Five of the sweetest paintings for Valentine’s Day

 

Love has been one of the most prominent themes depicted in art throughout history. Many artists have been inspired to create works that evoked powerful emotion to people around the world…thankfully for art lovers these artists channeled their emotions into timeless masterpieces.

Beautiful love paintings are much appreciated around the world. It is a favorite subject for several famous artists. Romantic paintings of lovers are a feast to the eyes and it’s beautiful to see how perspectives on love have evolved over the centuries. 

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, cast your adoring eyes on five of the sweetest representations of romance.

The Lovers, 1855 by William Powell Frith 

The Kiss, 1907-1908 by Gustav Klimt 

Il Bacio, 1867 by Francesco Hayez

The Swing, 1767 by Jean-Honore Fragonard

Romeo and Juliet, 1884 by Frank Bernard’s Dicksee

Related posts: 

And then he kissed me

Beet Ravioli for Valentine’s Day

Love, Love Me Do

 Love, Love Me Do (deux)

Cozy winter cocktails

 

We’re in the middle of true winter when we could use a cozy cocktail to warm our insides.  Winter is all about being cozy…I find myself searching for warmth from a fire and a ski sweater but a cocktail may be the best way to help ease the midwinter chill. You can sip on a glass of wine any time, but there’s something particularly pleasurable about a cocktail designed for the colder months.

Hot Toddies and Gloggs have been served for centuries because they warm the body and soothe the soul. My favorite winter cocktails are those that remind me of a great day on the slopes. What better way to end the day than looking at the mountains and watching snowstorm with a steaming Hot Toddy? Another thought would be to start a new tradition of an avant ski drink before it’s time for après with an Irish Coffee…spoon a mountain of freshly whipped cream and zip, zoom, kapow! 

Finally there was the great glacier run, smooth and straight, forever straight if your legs could hold it, your ankles locked, you running so low, leaning into the speed, dropping forever and forever in the silent hiss of the crisp powder. It was better than any flying or anything else, and you built the ability to do it and to have it with the long climbs, carrying the heavy rucksacks. You could not buy it nor take a ticket to the top. It was the end we worked all winter for, and all the winter built to make it possible. ~Ernest Hemingway

These are five winter cocktails that should do the trick…Hemingway would certainly approve of your après ski cocktail! 

Irish Coffee:

  • 1.25 ounce Irish whiskey
  • ounces hot, but not scalded coffee 
  • 5/8 ounce Rich Demerara syrup (combine two parts demerara sugar to one part water and cook until the sugar dissolves; keep until needed)
  • ounce heavy cream, softly whipped

Add the Irish whiskey to a tall, heat-tolerant glass, preferably an Irish Coffee glass. Combine the coffee and 5/8 oz. Demerara syrup separately from the whiskey, then add it to the glass with the whiskey and stir gently. Float the whipped cream over the top and grate a bit of nutmeg over the whipped cream. 

Glogg:

  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 & 1/4 cups brandy
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 orange zest strips
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds

In saucepan over medium heat, combine the wine, brandy, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar and orange zest. Divide the raisins and almonds among 4 warmed cups or goblets. Pour in the spiced wine through a sieve and serve.

Moscow Mule: 

  • part vodka
  • parts ginger beer
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Fill a glass with ice, crushed or cubed.
Fill the glass 1/3 full with vodka.
Top with ginger beer and squeeze in some lime.

Cherry Lime Hot Toddy:

  • a few dried cherries
  • lime zest strip
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ounces whiskey
  • 6 ounces boiling water

In a mug, combine the lime zest, dried cherries, and sugar. Add the whiskey. Pour in the boiling water, and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Sip and enjoy!

Hot Buttered Rum:

  • ounce dark rum 
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pad of salted butter 
  • 3 cups boiled water
Boil water on the stove.
Place the cloves, rum, and sugar in cup and gently mix; after mixing, place cinnamon stick in concoction. 
Smear butter inside the cup, just above the rum.
Pour the boiled water slowly over the butter and allow it to melt. Cinnamon stick stays in the cup.

