Chihuly Gardens and Glass: A Tribute to the One-eyed Glass God 

Hello dear reader, I am attempting to fulfill a promise of mine. To give a virtual tour of the Seattle Center.

I’m writing a more in-depth piece as we speak, but I wanted to give ya’ll a little taste.

Below is the glass house, an open conservatory with a ceiling covered in Persian (the name of the series, not Middle Easterners).

The glass house looking over the Sun

This is The Sun. Dale Chihuly loves gardens, they were his biggest and earliest influence. Just by taking a glance at his work, one would surmise that he has a love of botany. (That means flowers, guys).

The Sun, at the Center of the Gardens

That is all for now, dear reader. Check back in tomorrow for more…or else.

TRICK OR TREAT! TEDESTEN’S Candid and Hairtrigger Thoughts and HOT TAKES GALORE!

(Previously released BALLET JAMBAROO! from last year)

  1. FOLKINE’S PETROUCHKA:

“Petrouchka” opening seconds: I hate sound stages. They always look cheap and wicked fake but I did like the cinematography and the art direction here. In spite of being thoroughly creeped-out (Happy Halloween!!) from the minute I fired it up on the youtube, I soldiered through this bad boy. I thought the music went very well with the choreography. With syncopation, the music changes to match the dramatic action and the characters reactions/movements. I have to admit that it was cool when the wizard showed up and the stage went dark and he rocked a flute solo. However, the second the clown and the other two figures came to life I was out. The way the clown moved was horrifying—like a dancing version of the scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz.” Very impressive display of physical discipline and ability but I had a better reaction to the first time I saw the scene in “Elephant Man” when he takes the sack off his head. Then when the clown gets thrown into some icy purgatory, it was nowhere near as tragic as David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” pierrot music video. I’ve got no empathy for this clown. That wizard did the responsible thing by banishing him and his crooked smile to this frozen hell-scape. I’ve had anxiety-induced hallucinations that were less disturbing than his guy and his floppy arms.

What the—who’s the guy in black face playing with the coconut?! Juh?? As glad as I am to get away from that clown, how did we get to this guy and his turban and sword and coconut and his blackface? This is very Russian. Somehow, they’ve combined a minstrel show with a sexual nightmare and a sad clown and no happy ending in sight. It’s also winter and there’s a flute-wielding wizard playing fast and loose with the very lives that he himself magically instilled in this figures. And then the bear shows up and is forced to dance. Devil-gimp dance solo…? So far winning competition for best potential Halloween costume of this viewing session.

Needless to say, VERY different from Classical Ballet: clear folk influence and different dance styles for different characters. Syncopated music helps move action in all sorts of directions—it virtually replaces dialogue. As Fokine said, by the music and moves, we have a clear sense of setting (time and place). Dance and mime clearly express all dramatic action. Mime is used by the entire body as the ballet technique dictates and adds to the ballet rather than subtracts (in the case of “Petrouchka,” I’m gonna have to disagree). The corps de ballet is very present here and is more than just human pieces of set. And the final fifth point Fokine makes: he’s got a perfect marriage of all arts being used here to their maximum effect and building each other up rather than getting in each others way. This is a unified composition from the music to the dance and with that the elements are well integrated to form the dramatic narrative.

SoOoo we get to end with the wizard dragging the broken clown corpse through the snow back to his dungeon. Just when you wonder how upsetting and unresolved this ending is going to be, the boundaries of your darkest fears are stretched beyond their capacity. Thanks a bunch, flute wizard! Never trick-or-treating at this guy’s house again unless he’s passing out Klonopin. Be safe tonight, kids!

  1. ANNA PAVLOVA:

“Dying Swan.” I love the music and I love the old movie antique aesthetic. I like her white dress. It’s simple yet elegant and functional. The movement of her arms is what’s really impressive here and on top of that she’s doing this all en pointe. She’s like a top spinning around until it finally falls, which I think this a good visual metaphor for a literal, “dying swan.”

Natalia Makarova:

Makarova’s interpretation of dying swan: Very similar dress and camera work/set. I HATED he cinematography. DON’T MOVE THE CAMERA WHEN THERE’S DANCE SOLO. I worked at Emerson College for 2 years as a TV producer. I sucked. I sucked so bad, my professor—who was a professional producer who worked at NESN (New England Sports Network, which is owned by the Red Sox)—asked me if I was kidding when I told him I was a Studio TV Production Major and said I should seriously reconsider my career while there was still time. I don’t disagree with this seemingly too brutal honesty but as crappy of a producer as I was, I know what not to do with a camera on a sound stage. Don’t move it. Keep it stationary on one subject ESPECIALLY when it’s dance. This isn’t about YOU, Mr. Director! What a GLORY BOY! This is the work of a show off and it’s a distraction and completely takes away from the performance.

