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Google Labs keeps me entertained with its constant flow of new ideas. The newest one to catch my eye is Similar Images. It works like google images, but rather than relying on keywords to find what you need, once you find an image that approaches what you’re looking for, this app will find ones from around the internet that contain similar attributes.

This is what the front page looks like. Let’s try a search for my favorite subject, dance.

similar images front page

A variety of different results come up. Let’s say I’m looking for a dramatic photo of dancers mid-air against a stark background (as seems to be the fashion these days). We clock on the “similar images” link under that picture…

similar images dance search

Et voila`, lots of mid-air dancers on stark backgrounds.

similar images dance search refined

I can think of so many applications for this labs creation, particularly for bloggers like me who are looking for just the right image to accompany their posts. While the example I show above only resulted in dancers (though in one case it was not a photo but a drawing, which is neat too), I clicked through to other results that did not contain dancers but similar colors, backgrounds, and configurations of images. This could be a positive or a negative depending on what you’re looking for, but nonetheless it’s a new toy to play around with.

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I don’t know if it’s too much yoga and not enough dance, but I can’t seem to find the inspiration to write much lately. Personal blogs are interesting that way; they do tend to come and go, ebb and flow with the whims of the writer. Similarly, my blogroll changes as blogs I follow change or fall into inactivity. Not that I’ve been reading many blogs lately either. But here are a few that I enjoy following lately.

Apartment Therapy – If you live in a small space like me, those lavish spreads in traditional design magazines and blogs are hard to relate to. Apartment Therapy is a blog/web magazine that gives inspiration to those of us who don’t want to sacrifice style in tight quarters. From inspiring color schemes to unique ways to jazz up an entryway (or the wall by your door if you don’t technically have an “entryway”), I have gotten many ideas from this blog that I’ve been able to apply to my own living space.

This is Why You’re Fat – Only in America… Bacon, deep frying, and food-on-a-stick feature prominently on this blog of all culinary creations obscene. Yes, it’s an offensive name, but let’s face it– if you ate stuff like this on a regular basis, I don’t see how you could be skinny (or healthy).  I dare you to look through such creations as The Bacone (A bacon cone filled with scrambled eggs and country gravy topped with a biscuit) or the Fat Sam (Cheesesteak sandwich with chicken fingers, french fries, mozzarella sticks, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and topped with egg and hot sauce) without giggling just a little bit.

Jodi’s Blog – I always enjoy following my friend, the talented artist Jodi Hoover’s blog. But never have I enjoyed it more than in the last few days as she blogs The World Beard and Moustache Championships. Jodi’s husband Mickey proudly represented Maryland with his full face of hair. I can’t tell you how entertained I have been reading about the Parade of Beards, and the politics of the World Beard and Moustache Association, and The Beards, an Australian band that, as Jodi explains, “They sing songs about beards for people with beards.”

What did you think of America’s Best Dance Crew last night?

Though I haven’t written much about it, I have been following the show on and off this season. I think there is some amazing dancing on this show, which really showcases the diversity of hip hop. I love that they had a clogging group and I love that they made it as far as they did. I also love that female groups did as well as they did this season, outnumbering the men 2:1 in the top three.

Ultimately, Fly Khicks, the female group from Miami, was eliminated, leaving the Beat Freaks and Quest Crew (which Mr P thinks sounds like a rather corporate name) heading into the finale. I think this is a good top two. Strikers All-Stars, the step crew from Florida would have also merited a place at the top. Ultimately, it came down to the two groups with the most physical prowess and the most unique flavor.

I just love what the Beat Freaks have done, showing that women can go head to head with men in some of the craziest, most difficult moves such as head spins and threading. They have upper body strength and control that even most men can only dream about.

Quest Crew has some familiar faces– Dominic (or D Tricks as he’s calling himself on this show) and Hok– from So You Think You Can Dance. That gave them a familiarity advantage in the beginning, but they truly belong at the top.