Forget the fire and warm yourself up with one of these hot drinks…extra-boozy concoctions guaranteed to keep you warm.

Related posts:

Vail: like nothing on Earth

Classic movies and recipes 

Classic Mad Men cocktails

Champagne chic

I don’t remember my first glass of Champagne but I’ve always love bubbly drinks. My friend Jen and I would drink Clearly Canadian to ring in the New Year when we were in middle school. Ever since then, my drink of choice has always been bubbly. Champagne was and still is linked to celebration, but we should celebrate life every day. Any time is a good time for drinks that sparkle! 

Everything about Champagne feels right…the freshness, the bubbles, and it’s easy to drink at any occasion. Gigi would agree…

The night they invented champagne
It’s plain as it can be
They thought of you and me
The night they invented champagne
They absolutely knew that all we’d want to do
Is fly to the sky on champagne. 

Champagne tends to be in a class of its own. Sparkling wines are the ultimate in chic drinks…like Chanel’s little black dress (or Marie’s pretty pink one). Marlene Dietrich said, “Champagne makes you feel like its Sunday and better days are just around the corner.

Need more reasons to sip, savor and celebrate? Here are ten things you will be thrilled to know about Champagne…

1. Champagne is from a specific region in France (named Champagne) and is considered the pinnacle of sparkling wine. Its production requires extra years of maturation, and the fruit itself is more expensive. Spanish Cavas and Italian Proseccos are refreshing and delicious, but they lack the depth of Champagnes because they are made from lesser quality grapes, produced in tanks rather than bottles, and not aged as long. Champagne is about 90 miles from Paris and it’s so far north that it’s almost too cold to fully ripen the grapes, which explains the finesse and acidic taste of its wine. 

2. There are about 1.000,000 bubbles in a glass of Champagne. 

3. Hold your glass by the stem and not by the bowl because your hands will warm the champagne up too quickly…And, holding the glass by the stem will make you look oh so chic!

4. Vintage matters! The region in France where Champagne is produced has had erratic seasons for the past fifteen years, so there’s a great difference among vintages. 

5. The best vintages are from: 1996, 2002 and 2008.

6. Chill sparkling wine at a temperature between 46 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit but not until you’re ready to drink it. Champagne shouldn’t be stored in the refrigerator because the cork dries out and shrinks so that the carbonation is able to escape, and other smells from the refrigerator can get in. Keep the cork damp to ensure a tight seal by storing Champagne (and all wine) on its side.

7. Enjoy champagne throughout an entire meal! Many people think they should only enjoy Champagne as an aperitif but that it is not the only way to drink it. Pair your Champagne with many flavors…chicken, seafood, vegetable dishes, fruit, cheese, risotto, tacos and my favorite…pizza! It can bring out new flavors you’ve never tasted in these foods!

8. If you married a bartender, like I did, you’ll know that the goal to opening a bottle is to do it quietly and gently, without the pop. This way you keep the bubbles in the wine. Hold the bottle in your hand at an angle with the neck pointed away from you and others. Grasp the cork between thumb and forefinger, then turn the bottle. When you feel the cork start to give, slowly pull it to  one side so the gas releases gradually. 

9. Champagne makes you more beautiful! It detoxifies the skin with antioxidants, and its lightening tartaric acid helps even out the skin tone and for those with oily skin, its antibacterial properties can help with breakouts.

10. Drinking Champagne can prevent dementia and memory loss. A study at the University of Reading determined that drinking one to three glasses of Champagne each week can boost brain health. 

 

Bubbles, bubbles fizzing in our coupes…keep on popping bottles. If you have a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, don’t wait for a special occasion to enjoy it…open that bottle and the special occasion will come to you. Celebrate life every day! Santé! xx

Related post:

Champagne in a coupe

TRÈS ASHLEY GIFT GUIDE 2016

tumblr_o09il9vk8r1r5s8dro1_500

It’s not too late to find the perfect gift! Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. Here are some of the most exciting gift options around…each and every item is something mothers, fathers, husbands, kids, best friends, brothers and sisters would love to receive. I really hope you like it. Happy last-minute shopping! xx

GIFTS FOR THE KIDS 

Swimming lessons (priceless) Find a swimming class near you for your little ones. 

