Monday, April 30, 2007

A Dead Sea Lion, Cavaliers, and Sharks

Back from a lovely weekend.

Saturday... a trip to Julian. Up in mountains. Very nice drive up. Walkies. Nice Italian food at Romano's and nice Apple Boysenberry cider at the Cider Mill.

Sunday... a day trip to Laguna Beach.

Walkies on the beach. Lots o dogs!
I didn't realize that Laguna Beach was such a dog friendly place or I would have taken my schnauzer. Unlike most beaches in California, you can actually take your dog on the beach all day log. At least during the not peak months (June to September are peak, when the place is crowded.)

During the walk, we passed by a dead sea lion that had just washed up on shore. It was a small one. As long as I have lived in San Diego, I have never seen one wash ashore, which when you think of it, they must all the time. Odd seeing it roll back and forth with the tides. It didn't seem as if it had been in any sort of violent trauma. Just died somehow.

But back to the fun side of Laguna Beach. It is a very doable touristy place. Everything is close to the beach and the galleries are very people friendly. Not much parking though. So go early on a Sunday 9-ish and park in the all day lot on Canyon (It's the right turn after the little movie theatre.) It's ten bucks, but you won't need your car all day and is very convenient to go back and forth from the beach. Ate at... Javier's! Get there at around 6 before the big dinner rush or it is too crazy!

So today, I went back to teach at Chula Vista Middle, home of the Cavaliers. The girls were still working very hard and seemed to be enjoying the dances and music. I am about halfway through teaching the steps. Should be done by Wednesday. Then I can start placing them.

Since I was in Laguna, let us take an aquatic trip.

Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley

This image made a big impression on me the first time I saw it in a book.

Years later, I went to the National Gallery in Washington DC and came face to face with it. It is a big painting, so it has a big impact. There is a very detailed critique of the painting, painter and subject at the National Gallery's official website.

It IS based on a real life incident. Evidently, the young Watson went for a swim in Boston Harbor and was attacked by a shark. Just to put your mind at ease, he was saved. He DID lose his right foot, as is suggested by the fact that the lower part of his right leg is not visible. The things that always struck me were...

The nudity of Watson. Paintings of this era and school rarely show nude forms. Given his proximity to the boat and the how far away they were from land, it always seemed as if he had fallen from the boat. Which made no sense what so ever.

Watson's gaze. It has been said that he seems as if he is in a state of shock. To me, it seems as if he is clearly viewing his impending doom. Upside down! Helpless! I used to be on the swim team and I HATED the backstroke. Every time the water would splash in my face in that position it was like drowning a little.

The shark. The thing is huge! And rather than detract, the painter's lack of knowledge of real shark anatomy makes for an allegorical beast from the depths.

Watson seems suspended between the real world (the frantic emotional sailors) and a deeper more mysterious horrible truth. He has more of a relationship with the shark than the men. Indeed, the painting makes it seem inevitable that Watson is an instant from crossing over to that other state, but we know that in less than an instant he will be "saved."

There is more to this painting on a metaphysical level than just a snapshot of a moment.

This painting was a huge hit when it was first shown. Partially because of the subject matter and nude male figure. Before the days of television and film, paintings WERE the visual art of the day. When looking at a painting of this (or any time), you have to look... and look... and look.

And some paintings demand that you look at them, like Watson and the Shark.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back to Junior High

Okay, as predicted I went to yesterdays event (Youth Involvement in the Arts) and we had to breakout into discussion groups. And of course... my table won!!!!

Just kidding, but I always like to make these things fun. So anyway, even though our "win" was self proclaimed, many thanks to Melanie, Jenna, Derrick, Robin, and Ann... for kicking the *#% of all the other tables!

So we came up with many "brilliant" plans to introduce to get younger people involved in the arts.

Ballet Clubs on college campuses.
Bringing young people onto boards.
Philanthropy Training.
Peer to peer pairing of young people with young dancers.

Lots O Stuff.