I have no idea who deserves to win. I think that Quest did slightly better last night in terms of leaving their mark than Beat Freaks, but I’m going to have to review videos from the season before I can figure out who deserves to win.

ABT dancer Nicola Curry’s new studio was featured in The New York Times Real Estate section (via Apartment Therapy).

One feature that I think is universally appealing to dancers is hardwood floors. Even though the studio is small, Curry seems to have left some empty floor space, just enough to do some stretching or practice in place.

One thing that’s frustrated me about being a renter in Northern Virginia is the severe shortage of housing with wood floors. If I have to live in another apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting I’ll go crazy.

These are just too cool:

barack

They are 2″ x 2″ with a clear image of President-Elect Barack Obama as he appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show dancing.

The caption reads: “Dance Yes We Can”

On the back: “Dance Yes We Can AND Will; http://www.dancemetrodc.org”

We intend to flood the city by the time of the inauguration with these great reminders to our new friends in this new administration that Dance and all the arts are a part of the dialogue!

Pre-inauguration prices:

$6 for one button

$10 for two buttons

Proceeds to benefit Dance/MetroDC’s Dance is the Answer programming

To order your buttons, please email your name, address, phone #, and how many buttons you would like to order to info@dancemetrodc.org

If the blog looks different, I’m playing around with some new designs. I’ve never changed the design since I started the blog and thought it was time for a new look. Let me know what you think.

She may not have as well known as some of her counterparts such as Ginger Rogers, but for those who knew and appreciated her work, Cyd Charisse clearly left a mark. Here are a few touching tributes I’ve read.

She Put the Move in Movies (WP)

[I]t was what Charisse could do with her legs that set her apart from other musical stars of her era, the mid-1940s through the ’50s, and what distinguished her from those who came before or after. She was a dancing goddess on a very lonely pedestal. Charisse, who died Tuesday at 86, had no peers and few imitators.

 Sylph or Siren, The Legs Have It (NYT):

Some stars shine, others flicker, lingering in your consciousness and dreams in flashes, favorite scenes and frozen moments. Cyd Charisse, the long-legged beauty who in the 1950s gave Fred Astaire some midcareer oomph and Gene Kelly his match in pure animal vitality, wasn’t a Hollywood immortal. She never transcended the movies in which she appeared — her breakout musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” could certainly have been produced without her. But it surely would not have been as magnificent without the erotic jolt she gives Kelly.

From Ballet to Movies, Cyd Charisse Was a Cool Classic (Boston Globe):

[She] expressed persona through movement rather than dialogue, and in her case that persona was smoky, sinuous, and cool: a quintessential ’50s mix of sex and poise. She was the choreographic equivalent of a classic Sinatra LP.

Beautiful Dynamite (The Guardian)

For me, there is a crucial test of the Charisse obituaries: it is whether or not they mention a film called Party Girl. The New York Times names it and refers to it as “a drama”. The Los Angeles Times does not seem to know about it. But it is the best work Charisse ever did.

Cyd Charisse: Some of her greatest numbers (The Guardian): Video highlights from the legendary actor and dancer from Hollywood’s golden era.

Finally, Turner Classic Movies has changed its programming schedule to show three of her best movies on Friday, June 27. Schedule is here.

 

I was very saddened to read that Cyd Charisse, an inspiration to me and a highlight of Hollywood’s golden age of musical cinema, has died at the age of 86 (link is to NYT article). From the moment I saw her in Singin In the Rain I knew I’d found my style and dance icon. She will live on on the silver screen.

She said her husband, the singer Tony Martin, could always tell with whom she was dancing. “If I was black and blue,” she said, “it was Gene. And if it was Fred, I didn’t have a scratch.”

(from the NYT Obituary)

 

I said in my last post that I’d be writing about a new challenge I’ve embarked on and the new experiences and lessons that have come with it. What is it you ask? Ok, the title of this post gives it away, but all I have to say, is: Broadway, get ready, ’cause I’m on my way! Not so fast, this is community theater.