American Girl Baking Set $49.67 William Sonoma and American Girl came together to create a sweet gift to inspire future chefs with baking essentials. 

Cat Ear Headphones $99 LED accent lights on cat ear speakers will make them smile.

Lilly Post $26 picture or board books subscription books for the little ones. 

GIFTS FOR EVERYONE 

Chat books $19 The perfect gift for grandparents. 

Crafted Taste, Hello Fresh, Birchbox, Stitch Fix…monthly subscriptions make life a lot sweeter and easier. There’s nothing better or more simple than a subscription box to gift and it’s perfect for a last minute shopper. 

Gold Pineapple tumbler $35 The best way to welcome in the New Year.

Hometown puzzle $49 The street address you grew up on made into a puzzle. 

GIFTS FOR MOM, SISTER, BEST FRIENDS… 

Sephora’s Geometricolor Palette $49.50 blockbuster palette containing 130 shades! Now every day can inspire a new makeup experience.

The Beach People Tulum Round Beach Towel $110. This big, beautiful towel is the perfect family sized beach blanket, made of weighted, super-soft, 100% cotton. It’s extra easy to tote to pool parties, parks, or camping trips.

Wantable gift subscription $20 Let your best friend pick what kind of box she wants…style, makeup, fitness, intimates or accessories. 

Tea of the month $100 Treat the tea lover in your life. 

GIFTS FOR DAD, BROTHER, BEST FRIEND… 

Carry on cocktail kit $24 A tiny versions of the tools you’ll need to mix them mid-flight—just ask for a glass, ice, and the actual booze.

Beer of the month $42.95 Make your man so happy!

Flasks for every man $24 A flask can be a lifesaver and is always a good conversation starter.

A year of shirts $1500 Give him one shirt a month.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, Dressed in holiday style, In the air there is a feeling, of Christmas…

Need more gift-giving inspiration? Check out gift guides from 20152014201320122011 and 2010 if you need more inspiration. Wishing you a holly, jolly Christmas now get your last minute shopping finished! xx

 

Ten reasons to see LakeCities Nutcracker…again and again

15288713_10208927144554189_6490831520458539798_o

15129691_10208926956709493_5650383347895458088_o

Ah, The Nutcracker…a family favorite holiday tradition and the reason so many of us fell in love with dance in the first place. It goes without saying that The Nutcracker is a delightful experience for a dance lover of any age. The first time you see it, you’re taken with all the children in many roles, the growing tree, the snow, the magically gliding angels and the grand pas de deux. There’s something so magical about this ballet and the many ornaments of enjoyment that leave you feeling like a little child in the Kingdom of Sweets.

I had the pleasure of sitting in the audience during a rehearsal before the Saturday night performance. Sarah Lane asked the conductor to pause when they first enter during their pas de deux’s opening section and to go slower during her solo…explaining that they’d like to “try something different to keep it fresh.” Lane is extremely focused…she brings more than just steps, she gives something very special to the stage, it’s magical. Ulbricht gave Lane a sugary fairy lightness by sustaining her up, up and then UP before down during their solos.

This was my little girl’s fourth Nutcracker with LakeCities Ballet Theatre. Something I noticed this year more than others was that there was so much kindness coming from the older dancers the way they cared for each other. Daniel Ulbricht escorted Sarah Lane onto the stage in Lewisville just coming in from New York and announced how happy they were to be here again and thanked everyone sincerely for having them. Ulbricht and Lane showed tremendous professionalism and I so admire how humble they both are…they were wonderful role models for all the children involved.

nut2016

nut2-2016

Here are ten reasons why we think LakeCities Nutcracker is the best:

15288682_10208927149074302_7376229974180485843_o

1. Ballerina Doll: My son sat still in his seat to see what was in the magical box…a wind-up Ballerina Doll who danced sharp and snappy like a dismantled ballerina. The ballerina doll, Carly Greene, moved with staccato gestures and powerhouse movements that were playful and lively…especially when she would blow kisses.