But besides that blast from my recent past, to me, Natalie gives me more straight-up swan here, whereas Pavlova gave me more dying—if that makes sense. I think that Pavlova’s swan impression was less swan-like than Makarova’s but she did a better job giving me the sense that she was dying. That spinning-top quality of Pavlova represented death perfectly and it was very clear she was dead at the end. Marakova’ swan could have just been exhausted. I didn’t get as much of a sense of death—her swan was so good that it seemed lively throughout. There wasn’t a display of struggle that I got from Pavlova. I really liked this. I really like seeing the gigantic difference between the two dancers interpretations. I really like the music too. Everything about this is awesome to me, and if I watched Pavlova without having to watch with a critical eye, I’d probably cry if I were in the right setting. This is beautiful and both dancers are fantastic. If I had to show ballet to someone who’d never seen it and needed to explain the importance of the dance as an art and what it can do, I would show them these two videos. I’d play “Dying Swan” at my funeral. The music reminds me of a cello version of “Clair de Lune” by Debussy.

  1. AFTERNOON OF THE FAUN: NIJINSKY

This musical intro sounds like Phantom of the Opera. I like where this is heading for the start. I love the old movie style just like in Pavlova’s “Dying Swan.” This is a lasting affectation from my “film skool” background. I’ll watch anything pre-1927. Just like D.W. Griffith said, the talkies ruined film! Al Jolson’s a GLORY BOY! DISTRACTION! That being said, again I just can’t say it enough: I love the combination of ballet with old cinema and I think it’s a perfect multi-media marriage between the two arts. I had to watch this twice. I’m not sure what exactly happened but that didn’t stop me from liking it—I’m very sure this will be a common refrain of mine when I’m old and super senile.

I love the costumes. Simple. Imply character rather than being garish. The setting is simple too. It implies woods. I do love the cinematography. This is an appropriate use of cuts and camera movements and close-ups. The woman here seems to be dressed in Hellenistic attire. Nijinsky’s movement I think is very good at showing me a faun. There are some sexual undertones but I don’t think it’s anything to shake a purity ring at. I wouldn’t say this is an innocent or chaste encounter—the lady and the faun both know what they came here to do. But I think it’s tasteful for 1912 and today.

THE NUREYEV INTERPRETATION:

Similar costumes, larger set, rocks more than forest. I like how the dancer (and Nijinsky did this too) uses his hands and feet to move like a faun. Pretty unmistakable goat-influence in this portrayal of the mythical beast. I don’t like the big set. It looks like a Led Zeppelin album cover. The 1912 smaller forest setting reminded me of Akira Kurosawa’s “RASHOMAN.” This version is overtly sexual but it doesn’t seem coercive or grotesque. If there is any controversy about the sexual poses and implications, I would say that it would reminds me of the controversy that David Bowie stirred up in his Ziggy Stardust, pan-sexual, androgynous, alien persona. The biggest uproar Bowie caused was when he pantomimed oral sex on Mick Ronson’s guitar on-stage once while Ronson was shredding a guitar solo. The fantasized sexual posturing at the end with the veil doesn’t seem as over the top to me as it could be. The trust is a pretty obvious give away as to what the faun’s got on his mind but again, I’d show my kids this and I’d be willing to bet they’d be lost WAY before anything remotely naughty happened. As a kid, I’d probably be like, “dad, why the hell are we watching this?” I don’t think it’s all that bad but I’m also a horrible judge of what’s appropriate for a general viewing audience and what isn’t. This is part of why I never made it as a big-shot TV producer.

  1. LEONIDE MASSINE: PARADE:

Massine and Picasso: successful collaboration?

First multi-media ballet. Really, these sets aren’t my favorite aspects of Picasso’s work (I’m more of a “Blue Period” kinda guy!). The costumes are interesting but in my opinion, these over-complicated costumes take away from the dance. I do love the make-up but I don’t feel like make-up ever really takes away from physical performance. I think the apparent interest in exoticism comes across as a poor-man’s, Westernized, knock-off of Kabuki theatre. If I was bankrolling this thing and I was shown this I’d say: look, either do a ballet or do a Kabuki but don’t try to do both. Also, for all those costumes and sets, for the money you had to pay haughty ol’ Picasso, you probably could’ve gotten the same stuff from Braque for WAY cheaper. I’m not impressed. This is a good example of when multi-media gets in the way of itself because rather being a cohesive, team effort it’s a showcase for two separate things that just don’t mesh well. As impressive as both arts are, why are they being forced together here? This looks like Picasso was jealous of Alexander Calder and tried to one-up him. I can only imagine the snooty review Marcel Duchamps would write about this ballet and it’s horrifying to admit to myself that I’d agree with him and his Dadaist nonsense.