Today, we had to send off a California Arts Council Grant for "Artists in Residence" in Schools. This was complicated by the fact that I was covering for Beverly at Chula Vista Middle (a school for creative and performing arts). I am setting some jazz pieces on the dancers. Fun music! Fun dancing! Next week we shall talk about... Jazz dancing!

Okay, today's favorite thing is cheese!

Now, I can't stand the blue moldy cheeses. Or anything that doesn't come out of a cow. But bring on the ultra super sharp cheddars.

Nummy nummy.

Its one of the reasons that I love to go to England (that and seeing friends.) Davidstow and Redd Leicester. When I came back from England last year, a dear friend (Thank you Diane!) practically filled my suitcase with cheese. I was worried that it would be taken from me at Heathrow, but the ticket agent just gave me more advice on cheeses I should get the next time I go.

One of my favorite places to go is Taste Artesian Cheese in Hillcrest.
It will cost ya, but it is a cheese lovers delight. And next to a delightful wine place.

Oh, so sophisticated.
Oh, so cosmopolitan.

Go to their website...

And click on the cheese link.
It's Internet nirvana for cheese lovers.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Business as Usual

So today, I taught company class.
I normally teach on Fridays, but Robin had a schedule conflict today and I have one on Friday, so we switched.

Just as I thought, posting that I would finish the invite for the Auction forced me to do so. That being done, I can now move one of the myriad of other things I need to do forward.

Today's main duty is attendance at a San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture event.

They are releasing the results of a Youth Involvement in the Arts survey. The good news is that it is happening here at the NTC. One building away. So I can just take a small jaunt over there.

I always try to sit in the front with my San Diego Ballet sweatshirt. I also like to smile at the presenters. It unnerves them. It is how I get my malicious jollies. "Okay! Entertain me!"

Afterwards, there is usually a question and answer round table thing, another opportunity for vigorous dialogue. I used to be shy about speaking up at these things. (I am still painfully shy around people, but in my public capacity I have gotten over that. You gotta do, what you gotta do.) So anyway, I try to make sure, no I MAKE sure, my voice is heard.

Let's get it over with.

The Red Shoes by Powell and Pressburger.

It was made at a time when "serious" dance had not been filmed much. So they were learning as they were going. It isn't my favorite Powell and Pressburger film (that would be Black Narcissus), but it may be their most important one. Coincidentally, it is also one of Martin Scorsese's favorite films.

This was THE ballet movie that made thousands of little girls rush to ballet schools to devote their lives to dance. Given the fact that the heroine of the movie doesn't necessarily come to a happy end, that says a lot for the power of seeing dance on the screen. Now, when watching this movie, you really have to remember that dance technique has come along way in 60 years. In comparison, think of Olympic athletes. Compare the gymnasts, track athletes, figure skaters of today to those of the 30's.

That said, there are some wonderful qualities that you can see in the dance in this film.

Moira Shearer was a soloist with the Royal Ballet when she was offered the role of Vicki, the girl who was consumed by dance. She almost didn't take it, but the company director told her to "do it so that the producers of the movie would stop bugging them." Shearer herself doesn't love her performance in the movie. She prefers her dancing in Tales of Hoffmann (a later Powell and Pressburger film.) That said, she is lovely in technicolor wafting around in Robert Helpmann's overwrought choreography.

The movie itself deals with the backstage intrigues of a ballet company. A ballet company based on the traveling Ballet Russes. The ballet master was played by one of the stars of the Ballet Russes, Leonide Massine.

The big moment comes with the actual Red Shoes ballet at the center of the film. Now, it is very important that you have listened to everything that the actors have said before this (and every image that the director has given you.) Because while the ballet actually takes place on a stage, it then goes into the dancers mind. So we see her dancing through her feelings and memories.

So when you watch it, you have to remember that there are some effects that are not meant to be literal.

Shoes stand on their own and as she jumps into them they lace themselves up automatically ( a startling effect.) It is meant to be. It is meant to make you realize "Oh, we aren't quite in the real world anymore."