15235628_10208927146354234_7308683691639692989_o

2. Herr Drosselmeier: Drosselmeier (Ken Wells) has once again shown up to the family Christmas party in Nuremberg, Germany with his puppetry and magic tricks. Drosselmeyer has a magical and whimsical character. He elevated the entire production to the level of the kind of dream that never fades.

15272317_10208926937429011_7448253924414179067_o

3. Clara: Clara (Kristina Lorelli) was the sweetest most lovely dancer (on stage and off). Sometimes older dancers might not thing to stop and say hello to the younger dancers, this Clara made time to spend with the little ones…she even gave each little Baker one of her pointe shoes. She now has a following of sweet dancers who look at her like she is the real Clara. She would convey a sense of innocence and naiveté as the audience watched a budding romance that ushered through the Kingdom of Sweets.

4. The Party Scene: The party scene is endlessly engaging. I always think the best pictures come from the party scene because it’s so visually pleasing. It’s easy to notice something new in the first act…little Fritz (Trevin Ralphs) is such a naughty little trouble maker and the poor nanny ends up upside down.

5. The Battle Scene: LakeCities battle scene is serious combat between the Nutcracker soldiers and eighteen not-so-blind mice. These little mice meant business…carrying off the wounded in stretchers. The mice are endearingly absurd and their King is so hilariously insolent of his enemy that he dies as if believing he were incapable of death as one mouse tosses a white lily onto his belly.

6. Sugar Plum Fairy & Cavalier: The Sugar Plum Fairy, Sarah Lane, is everyone’s favorite fairy. She’s regal, affectionate and delicate yet she has an assertive presence that commands the Kingdom of Sweets. Clara may be the heart of Nutcracker, but the Sugar Plum Fairy is its soul, with her sparkling, fairy-like dancing. The audience sits through nearly the whole show anticipating her entrance.

The Cavalier, Daniel Ulbricht, lights up the room with his charm…even when he’s not dancing. His technical brilliance and athleticism is mesmerizing. Together, Lane and Ulbricht, dance in culmination with such feeling…watching their small nuances and gentle touches leaves the audience in awe. Together they transport the audience to a sweet place that is loving, touching and engaging.

7. The cherubs & angels: Little cherubs and angels guide the way as they take Clara on a journey through the snow. It’s an “angel secret” how the angels appear to be floating across the stage…truly magical, truly angelic.

8. Lewisville Lake Symphony’s Orchestra: The ballet begins with a live orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s score is played by the Lewisville Lake Symphony’s orchestra lead by Adron Ming. Listening to Tchaikovsky live enhances the full experience…his score is the true candy in the Kingdom of Sweets. Every measure is filled with enchantment and nothing can prepare the ears for the grandeur that comes with the main melody…Ulbricht supported Lane as she arched back and her descent matched one of the most beautiful descending scales in Tchaikovsky’s score.

15194456_10208927770569839_8145753300772343333_o

15271872_10208914045346717_2236563670315859550_o

9. The Snow scene: The snow scene is one of the most stunning moments, with lovely clusters of ballerina snowflakes fluttering about in a pool of wintery white. The off-stage vocalizations sung by a snow choir dressed in 19th-century Russian attire put the audience in a dream world. LakeCities Snow Queen, Michelle Lawyer, transported the audience to a snowy winter wonderland with her refreshing breathiness and sweetly flowing lines.