  1. LOIE FULLER: LASTING IMPRESSIONS ON THE DEVELOPMENTS OF DANCE

What I thought in class was that Modern Dance is like the Fauvism of the dance arts. “…among the wild beasts!” It’s not Impressionic even though it’s all about natural expression and rejection of form and style and discipline. I think of it a lot like Matisse’s Fauvist work. You wouldn’t compare him to Monet, or even Dali or Miro; and you wouldn’t really compare him to Kandinsky. As much as I think of Fauvism here, it makes perfect sense that Modern Dance was closely tied with Art Nouveau. I love Art Nouveau. I’m a huge Gustav Klimpt fan and I love all those posters from that Belle Époque Era. I think the comparison to Modernism makes a lot of sense. Attention to style rather than function. This fits in perfectly with art from the pre-World War I era. And this is the perfect contrast and complete opposite of the Bauhaus art movement that followed WWI that was all about function and minimalism.

It’s clear how Fuller inspired many dancers and choreographers who followed her and how she helped keep the dance arts up with other art forms of the time by ripping it away from its formalist background and history. I think you could make a very compelling argument that what she did for dance helped keep it from growing dormant going into the 20th Century.

  1. ISADORA DUNCAN

I think the influence I see that she has on Fokine and Nijinsky’s work is the way in which they use natural forms and styles in their ballets. I think one obvious example to sight is Nijinsky’s “Afternoon of the Faun.” I thought that stills from that ballet could have easily come right off of an ancient Greek vase. I definitely saw Hellenistic influence in “Faun.” But more than just the Hellenistic and pastoral aesthetic that I would attribute to Isadora Duncan, I would also attribute the movements in “Faun” to Duncan as well. I think the way in which Fokine and Nijinsky add that natural movement to their ballet choreography is definitely influenced by Duncan’s ideas. Also I think that Fokine’s willingness especially to move in this direction in “Petrouchka” where he’s got peasants moving like peasants and policemen moving like policemen is a reflection of what Duncan did in her dance innovations. The clown in “Petrouchka” is a good example of this too because there are a lot of moves that the clown makes that are clearly not “ballet movements.” Fokine uses non-ballet technique to bring life to his characters and motivate his dramatic narrative and still manages to choreograph a show that is 100% ballet. When thinking about Duncan’s influence on ballet (Nijinsky and Fokine), I think the perfect compare and contrast examples would be the part of Odette in “Swan Lake” and the clown in “Petrouchka.” Petipa and Ivanov used formal ballet technique to create the character of the swan whereas Fokine used that rag-doll-like effect to represent his clown. The same can be said of Nijinsky’s Faun’s movements.

INFLUENCE ON FERRI’S DANCE (in her interpretation of the music)

Oh my god when she steps on her foot—that was the definition of GNARLY.

The cinematography here was a gigantic improvement over some of the previous videos (and I liked the abandoned warehouse set). I liked this a lot. I think the minimalism really made it possible for her to showcase her movement in a way that Duncan would describe as, “a celebration of the human body.” Also the music choice and arrangement of the music was important: Bach didn’t intend for this suite to be danced to when he wrote it. Ferri’s dancing was a reaction to music, which gave it that quality of freedom and naturalness.

This interpretation and reaction to music I think is the focus of her overall artistic expression; which is to say showcasing the body itself. This dance is much more free than “Swan Lake.” This was a perfect and beautiful choreographic blend of natural and free movements along with her artistry as a ballerina and pointe technique. I was very concerned going into this that somehow Sting would make this whole thing unwatchable because in recent years the man has become increasingly insufferable in his efforts to demonstrate how multi-talented he is and how far-reaching his artistic interests range. I give credit to Sting for not being his usual, distracting, GLORY BOY self. Ferri is pretty amazing.

  1. RUTH ST. DENIS and TED SHAWN’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF DANCE:

I really liked the interview with St. Denis and I thought she seemed like a really interesting historical figure and artist. Not only that but she also seemed like the brains and passion behind this operation. I’m not saying I think Ted Shawn is some kind of stooge or scrub but the man-dance video did not show me a lot of grit. I think Ruth St. Denis is the real artist and philosopher here. What she talks about in her interview is philosophically ages ahead of her time. Modern Ethics (from the last 50 years up today) is all based on the same ideas that St. Denis presents about the singularity of the human experience. James Rachels’ and Martha Nussbaum (two very important modern philosophers and ethicists) have based all of their ideas on the fact that all humans are the same and that the “oneness” of humanity cannot be denied and that any and all denial of this fact is where we as humans go astray.

