Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mathias is included in another review!

Every spring Birmingham Royal Ballet splits its company in two....part go "north" and part go "south"....bringing great dance to many smaller cities across the United Kingdom. It also gives many of the dancers opportunities to perform roles they've only under-studied or danced occasionally. It allows "third cast" to become "first" or "second" cast. It brings quality live performances into intimate places, instilling the love of movement and music in the hearts and souls of people who can't always make it to the "big city". It also affords local newspapers to cover the productions!'s what David Bellan said in the Oxfordshire Limited Edition:
(Read it HERE as well!

The South African-born choreographer John Cranko is best known for his long directorship of Stuttgart Ballet, where he produced masterpieces, usually story ballets, for the superlative dancers at his disposal there. Brouillards, (Fog), however, is a plotless series of episodes in which the choreographer responds to Debussy’s music of that title. “Mist, snow, heather and sails are passing pictures in the music, leaving behind no more than sadness and memories of transient beauty,” Cranko said.

The work has a dream-like quality in which what we have seen seems to melt away as the final ensemble comes to a close. But there is humour, too. There’s a very funny Cake Walk by James Barton, Mathias Dingman and Kit Holder in which they dance, stiff as puppets, arms by sides with hands poking out sideways. They look slightly perplexed by what they are doing, and finally collapse on the stage. Among other highlights is a beautiful slow duet with Ambra Vallo and Jamie Bond, and Alexander Campbell’s solo expressing his love for a sleeping, uncaring girl.

David Bintley made The Dance House, inspired by Shostakovich’s first piano concerto, in memory of dancer Nick Millington, who died in his mid-thirties.This, again, is a series of pieces for various combinations of dancers, filled with a calm beauty, and demonstrating once again, in its phrasing, Bintley’s great musicality. Quite outstanding is the duet by Natasha Oughtred and Matthew Lawrence, with its many floating lifts and beautiful line.

Nowadays the name Balanchine brings to mind a whole series of abstract, neo-classical works that made his name, but when he left Diaghilev and went to the United States he worked a lot in musical theatre, even producing a ballet for 50 circus elephants in pink tutus, with music by Stravinsky. On Your Toes, with choreography by Balanchine and music by Richard Rogers, is a backstage story of jealousy over the favours of a ballerina — too complex to go in to here — but the finale of the show is a ballet — Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (right).

This on its own forms the final part of the triple bill. Set in Kate Ford’s amusing nightclub, with towering skyscrapers in the shape of high-heeled legs, this is an enjoyable romp, with showgirls, gangsters, bar-men and cops. The centrepiece is a long duet featuring Robert Parker and slinky, sexy Celine Gittens — dressed, apparently, only in a fishnet body-stocking. It ends with a multiple shooting, and makes a lively conclusion to the evening.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Veer TV goes backstage with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in Norfolk, VA

Norfolk: Part V....SWAN LAKE!

Above: Mathias as Benno....curtain call! Just imagine the roaring applause! It was long and loud! Click on any image to enlarge...even though none are particularly great!)

(Above: The swans, bowing after the performance. Laura-Jane is in the second row, third from the left. Click on image to see her!)

The entire reason why we went to Norfolk was to attend (BRB) Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Swan Lake, part of the Virginia Arts Festival. Since the ballet company performed it last year, we knew that Mathias had a chance to dance the principal part, Benno, friend to Prince Siegfried. He'd danced it last year. Steve and I both went (at separate venues) to see it.

As soon as tickets were available over the festival's website, we purchased four seats to all three shows. We crossed our fingers and toes....hoping for "good casting"....praying that my parents would get to see Mathias dance in tights (as opposed to heeled boots in the several "character" roles in which he is also cast.)

Well, we knew even before we left that Mathias was only appearing as Benno in the "children's program", an educational show of just Act III, a show to which tickets weren't available. Benno's "big part" isn't even in Act III. We were disappointed but still very, very happy to be going to Norfolk. After all, Sunday was Mother's Day and Mathias' twenty-second birthday. I hadn't spent time with him on either occasion since he was twelve. After that, he went to the Kirov Academy in DC and then on to live and dance in England.

Well, on Thursday night Steve and I were to meet Mathias and his girlfriend Laura-Jane in their hotel lobby. Two of the other dancers recognized us and congratulated us that Mathias "would be dancing more than planned". We were hopeful that this meant he'd be one of the four men that dance with beautifully clad ladies in Act I. (There's a video which I've shared in the post just above this that includes this part.) Mathias only confirmed that he'd "be dancing more than the character parts". That was all he said. He said it was "a surprise".

There was no announcement of a casting change on opening night. So, that Friday, as the curtain rose, we were very hopeful to see Mathias as one of the four gentlemen......but.....he came running onto the stage.....the first one to appear......BENNO! We all gasped and then my mom and I cried our way through a terrific first act watching him perfectly land his double air-tours (spelling? I have no's basically jumping up while completing two rotations before landing in the exact same position....impossible, if you ask me!)