15271805_10208927118273532_8495267730463133094_o

15304079_10208927052231881_6287517110769360965_o

15252584_10208927136193980_8840317247005556497_o

10. The Kingdom of Sweets: In Act II, the angels lead Clara into the Kingdom of Sweets. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier introduce Clara to dances from around the world…Spain, Arabia, China, Russia and France. The audience wanted to snap along with Carley Denton, Lauren Hunter, Kelsey Rhinehelder, Mikaela Seale as “Spanish Chocolate”, Andre Harrigton’s elevated in style as “Russian Baba,” but it was the underwater artfulness of Julia Tiller and Shannon Beacham in “Arabian Coffee” that still remains one of the favorite highlights of the Kingdom of Sweets. Former Cowboys player Isaiah Stanback also returned as a hilarious Mother Ginger. The entertainment finished with the dance of the flowers and the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing with her Cavalier before Clara returned home.

There’s something special about the way artistic director, Kelly Lannin, tells the classic 19th-century story that makes sense for our community today. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Nutcracker. It will be another opportunity to notice new things and new dancers…and to ponder what’s real and what’s a dream in Clara’s fantasy world. Somewhere out there in the audience, someone’s falling in love with these dancers and what they get to do up on that stage. I never tire of watching and listening to LakeCities Nutcracker.

15304311_10208926926788745_1637620982337013709_o

Frohilich Weihachten from the Stahlbaums’ household in Nuremberg, Germany!

Photo credit: Nancy Loch Photography

Related posts:

LakeCities Ballet Theatre 2015 Nutcracker

LakeCities Ballet Theatre 2014 Nutcracker

LakeCities Ballet Theatre 2013 Nutcracker

Clara’s Tea: Nutcracker Dreams

Old-Fashioned Christmas Traditions

boy-blowing-christmas-tree-candle

The holidays make the world safe and cozy with food, family and faith. It’s that time of year when we can slow down and get away from the endless lists and distractions that school and work can bring. I think most people get nostalgic this time of year thinking about the way our grandparents celebrated the holidays.

There are certain old-fashioned traditions that will never get “old!”

st-c72-9-62

1. Making Christmas cookies with grandma is something my children can’t wait to do…wearing a holiday apron, hands dusted in flour and sampling their hard work. We always make spiced cardamom cookies, sandtarts and fudge. Some of the recipes pay homage to our loved ones who are now gone. We think of them as we read their handwriting and taste their recipe.

2. My husband said on our weekend visit to Home Depot, “Why don’t we get a fake tree this year?” Sometimes he says things to get a rise out of us and this was one of those times! We looked at him like he was Scrooge until we saw that he was joking. Picking out a family Christmas tree is one of my favorite memory makers. The kids like to bury their faces in the tree and smell that piney smell. We went BIG this year…fifteen feet before a fresh cut big! It rivals the Griswold Family Christmas tree bringing smiles to all who see it. What’s more old-fashioned that a real tree?

3. December is the best time to check the mailbox! If we have a greeting card, we all gather around to open it together…it’s better than opening a present! It’s the one time of year that we send and receive happy wishes in the mail to family and friends near and far. Cards are an old-fashioned tradition that reconnects us…without social media.

4. It’s nice to give your child a special ornament every year. They become the treasures of the tree and hold such beautiful memories. Our children love to look at the ornaments that my husband and I had when we were their age. The older the ornament, the more nostalgic we feel.

nutcracker572

5. The Nutcracker is an old-fashioned holiday tradition that truly puts you in the spirit of Christmas. Most people come to watch a certain dancer but end up sighing with happiness and feeling like a kid again with those warm feelings we remember from our childhood.

There are certain traditions that we always do…my mom makes a crown roast for Christmas Eve dinner, going to Christmas mass, opening up new pajamas on Christmas Eve and reading under the Christmas tree. This year, we put the tree up early and my kids have been camping out in their sleeping bags under the tree…I think it’s a great idea (just not on Christmas Eve)!

Let’s go back to celebrating Christmas the way our grandparents did …simple celebrations and old-fashioned traditions that honor family and the real reasons for the season.

