Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dancing for your Vote

Funny Pictures

Sky News did a list of the top online videos this week and number one was a clip of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain busting a move.

Here's the full clip for your viewing pleasure, in case you haven't seen it:

Obama's real moves? Well...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dancing with the Stars

Youtube surfing revealed an interesting fact today. Among the unlikely celebrities who did ballet is Stephen Colbert, at least according to this clip from the Charlie Rose Show.

Do you know of any other celebs with a surprising dance background? Please post them in the comments section.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Scientific American Takes on the Dance

Scientific American must have been in a terpsichorian mood lately. In addition to the Stayin' Alive story I mentioned a few days ago, the publication has tackled the question Why Do We Like to Dance?

First, people speculate that music was created through rhythmic movement—think: tapping your foot. Second, some reward-related areas in the brain are connected with motor areas. Third, mounting evidence suggests that we are sensitive and attuned to the movements of others' bodies, because similar brain regions are activated when certain movements are both made and observed. For example, the motor regions of professional dancers' brains show more activation when they watch other dancers compared with people who don't dance.

This kind of finding has led to a great deal of speculation with respect to mirror neurons—cells found in the cortex, the brain's central processing unit, that activate when a person is performing an action as well as watching someone else do it. Increasing evidence suggests that sensory experiences are also motor experiences. Music and dance may just be particularly pleasurable activators of these sensory and motor circuits. So, if you're watching someone dance, your brain's movement areas activate; unconsciously, you are planning and predicting how a dancer would move based on what you would do.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dance News of the Week: Stayin' Alive-- Literally

CNN reported this week that the disco anthem Stayin' Alive has the perfect beat for CPR.

In a study from the University of Illinois medical school, doctors and students maintained close to the ideal number of chest compressions doing CPR while listening to the 103 beats per minute Bee Gees anthem.

Dr. Matthew Gilbert, a medical resident, noted that Queen's Another One Bites the Dust had a similar beat, but its theme didn't seem as appropriate.

You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Update from Valery Lantratov

Valery Lantratov is hard at work on a full production of Don Quixote with his Russian National Ballet Foundation which will be touring Cyrpus this fall. He follows that with a performance of The Nutcracker, which will give more than 20 performances in Moscow this winter ending only a few days before his trip to the United States!

He hasn't had time to record any new podcasts, but he sends his greetings to all of the students who have taken part in his classes and he's looking forward to seeing many new and familiar faces this winter.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Introducing The Dancer's Quote Book

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I wished that there was a good book of quotations by and about dancers. I only came across one or two small gift books with a dance theme and so I began compiling my favorite quotes as I read interviews and books. The result is The Dancer's Quote Book, an 85 page collection of dance humor and wisdom.

Valery Lantratov is quoted here, as are Mikhail Baryshnikov, Martha Graham, Anna Pavlova, Isadora Ducan, Fred Astaire, Gregory Hines and many others. The quotes explore dance in all its complexity, from technique to body image to pain and spiritual joy. It is available now through as a paperback book or a downloadable ebook.

I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed compiling it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This Date in Dance History: October 5-11

October 5, 1883-Serge Grigoriev régisseur of the Ballets Russes for twenty years from 1909, was born. In an era before videotape, Grigoriev remembered and recorded the choreography of the Ballet Russes’ great choreographers like Vaclav Nijinsky and Michel Fokine.

And on this date in 2002- Mia Slavenska, one of the leading ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo passed away at age 86. Known for her “glamorous virtuoso technique” she also starred in the 1938 motion picture La Mort du Cygne or Ballerina.

October 6, 1949- Roland Petit’s Les Ballets de Paris opened on Broadway at the Wintergarden Theater. Featuring scenes from Carmen, L’Oeuf a la Coque, Pas d’Action and Le Combat, it ran for 116 performances until January 1950.

And on this date in 1974- Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston give "two of the finest performances of the season," in the words of the New York Post when they opened in Mack and Mabel, the David Merrick produced musical about the silent film era. The production ran only 65 performances at the Majestic Theatre.

October 7, 1909- Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, The Golden Cockerel, opened in Moscow. Five years later it gained fame in Paris as a Diaghilev ballet.

And on this date in 1982- The Musical Cats had its U.S. premiere at the Winter Garden in New York City.

October 8, 1961- Jerome Robbins’ Ballet USA, which consisted of The Concert, Afternoon of a Fawn, and New York Export: Opus Jazz Moves, opened on Broadway at the ANTA Playhouse. It ran for 24 performances.

October 9, 1928-The Light of Asia opened at Hampden’s Theater. It featured the last choreography by Ruth St. Denis for a Broadway show and ran for 23 performances.

And on this date in 1972- "Dude: The Musical” had its premiere on Broadway. I might, as theater writer Patricia Bosworth speculated, “go down in theatrical history as Braodway’s most monumental disaster.” The Broadway Theater was transformed into a thematic area for the elaborate production at a cost of $800,000. The audience sat in valleys, foothills, mountains and trees. The musical itself was universally panned and ran for 16 performances. During one of the final performances, its author Gerome Ragni, reportedly barked at audience members “Go back to your seat. Just go sit down and suffer with everybody else.”

And on this date in 1975-Drums, Dreams and Banjos, a work choreographed by Gerald Arpino for the U.S. bicentennial celebration, featuring the songs of Stephen Foster, had its premiere by the Joffrey Ballet in New York City.

October 10, 1684-Jean-Antoine Watteau, an artist whose work (an example of which appears to the right) reflects the influence of the opéra ballet, was born on this date.

October 11, 1907-Tap dancer Peg Leg Bates was born.

And in 1918- Ballet master and Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins was born. He would go on to be an innovative choreographer of ballets created for the New York City Ballet, Ballets U.S.A., American Ballet Theatre, and other international companies as well as a director of musicals and plays for Broadway, movies and television programs. In his 79 years he choreographed 60 ballets and won numerous awards including five Donaldson Awards, four Tonys, two Oscars for the 1961 film version of West Side Story and an Emmy for a televised version of Peter Pan.

And in 1970-Natalia Makarova, prima ballerina with the Kirov Ballet, who had defected from the USSR in September joined the American Ballet Theater.