bearable.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 17, 2005

Choreographers vs. Critics

via The Downtown Dancer, Joan Acocella reviews four downtown choreographers and one of them, Tere O'Connor, responds quite angrily.

I have empathy for O'Connor's anger. I've both written and been written about. As an artist, the one thing any artist wants, even more than the viewer liking the work is him or her getting it. Hate it or love it, but please know what I was trying to do and not tell me my work was about something that never crossed my mind the entire time I made it. There's one review I got that I know was supportive and positive - everyone told me so. I hated it; the author's take disturbed me enough that it took a few weeks to recover. To this day I can't bring myself to put it in my press kit.

I'm also a writer. And the toughest lesson to learn when you've done both is that the writer is not having a dialogue with the artist. His or her dialogue is with the reader and potential audience. The point is to tell the reader what s/he saw and thought of the work. S/he doesn't need to understand, or "get" your work. S/he only needs to be able to formulate an opinion based on his or her viewing. The only thing the writer owes the artist is basic professional and ethical standards. If you sent out a press release and invited them to come, view and write, you're fair game. I try to work at a higher standard than that, but that's my choice, not my obligation.

To be even more cold-hearted, if you can get a publication like the New Yorker, a general interest publication that devotes less and less space to dance - and even so only at Acocella's pleasure because she is committed to writing on it - to write about you, count yourself lucky.

For all these reasons I would not publicly comment on a review except in very limited circumstances where the author was factually grossly inaccurate or ethically compromised. A review is a subjective view from the audience's point of view - a point of view I can never fully share in my own work. O'Connor's objections boil down to "she doesn't understand the work" but my take on her article is that she takes all four choreographers seriously, and is not particularly negative and not vindictive. She doesn't seem to take pleasure in O'Connor's work, but I'd say she observed it closely, respectfully and understands it - just not the way O'Connor would like.

I haven't seen O'Connor's work in a long while, but in the piece I saw, when the dancers were miserable and unhappy he showed it by having them do ballet exercises. I don't see that O'Connor understands Acocella's aesthetic with more sensitivity than she understands his so it might have been best to call it a draw and let discretion be the better part of valor.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 3:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

Current Knitting

The Red Leaves Shawl is finished except for darning and blocking, which probably won't happen for a bit. I'll take pictures when I do it, 'cause blocking is magic.

Alexandra's camisole is at the underarms. I now have to work out the armhole and neck decreases. The slip stitch columns are not placed exactly where I ought to put the neck opening (that's what you get for designing as you go) but some decreases and matching increases should move them over unobtrusively.

The camisole is no longer brainless or portable. I need a new portable project, so we're doing gifts. Socks. Socks for Dad. It's only an inch of ribbing at present so there's no point in a photo. The yarn is Froelich Blauband from stash in a blue with a very small amount of red and green speckles. I'm using 2mm (US 0) needles and going to try a spiral bias ribbing called Barley Sugar that I've seen Mary Thomas' books and Mon Tricot as well. I'll put up a photo as soon as there's something to show.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

If you also suffer from Bush-induced Tourette's Syndrome


Testify, Brother Attaturk. He foams at the mouth for all of us today.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

To all the "non-dance" readers of this blog

Yes, that means you.

If you've come here via another interest (knitting, travel, cats, food, whatever) and you're in the New York area, this is my brief pitch to find out what all my fuss over dance is about, cheap.

The Fall for Dance Festival at City Center is a cornucopia of dance from September 27-October 2. Six nights and 30 companies. Ten bucks a performance. Ten bucks. Try it! Seriously, all that effort isn't there to give the already committed dance audience a performance at a discount. It's being done to lure you - and your kids - in the hopes that you will find live dance like crack and need to see more and more of it.

Here's my opinionated tips on some highlights:

9/27 - Bill Irwin's clowning won him a Macarthur "Genius" grant, Lyon Opera Ballet does William Forsythe's thoughtful Duo. For thems that like nipples, the women in that are in sheer black tops, and there is nipple-age. Joking aside, the work is not prurient at all. Ronald K. Brown's work usually stirs the audience to a frenzy, and is performed by Philadanco.

9/29 - American Ballet Theatre does Spectre de la Rose and on the same program Larry Keigwin can show you why he's one of modern dance's darlings.

9/30 - A humanoid, a woman in a Louise Brooks wig and acres of black parachute silk. See New York City Ballet perform one of George Balanchine's most inscrutable (and unballetic) works, Variations for a Door and a Sigh.