Related posts:

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Knitting cookies and baking sweaters

Tis the season for stuffing mailboxes

Ballerina Cynthia Gregory: strength and impeccable technique

photo23

Cynthia Gregory is a legendary figure in American ballet. She was an American Ballet Theatre superstar in the seventies and eighties. It didn’t matter what it was that she performed…she would take the audience into a magical world on stage. Watching her balance and stay up en pointe forever…like she does as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is mesmerizing.

602836_574073489284469_591668574_n

Gregory’s technique…especially her balances were remarkable. She is also known for her musicality and expressiveness…feeling the music and letting it spill out in whatever character she was portraying…a true artist and breathtaking storyteller of narrative ballets. Every little movement was delivered with meaning and intention.

She says this about teaching expression: “What’s so beautiful about ballet itself is that you’re telling a story, physically, with your body. And you have to be with the music. Not necessarily on the music, but with it, expressing it. And if you don’t let the music come through you, then we are losing something.”

When Gregory is coaching she asks dancers, “What is the story about and who is your character?” Dancers who are lucky enough to work with her learn how to be an artist not just a technician.

c603913db131c3677f41d99b2bbd3447

Here are five things you might not know about the great Cynthia Gregory:

  • One of the most memorable moments in ballet history was when Cynthia Gregory was smoking a cigarette onstage as she danced the Grand pas Classique. Gregory hated Grand pas Classique because it was a strictly technical ballet and she would do the role as a different ballerina every night to amuse herself. She would channel famous dancers…Suzanne Farrell, Violette Verdy, or Carla Fracci. One night she smoked a cigarette during a long series of releves on the diagonal and put out her cigarette with a few bourrees. When Lucia Chase, artistic director of ABT, found out about it, she was told that she would never dance the role again.
  • She first appeared on the cover of Dance Magazine at the age of seven.
  • Gregory was tall for a ballerina…six feet en pointe. Her hight wasn’t an impairment because she was partnered by the very best: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Erik Bruhn, Fernando Bujones, Perter Martins, Ivan Nagy and Rudolf Nureyev.
  • She began dancing at age five in Los Angeles when her mother enrolled her to help prevent sickness. Her nearly thirty year professional career began when she enrolled in the San Francisco Ballet school when she was fourteen. At nineteen she left for New York to join the American Ballet Theatre, where she spent more than twenty-five years.
  • Gregory was passionate about American Ballet Theatre and became rebellious because she wanted ABT to believe in America and not emulate other countries ballet companies. She believed ABT should be a ballet company that gave American audiences and American dancers opportunities to dance and celebrate their own tradition…not try to be the Kirov Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet or Royal Ballet. “On its very own steam American Ballet Theater has become an internationally recognized company.”

10540368_854748311216984_2246238966503367906_n

Gregory says this about the difference between coaching and teaching… “Coaching is what I do best. People would ask me to help them with a role when I stopped dancing. They’d commission me to do that. Teaching has to do with the basics of class and technique. I’m much more interested in helping a ‘finished’ dancer when they’re looking at a role … it’s like finding your voice.”

 cynthia_gregory

Related posts:

Five things you might not know about Misty Copeland 

Le Ballet de Dracula: Scary good

14682066_10208523973155156_6854436244714275470_o

LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s original Le Ballet de Dracula has fans flock like people do for The Rocky Horror Picture Show during Halloween. It’s an occasion that calls for something borrowed and something black! The time period, costumes, romance and the good old-fashioned Halloween fright make this ballet a must see every October. This is not a candy-coated ballet where the SugarPlum Fairy reigns but an enticing, frightening, jump in your seat and gasp with delight ballet that’s an adventure that you don’t want to end.