I think it’s obvious that St. Denis was clearly addresses the dawn of the Modern Era when she talks about the increasingly automated world and how we mustn’t let ourselves get too far away from our true selves because we cannot deny our nature and in spite of all our technological advancements, we are natural beings.

I don’t know a lot about the history of dance or the essence of the art itself but what St. Denis said made me feel like I could understand dance and that because I am human I already have this inherent understanding of dance. This is a revolutionary theory on dance. It appears to me that St. Denis (and Shawn) made it their goal to make dance an accessible art form to all people and secondly, to validate all forms of dance as part of the collective of the art form. It seems like they went beyond Duncan’s ideas about form and made a point to show the world that anybody could dance and that dance in all forms was art.

St. Denis saw dance as a universal language. To her it was a way by which we as humans could all communicate with one another. I think this was a very important philosophy especially in the Age of Industry. We are humans, not machines. For its time this proactive message is revolutionary and today I think it has proved itself to be timeless. Through dance, we acknowledge the universality of true human nature and thus by this active acknowledgement through artistic expression we do not wait for the world to be better but instead help in making it better.

To me, the exotic themes of their work are a demonstration of how every culture around the world has dance and that all dance is art. I also think that being Americans and bringing this idea about accessibility to America was extremely important in our own cultural development. They were founding members of the American dance movement and gave us a school of thought and artistic expression that had a truly American identity.

I’ve come away feeling very positively about the future and thinking about what’s going on here with dance. I think Ruth St. Denis’ ideas are very inspirational and it’s life affirming to hear an artist speak about their art and their philosophy without an air of pretention. Her message goes beyond dance and art itself and it reminds us why we do what we do in the first place. This is a message of hope. Just when you think you’ve lost yourself walking on the edge of sanity completely, you can always dance your way back. It is an affirmation of a truth about life that we forget far too often: in spite how it all may seem, all can never really be lost.

A Young Actor Doing Hamlet Badly

When I was in sixth grade we read “Hamlet” and put on an in-class production of the abridged version of the play. I played Hamlet. I was eleven years old and even at that tender age I was very aware that I did not do a good job. At that point, I had only just recently conquered my old foe: illiteracy. I took painstaking effort to learn all of my lines. The way my English teacher had us audition was by having everybody in the class read the famous, “To be or not to be speech” out loud and then everyone got to vote on who they wanted to see play Hamlet. I ended up landing the lead role by reading the famous speech in a British accent and being way over the top, which of course everyone thought was hilarious. I desecrated what is most likely the most well known dramatic soliloquy in all Western Theatre and possibly the world. And with that inauspicious beginning, I proceed to absolutely butcher William Shakespeare’s masterpiece.

It’s almost inconceivable to imagine an eleven-year-old kid mailing in a performance so half-assed that it would put Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole’s drunkest onstage antics to downright shame. I consciously put in a horrible effort. I tanked the show. I mumbled through all my lines in my crappy British accent as fast as I could possibly say them. I was the most apathetic and disinterested Hamlet of all time. I barely moved on stage. Imagine if you will a completely detached, disinterested, and frosty Hamlet just going about his business. My Hamlet shuffled aimlessly through Elsinore Castle without batting an eye or giving second thought to a damn thing. My Hamlet was the coolest without the slightest display of anything that could even have the outside chance of being mistaken for a real human emotion. My Hamlet approached life in the terrifyingly all too casual way that professional murders do. When I killed Polonius, it was epically cold. “Dead for a ducat…dead…” I did that line so matter-of-factly it completely summed up my eleven-year-old analysis of the character: just an emotionless, surly, and sarcastic sociopath. I was history’s saddest, most withdrawn Hamlet of all time.

When we were done with our study of “Hamlet”, I could tell that I had let down my whole English class. They expected me to lead an absolutely disrespectful and gloriously insipid and juvenile romp through this great tragedy. I chose instead to be just plain bad. Nobody ever said anything to me about it but I could tell everyone was kind of miffed that I didn’t make it funny. I didn’t make fun of “Hamlet” like I did in my “To be or not to be” audition. I didn’t just do a bad job on purpose for the sake of saving my participation grade. I did a bad job because I realized something very important as an actor while I was killing myself over learning all those damn lines: you cannot keep up your eccentric and idiotic shtick if you’re going to be onstage for the vast majority of the play. The lead actor can’t just hit the same button and expect the same laughs and keep his audience interested. Being one-noted and going for cheap laughs is so much worse than just being boring and awful. Trying too hard is a grievous error especially when you are purposefully going out of your way to make the worse acting choice possible. In this case, the choice was between mocking “Hamlet” and killing a bad joke over and over and over again or mailing it in and trying to get through it as quickly and relatively painlessly as possible.

