This Is Just to Say…

Hello!

First of all, I am honoured to become a co-author together with voyager, Giliell and Charly, and most especially honoured to be doing it from this platform, Affinity. I know Caine asked me a couple of times to join the team and I dithered, and I am sad that I didn’t take the opportunity then. In any case, I hope to continue a fine tradition of diversity and random interesting stuff.

Most of you are familiar with my comments and probably have some idea of where I’m coming from, but just to recap: I am an ex-patriated Canadian re-patriated to Latvia (long story which will come out in bits and pieces), I work in the forensics field (nothing particularly gross), I have three kids, two cats, one dog and a husband, and all the assorted issues that come with co-ordinating life with several people. I am a martial arts practitioner – which sounds fancy until I tell you that I’ve only been doing tae kwon do for a year and a half or so, and also an amateur musician (classically trained in piano and violin, but a returning chorister as well). Most of these things, in some combination or another, will be my chosen topics. I hope to focus on the culture that I know (so expect a lot of Latvian music and arts), music (suggestions welcome) and, if I feel brave enough, bad poetry.

I’m glad to be here, and as much as I miss Caine and her distinctive voice, I’m happy we’re all here to carry on, because what else is there?

So, to start things off on a suitably impressive note, here’s a shortened video of a grand event that occurs once every five years – the final concert of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, specifically the folk dancing concert. In July 2018, more than 18 000 (not a typo, so about 1% of the Latvian population) got together and performed in the soccer arena, making shapes and dancing their hearts out. If anyone wants to watch the extended version, I’m sure you can find a link, but the camera work was atrocious – the whole point is to view things from above. Seeing it in under a minute – wonderful. Here’s the high note to kick things off:

Slavic Saturday

OK, I’ll bite. Last week Rob Grigjanis mentioned Antonín Dvořák and he indeed is one of Czech composers whose work is dear to my heart. I particularly like his Slavonic Dances, Opus 46. I was looking for a video that I like and unfortunately the only one that I do cannot be embedded, so you would have to head over to Czech TV Website. I hope it works for out-of state too. Other recordings that I have found on YouTube I did not like – right at the first dance “Furiant” seemed either too fast or too bland.

That I make such judgement is slightly ironic and possibly unfair to the musicians. I do not dance at all and I hate it, particularly polka. Surely everyone knows polka, although not everyone knows that it is originally Czech dance. My experience with it is however rather unpleasant – I was always a bad dancer, but it was seen as somewhat required to take dance lessons in highschool, so I did, being awkward and clumsy all the time despite my best effort. And polka was for me the last straw in this string of tortures – at the end of the lesson my disgruntled dance partner has lifted her skirt and has shown me her feet that were kicked and stomped bloody. That put a final crimp in my (non-existent as it was) desire to dance that dance ever again, since I try not to hurt people on principle.

It is not that I do not have a sense of rhythm, but everyone tells me polka has two and a half step (hence the name půlka(half)-polka), however I simply hear three steps and that daft little half-skip just tangles both my brain and my feet. Not that other dances are much better with their inane jumping and turning and all that nonsense. I do not see the point of dancing, really.

But the music can be beautiful and can move me to tap my feet or nod my head a little. That much I admit.

The Amazing Egg Dance: Peasants to Politics.

Contrast between Carnival and Fasting (ca. 1550–99), artist unknown — Source.

Contrast between Carnival and Fasting (ca. 1550–99), artist unknown — Source. Click for full size.

Whoever the artist of the above piece was, I’d say they had been most impressed with Hieronymus Bosch. The Egg Dance, from village revelry to romance to politics. This is a wonderful piece of history, which demonstrates several cultural shifts throughout the centuries.

The egg dance was a traditional Easter game involving the laying down of eggs on the ground and dancing among them whilst trying to break as few as possible. Another variation (depicted in many of the images featured here) involved tipping an egg from a bowl, and then trying to flip the bowl over on top of it, all with only using one’s feet and staying within a chalk circle drawn on the ground. Although, as shown in many of its depictions in art, the pastime is associated with peasant villages of the 16th and 17th century, one of the earliest references to egg-dancing relates to the marriage of Margaret of Austria and Philibert of Savoy on Easter Monday in 1498.

