Dance diary: A studio with a view

Class notes

Last time, I mentioned how my beginner ballet workshop is quite large (about twenty-five people). Well, at our June 26 class we got moved to the studio down the hall, one of the larger studios with tall windows facing Market Street. Our previous studio was fine, just as tall, but there’s so much more room and light here that the former crowdedness doesn’t feel like an issue at all anymore. How can you not be inspired with windows like this?

Dance studio

That Sunday happened to be on Pride weekend, so that means the parade! It was a perfect view of the parade route and the festival in front of City Hall. Though we had to contend with some music and crowd noise from outside, I didn’t mind. It actually made the class feel more energized to me, like, here we are in a big city. Fame!

San Francisco Pride 2011

So class was good. A few new steps and terms: en cloche (literally, “bell”: as applied to a dégagé or battement for example, moving front and back, passing through first position), glissade (sliding step), and various body/arm positions (croisé, effacé, etc.).

Here are some glissades, first simply then with additional jumps (umm, yeah, we didn’t attempt those), from the Royal Ballet’s glossary.

The workshop didn’t meet the next week (July 3) due to the holiday weekend, and though I was tempted to just take a break that day, I went to the open intro class that I’ve been to a couple times before. I like how these two classes sort of complement each other. The beginner workshop lays down the basics, and the intro class steps it up a notch. There are more combinations and jumps. A new one I learned last week is ballonné (I hope I have that right), which basically starts in cou-de-pied, then as you hop, the working leg extends out then comes back in as you land.

Around town

We saw Billy Elliot in San Francisco last week. We’d seen the London production a few years ago while on vacation, and it was great to see the show again and be reminded of how amazing the dancing is. The boys who play Billy are so talented. There is a lot of ballet of course, but also a lot of tap. (I kept thinking, “Hmm, I’d love to learn tap!”) I’m really tempted to see the show yet again before it leaves town in September.

In print

A while back I subscribed to Dance and Pointe magazines, and they’ve started to arrive in the mail. It’s pretty cool, but I will say that, like much of the ballet world, they’re still mostly oriented towards girls and women. I did appreciate the “Next Guys of ABT” feature in the June/July Pointe.

Speaking of magazines, in the July 4 New Yorker, Joan Acocella reviews the Royal Danish Ballet’s recent appearance at Lincoln Center (I was glad to have seen them a couple of months ago in Berkeley) and has this to say:

Bournonville, who is said to have been a superb dancer, emphasized male technique. In his ballets, the men’s steps–beats, air turns, flying jumps, turning jumps–are every bit as hard and as serious as the women’s. In “La Sylphide,” the men do them in kilts, so that we get to see the hardworking thighs. I think all male ballet dancers should perform in kilts.

Amen, sister. (The YouTube clips I came across of the RDB’s La Sylphide aren’t very clear, so instead here’s an early ’90s Alexei Ratmansky as James, though I’m not sure which company this is.) Work that kilt!

‘I’m the same… You just know me better now.’

Happy LGBT Pride Month! I just wanted to post one of my favorite coming-out stories, Michael’s “Letter to Mama” from Armistead Maupin‘s More Tales of the City. By the way we saw the new Tales of the City musical at A.C.T. last week and it was fantastic. We lucked out with friends’ extra tickets, so we will end up seeing it again next week with our original tickets. Definitely go see it if you can! It’s playing at A.C.T. on Geary in San Francisco through July 10. [Update: It has been extended through July 31.]

Tales of the City

By the way, the Tales of the City TV miniseries, which aired on PBS in 1994, is now available for streaming on Hulu.

The letter comes later in the original stories, but I’m so glad they worked it into the musical. I always get a little misty-eyed when I read it, so you can imagine I was full-on crying when it was sung on stage. Enjoy, and Happy Pride.

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‘West Side Story’ at the Orpheum

Last Wednesday afternoon Thom, my mom, my aunt, and I went to see West Side Story at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco. It’s one of those shows that, despite its very familiar story, still gets me a little emotional after all these years. This was a strong production, especially the dancing, which for me is the most enjoyable part of West Side Story.

This new production includes a lot of Spanish, which I think gives some of the Puerto Rican characters’ dialogue and songs more fluidity and immediacy. I understood most of it, gracias to my high-school Spanish. And where the Spanish was less than understandable to me, it actually gave the songs a lofty, operatic feeling, like in “A Boy Like That”/”I Have a Love.”

The orchestra was conducted by our friend Jeff’s partner, John; we first met them a couple of years ago through another Jeff (how many gay Jeffs do you know?), when John was in town to conduct A Chorus Line. Random side note for fellow So You Think You Can Dance fans: the cast we saw included Season 3 finalist Neil Haskell as one of the Jets.

After the performance Thom, the sisters P., and I had dinner at nearby Soluna, an excellent, convenient place for a drink or bite after a matinee or before an evening show at the Orpheum. Thanks to my mom for suggesting the family theater outing!