This juxtaposition of real and unreal can be a bit jarring. There are also moments in the ballet where things don't quite seem to make sense.

Why is she dancing with a newspaper?

Why do the dancers turn into clouds and flowers?

What is with the audience that turns into an ocean?

All these things are explained by the dialogue that came BEFORE. So PAY ATTENTION!!!

The end of the movie takes the whole "you cannot have it all" idea to the extreme. I won't divulge too much, but lets just say that theaters shouldn't be built over train tracks.

The Red Shoes really is a movie that needs to be watched twice. Maybe a year or two apart.

If nothing else, you will leave with the memory of Vicky's first discussion with Lermontov the director of the ballet company.

Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?
Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Lermontov: I don't know... but somehow I must.
Vicky:... Well, thats my answer too.

Moira Shearer recently passed away in January of 2006

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Busy Busy

So now that the season is basically over, its vacation time, yes?


Now is the time where we need to raise money to make up for those optimistic ticket projections (so send in those donations).
Now is the time to get the funding in place for next year's season (so send in those donations)
Now is the time where we are getting our collaborative summer program in place.

But we haven't really finished, we have an independent choreographer's concert coming up on the 5th & 6th of May.

Another of my graphic art creations. At this point, I am not choreographing anything for this evening, but one never knows. I may have to whip up a quick something if the dancers already involved need some breathing space.

I haven't seen what the choreographers have done, so unless I drop in on rehearsals, it will be a big surprise to me.

I also have to design the invitations for our upcoming fundraiser on June 2. I am saying that I will do that tonight, so it will force me to do so.

That being the case, I will sign off, but not before...

a new feature of my blog.

My brother (older) always used to torment me by using different variations of my name. Actually, no one in the family has ever called me Javier. I have an established nickname... which may or may not be divulged.

Anyway, at one point during our high school years, my brother settled on Harvey as a variant of Javier. Since I had always had a soft spot for the Jimmy Stewart movie about the big invisible bunny, I didn't mind. It was after all preferable to some of the things he came up with. So as he had children, they all grew up calling me... Uncle Harvey.

So I'll use this place in my blog to mention some movies or artwork that mean something to me artistically or as the Quakers used to say, "speaks to my condition."

First up.

Shall We Dance, but not the Jennifer Lopez version. The original Japanese version. If you have ever experienced any sort of "love" for dance, you MUST see this movie. But this isn't a Wham-Bam movie. You really need to be willing to spend sometime getting to know some wonderful characters in a foriegn culture. But its more than worth it.

Koji Yakusho is amazing as Mr. Sugiyama, a businessman who is having a mid-life crisis. All his life he has done what is expected of him. So one night, he gives into an urge, He goes and signs up for ballroom dance lessons. Which is taboo in Japan. But Yakusho is brilliant in the movie. Like all of the characters in this movie, he blossoms as it goes on.

Tamiyo Kusakari plays a ballroom dancer at the crossroads of her career. One of the highlights of the movie is a scene which shows her dancing alone in a studio as she is reciting a letter of thanks to the above mentioned Mr. Sugiyama. She has the MOST beautiful arms as she glides across the floor. A hallmark of Japanese society (which plays an important part in the movie) is that it is bad taste to display emotions. But all of these characters show (through dance) the beauty of allowing those emotions to come out.

No comment. You just need to see this performance to believe it.

Like the movie, Strictly Ballroom, this movie deals with the world of competitive ballroom dance. But even though it has a sympathetic couple, Strictly Ballroom is an ultimately caustic view of the world. Shall We Dance is like a dream.

And of all of the characters in the movie, none is more wonderful than Reiko Kusamura as an older dance instructor. Whenever she opens her mouth, everything is right in the world. Imagine one of those all-knowing wise men in hero stories, but in silver heels.

So watch the movie and then put on some nice old song and dance.
Or better yet, find someone to dance with!

Labels: ,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Patronizing the Arts

Yes, the double meaning is intentional.