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This blindfolded version of the egg dance features in Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795). … According to some scholars Goethe’s mention gave birth to the phrase “einen wahren Eiertanz aufführen” (to perform a true egg dance) which refers to moving carefully in a difficult situation. This particularly association of the egg dance with navigating danger was expressed time and time again in political cartoons of the 19th-century: various political figures, from Bismarck to Disraeli, precariously trying to make there way about a floor strewn with potential upsets.

Democracy’s Disastrous Egg-dance, (1884), Joseph Keppler. A woman labeled “Democracy” wearing a blindfold labeled “Stupidity” is pushed by Samuel J. Randall toward a chair labeled “Presidenti[al] Chair”, with several eggs in the way on the ground, they are labeled “Honest Naval Appropriation, Civil Service Reform, Honest River – Harbor Appropriation, Economy, Anti-Silver Coinage, National Banking System, Tariff Reform, [and] Prompt Legislation”, two of the eggs are broken; among a group of men laughing, in the background on the right, are John Logan, John Sherman, and William D. Kelley. — Source.

Democracy’s Disastrous Egg-dance, (1884), Joseph Keppler. A woman labeled “Democracy” wearing a blindfold labeled “Stupidity” is pushed by Samuel J. Randall toward a chair labeled “Presidenti[al] Chair”, with several eggs in the way on the ground, they are labeled “Honest Naval Appropriation, Civil Service Reform, Honest River – Harbor Appropriation, Economy, Anti-Silver Coinage, National Banking System, Tariff Reform, [and] Prompt Legislation”, two of the eggs are broken; among a group of men laughing, in the background on the right, are John Logan, John Sherman, and William D. Kelley. — Source.

The Journalistic Egg Dance (ca. 1840), Andreas Geiger. A caricature of press censorship before the 1848 revolution in Austria. During the Restoration after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the European powers, led by Austrian Chancellor Clemens von Metternich (1773-1859), restricted the freedom of speech and expression to contain any kind of critical, nationalist or anti-authoritarian movement — Source.

The Journalistic Egg Dance (ca. 1840), Andreas Geiger. A caricature of press censorship before the 1848 revolution in Austria. During the Restoration after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the European powers, led by Austrian Chancellor Clemens von Metternich (1773-1859), restricted the freedom of speech and expression to contain any kind of critical, nationalist or anti-authoritarian movement — Source.

You read and see much more at The Public Domain Review.

Ballet Rotoscope.

Created by the Japanese collaborative of artists, researchers and designers Masahiko Sato + EUPHRATES, their project named Ballet Rotoscope is an experimental short film that mesmerizingly follows the movement of a ballerina using a rotoscope animation method. A ballerina dances while the joints on her body are traced with a computer-generated rotoscope animation technique, an algorithm that brings a mathematical layer to her natural movements.

You can read more at iGNANT.

The Art of Whipped Cream.

Selected character studies, oil on board, dimesions variable. All images courtesy the artist and Paul Kassman Gallery. (Click for full size!)

In a performance at the Metropolitan Opera and a parallel gallery exhibit, artist Mark Ryden imbibes his sugary design aesthetic through costume and fashion prints. In his latest venture, the Portland-based artist creates classic, painterly pastel works with a childlike fantasy.

The art show, The Art of Whipped Cream, opening in May at Paul Kasmin Gallery in NYC, features the final realizations of each costume from the opera, Whipped Cream, a graceful choreographed feat by Alexei Ratmanksy. His illustrations encompass the bedtime dreams of prima ballerinas, pink, and lots of candy and pastries. Ryden’s merry band of misfits includes a smiling half-dragon, half-muppet creature, and tiny humans masquerading as multilayered cakes. The two-dimensional drawings at Paul Kasmin are rendered in oil on board and graphite on paper.

[…]

Mark Ryden’s solo art exhibit, The Art of Whipped Cream, shows  at Paul Kassman, May 20–July 21, 2017. Find more information about the show, here.  Purchase tickets for the ballet, Whipped Cream, taking place at the Metropolitan Opera House, here.

You can read and see much more at The Creators Project.

The Whipped Cream Curtain Call:

Flight Pattern.

A ballet about the plight of refugees, commissioned for the Royal Opera House, has been showered with five star reviews and described with words like potent and sombre. It’s the work of the Canadian Crystal Pite who has built a reputation as one of the most respected choreographers of her generation – and who is the first woman to have created a new work for the Royal Ballet in almost two decades. It’s titled ‘Flight Pattern’ and Kirsty Wark went to speak to her about using dance to engage in a difficult harrowing subject.

Beautiful and so very poignant. I wish I could see this in person.