14680986_10208523949554566_674047867590351294_o
14708078_10208523932434138_5692157849302713711_o
The ballet has exploded in popularity over ten years since Tom Rutherford, the company’s art director, wrote it and Kelly Lannin, the artistic director, choreographed it. Lannin draws us into the legend of Bram Stoker’s Dracula naturally and transforms beautiful ballerinas into gothic vampires. Lannin tells the story of Dracula just as Stoker’s novel did…taking us into thrilling peaks that build and keep the audience of the edge of their seats.
14682105_10208523974955201_8365683285404415796_o
My daughter looked up in awe at the dancer who portrayed Aurelia (the girl Dracula tries to lure from her fiancé) and whispered to her cousin, “Look! She’s under Dracula’s spell.” 
14633581_10208523916073729_1319592882253884995_o
Lannin requires her dancers to be actors just as much as ballerinas. They must be fully engaged in their roles. It’s obvious that Lannin’s dancers believe in their roles, they make Dracula real with the boldness and confidence of movements that explored the limits of graceful extensions that seemed to harmonize with the music.
The engagement of Aurelia (Carley Denton) and Marius (Steven Loch) is charming. This is the second year that Denton and Loch have performed these roles together…time is on their side. They look at each other with familiarity and love.
 dracula1
The joyfulness of the Maypole dancing scene is my favorite, especially as the music and clapping build. It’s a nice contrast with the scary hissing Weolas.
14706856_10208523948874549_5300132144088859540_o
Nightmare becomes reality and Dracula descends in shimmering red to feed on Aurelia. Dracula (Shannon Beacham) has a dramatic presence that is intoxicating! Beacham has tenacity and fearlessness when he glides on stage with his cape flowing behind him.
14753786_10154708971870854_7421607967259183766_o
14691940_10154708974635854_1452588655034459923_o
14706784_10208523955914725_6476081091859656098_o

Steven Loch (from Pacific Northwest Ballet) has a rhythmic awareness and freshness that when he performs his grand jetés, it seems so naturally timed that you forget the music isn’t live.

It is always a pleasure to watch Denton perform. She attacks her toe hops with effortless elegance lingering just long enough to have you hold your breath as you admire her footwork.

The MCL Grande theatre is intimate enough for the audience to be more personally engaged in the fantasy. Seeing the mysterious fog, chains clanging on dungeon bars, many undead brides and Dracula rising from his coffin, it’s easy to forget you’re not in Romania but right outside of Dallas, Texas.
 14753757_10154708976460854_2212860447268892671_o
14615646_10208523837311760_1537595084439194999_o
The good news for those who missed this spooky ballet and for those who saw it and loved it…you can see these same talented young performers in more heavenly roles in The Nutcracker:
November 26th at 7:30 pm and 27th at 2 pm Marcus High School Sigler Auditorium, Flower Mound. Buy tickets here.
Le Ballet de Dracula photos, courtesy of Nancy Loch Photography.

Neil Young: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say

neil-young-1

Neil Young is a rock-and-roll icon and has been for six decades…he’s not fading away! He’s released thirty-six solo albums since 1969-2015. “I don’t care what people want to hear…that’s not why I’m playing. I’m not an entertainer in the classic sense. I play what I feel like playing, and I hope the people like it.” 

Neil Young is my Dad’s age…seventy-years-old young. There’s something about this generation…their unwavering confidence and spirit of a Crazy Horse. Neil Young’s middle name is Percival…one of the knights of Arthur’s round table. Percival was one of the persevering knights who finds the Holy Grail and completes the quest. Young’s parents probably knew that Percival would suit him well.

Most music fans know about Neil Young and his epic musical legacy, but if you “come a little bit closer”…the man behind “Rockin’ In The Free World,” “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon,” “Ohio” and so many more classics is even more interesting than you thought.

FIVE THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT NEIL YOUNG…

1. Neil Young has been a resident of Northern California for almost fifty years (he also has homes in Florida and Hawaii) but did you know that he’s Canadian? He’s received both the Order of Manitoba and the Order of Canada“It’s my roots, I’m proud to be a Canadian – but I don’t let it hold me back.”

2. Neil Young was once in a band with R&B legend Rick James. Before he formed Buffalo Springfield, Young played in a ’60s Toronto band called the Mynah Byrds that was fronted by seventeen-year-old Rick Super Freak James. Not only did Young play in a band with Rick James in the ‘60s, they also shared an apartment together in Toronto. In an interview Young said, “We did some wild things. It’s all very hazy to me now. I’m glad I made it through that stage. It got a little dicey.”