10/1 - If you have never seen Paul Taylor's Esplanade, this is the night to go. It is a masterpiece of a dance composed of the simplest elements - mostly runs and walks. If last season's fine performances are a guide, it should be in excellent shape.

Give it a shot. Take your kids.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

The Vegetable Challenge

On Saturday I finally shopped at the Farmer's Market again.

Grace can laugh at me derisively now. There's a Farmer's Market right around the corner on Wednesday and Saturday but I just never have time to go. I've been trying (and succeeding!) at eating more healthily and that means fresh fruits and vegetables. I've always liked them, so having them in my diet isn't unpleasant, but it does mean more shopping and cooking, and also slightly more expense. This week I am trying to expand my vegetable repertoire. I haven't yet eaten or cooked something completely new (in four decades, one has tried a lot of vegetables) but I've made a few things I haven't made in a long while, like ratatouille.

The Farmer's Market purchases were parsley (I'm trying to use it, not just for its flavor, but nutritive values. Green leaves are good) and a gorgeous leafy bunch of beets. The attendant asked me if I wanted the tops removed and I accidentally shouted "NO!" Much to my shock, many people do. Beet greens are delicious.

And yeah, a head of lettuce. Iceberg. I've loved crunchy, tasteless Iceberg lettuce since I was a kid. So sue me.

The beets were roasted last night and the greens soaked repeatedly (real food has dirt in it. . .) The beets will be dressed with a (parsley!) vinaigrette and combined at the last moment with diced celery for a salad that I read about first in one of Elizabeth David's books. I think I'll also save one or two to combine with roasted potatoes and carrots for a different salad - I first had that at a downtown food cafe, Barocco, in the early 90s.

The greens (about a pound and I did not use the stems here) were cut into chiffonade along with some surplus parsley and cilantro and combined with a pack of frozen spinach and a bit of frozen corn and cooked in an Indian manner. Saute 1 tsp cumin seed, 1 clove minced garlic and one finely chopped jalapeno pepper in around 2 Tb of oil in that order. Wilt greens in oil. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of ginger powder over. Add in thawed and squeezed out spinach (reserve liquid). When all greens are combined, add in liquid and about 1/3 cup frozen corn. Cook until liquid is mostly gone, add 2 tsp (or to taste) butter and 1 tsp garam masala. It's really good. The basic concept is from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking, but she uses potatoes. I had the same dish with corn at Kishti, an Indian restaurant in midtown.

So take the vegetable challenge. And if you've got a good recipe, let me know.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 2:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Out and About - Art for Free!

My weekend was filled with culture. I didn't realize the Museum of Modern Art was free on Friday evenings. Val and I went to see the Pisarro-Cezanne exhibit, which was quite crowded and then down to the even more impressive permanent collection on the fifth and fourth floors. I haven't been to MoMA in a while; there are a few rooms that you walk into and suddenly are hit with the fact you're looking at five of the most famous paintings of the last century and a half in a single room. It's quite an impact. I'll certainly go again.

Open Stitch is a working exhibition at Location One of 15 designers producing work with the materials provided to them, essentially scrap material and found objects from most from New York's most artistic dumpster diving organization, Materials for the Arts. David Quinn, the designer who has done my costumes since 1996, was participating so I went Sunday afternoon to visit. The room was half sweatshop, half fantasy factory. I loved the energy. Debs (how we all know David) was making the skirt for a jacket just finished. It had a wonderful 60's silhouette, part bolero and part peplum jacket. Debs is in the center of the picture, the dress is on the form at the front left.


Wishing to fit in, I sat down and pulled out the Red Leaves shawl to work on. That inspired Debs to introduce me to Chris Sanders, one of the designers who is also a knitter. She brought over a shoulderette she had knit from upholstery trim she had unplied and strips of fabric on US 35 needles (for non-knitters, that's humongo-boat-oar size). It shimmered and draped marvelously.


The array of designs was the most enjoyable aspect. Chris was piecing together a carapace-like vest out of pink eyelash trim and silver relective paper. Right next to her Selma Karaca was draping a lovely dress that recalled Mme. Gres' classically inspired dresses, but in bright red. George Hudacko was using fabric strips and trim to create dress with a woven bodice.