Now....look at that video....I have no idea when it was taken....but Mathias is in it....Benno! The entire performance was great. The audience loved everything about it too. I'm unaccustomed to snapping photos in a theater....but flash bulbs sparkled during the standing ovation and curtain calls, so I took my camera out too! Though the images are the greatest, the memory they trigger is THE BEST!

Steve and I attended the Saturday night performance and enjoyed that cast too. The new mayor of Birmingham, England and his wife sat just a few rows in front of us. On Steve's right sat Christopher Barron, BRB's Chief Executive. Beyond him was artistic director David Bintley. This made us a little nervous. (I've actually never spoken to the artistic director....sort of scared to try. He's an immensely talented choreographer and obviously a great ballet leader.....and I LOVE his Cyrano best of all....should be the next production brought to the USA!)

Unfortunately, Mathias' appearance on Friday night was the result of another dancer's injury. Although thrilled to have witnessed Mathias in the part, we are quite sad by this news and hoping for a very, very speedy recovery. The other dancer was scheduled to perform on Sunday also danced in this final BRB show in Norfolk. He was wonderful again. We cried again too! It was Mother's Day, his twenty-second birthday, and he was dancing Benno! What could be better!

In the lobby that Sunday afternoon, we bumped into two BRB Friends. The "friends" are an amazing group that follow the company, see as many performances as possible, contribute financially to the company, are invited to attend company classes and specially arranged interviews with staff and dancers, and contribute regularly to Internet sites like the BRB page on The two sisters have already written an amazing recap of their trip to Virginia HERE with wonderfully glowing reviews of Mathias' dancing. (THANK YOU!)

We are always thrilled to see our son and his girlfriend Laura-Jane perform, but the "friends" are especially important. They are thrilled and attend regularly even though they aren't there for a special family member. It is a very happy feeling knowing that "someone" who really cares is watching my son dance. I wouldn't have made it through Mathias' first year in England if it hadn't been for the "friends" posting on every show.

After Friday night's "surprise" performance, we celebrated in my parents' room at the Residence Inn. Laura-Jane had slipped and hurt her foot. We had it on ice but otherwise we were all smiles!

After Sunday's matinee performance, we all went to a great Brazilian restaurant. We ate too much. We drank too much. Yet, we had lots to celebrate....a birthday, Mother's Day, and a fantastic weekend of fabulous dancing!

Norfolk: Part IV...The Chrysler Museum

It's a good thing that my parents know where I got my love of museums, especially art museums. I got it from them.....and now I sort of "torture" them by spending so much time in them while on vacation. Of course, I don't actually think of it as a "vacation". Visiting an art museum is a quest for inspiration, an intellectual pursuit of the creative spirit, a challenge to my concepts of beauty, and the best way to spend a day! (All images in this post can be enlarged! Just click on the picture!)

Norfolk is the home of the Chrysler Museum of Art. One knows the artwork is going to be GREAT from the outside. Above is Mom and Dad posing in front of Anna Hyatt Huntington's The Torch Bearers, 1957.

The place is enormous. The collections are vast. The special exhibit, Women of the Chrysler: A 400 Year Celebration of the Arts, was particularly wonderful. I loved everything about Susan Taylor Glasgow's Good Housekeeping Toaster, 2005. It's a mixed media and glass.

The statement on the sign is FABULOUS. (Click on image to enlarge and enjoy! I relate on SO MANY levels....and I type too!) Of course, I am also taken with the notion of stitching glass! Great piece!

I also liked the room sized installation called The Women Series, 1992-99, by Gwen Akin and Allan Ludwig. These 200+ silver gelatin enlargements of both known and anonymous women are intentionally hung at random. The group is engaging....because of the many decades, the physical appearances, the quest for "stars", and the ages of all these ladies. The diversity in the portraits is marvelous, especially when presented in a uniform way. It really showcases the multifaceted definition of "woman".

Above and below: Vik Muniz's Orestes Pursued by the Furies (Pictures of Junk)

In another area of the museum I was blown away by Vik Muniz's Orestes Pursued by the Furies (Pictures of Junk) after Bouguereau's oil painting (below) that hung just across the wide hallway from it.

I studied Muniz' work very, very closely and still couldn't figure out all the "junk" and the skills involved in creating this gigantic picture. It was fascinating. The sign said that the artist used a space the size of a basketball court. He directed art students with a laser pointer to position the "junk" in various locations. It took over a month to replicate the artwork before photographing it.

In another place was a Grand Harmonicum.....a very strange musical instrument that is played by rubbing the edge of a glass for its tonal effect. Mozart even wrote music for it (which I assume is now played by some sort of other instrument). There was one in the Moses Myers historic home too. Odd. I can just imagine how obnoxious it would be to listen to one practicing the same piece over and over again....but the cabinet sure was nice!