13781685_1024084281032113_2808952741363426309_n

3. Neil Young is passionate about paddle boarding and practices during his free time. He said he loves paddle boarding because “it’s a beautiful thing…I can’t worry about the paparazzi. You can’t see them anyway. They are taking pictures from behind trees. You can’t think about that.”

4. Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” as a diss song to Neil Young for writing “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” Young’s songs discuss the racism that existed in the American South. “Sweet Home Alabama” is about how great the South is and includes the lyrics “I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” Young actually liked the song.

rs-247231-rs-neil-young

5. Young looks long and lean because of his training regimen…Pilates! He’s a trained Pilates instructor. “I have a truck that travels with me when I’m on the road, and it has a Pilates Reformer in it. I keep doing stuff like that. It keeps me fit.” Young attributes Pilates to making his performances on stage more aerobic and a form of strength training. “I can actually do it better now than I’ve been able to for years because Pilates has opened my body up. I feel much better about my ability to react physically to what I’m doing.”

It’s nice to know that Neil Percival Young isn’t retiring anytime soon. He’s writing a book right now…still on his quest like a persevering knight of King Arthur.

Related post:

Five things you might not know about Frank Sinatra

Tuesday Nights in 1980

tuesdaynightsin1980

Imagine a party in New York City in 1979…the punk era. You might see Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Blondie, Keith Haring… This was a time period that changed the art world and opened it for the outsiders coming in with a vision. Molly Prentiss paints the end of the seventies Manhattan with many cigarettes, graffitied phone booths and seedy bars that take you back to the hey day of CBGB’s and Studio 54.

“One man would be grinning while the art lovers toasted in his name, another man would never paint again.”

IMG_4561

Things seem to be falling into place at the beginning of the book…The main character, James, has a faithful following of his New York Times art reviews and his art collection is the talk of the town. On New Year’s Eve, James and his wife, Marge, are excited to begin the new decade with a new life that they’ll welcome in 1980.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 follows a group of people engrossed in the art scene in New York in 1979. Raul Engales is an artist from Argentina who has run away from his sister, Franca and the problems his country is facing. Raul is ego driven and dives head first into NYC’s art scene. Raul tunes out his past in Argentina but when James comes into his life, he can’t ignore what he left behind. Franca’s little boy Julian is warmly welcome by James’ wife Marge who so desperately wants a child of her own. Marge confronts Lucy about the affair she has had with her husband. Marge tells Lucy, “It isn’t enough to be beautiful… Beautiful is for other people. You have to be something for you.”

Lucy is like “the girl with the pearl earring“…she’s in a painting of Raul’s and is muse to both Raul and James. James describes Lucy in his synesthetic-style…”She was a lime after a shot of strong tequila. She was no sunglasses and no sunscreen when you needed both. She was wet tar when your feet got stuck…”

James is the peculiar character who shines the brightest in Tuesday Nights. He seems to be on the spectrum and needs inspiration to be the art critic that New York Times can’t get enough of. James’ synesthesia has made him successful with his unique critical perspective…”a word was transformed into a color, where an image was manufactured into a bodily sensation , where applesauce tasted like sadness and winter was the color blue.” When James awakens to find his synesthetic abilities gone, after his wife has had a miscarriage, he’s desperate to regain them in order to save his marriage and career. James tells Raul after he’s had an accident and states that he’s giving up art, “You are underestimating of the power of the associative brain! That’s what an artist is! Someone whose way of looking at the world – just their gaze – is already an idea in itself!”

IMG_4562

Each character is motivated by a deep yearning that keeps them dancing into the New Year with sentimental hope. Tuesday Nights in 1980 is a debut novel that will keep you turning the page for more… “The imperfections, the time that’s passed, the hiccups…that’s the wear of the world on it. That’s the life.”

Related post:

The best books for francophiles