You can see it all yourself now through Wednesday from 12-6 at Location One. The nearest subway stop is the N or R at Canal. After the 13th the workspaces will be left as they were as an exhibit, and then on October 1 there will be a runway show and party. Or, you can watch the whole thing on live streaming video.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 12:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

September 11

The song that I couldn't get out my head for weeks after:

American Tune

Many's the time I've been mistaken,
and many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken,
and certainly misused.
But I'm all right, I'm all right.
I'm just weary to my bones.
Still you don't expect to be bright and bon vivant,
so far away from home,
so far away from home.

I don't know a soul who's not been battered.
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
or driven to its knees.
But it's all right. It's all right.
For we've lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road we're travelin' on,
I wonder what's gone wrong.
I can't help but wonder what's gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying.
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
and looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying,
and high up above my eyes could clearly see
the Statue of Liberty sailing away to sea.
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on the ship they called the Mayflower.
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age's most uncertain hours,
and sing an American tune.
But it's all right, it's all right,
it's all right.
You can't be forever blessed.
Still tomorrow's gonna be another working day
and I'm tryin' to get some rest;
that's all - I'm trying to get some rest.

- Paul Simon -
"There Goes Rhymin' Simon", 1973

A different song sticks in my head when I think about Katrina and New Orleans:

Road to Nowhere

Well we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride

I’m feelin’ okay this mornin’
And you know,
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go


Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care
Here is where time is on our side
Take you there...take you there

We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere

There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right

We’re on a road to nowhere

- Talking Heads -
"Little Creatures", 1985

Posted by Leigh Witchel at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

English Roses

Leftover pictures from my trip to England. I thought we could use something beautiful this week.

A Kensington rose, growing in front of a building near my hotel:


A Bristol rose, from my sister-in-law's garden:


Posted by Leigh Witchel at 1:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 9, 2005

Leigh's Dance Card - The season begins anew

9/15 - Glen Rumsey - ignored in my heaven

9/17 - New Chamber Ballet. Here's a report on a performance from earlier this year.

9/29 Aditi Mangaldas at Asia Society. This was recommended to me by Rajika Puri. She is the "elegant Indian lady in the fur coat" who recommended the Nrityagram dancers to me. That was one of the best performances I saw this year so I take her recommendations quite seriously. She wrote to me after reading my review in Danceview Times and identified herself. I was delighted that she found out how much I appreciated her suggestion. This will be my first time seeing Kathak dance.

9/30 Watching Ligeti Move- All of Christopher Wheeldon's ballets to Ligeti (Polyphonia, Morphoses, Continuum) performed at the same time at the Miller Theatre, Columbia University. The attraction here is getting to see San Francisco dancers (including Yuri Possokhov) that I ordinarily need to fly cross-country to see. It will be interesting to see how the ballets hold up next to each other; they are very similar in many ways.

Upcoming - On the Road

weekend of Oct 7-9 Pennsylvania Ballet in Wheeldon's Swan Lake.

October 24-29 London - RB in La Sylphide and a triple bill and BRB in a triple bill at Sadlers Wells (and visit my brother!)

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September 8, 2005

If Brian Eno made Flash animation

I think it would sound like Magical Trevor or Strawberry Pancakes.

Listen to The True Wheel or Burning Airlines Give You So Much More from Taking Tiger Mountain (by strategy) and see if you hear similarities. (Note: the clips are at Amazon and launch Windows Media Player. There are Real Player clips there as well, use the link to the main album and scroll down.)

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September 7, 2005

Dialogue with the cat: A brief, repeating drama

Scene: The kitchen. I am making khatte channe (chickpeas in tamarind).

I open a can of chickpeas. Even before I pierce the lid She Who Must Be Petted comes racing into the kitchen with her tail twitching.

SWMBP: Meow?

Me: It's chickpeas. Not cat food.

SWMBP: Meow!

Me: You don't like chickpeas. Besides, what's with the can opener deal? I don't even feed you canned catfood.


Me: It's chickpeas!

Repeat until fadeout.

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September 6, 2005

America's own Marie-Antoinette

Barbara Bush on the refugees in the Astrodome:

"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston."

Then she added: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Qu'ils mangent du gâteau de la brioche! (Thanks to Nanatchka for pointing this out. Just goes to show what happens when you translate a translation back into its original language.)

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Knitting update

Ahhh, trains and planes. Choice knitting time.

