amelia_petkova: (pre-raph Persephone)
Seriously, that series is my crack. It's like the creators took everything I love best about stories and fairy tales and classical music/ballet and put it together in a blender just for me.

I'd heard about Mark Reads a year or so ago when he started blogging Harry Potter but didn't pay much attention to it. Then I heard that he was going to be watching Princess Tutu.

YES! So I hopped on over there and (after reading all of his entries so far on the Tortall books) read his post on the first episode:

"HOLY SHIT, WHAT DID I JUST WATCH???"

And now we get to the part where I will never ever stop laughing because that was absolutely my reaction when I watched that same first episode. I love that he talks about the different worlds. I love his thoughts on the music. I love his reaction to Neko-sensei because let's face it, we all had the same reaction. I love his ranting about how Fakir is such an asshole. If you ever have the chance to watch the DVD extras for this series do it, because it includes commentary on the first episode from the dub actors for Ahiru and Fakir, and they talk about these same things. I can't wait to see how Mark reacts to the rest of the series.

Now I want him to watch Utena.

Holy shit, he "read" The Princess Bride as well?!?! Forget the job hunt, there goes the rest of my afternoon.
amelia_petkova: (Sleeping Beauty icon)
It happened--I finally got to see a performance of Swan Lake! The Moscow Festival Ballet was performing it at my school for one night only earlier this week and I snapped up a ticket. (There was a brief moment when I was trying to decide whether to spend the money--then I shook myself and said, "When else in life will you get to see a ballet for $13?")

For anybody reading this who's unfamiliar with the plot of this ballet, it can be summed up as: Boy meets swan. Swan turns into girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl is under a spell by an evil sorcerer which can be broken if boy promises to love her (forever). Boy says, "Yeah totally, come to my birthday party tomorrow night and I'll tell everybody then!" Girl's evil twin turns up at the dance. Stupid boy pledges his love to evil twin. Boy realizes his mistake and returns to girl. Boy and girl face off against sorcerer. In some versions, the lovers live happily ever after. In others, they commit joint suicide.

You can read more about the plot, characters, and background of the ballet at Wikipedia.

Highlights:
--My seat was amazing. One of the great things about performances at schools is that ticket prices are typically divided into two categories: students; and everybody else. I realized that my seat on the ground floor/orchestra level was close by looking at the chart when I bought my ticket, but I hadn't been in that auditorium before.

I sat four rows back from the stage. I saw every single little detail of the dancers onstage and could even see into the wings a little. Best seat of my life!!!

--The program sucked. The booklet was about 60 pages long but only three of those were devoted to that night's performance. There was a plot synopsis (with spelling errors), a brief history of the ballet company, and a partial cast list. Several dancers were listed for each main character but we didn't know who was dancing each role that night. The Corps de Ballet weren't even given billing!

--I was disappointed when I realized that they were using pre-recorded music, not a live orchestra. (If that makes me sound like a snob, so be it.) There's nothing awful about pre-recorded music and I'm sure it's cheaper, but having live music makes all the difference.

--Partway through the first Act I realized that I only saw toe shoes on the female ballerinas. Does anybody know if en pointe is traditionally something done only by women in ballet?

--I'm sorry to say that Von Rothbart (the evil sorcerer) was not scary. His black costume had sparkles and his make-up was too drag queen-ish. The "best" part: he work a tiny, sparkly, Crown of Evil! I nearly squeaked when he came on stage for the first time. I wonder how they keep that from falling off? Great dancer, though. (Except when he was defeated at the end: to get out of the way of the other dancers as he died, he had to roll towards the back of the stage. I got an attack of the giggles at that point, him rolling with the Crown of Evil.)

--One of my favorite bits is when the swans are all dancing at the same time.

--I can't find proof at the moment, but I think there's a tradition that Odette and Odile are supposed to be played by the same ballerina. Due to the unclear program, I couldn't decide if they did this. While the prince is dancing with Odile there is a bit where Odette appears in the window behind him but I know some ballet companies have chosen a double to play that little bit. My main problem was figuring out if the ballerina would have had time to change costumes and make-up from Odile back to Odette in the very short time before Odette reappears.

--I thought all the dancers were great. They had some amazing choreography. (I'll admit that I haven't seen enough ballet to know how they would stand up against other companies.)

--I was ticked off when I realized that not everybody got to take a bow at the end. Only the swans, Von Rothbart, the Jester, Prince Siegfried, and Odette(/Odile?) appeared on stage. I know they were the main characters and I thought they were wonderful, but the other dancers deserved to be applauded, especially since this was a one-time performance at the school.

I know a lot of my comments were about things I didn't like, but I enjoyed just about every minute of the performance. The dancers were amazing and I'm beyond thrilled that I was finally able to see this ballet, after having known the music since I was a little girl.
amelia_petkova: (Princess Bride icon)
Recently I picked up a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry, the recent novel by Audrey Niffenegger.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. I finished it in a couple of days because I was eager to find out what would happen next. It's very good but not the best book I ever read. In my case, it may have been a case of the book was over-hyped following the success of The Time-Traveller's Wife (still on my To Read list). (The cover art is also attractive; not necessary for a book, but always a bonus.)

I found one of the best parts to be the scenes that take place in Highgate Cemetery and its descriptions. Niffenegger's love of the cemetery and fascination with it come across clearly to the reader. I'm curious to know if the number of visitors to the cemetery has increased noticeably since the book was published.

lots of spoilers to follow )

As I said earlier, this book is a good read. I was absorbed by it for hours at a time and wanted to know the fates of all the characters. I'm glad that I read it. Still, the fact remains that several elements constantly jerked me out of what is otherwise a fascinating novel.
amelia_petkova: (Sleeping Beauty icon)
I just got home from watching a performance of The Nutcracker with my parents. (To my surprise, Dad was the one who came up with the idea.) We had a great time. Tchaikovsky is my favorite classical composer and the last time I saw Nutcracker I was around 10 years old, just barely old enough to sit still through it and laugh at the boys in tights. (I still laugh at the boys in tights.)

If you ever do attend a performance of this ballet, it's important to keep in mind that this is a good show for people-watching in the audience. Due to the nature of the storyline, a good portion of the audience is made up of little girls in party dresses. Some of the other watchers annoyed me. I'm not sure if this is something to do mainly with American audiences but we have a tendency to start clapping and hollering at the slightest pause in the music. During this show, it was every time one of the dancers did something especially amazing. I'm all for applauding them, but it kills the mood! (I went into mental "Old Lady" mode: "Darn kids, shut up! I'm trying to listen to the music! And while you're at it, get off my lawn!")

Because of the storyline, a good portion of the cast is made up of children and teenagers. They were terrific, even the smallest ones. How great must it be to perform in such a well-known ballet when you're so little! The adults were amazing, too. Looking through my booklet, I'd say about half the cast plays more than one role. The costumes are wonderful, especially once you get to the part where the characters are representing candies and other treats. (I ended up making hot chocolate soon after getting home.) The dancing rats do look silly, but what can you do? I adore the music; it's some of the only Christmas music that I can listen to at any time of the year. I can't even begin to pick out a favorite song.

I was reminded how important it is to pay attention to everything that's happening on the stage, not just the main dancers. One of my favorite parts is during the party scene in Act I, when the maid drags Uncle Drosselmeyer off behind the Christmas tree for kissing. He tries to escape several times but she just pulls him back.

Trying to find the names of specific dances, I found this website, that covers everything involved in Nutcracker. It looks like a good place to go if you don't know much about this ballet.

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