Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Your Passion Is Pure Joy To Me

In March sixteen members of the GöteborgsOperans Danskompani traveled from Sweden to perform at a Kennedy Center festival in Washington DC. Above are glimpses of "Your Passion Is Pure Joy To Me" with music by Nick Cave. It appears that artistic director Adolphe Binder is accomplishing some interesting things in the far northern city where she is working now.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Aurélie Dupont

Aurélie Dupont entered the school of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1983 at age ten. In 1989 when she was sixteen the company hired her as a corps member, or coryphée. After two years came the promotion to sujet. At the end of three more years, about 35 dancers were eligible to compete for the further promotion that only one or two would achieve. Dupont emerged successfully with the new rank of première danseuse. (Image immediately above from the cover of a 2010 documentary, both worshipful and illuminating.)  

She received the Opera Ballet's ultimate promotion to étoile at the relatively early age of 25 in 1998. Dupont later explained that visiting choreographer Pina Bausch had shown her the path from technical mastery to emotional expressiveness, which was also the path from première danseuse to étoile.     

Above, with Manuel Legris appearing last year in Jiří Kylián's Le Verrou (The Bolt) – based on the 1778 painting by Fragonard below.

In 2015 Aurélie Dupont will be 42 – mandatory retirement age for all dancers at the rigid, ancient, glamorous institution she belongs to, no exceptions.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I would not want to end the account of Friday afternoon with images in black-and-white. To me, Mabel looks interesting in black-and-white sometimes, but never with the same illusion of actual presence that soft color can convey.

The Work of the World

Late Friday afternoon Mabel's assigned occupation was to put away a day's worth of toys scattered around the apartment, in anticipation of Mamma's arrival from the office. 

Mamma came home from a long week of working downtown making beautiful books and Daddy went right to work in the kitchen making a splendid fish dinner. Mabel rested, all worn out.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mabel Laughs

I forget now exactly what elaborate complicated story I was telling on Friday afternoon. What I know is that it made Mabel laugh, and the joke kept running as the camera crept closer. There is never any sure formula for gaining Mabel's laughter. The earning of it always feels like a startling and somehow undeserved reward, because nobody can predict at any given moment what will or will not work the magic.

Paper Doll Stickers

The age-old paper doll has now evolved into sticker-paper-doll. Daddy found the big selection pictured above at FLAX Art & Design on Friday morning with Mabel along.

After the nap was a good time to start playing with these. Mabel recruited any adult within reach for consultations. Her decision to add any tiniest element to an outfit was only made after great deliberation. 

The sticker dolls-and-clothing were particularly pleasing-and-useful to a tiny child who works full-time at gaining dexterity.

Green Bath Water

At bath time Friday night Mabel tried out something new. Into the tub she dropped two small chalky-looking child-safe tablets, one yellow and one blue. They started to dissolve immediately, like liquid smoke in swirling plumes of color. Mabel was transfixed, and Daddy was happy to see the success of his novel gift. What resulted after Mabel had immersed herself and the tablets had finished fizzing? Green bath water!  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Profile With Haircut

Late afternoon on Friday – sunny but chilly – with Mabel. We stayed inside, reading books and playing with stickers. She and Daddy had been out already in the morning to FLAX Art & Design – hence the stickers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Tamara Karsavina (1885-1978) created the role of Stravinsky's Firebird for Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes in 1910, after Anna Pavlova turned the part down (disliking the modernist score). I had never heard of Karsavina until I came across the color lithograph above, which led me to investigate its subject. Her partner in the crumpled black-and-white Firebird photo immediately above (taken in 1911) was Michel Fokine (1880-1942), the ballet's choreographer as well as its male lead.

At bottom, Karsavina in a publicity shot with Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) from Le Spectre de la Rose, another Ballets Russes premier (in 1911), also choreographed by Fokine.

Skimming through Nijinsky's biography for the umpteenth time, I was struck anew by the fact that his career was so extraordinarily short, lasting from 1908 (when he was nineteen) only until 1916 (when mental illness brought his performing life to an end). Exactly a century ago he would have been at his brief, brief peak.

Karsavina lived to a ripe old age and became one of the most revered dance teachers in Europe. The great George Balanchine (1904-1983) often said in later years that one of his formative memories was watching her dance in Russia when he was a child.   

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ezekiel vs. Ezekial

The Two Yvonnes

For help he said I should read the new translation of a Gogol story called
"The Two Yvonnes," but after I wrote down the title
of course I realized he meant "Ivans," which brought me to the two
Two Yvonnes, one male, one female, whatever her story might be
now that both of her exist in ballpoint on a line of notebook paper.
And because, at my age, facts tend to switch out with mere notions
like star actors being swapped out for lesser-paid stand-ins
the same day I got the time wrong for a friend's book party–
and what could be more spazzy than arriving early for a book party?
Not being an important actor I stayed on the scene and talked
to my friend's husband: Paul, I said, I love your painting, Ezekiel's
Dream, which I saw on that postcard you sent out; how big is it?
He air-sketched a rectangle, tall as an old school window,
and I said, Oh, I thought it was more wide than tall,
at least from the postcard. Oh no, he said, it's more tall than wide. I
didn't believe him but I wasn't going to argue. How's your painting going?
he kindly asked. I don't paint, I said, barely wanting to admit it
since it's so rare to be asked about work. You're too modest!
he said. We had only met a few times so I explained, No really, Paul,
I only write. Go on! he said, imitating me, I only write. Ha ha!
and this sort of exchange continued for some volleys, Paul's guffaws
escalating with each of my more earnest denials. Karen, I said,
finding my friend who was needed across the room because some heavy
guests had started arriving, Paul is mistaking me for another friend of yours
and he thinks I'm a really good painter! This is Jess, Karen said
into Paul's good ear, a thought which went directly to the voting booth
and pressed the lever. He nodded, remembering, and then Karen said to me,
Your hair! It's so much darker! Darker? I asked ... hmmm, I stalled,
trying not to embarrass anyone. Yes! she said, happy to be her honest self,
Much, much darker! You used to have much lighter hair! Who
was she, I wondered, this sandy-haired painter who doubled for me
in their imaginations–the second Yvonne in the new translation–
and who are you? You who I thought the star of my story?

from The Two Yvonnes : Poems / by Jessica Greenbaum – published by Princeton University Press

AUTHOR'S NOTE – "The Two Yvonnes is dedicated to Karen Chase, and Paul Graubard, whose painting is really titled Ezekial and the Wheel. I got it wrong."

According to Paul Graubard's site, the painting is called Ezekiel Saw the Wheel. Jessica Greenbaum may be the first in my reading experience to employ the literary device of 'the unreliable narrator' in an author's note. Doubly unreliable, as suits the other doubles inhabiting the poem. Not only was the supposed correction of the painting's title another incorrect one, it also changed Ezekiel (spelled conventionally in the poem) to Ezekial (which looks to me more like the name of a Hobbit).

Consequently, the poem's inherent lovely amazingness (mistake-filled chit-chat transformed before the reader's eyes into meaningful structure, like the Parthenon built out of broken popsicle sticks) becomes even more unlikely and startling and satisfying. (I wrote the preceding sentence – a concluding sentence that comes to a real conclusion – expressly for my daughter, who remarked that she could not figure out what I actually thought about the work of people I had featured in several recent posts.) 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


At the end of Friday's playground time, there was the brushing of sand from feet before shoes and socks went back on for the walk home. I was playing with camera settings while Daddy and Mabel remained occupied and stationary under the strong sunlight of the late April afternoon. That is why the photos below gradually intensify in color until the bottom one reaches a near-facsimile of Kodachrome-style saturation.