Artists have always relied on patrons. Since the days of the Medici princes. If it weren't for a pope and some rich Italians, we would never have had the Sistine Chapel...

or the Mona Lisa...

or David

(Actually, I stuck David in to taunt Kim, one of my co-workers at SDB. I have some postcards of him that were sent to me that she keeps trying to put little Post-It pants on. POST-IT THIS! Ha! Ha!)

But the truth is that as much as there have been periods of government supported art, for the most part great art owes much to forward thinking rich people. New York City Ballet and the legacy of George Balanchine only really exist because of the $$$ that Lincoln Kirsten put into it. Here is a picture of the rarely seen Mr. K, who is just as much a father of American ballet as Mr. B. Lets all give him a round of applause.

I always hear "kind" suggestions that the today's artists should become better business people. And yet those same people who give the "kind" suggestions go marvel at the operas, ballets, and works of art in museums that were created by artists who were subsidized by czars. Or worse yet, artists who lived and died in poverty only to be discovered after they were rotting in the grave.

Our society has also decided that because artists depend on patronage, that they deserve to be patronized. As if they are children. Too often, patrons (and artists) feel as if they are giving for charity. Well, that is just wrong-headed. People should give to something because they believe in the artist's vision and that the art itself has merit.

Yes, pretty much all arts organizations have arts programs for kids, but that is secondary to the primary mission of the artist. To create art.

And here is my story as an arts patron.
I was surfing the web one day and I came upon an online comic. There was something about the style of drawing, tempo of dialogue and sensibility that I liked. I saw that the artist had a website. "click"

When I arrived I saw that he was a relatively young, independent, gay artist who had set himself on a 5 year plan to do something with his art. He was self-publishing his stories. His website was cute and fun. His characters wore their hearts on their sleeves. And he drew cute pictures of doggies and bunnies.

Under his name on a page there was a link "Support the Arts." "click"

After the jump, he had a list as to how, for various amounts of money, you could help him on his quest. The lowest amount was $10 for coffee and an hour of work at a local coffee shop. I thought... "Hmmm. I waste $10 a month on eating at some crappy fast food place, so why not just make an automatic monthly payment to this guy. I will never miss it."

So I did.

That was three years ago. And many $10 a month later. Occasionally, I'll e-mail him to see how he is doing and I get a nice personal response.

Now, I don't make a lot of money, but in my own small way I am making a bit of a difference in an artist's life.

Too often, people don't do things because they feel that their contribution won't make a huge difference. It doesn't need to. A lot of little "differences" add up to a huge difference.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Buy Some Candye!

Happy Sunday afternoon all!

A brief break from the ballet.

As you may know, I also do a lot of freelance work. One of the pieces that I am developing aside from the ballet is a theater piece based on a local vocal artist.

Candye Kane.

Candye is an amazing singer whose career has spanned punk, country and blues genres. She also had an "eventful" dramatic life from childhood through adulthood. A life that took her through the gangs of East LA, the controversial world of adult entertainment, physical abuse, and the premature deaths of friends and loved ones. Through all of this though, she has always kept an amazingly positive outlook and her artistic dreams alive.

We had a reading of the show in March to much positive response and are looking forward to the next step.


Before that happens, Candye has just released a new CD. It is called Guitar'd and Feathered. And is available at

You are getting sleepy... sleepy... you will go to and buy 20 CDs for your friends and family.

The album features a different guitar playing guest artist on each song. So it is like those Tony Bennett/Ray Charles/ Frank Sinatra duet CDs, but instead of singing with a guest singer it is a cornucopia of guitarists.

Anyway, you can listen to Candye on iTunes, if you want to get a sense of what she is about before you go to

Go to
Go to

You can also visit (Make sure you put that "e" after candy) or you can visit her at and get her latest tour dates.

And let me just be clear here. Candye is not just an artist. She is an activist. You don't need to agree with her activism to enjoy her music. But she isn't one of those artists who is afraid of making political/social/cultural statements. You will see that if you visit her site. She is also a sweetheart and a true gentlewoman.