A little while back, a coworker who’s heavily involved in community theater forwarded me an audition announcement. They were looking for dancers. The musical, only one of my favorites of all time, was one that I knew backwards and forwards, having listened to the soundtrack a bazillion times with my sister when we were younger.

It was an opportunity I’d sort of been waiting for in the back of my mind. Unless you count being in the orchestra pit in high school way back in the day, I’d never done theater before. A lot of musicals have some amazing dancing, and they look like so much fun. More fun than some of the dance performances I’ve been involved with, dare I say…I figured the dancing in it would be latin-ish, so I might have something to bring to the table. The one catch was that I would have to sing, but my coworker assured me I just needed to be able to carry a tune. That I can do, though I can’t speak to the quality.

Bottom line: I had nothing to lose and figured the audition process would be a fun experience that would fortify me for the future. I had absolutely no expectation of making the cut. In the end, I think this gave me the ability to be relaxed and to be myself.

First, I had to pick a song. I’ve got a low range, so I went with Big Spender from Sweet Charity. Another good choice, as it allowed me to show my sassy side. I downloaded the sheet music and the song and sang along with it a bunch of times by way of practicing.

When I got to the audition I had to fill out a form stating availability, experience, part auditioning for (dancer, of course), and some other stuff including my “age range,” basically the ages I felt I could convincingly portray. I asked about this and was advised to go ten years younger and ten older. As I waited to be called I asked the other auditioners if they had any advice, since it was my first time. “Be charismatic” seemed to be the main tip.

I’d asked my friend if I should dress the part, and she told me not to as you don’t know what they have in mind, so it’s best to be a blank slate. When I got there, all the women seemed to be wearing red dresses (going with the latin-ish theme). Though I was dressed to dance, I was also funnily enough wearing a red shirt with black pants.

We were brought into the audition room in a group of five. I was to go last. As each person finished their audition, they left the room, so I actually auditioned in front of the judges only. I’m not sure if that helped my nerves or not, but I focused on charisma, and tried to move as naturally as I could while singing, despite having noticed the others stood still while they sang. Then again, none of the others seemed to be trying for a dancing part. A couple sashays and arm flourishes actually elicited a couple saucy “oohs” from the judges so I think that tactic worked. After the singing, the judges were most concerned about rehearsal and performance conflicts. One girl immediately got cut because she would be in Greece for a month during rehearsals (duh). After that was verified, each person was asked to do a chaine. Except for me– they said since I was a dancer I obviously knew how to do chaines and I could do choreography during callbacks.

I was a little miffed that I was all dressed to dance and couldn’t even do a chaine, but also a little psyched because it seemed I was making callbacks. Sure enough, the call came pretty soon that I was to attend callbacks a few days later. That’s when I started getting nervous. I hadn’t actually planned on making it that far!

At the callback, all those trying out for lead and dance parts had to learn a combination. It was moderately challenging and technical and took me a couple times to learn fully. Definitely more ballet than latin. I thanked my lucky stars I’ve been going to ballet class lately. Thinking back to the advice I got, I tried to focus on charisma, and on really nailing the moves that felt natural to me. It was impossible to tell what was going on– there were a number of expressionless judges and they kept assigning people to different places in the lines and moving the lines back and front. I have no idea how they kept track of anything, nobody even appeared to be taking notes. They may have been but it almost seemed they were going on memory alone.

I should note that there were tons of women that auditioned and not so many men. The dancing of the men left, for the most part, much to be desired. It was clear that as usual, the fiercest competition in dance is among women.

After the dancing portion, everyone else was brought into the room and we had to sing an excerpt from one of the show’s big choral numbers. No harmonizing was required, and the director moved rather quickly through the room to see how each person was blending with the group. Again, no visible note taking. I have no idea how they did that with so many people trying out. It was eerie.

At that point the audition was over. . .I honestly had very few expectations for myself. Not because I thought I did a bad job, but because I’ve never done theater before, and there were so many people auditioning I didn’t know if I’d stood out or would meet their casting guidelines. Still, I felt hopeful to have the opportunity for a new experience, and for a musical I love so much on top of that.

