Sunday, January 31, 2010

Paris Opera Ballet "La Danse"

Yesterday, I ventured out to my first public entertainment venue since the ACL surgery to catch the last screening of 'La Danse' at the Roxie Theatre in SF. After sitting to view the 2 1/2 hour documentary my knee was killing me and it was painful to walk the few blocks back to the train station but the movie was well worth the physical discomfort cost !

'La Danse' is a camera roaming the environment of the Paris Opera Ballet institution to give a view of the life that exists within its walls. For people like me who will never be professional dancers, it's a glimpse into a world only imagined. The camera looked at all facets of the Ballet: the dancers, the directors, the costume and makeup staff, the cafeteria staff, the custodial staff, the building repairs, even a nice sequence that started by gazing upward at the beautifully ornate ceiling of the performance hall proceeding all the way down to the Paris sewer beneath the building looking down showing the fish swimming in the sewer water !

The primary point of view of the movie though is (as I interpret it) from the point of view of a dancer in the company. Hence, the bulk of the footage concentrates on rehearsal. That's rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. Thus, appropriately, there is comparatively way less footage of actual performance. It's right that it should be this way since most of the dancers time will be spent in rehearsal. Right after some performance footage, scenes cut straight to the next days rehearsal just as the dancer would experience life.

If you're not interested in dance, or watching professional dance rehearsals, this movie will be 2 1/2 hours of sheer boredom as there is no plot and there is no focusing in on any 'personal story'. It's the professional's life here. The quality of the dancing is superbe, bringing gasps from the movie audience myself included. The company was shown to have a balance of classical and modern dance. Indeed some of the energy looked like Michael Jackson Amplified (and with greater training and discipline !). Spectacular !

A few interesting non-dance moments from the movie stuck in my mind:

- cut to the executives (in a modest office BTW) planning what they were going to do for visiting American 'premium donors', those individuals that have donated more than $25000 US to the dance company. One of the donor groups ? People from Lehman Brothers..

- In countries like France, Germany.. there are Ballet/Dance companies that are state organizations. The Paris Opera Ballet is a state company so it's the 'same' as working for the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) here. You're a government employee with the same concerns as gov't employees everywhere. In particular a meeting was shown in which the Director explained that the Dancers in the company were recognized as having on average a 'different useful working life' as compared with other gov't workers therefore they didn't have to wait until 65 to be eligible for their gov't pension, instead they are eligible at age 40 for the same benefit. The director added that the high level of achievement of the company was key in that decision and that 'slackening of standards' might put the special consideration in jeopardy.

- In one rehearsal scene a dancer could not shake her habit of pausing her movement with her leg swung back behind her (in Arabesque). This undoubtedly coming from a lifetime of training that way. "She keeps thinking that there is an Arabesque there, when there is none" the choreographer and others keep saying...

- The artistic director describing dancers as being:
1/2 Nun and 1/2 Boxer
Being both the Jockey and the Horse
Being both the Driver and the Race Car

- A choreographer trying to describe the feeling that he wanted from a pair of dancers:
C: "It is like the XMen movies, they want to be in love but because of their dangerous powers they cannot and must stay apart"
D: "Like Edward Scissorhands !"
(editorial comment from me: Hollywood rules the entertainment world...)

A movie worth watching if you're interested in dance and one to avoid like the plague if you're not !

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back On 2 Wheels Again !

And going nowhere fast !

At the advice of Kelly, my Physical Therapist/Torturer, I've climbed back onto my road bike and magnetic trainer to start the next phase of getting my rebuilt knee into shape. The first few full crank revolutions were pretty painful but spiritually uplifting. It's great to be back on 2 wheels again, no matter that I'm not going anywhere !

This week I also gained back the use of my Bass Drum foot. Life being so short of time, I've had to shove drumming aside in order to make time for dancing. I figure that the body will give up on dancing before it gives up on drumming, so dancing has gotten first priority ('Better get it while you can'). Now that my knee is rebuilding and I can't dance, I might as well jump back over and work on my rhythm. Ummph, Pop, Umph Umph... I'm a rhythm and syncopation junkie. As killer drummer Virgil Donati remarked during his spot at the 1997 Modern Drummer Weekend (on DVD) "Drums, the greatest instrument there is !" :-)

Lastly, I took my Mom out to breakfast this morning and saw this cute doggie waiting outside the cafe. I couldn't resist a picture !

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nexus Support Complaints

To much fanfare Google has plunged into the consumer end of the phone market and started direct sales of their new 'Nexus' phone.

There have been complaints about the lack of customer support for the new phone users though. Some are saying that the idea of directly supporting living breathing people is something new for Google (at the time of writing of the article linked to above, there is no Nexus telephone support available !).

If they are pressured into offering phone support, here's what I imagine a typical support call might go like (names changed to protect the guilty):

G: Welcome to Giigle support how may I help you today ?

C: I'm having a problem with my new Nix-Us phone.

G: OK, first though, can you answer this question for me ?
How many basketballs can you fit in a school bus ?

C: What ? I'm not good at math, and anyway why are you asking me this ?

G: Well, I need to know if you're smart enough to be worth my time...
What were you, some kind of a Liberal Arts major ?
OK, well here's one without any scary numbers in it:
Why is a manhole cover round ?

C: I can't answer that, I just need some help with the new phone that I just bought from you !

G: Say, what University did you graduate from anyway ?

C: I didn't get a chance to go to college, I've been working 2 jobs since High School to support my seriously ill Mother, and...

G: That's a lame sounding excuse if I ever heard one..
OK, I've got 4 letters for you: R.T.F.M. (Read The 'Fine' Manual)

C: What ?

(disclaimer: I have a 'Google Android Powered' G-1 phone and love it. I also take advantage of a number of the free services that Google offers and my life has been better for it)

UPDATE: May 14, 2010

Google has announced that it will discontinue direct sales of the Nexus One phone

"...but it’s clear that many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone..."

(We'd rather quit than have to deal with people.... )