In closing, being an independent artist is hard. Buying a $20 CD or paying a $10 cover charge helps in ways that you would not believe.

Actually tomorrow, I'll talk a little about that.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Here we go round the Marketing Bush

So just as a reminder, we were discussing how we can best use photos taken at our performances. Now for the most part, images you will see of dancers in ads and marketing will be posed studio shots. I'll show a few of those tomorrow. They can even be posed shots taken onstage in full costume. The shots we are talking abou are performance photos.

So here is the shot, we were pondering...

As mentioned yesterday, its a good photo but the fact that Askar's arm is cut off makes it a bit unusable for us promotionally. So the easy fix is...

Ta-da. Chris now has a solo. Not as much punch. Three guys dancing is always a nice exciting visual. But definately a usable clear picture. All thanks to a Photoshop cloning tool. But more can be done with a little ingenuity and searching. We could do something like this...

Has a bit more drama. Both Chris and Askar's legs have been photoshopped out. But we have used a mistake as an advantage right now. In the dance, the guys hands are supposed to be palms down. If you look at the original pic, Askar has made a mistake and his palms are up. But in this pic, (thanks to simple cropping) it looks as if his arm is reaching for Chris'. We you can clearly see in the original pic, it is not. So we have gotten another totally different image form the original with little effort. This can even be taken to the extreme as in...

This is an image that could be used under a San Diego Ballet Logo or on the website. So the important thing about looking at dance pics from our point of view is...

Is there ANYTHING, ANY IMAGE, ANY PIECE OF AN IMAGE, that we could use for something. Sometimes it is just a hand or a foot. So we have to look at everything.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dance and Photography One

At SDB, we have been very fortunate to have some wonderful photographers who have come and taken photos of our performances. the thing to remember about dance and photography (and dance and video for that matter) is that they are two seperate art forms. Photographs are not simply a record of a performance. They are their OWN performance.

As such with dance photography, good photographs fall into two catagories. Those which are amazing photographic images and those which show the DANCE off to the best. Sometimes the two overlap, sometimes they do not.

Today, we will talk a bit about some photos of SONNETS by Manuel Rotenburg, whos pictures can be found at

This first picture is of Noriko Maruzoe and Askar Kettebekov. A very nice pic. Both dancers are engaged. Their lines are complementary. AND the picture itself seems to have photographic integrity.

This next picture however is a different story.

Photographically, it is quite interesting. One dancer is in a lovely position and in focus. The other is out of focus and seems unformed. While it is a good photo, it isn't something that we could use at the ballet, because in ballet we always need to show a fairly finished product. People expect refinement from ballet. But...

We CAN use it. We have many needs photographic needs when it comes to marketing. So we are always on the lookout for PIECES of pictures that fit our needs. As shown below.

So look at the photo below with the eagle eye of an artistic director/marketing guy.


I'll come back tomorrow and show you what we would probably do with it.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Escape to the Desert.

As I mentioned before, after the performance I had to go on a little adventure. So I asked two of the most adventuresome ladies (Beverly Norriss, a colleague and board member and Karen Foster, mum of Chelsy) I could think of if they wanted to do a quick jaunt to... Palm Springs.

I have lived in San Diego most of my life and never made it out to Palm Springs until last year. We went on a spur of the moment pilgramige (day trip) to see the grave of Frank Sinatra. While we were there I saw that they do a program every year, the Palm Springs Follies.

Known around the world because the chorus girls are all between the ages of 57 and 83. So of course, I HAD to go back and see it. Bev and karen were up for it so they could see what they had to look forward to in the coming years.

So I booked a suite at the Hyatt (decent rate and sofa city for me) and off we went.

After a morning of IHOP and fruitstands, we arrived at the promised land. After I convinced Beverly that I would not enjoy the panoramic revolving aeriel tramway, due to my claustrophobia, fear of heights and tendancy towards motion sickness, we settled in.