“Hamlet” the play itself is all about choices and specifically in the “To be or not to be” speech it is about the thought process and motivation for making those choices. I learned an invaluable lesson in that class as an aspiring actor, entertainer, and performer about making choices. An eleven-year-old is in way over is head when he takes on the role of “Hamlet” but I also think every actor needs to approach the role the same way in which I was forced to approach it. An actor really has to decide whether or not they really can be Hamlet. Had I realized this earlier, I would have tanked my audition to guarantee myself a nice and easy spot as Bernardo or one of the other guards. No heavy lifting. Just get really scared when the ghost spooks you! I could’ve even gotten away with being a subversive and distracting Bernardo and gotten my precious laughs. But this was not the case. My sixth grade English teacher was on to something by conducting the auditions in the way that she did by making everybody have to really dedicate some time to reading and interpreting the “To be or not to be” speech. That speech will make or break a Hamlet. To a lot of people, that speech is “Hamlet.” That speech is all that some people even know about Shakespeare. If you can’t figure out as an actor how you want to do that soliloquy then you should seriously consider backing down and giving up on the role because not only is it extremely well known and highly regarded culturally, but it really is integral to the character and the play itself. This play is cerebral.

I have to admit that “Hamlet” is not my favorite of Shakespeare’s work. At the risk of sounding like an unrefined contrarian, I do not like “Hamlet.” I don’t just dislike “Hamlet” because of how it devastated any shred of confidence my dopey sixth grade self had, but there’s something about the title character that did not resonate with me then and continues not to resonate with me today. My issues have evolved as I’ve gotten older and more learned, however my core issues with Hamlet remain.

I’ve never liked the character in any capacity. Even in sixth grade I thought he was whiny and too often insufferable. Every time I’ve read it since, it always strikes me at some point that Hamlet is also thirty-three years old. That is pretty old to be so disagreeable and cantankerous. The argument everyone likes to ponder about Hamlet is whether or not he is pretending to be insane. Because of the way I feel about him, I feel like if he has gone insane then he’s soft and my inner, super, hardcore, West Texas High School football coach says that he should nut-up and be a man and quit moping like a punk. He’s thirty-three for god sakes. Jesus was thirty-three when he got tacked up and he didn’t whine about it! And according to Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” ol’ Jesus took quite a beating.

Speaking of Mel Gibson, I like his Hamlet the best because he’s a psycho and clearly wants to do something funky to his mom. I thought Kenneth Branagh was terrible. He was just weird. To me, it’s almost like Branagh is too intelligent to play such a hotheaded man-child. Gibson actually is a crazy person in real life and is possibly the greatest rage-oholic of his generation. To the horror of every educated person I’ve ever discussed this with, I’m not afraid to admit Mel Gibson is my favorite Hamlet.

So then there’s also the case that Hamlet is simply acting insane to get his revenge on King-Uncle-Father Claudius. Little more than kin and less than kind! I have way less empathy for Hamlet if this is his plan to get revenge. It’s objectively stupid as evidenced by absolutely everybody winding up dead by the end of the play. Could things have possibly gone worse? No, definitely not. My inner red-state high school football coach says Hamlet’s a grown-ass man and this is just idiotic behavior. It’s distracting and achieves nothing. Hamlet’s acting like a rookie. Thirty-three years old and he’s playing pretend and gambling with peoples’ very lives? That’s a little old to be pouting and playing pretend to get your way.

All of that said, by the time I’ve gotten to Act 3 Scene 1, I’m just waiting for Fortinbras to come in like a boss and smite all these chumps. But my personal opinions and my feelings are beside my point. I feel like Hamlet is the most difficult role for an actor in all theatre because it is the ultimate role in all theatre. Everybody knows it even if they haven’t read it. It’s like the “Casablanca” of theatre in a way; it is the origin of all the clichés that came after it. But what’s strange about the play and the role is that it is so cerebral and such a fascinating and in-depth study of the human psyche that it requires not just a good actor but also a smart actor.

I think if there were any actor who I’d actually cast as Hamlet it would have been Toshiro Mifune—who I think is the Japanese Marlon Brando—or I would have cast Tupac Shakur. Both of those actors to me are explosive and I’ve seen them in roles where they are convincingly blind with rage and still compelling and sympathetic. I would not cast Brando as Hamlet. Brando is very good at portraying a character who struggles with their own vulnerability but he is too laconic to be Hamlet. Hamlet is verbose. The man is wordy. Brando is anything but wordy. I think Tupac would have been a great Hamlet because when you listen to his music you hear a man express his inner pain yet try to hide behind his carefully crafted façade of masculinity and strength. Tupac was also a verbose man and easily one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. I would fight anybody and to death if they argued with me that Tupac wasn’t top ten poets of the twentieth century. Now that is something I’d rage about. Getting revenge for my dad’s ghost? I’d be hard pressed to find it in me to muster up some kind of motivation toward seeking vengeance.