Idina Menzel with SF Symphony

Last night we went to see Idina Menzel with the San Francisco Symphony, and she was amazing. So funny, so charming, and of course what a voice! Here is the setlist:

Overture from Girl Crazy [symphony]

The Life of the Party (The Wild Party)
I’m Not That Girl (Wicked)
Love for Sale (The New Yorkers) / Roxanne
Funny Girl (Funny Girl)
No Day But Today (Rent)
Poker Face

Comedy Tonight (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) [symphony]
Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music) [symphony]

Gorgeous
Embraceable You (Girl Crazy)
Good Morning, Walker / I Feel So Smoochie
Look to the Rainbow (Finian’s Rainbow)
For Good (Wicked)
Defying Gravity (Wicked)

Tomorrow (Annie)

I wish I had brought my good camera with me, ’cause after the encore and during the several loud, cheering ovations it was a free-for-all with everyone’s cameras out. But we were sitting in the front row, dead center, so I can’t complain. When she sang “For Good,” unmiked and a cappella, it was like she was singing directly to us. Loved it. (I did have this fantasy that hubby Taye Diggs would show up and sit next to us, but he was at home in New York with their baby, Walker. Aww.)

In any case, I did just find a photo on Flickr (credit: T.J. DeGroat), and you can sort of make out me and Thom–we’re in the front row, towards the left of the picture, in the light shirts!

Idina Menzel @ Davies Hall

And there’s more! Here’s a YouTube video I found of “Poker Face,” where you can see us through the little square formed by the railings:

Idina’s tour continues on July 17 at Wolf Trap, and she’s coming back to California (Orange County) later this year.

Audra McDonald with SF Symphony

On Monday night we saw Audra McDonald sing with the San Francisco Symphony, and she was amazing, as usual. This isn’t a full-fledged review, but let’s just say the whole time she had me in a wonderful dreamy haze (alternating with cheering wildly). We had front-row center seats, so it was like she was singing just for us. Here’s her song list; it wasn’t listed in the program, so this is not necessarily complete or in order, only as Thom and I remembered them:

Gorgeous (The Apple Tree)
I Have Confidence (The Sound of Music)
It Might As Well Be Spring (State Fair) / Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever)
Will He Like Me? (She Loves Me)
Can’t Stop Talking (Let’s Dance)
Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (Cabin in the Sky)
The Glamorous Life (A Little Night Music)
There Won’t Be Trumpets (Anyone Can Whistle)

Ribbons Down My Back (Hello, Dolly!)
Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory)
A Little Bit in Love (Wonderful Town)
I Wish I Were in Love Again (Babes in Arms)
Dividing Day (The Light in the Piazza)
Moon River (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
Old Maid (110 in the Shade)
I Could Have Danced All Night (My Fair Lady)
What Can You Lose? (Dick Tracy) / Not A Day Goes By (Merrily We Roll Along)
When Did I Fall in Love? (Fiorello!)

10,432 Sheep (The West Point Story)
Edelweiss (The Sound of Music)
Ain’t It the Truth? (Cabin in the Sky)

A few more notes:

  • The symphony also played The Carousel Waltz as a sort of entr’acte after the intermission.
  • Audra made good on her tweet in which she promised to sing the name of that Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, on a high A-flat. I can’t vouch for pronunciation, but it sure sounded pretty!
  • She told us that when she was a little girl, she auditioned with the song “Edelweiss” with her father accompanying her. (He died three years ago.) Last night she sang it unmiked, accompanied by guitar and violin. So beautiful and poignant.

For Audra’s appearances on PBS singing some of these and other songs, check out AudraMcDonaldFan‘s channel on YouTube.

We’re excited for a couple of upcoming “Summer and the Symphony” concerts: Pink Martini (we’re seeing them on June 2) and Idina Menzel (July 9). Ha, I guess it shows how little I blog anymore: my post about last year’s Pink Martini concert is still here on the home page!

Duncan at the Palace of Fine Arts

Duncan Sheik‘s concert at the Palace of Fine Arts last Saturday was awesome. We had perfect seats in the front row, center, so it was like he was singing just for us. His band opened, including Lauren Pritchard (the original Ilse in Spring Awakening), Holly Brook, Louis Schwadron, and Ben Kalb. Duncan’s set consisted mostly of songs from Spring Awakening and his new show, Whisper House, and also included songs from Daylight (“For You,” “Such Reveries,” “On a High”) and one of the old favorites, “She Runs Away.”

The songs from Daylight really take me back to when I used to live in Washington, D.C. I bought that CD soon after it came out in 2002. I still had an old discman (remember those?) and would keep any given CD in there forever and play it over and over again on my work commute. I listened to Duncan a lot then. We last saw him in concert in Virginia at the Birchmere in 2005.

I didn’t take any pictures from last Saturday’s concert, but here’s a set I found on Flickr, which may in fact be from the folks sitting next to us at the show.