Afternoon walkies. Found a nice place called AZUL where we ate on a large table swing sort of thing and then off to the Follies.

Every year they do a new show. This year's was appropriately called...

Made for us. We were thera a bit early so we went to the Italian Restaurant next door, Enzo's. The very nice bartender, Christian, made Karen her favorite blue frothy drink consisting of Blue Cuarcao, Cointreau and pinapple juice.

The Follies was a fabulando concoction of high brow low brow entertainment. During the actual "follies" section the women came out in AMAZING one of a kind feather, bead, sequin rhinestone creations. They then each gave us their stories from youngest to oldest. I teared up.

Afterwards, we went back to Enzo's where the were nice enough to keep the kitchen open for us (even though they were really closed.

I went back to the hotel and Bev and Karen had a few more adventures without me. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy sleeping alone on a hotel sofa.

Next morning, I hit the pool before the deluge of parents and children. I didn't know it but we went smack dab in between the Dinah Shore Invitational Golf Tournament (which has turned into a huge lesbian gathering) and the White Party (which is a huge gay party weekend). We almost stayed at the Wyndham, because it had the biggest pool, but chose the Hyatt because of its central location. Turns out the Wyndham is the nerve center of the White Party, because it has the biggest pool.

But as it was Thursday, we were there for the closing of the main drag for the downtown street fair. Karen purchased a Frank Sinatra tile and a dragon made from wire. Beverly got a sunshade cover for a deck chair and I bought two pieces of art from a LA artist (more info to come)

In between, we ate on the treeace of a wonderful bistro named Matchbox...

which had the BEST pepperoni pizza I have had in a long time and then back to Enzo's to say adios to our friendly wait staff.

Sleepy sleepy.

We woke up the next day and said adios to our desert oasis and drove back to the cool ocean breezes of San Diego. Oh and Karen had her first bagel ever on the way back. Of course, being an Austrailian, she had it with vegimite instead of cream cheese, so I don't know if that really counts.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about our last performance and photgraphs taken there.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Safe Travels Trudy

I am back!

Needed to take a bit of time off. So I had an adventure (which I'll talk about in a couple of days).

But last night we had a send off to one of our dancers.

Trudy Cunningham came to us two years ago. Since that time she has been quietly dependable, no drama, hard working dancer. On stage, she has always given her best and made the most of every opportunity.

She was well respected by the staff and dancers alike.

So why is she leaving?

Well, sometimes there are other factors in a dancer's life apart from desire to perform. Personal lives. Physical ailments. Other job opportunities.

In Trudy's case, it is a mixture of a body that was telling her that perhaps it needed sometime off from the rigors of classical dance AND a proposal of marriage.

With much gratitude, love and wishes for as many cans of E-Z-Cheese as she can carry, we wish her well in her new life and will leave a candle in the window, in case she ever wants to make her way back to the San Diego Ballet.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Day After

No picture today.

Maybe I'll start posting inspirational pics of things that mean something to me.

We had our shows yesterday. Everything went swimmingly. Good response from our audiences. And the dancers seemed happy. It was one of our dancer's last shows. Trudy Cunningham will be leaving us to go back home to Kansas. Our loss is Witchita's gain and we wish her the best as embarks on this new part of her life.

Uma, Andrea, Steve and Gail brought the same level of excellence this year to the production that they did last year and I special thank you goes out to Mo and the Mandeville technical staff (who I hope enjoyed the left over bottles of wine from our reseption.)

Another special thanks to our lighting designer for this show, Christian DeAngelis. He stepped in at the last moment and was thorough, professional and a joy to work with. In a word, he was awsomo.

All in all, a wonderful day that brought together dancers and supporters from the past and present that ended with a small celebration at Rock Bottom Brewery. I had a lovely handcrafted soda that tasted like a mixture of watermelon and sour apple Jolly Rancher candies.

So I still have the costumes (and wings) in my car. Tomorrow, I am off to the studio to drop them off and start working on next years season.

If anyone is interested, I have changed the settings of this blog so that anyone can post comments.