Stay tuned for the next installment to see if I got the part!

We’re headed into full-out wedding season, and the NYT has an article about couples going above and beyond the traditional ballroom dance at their wedding. In the case of dancer couples, this can come in the form of a dance choreographed as a gift to the spouse-to-be. There are also services which will choreograph interpretive wedding dances, incorporating the personalities and abilities of the betrothed.

The common theme seems to be that these are tongue-in-cheek elements of the wedding, with the idea that the occasion gives one license to be a little sillier and more uninhibited than in other venues.

Perhaps the execution is more charming than the idea, but it just seems to fit the whole syndrome that one’s wedding is one’s special day upon which one must be the focus of attention and one can do whatever one wishes and the assembled guests are obliged to express their delight at it. I like the idea of presenting a gift of ones own choreography to one’s fiance, because it is eminently personal. However, shelling out [a minimum of] $1500 to a company called MatriMony Mony to explore one’s own performance fantasies seems highly self-indulgent and more than your average wedding guest might be able to bear. Or would it be a welcome break from the monotony of tradition?

“`

Kind of reminds me of this video that I posted a couple months ago:

iGoogle, the personalized homepage version of Google, has rolled out a dizzying array of artist themes with which to customize your web searching experience. There is everything from Jeff Koons, to Diane von Furstenberg, to the Wiggles. Imagine my delight when I found Mark Morris — the only dance company for the time being– among the options. Now every time I go to Google, I am greeted with a different image of my favorite dance company.

Here’s a screenshot of how it looks. Click for a larger version. There’s no mention on the Mark Morris dance company’s website about how this came to be, but what great exposure! I wonder if google plans to include more dancers in its artist lineup.

Ok, I’m four days late, but better late than ever

First things first. By consensus of my readers, the mysterious circle-worshiping necklaces are apparently wireless microphones. It’s a sneaky way to do it and explains why there was some creative accessorizing with scarves this week to try to disguise them. Yes, the viewers have caught on. Seriously, half my traffic this week was driven by folks googling “step it up and dance circle necklace.”

**SPOILER ALERT**

My assessment of Step It Up and Dance‘s episode 4 was summed up by Nick this week, when he said “twenty years of ballet class down the drain.” Read the rest of this entry »

I haven’t done a Dance on the Web in a really long time. I’ve been pretty out of touch with the blogosphere over the last month or so for various reasons, so this is me attempting to get caught up with what’s out there, including exploring some new dance blogs. A lot of them seem to have popped up recently.

Why is the whole Step It Up and Dance cast wearing circle necklaces? Or in the case of Tovah, also circle earrings. It can’t just be a coincidence. Maybe they have all joined a secret cult or society involving circle worship.

I was finally able to catch Bravo’s new dance show, Step It Up and Dance, tonight during its first showing. The nice thing about Bravo is that they rerun shows a lot, so I’ve been able to watch the first two episodes as well.

This show is definitely starting to grow on me and I really enjoyed this third episode.

SIUAD (as I shall hereafter call it…pretty ugly acronym if you ask me but the whole title is too long to type) follows the tried and true Bravo reality competition show formula that started with Project Runway. The host is a model/actress type, there is a middle-aged male mentor, and several judges– 2 fixed the others rotating. There is generally some sort of fast challenge in the first part of the show which will determine things such as teams and immunity for the second, longer elimination challenge. Someone is eliminated each week, but not before the show’s proprietary goodbye catchphrase and final instructions by the hostess. Project Runway and Top Chef have pretty utilitarian final instructions to the effect of “now go pack up your shit (i.e., knives/sewing supplies) and leave.” SIUAD’s is the painfully contrived, “It’s time for your last dance.”

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EPISODE THREE AND DO NOT WISH TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED OR WHO WAS ELIMINATED

Read the rest of this entry »

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