(Above and below: Tiffany Lava Glass, circa 1895.)

We had lunch in museum's excellent cafe before heading into the "glass" area. It was an overwhelming collection. The Tiffany stained glass and lamps were TO DIE FOR! There are rooms of excellent art glass and modern works by big name masters. To me, however, I was totally surprised by "lava glass". The photos immediately above and below are by Tiffany and most date to the late 19th century to the 1920s. The asymmetrical designs, the intentionally "crude" shapes, the brilliant gilding, and the age just mystified me. Most look utterly something I'd expect to have been created within the last decade or so....not over one hundred years ago!

I was also found these petite bead covered glasses very unusual.

I have no idea what these were used for, who made them, or how the netting was attached to the glass because there didn't seem to be a seam....but they were quite beautiful, very precise beadwork!

And finally, I love these glass and fiber cinerary urns by William Morris. The statement also touched my enlarge that photo to read!

Norfolk: Part III....Day trip to Bacon's Castle

(Above: Bacon's Castle, front.)

On Saturday we ventured out from Norfolk....driving over toward Williamsburg and taking the ferry from Jamestown across the James River.

(Above: Mom and Steve on the ferry boat. It was quite windy and hot!)

We headed to Bacon's Castle in Surry and took another great tour through the rare Jacobean structure. Built in 1665, it was updated with a Greek revival addition in 1844. The interior was furnished according to mid-18th century inventories. Our octogenarian guide instilled us with her love of the building, the preservation efforts, and covered all three floors plus the basement. She's been with the place since it was opened to the public in 1983. (It was purchased by the Preservation Virginia in 1972.) Steve and I have visited in 1984 and 1987. Since then the 17th century garden has been excavated and planted.

(Above: Bacon's Castle, back.)

From Bacon's Castle, we drove to nearby Smithfield and walked around the charming town, its art center, and then had a fabulous lunch at the Smithfield Inn.

Norfolk: Part II...The Moses Myers House

I love touring historic homes. The Moses Myers House was no exception. The tour was private....just Mom, Dad, Steve, and me with a great guide who explained that the dining room (above) is generally more elaborately appointed.....but Birmingham Royal Ballet had some function in it during the week so the place settings were removed. We were further told that the table and chair were being put into temporary storage for this occasion too. No, Mathias was not part of this event. The room really can't hold the entire company and guests, but it was exciting to think about such a pretty, historic place being used for the arts festival and for the ballet company!

Mom and I had a bet about the detailing between these two elaborate mantles. Okay.....she won....but I got the photos!

We also visited two nearby small museums, a church with its old graveyard, and wandered around Granby Street peeking in the windows that were being used to showcase various artworks in a project called Art/Everywhere, a storefront art initiative.

Of 90 submissions, 33 projects were accepted and opened on May 1st. Easily, our favorite was Virginia Keith's Dry Humor at 250 Granby. Everything about it was clever and well done. I can't believe there are no Internet images, website with details, or this statement somewhere....but it was the space perfectly....and dealt with the waste of energy due to the prevalent use of dryers in the USA. Mom said to take a photo for my sister Wanda but this was the only one that turned out.

Norfolk: Part I...Mom and Dad and Mermaids

The extended weekend in Norfolk for the Virginia Arts Festival was amazing. I took loads of photos, ate too much, cried tears of pure joy over ballet, visited several cemeteries, toured historic houses, and loved every minute spent with my family. There is no way to share the experiences in chronological order. It would take forever to get it all correctly written and illustrated. So, I'm just posting several entries, thematically....or at least that's my plan.

While in Norfolk, my Dad checked his email daily....even logged on once all by himself. He corresponds with my sister Wanda in Munich, Germany each and every day. Wanda wrote begging for lots of photos.

From that moment on, I started snapping pictures of Mom and Dad with as many of the Norfolk Public Art Mermaids as possible. The city has been adding to "Mermaids on Parade" for the last ten years. They're everywhere!

Mom and Dad got used to having their photos taken with public art....even non-mermaid pieces like Chaim Cross' bronze sculpture called The Tourists from 1904. It's by the waterfront.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mathias is featured in an early rehearsal of BRB's Brouillard

Birmingham Royal Ballet - Brouillards rehearsals from Rob Lindsay on Vimeo.


Above is the video. Below is the statement from the Birmingham Royal Ballet's "touring blog":

Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Brouillards in just three places in 2010: Cheltenham, Poole and Truro.

Each year the Company splits in two to perform different ballets at opposite ends of the country, in both the South West and the North East. This year’s very special South West leg features a programme of three one-act ballets: Brouillards, The Dance House and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.

Here you can see Birmingham Royal Ballet Artist Mathias Dingman in early studio rehearsals for the piece, in the Company’s own studios here in Birmingham, UK