I can’t put myself in Hamlet’s shoes. I couldn’t back in sixth grade, and I can’t do it now. I think, interestingly, that one thing that makes me think that Tupac would have made such a great Hamlet was because he never lived to be thirty-three years old. Tupac was murdered when he was only twenty-five. That’s insanely young considering how much art he was able to produce both in film and in music. Tupac had the fury of a young, hotheaded man. Tupac was also a classically trained actor who attended Baltimore School for the Arts where he actually performed some of Shakespeare’s plays. I think he could play Hamlet either way too. He could play truly insane Hamlet or he could play a calculating Hamlet and be convincing as either. I think this is a valuable opinion as a man who has absolutely no love for the role or the play. I would kill to have seen Tupac as Hamlet and I think there are a lot of people out there who would agree with me. Check him out as the character Bishop in the movie, “Juice.” The man would have been the greatest Hamlet of all time.

I respect William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as a great tragedy but I do not enjoy it. I think it’s overdone. When I first read it ten years ago, I had very high expectations going in and I came out very disappointed. I was only eleven years old and just barely literate and even I had some preconceived ideas about what “Hamlet” was all about. Everybody knows “Hamlet.” That’s a big part of why I’d say it’s a difficult role to play. Everybody sees it differently and everyone has their own vision of Hamlet. I would prove this point by challenging any actor to use “To be or not to be” as their core audition piece for any audition they go to. Nobody who wants a job in theatre would even dare to do that. That takes either some monumental irrational confidence and audacity, or actual insanity. Furthermore, in that soliloquy alone, how do you recite lines that everybody knows by heart and make them sound like your own? How do you make that speech sound new to people who have heard it a billion times or more? I argue it’s got to be the most difficult task in all of theatre. Back when Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole were doing it, Burton would just leave the speech out completely when he was playing Hamlet. Although Burton probably left it out because he was drunk and just wanted to irritate people, I can totally see why an actor would make the choice to go ahead and skip it for the sake of their overall performance.

An actor can either do it or he can’t. That might be the only two kinds of actors there are: those who can be, and those who cannot be Hamlet. “To be or not to be” really is not only the starting place for approaching this role but also it is the question. Do you have what it takes to be Hamlet? If you end up accidently landing the role of Hamlet and realize to your own horror half way through learning your lines that you have absolutely no business playing Hamlet, then all you can do is pray to your maker that your sixth grade English teacher will not force you to go through with it. My participation grade in our sixth grade rendition of “Hamlet” ended up being a “B-minus.” That’s probably the most generous review I’ll ever get in the aftermath of a performance that was nothing short of a horrible failure. In retrospect, that totally unearned “B-minus” was actually my teacher thanking me for not making an utter fool of myself for the sake of petty laughs trying to make “Hamlet” into a comedy. Don’t make “Hamlet” into a comedy. To this day, I think I owe the bright future of my career to making the unprecedentedly wise choice as a young actor not to do that. As a young actor who did Hamlet badly, the lesson here is this: when in doubt, save yourself the slings and arrows and sea of troubles and instead do the wise thing and choose not to be.

BALLET JAMBAROO! Your Humble Fine Arts Correspondent

  1. Agnes De Mille on “Oklahoma”

I think that the choice of using the ballet in the middle of the musical “Oklahoma” made sense in the way that Agnes De Mille explains it. Agnes De Mille describes this very common plot device in the story: a girl must choose between two lovers and in the non-verbal ballet she makes her decision. This sort of plot device is executed in many ballets without words. I thought about “Giselle” here and how much the ballet in “Oklahoma” had in common with it. Two men competing for a woman’s love. I think that the ballet works well to show that Laurie is afraid of Jud and is in love with Curly. If one was going to throw in a ballet routine into a musical to develop the characters and story through movement alone without spoken words or songs, this is the perfect opportunity to use ballet. I think it was well used by De Mille.

  1. “Lilac Garden”

Now this is my kind of ballet: a practice in the elegance and beauty of simplicity. I love the set: dark blue with just a moon, and the costumes: highly functional and they indicate character without being overt or obvious. When I think of the Edwardian Era, I think of FROSTINESS and a post-Victorian England that was a wee bit too much in favor of Prussia’s haughty Kaiser, Nephew Willy II. I love the violin solo to go along with the woman’s solo. The music combined with the dancing conveys the character’s emotion very well and also helps clarify who she is, whom she has feelings for, and what exactly those feelings are. I think that the music and dancing combine to show us the innermost feelings of the characters that would otherwise never ever be expressed in such a repressive society. I like that there is no use of mime. There are gestures but I feel like mime would take away from this performance, which to me is all about expression of repressed or hidden emotion. Mime is too paradoxically obvious and yet somehow cannot fully convey deeper emotions and feelings. Perfect combination of music and dance.