Both the red leaves shawl and Alexandra's camisole progressed on the flight to Birmingham and a train visit to Mom. I've got one part of the camisole re-knit to the underarm (the same point as before) and the other 1/3 of the way there.

Here's a comparison version of Mark I on the left and Mark II on the right.


Yes, I had to take it in that much.

Red Leaves is close to finished as well. I'm attaching the top edging at present.


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September 5, 2005

Word of Mouth: East and West Coasts

East Coast: Glen Rumsey is the alter ego of the divinely effervescent Miss Shasta Cola. He was also an impeccable dancer with the Merce Cunningham company. He hasn't had time to do much choreography amidst his several lives but what I've seen shows me that he thinks like a choreographer. He's doing an evening length performance piece, ignored in my heaven, at Location One - 26 Greene Street on September 15-17 and 22-24. I'm going.

West Coast: In Seattle, Peter Boal is dancing Duo Concertant with Louise Nadeau in a one-time-only performance. I'll let him tell you more:

It's on 9/17 at 7:30 and only costs $60 for perf. and champagne, details at www.pnb.org. This is my only perf ever! with PNB.
So if you want to see him dance once more, get to Seattle. I would if I could.

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September 4, 2005

Katrina: Ways to help

You all know just how awful the scale of the damage is in New Orleans; there's nothing I can link to that you probably haven't already read.

The no-brainer donation is to the American Red Cross. OK, I lied, I am linking to something, just so you can see the scale of the foul-ups. Billmon's post on an earlier flood shows that some things don't change.

He's also got a huge list of relief organizations. Choose your favorite. However, if you're a miles whore, you can do the same amount of good and feed the miles junkie monkey on your back. A few airlines and hotel chains, including American Airlines and Starwood are offering a miles bonus for donations. Just make the donation through their link - the charity still gets the full donation but you get 500 miles for a donation of $50 and up. Andrew Cram's great Frequent Flyer Resources site has a list of all miles and points programs that are offering to help relief efforts. If you have any orphan miles rotting, or need activity in a dormant program, donate some miles to the cause. Miles or no miles, make the donation.

Hat tip to Flyertalk again.

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September 3, 2005

Are you in Birmingham, AL or New York, NY? A simple quiz:

If you answered "yes" to these questions, look around you. You are not in New York City. You are in Birmingham.

I have answered "no" to all these questions today; I'm already home. It was a very short business visit.

Birmingham was not in the path of Katrina's full fury; it's well inland to the north, due west of Atlanta. I was told that trees had fallen in surrounding environs and power was out for a bit, but by the time I visited on Wednesday night I saw no traces of the storm. I only got to see the city briefly in transit, it reminded me a bit of Lexington, Kentucky, where I danced in 1990-91. The most difficult aspect was the plane ride; two five-hour flights in two days was not great for my back. I'm resting it today. For the first time in a long time I needed to eat in the airport - Northwest only serves snack boxes and I got to the airport 3pm CDT and landed in NYC at 10pm EDT. It was Memphis, I got Barbecue. I tried to be good and get the Barbecue salad instead of more starch. It was a heap of pig on top of iceberg lettuce with BBQ sauce on the side. And no fork. I had already traveled far away from the BBQ stall, so I raced around the concourse desperately with my luggage and found a friendly Starbucks just as my connecting flight was boarding.

I also had the pleasure on my final leg from Memphis to La Guardia of sitting next to the stereotypical young Italian couple from Hell. Marcello and Sophia, or whatever their names were, went through this process: Chatter. Fight. Make Up. Suck Face. Chatter. Fight. Make Up. Suck Face. Repeat, at top volume (yes, even the face-sucking), ad nauseam. I must be getting misanthropic as I get older. I like having a pleasant conversation with my seatmate on a plane, but barring that, I just want to be left alone. They got on the M60 bus into Manhattan as well. I admit it gave me guilty pleasure to watch them wander off the bus in the middle of nowhere on 125th Street. Enjoy the Harlem tour, Marcello!

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September 1, 2005

Cell Phone Etiquette Lesson 435a

It's bad enough to have a long cell phone conversation on a crowded New York City bus. It's worse to have a long conversation about reassuring your friend about his potency ("You had Melanie last year. Your stuff works.") and asking "Is your urine dark or clear?"

Because if you do, the person sitting next to you, whose ear you were shouting in while you talked at the top of your lungs about urine, might blog about it.

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