From the music, I got a lot of the emotion and from the dance I got a lot of the dramatic narrative. During one of the duets I understood that these two dancers were the lovers saying goodbye. Apart from the glaring absence of lilacs, I thought the plot was very easy to follow and I enjoyed in thoroughly despite having a red-hot prejudice against English Gardens—if there is one thing that defines TEDESTEN, it is his violent and passionate preference of French Gardens over English Gardens. My brother—an Oxford man—prefers English gardens because he’s a barbarian. One time when we were in Seville, Spain on a jaunt about the Parque de Maria Luisa we got into a heated dispute over which was superior: French or English Gardens. I sought to end the argument by relieving myself Jim Morrison-style in the section of the El Parque that was arranged in the fashion of an English Garden. This depraved act led to a full-blown fistfight. I lost badly and ripped my favorite shirt in the scuffle. The lesson I learned here was that you should not conduct yourself like Ernest Hemingway when you visit Spain no matter how badly you want to be the sophisticated manly-man FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS!

  1. BALANCHINE’S NEO-CLASSICAL STYLE

TCHAIKOVSKY:

Attention to technique and discipline. Focus is more on the female dancer. There are conventional ballet movements used throughout. There is no mime. The set and costumes are minimal. Any sort of dramatic narrative is unapparent and beside the point. The focus is the dancers themselves. There is an impressive male solo and an impressive female solo. This is really straight-up, textbook, pas de deux.

I like this because characters and plots aren’t being forced upon me. There is a nice intellectual reprieve here. I can just sit back and enjoy the dance and music and be impressed with what’s going on without being bombarded with things like mime and tawdry costumery.

I would describe my viewing experience of this Tchaikovsky/Balanchine’s Pas De Deux as “refreshingly mindless”—and I mean that in the very best way possible. I don’t have to strain my little grey cells and force out some half-baked musings on whether or not the movement and music is conveying diddly-doo. It’s like turning on a great Mexican Futbol League Championship game and not knowing any of the players or news stories from behind the scenes leading up to this epic face-off. This is just unencumbered great stuff to watch. You know a good soccer game when you see one and you know a good ballet when you see one. You don’t need to know what the teams are or what’s going on. Just take in the experience and enjoy these peoples’ physical talents.

STRAVINSKY:

Ohhhhh Stravinsky…how you irk me… “Agon” means, “Contest” in Greek. The contest here is TEDESTEN vs. the CLOCK: how long I can go before I need a Klonopin. There’s four guys in some hideous costumes—soon to be joined by a bunch of ladies in totally awesome costumes. I do like that the sets and that costumes are simple but Jesus H. Christ: white shirts, black pants, and white shoes???? What the hell is that!!??? These guys look like schmucks. This look is only expectable if you’re waiting for a school bus to take you to your JAMES DEAN SUPER-KEWL HOLLYWOOD HIGH SKOOL in 1956 and it’s just too damn hot outside to be rockin’ that slick leather jacket of yours. I wear the non-spandex version of this when I’m trying to dress like a “normal” person. Underwhelming. HATE IT.

This is a perfect example of NOT being, “refreshingly mindless.” This is, in fact, the exact opposite of what I meant when I was describing the Tchaikovsky/Balanchine Pas De Deux. There’s a bunch of dancers and a bunch of music and even though you aren’t having a dramatic narrative with some characters all up in your grill, you end up just begging for some of that with Stravinsky. The music just goes in so many different directions that it loses my interest almost immediately because it’s always instantly apparent that it’s not going anywhere. Without a narrative to keep things cohesive, it’s just boring and it cannot hold my attention. It’s difficult to follow along and without structure an impartial audience quits immediately.

As far as the choreography goes it’s clearly a break from the hardcore, technical conventions of ballet technique but I would make the argument that the boundaries here are more than bent; they are broken. When you break from structure of any artistic medium, you run the risk of losing your audience. I would sight how inaccessible a lot of Marcel Duchamp’s work is and the vast majority of all Dadaist work. The movements are more natural, I’d use the word “flowy”, and I’d say as a whole they are “free” reactions to the music. Do the free and natural movements and deviation from conventional ballet technique work with the music? Yes, I would say they do because of the nature of Stravinsky’s work regardless of my feelings toward it. But as well as the choreography and music “work” together, I just think this is a break from structure that I don’t think even tries to, “EXPLORE THE BOUNDARIES OF BALLET AS AN ART IN AN AVANT-GARDE WAY, MAN!”

I think it’s inaccessible in the way sometimes jazz can be inaccessible. I like a lot of weird music. I like art-rock. I like shoe-gazer music even though I’m not the kinda guy you’ll ever catch candy-flippin’. But when it comes to a lot of jazz it’s a lot of music that’s for musicians—specifically for other jazz musicians. Maybe if I knew more about ballet I’d be down with this Neo-Classical style but I can’t even pretend that I can handle it. HOT TAKE ALERT!! : I think that Kanye West’s latest album, “YEEZUS” puts Stravinsky to shame. Neoclassical, dissidence, juxtaposition, sudden, unexpected, (read: unwanted), and unanticipated changes/whatever-interpolation-style music doesn’t have to be jarring to listen to. “YEEZUS” is an artist masterpiece where keys and time signatures are completely disregarded and a dramatic narrative is successfully and cohesively apparent throughout the album. I would start a fistfight in an English Garden in an instant if some self-aggrandizing dudebro proclaimed that Stravinsky was a superior composer to Kanye West. I’d win that fight and then pee on his Stravinsky gym mixtape just to rub it in. Stravinsky can eat a bag of ripped peat moss.

  1. MARTHA GRAHAM

I like her monologue about the dressing room. Sort of a Virginia Woolf, “Room of One’s Own” essay flashback to my days as a young scholar in A.P. Literature. I agree with her, I’d KILL to have my own office on campus. Or a van that I could put an office in like an FBI agent. One day I’ll write that essay when I end up living in a van called, “A VAN OF ONE’S OWN” by TEDESTEN. Hobos of the world will demand I get the Pulitzer!

“NIGHT JOURNEY”: Ok, so we’ve got a dance interpretation of Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”. The STAR WARS prologue tells us, the audience, what the plot of this dance is and what emotions will be shown by the characters via dance and music.

I think it’s interesting that this is based on the climactic scene from the famous Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex” because Isadora Duncan, the pioneer of Modern Dance, was also really inspired by the Ancient Greeks. Early Modern Dance appears to have been heavily influenced by choreographers’ common inspiration and interest in Hellenistic aesthetics and themes.

From what I could see I think some techniques that Martha Graham developed for Modern Dance included dramatic narrative-driven/plot-motivated movements that also expressed character. I feel like she found a way of combining natural movements that were made in reaction to the music that combined to both represent the characters and to motivate the action. For instance, everybody freezes and the blind seer Tiresias enters with this strange, hopping motion that (somehow) tells us he’s blind and also concerned. We also understand that this is a tragic scene by the way that back-up dancers are gesticulating and reacting to the music. Emotion, character, and action are all conveyed using a combination of natural and stylized movements.

I don’t really feel any which way about Martha Graham. I don’t know why, but it reminded me of the way people move in opera. Something about the combination of natural and stylized movement. I wasn’t into it. I guess because I’ve read and seen “Oedipus” I didn’t feel like I’d go out of my way to see someone’s Modern Dance interpretation of it. I didn’t like it but I didn’t dislike it. It worked as far as showing me “Oedipus” but I feel very whatever about it.

  1. DORIS HUMPHREY AND CHARLES WEIDMAN

DORIS HUMPHREY:

More Hellenistic-inspired dress and set. Free and natural and flowing movements to go along with the music. This is a non-narrative exploration of Modern Dance. I have no idea what was going on or what happened. All of the movements were subtle in contrast to “NIGHT JOURNEY”. I think that her interest in natural body movement and interest in nature and movement itself is apparent here. In “Water Study” I thought she was trying to demonstrate how through movement the human body could be anything in the natural world because we are natural beings ourselves. The lightness in the movements in “AIR” were much, much more subtle and I thought it didn’t show humans trying to BE air but rather humans behaving in the manner of air. I had to watch it twice because I misread the title and did not realize she was trying to portray “AIR” but it all made perfect sense.

This was a bit of a toughy for my dyslexia/ADHD and it was a VERY slow two and half minutes. I agree with what I can only guess Humphrey was trying to articulate: air really is pretty boring.

CHARLES WEIDMAN:

90 seconds of glory in “LYNCHTOWN”. Wowie zowie I don’t know what I just saw. This group of men worked together in a tightly choreographed piece that was clearly an exercise in Modern Dance. I think I’d have to see more of Weidman’s work to make a real judgment or critique here. I’m certain this is physically difficult. It was a good display of physical discipline and teamwork. I think all the dancers worked well together and danced well along to the music but I really don’t know what was going on. Is this just dance for the sake of dance? I guess I just don’t know how exactly to approach Modern Dance. I don’t have a good grasp on it whereas I’ve got something of idea about what’s going on in a ballet.

At the risk of ending this Ballet Jambaroo on a rather flat note, I’ll say it was well executed!