Everything’s Beautiful at the Ballet

So I took a half day today to take a little girl I babysit to the ballet.

She was so cute – extremely excited, all dressed up, perfectly behaved the whole time. She’s about to turn five and not very big so we had to get a cushion for her to sit on. It was totally adorable.

I was actually really happy to be seeing Swan Lake. I got some last minute tickets in the fall from the Barnard dance department but I was way on the side and only had a partial view of the stage. This time we had amazing tickets – center orchestra, not too far back.

I’m not as familiar with ABT as I am with NYCB, as proved by a quick perusal of the program. I recognized only a handful of names. Hee Seo was dancing Odette/Odile, but I had never seen her before so I was interested to see how she did. Siegfried was being danced by Marcelo Gomes who is always perfect.

Hee Seo turned out to be gorgeous. She has beautiful legs and feet and extremely expressive arms (which is super necessary for Odette especially). Odette/Odile is a hard role – one because it’s a marathon and two because they’re basically polar opposites – but Hee did a wonderful job.

If I had to criticize, I’d say she’s not really a turner. Her fouettes, the big showstopper moment in act III, were not great. There was a lot of movement and she never pulled in for multiples, not even at the end. Not that I should really be talking, my fouettes are atrocious, but there you are. She also seemed to be struggling a bit with the step overs in her act II variation.

(By the way, if you want to see a stellar coda check out Gillian Murphy. Her turns start at 0:30 if you’re in a hurry although it’s worth watching the whole thing because Angel Corella is also phenomenal. I don’t love Gillian’s arms but you can’t argue with the bravura!)

Despite my nitpicks with her turns, Hee was absolutely stunning in all of the pas. She’s definitely a lyrical dancer. And when she was with Marcello – as;dlfjwa;lf. No, seriously, that is how inarticulate they make me. It was beautiful. Marcello is a gorgeous partner. And his turns! In his act III variation he did a pirouette, finished in passe, then gave us a cheeky grin and pulled in for more! God.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the soloists. In particular, one of the pas de trois girls and the four little swans. Four little swans was totally fierce – although I have to admit that no matter how good it is I cringe a little bit inside while I’m watching because four swans is a bitch  to do. Not because it’s that hard but it’s disproportionately difficult to do anything when you’re holding hands with three other girls. Anyway, I’ll have to keep an eye out for them in the future. The corps, on the other hand, was rather messy. I know it’s early in the run but some things were really obviously not together.

The production overall is very nice, with lavish sets and costumes. I much prefer it to the City Ballet version, which looks like it was designed and painted by a child. I understand they were going for a more modern look, which I don’t object to in principle, but the execution failed spectacularly. Ah, well.

Swan Lake also has one of the most gorgeous scores ever composed for ballet (in my opinion at least). It’s Tchaikovsky at his finest. And I’m always surprised, every time I go, how much of the music I know! I could probably hum 70% of the score from memory. Considering how beautiful and complex and tragic it is, it’s very catchy.

Some people complain about the mitigation of the downer ending, but I don’t mind it. Speaking of which, Marcello got some serious air time jumping into the lake.

So that was my day; it’s interesting timing because I just started reading Mercedes Lackey’s Black Swan (recommended by Tami). I’m curious to see what she does with the story and how she adapts it to novel form. I’m only a chapter in but I was pleased to see a nod to the four swans/cygnets in the first chapter, even as I cried a little inside, thinking about those echappe heads.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Ballet has its own language. If anyone is reading and wants a translation/elaboration/explanation just ask! Also some french words are probably spelled wrong (although I do try to get them right) and missing accents as I am not in the mood to figure out how to put them in on Blogger and no I do not want to copy-paste from Word right now.

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I dream stories

Been rather lazy lately – not just about the blog, about everything – and I’m kicking myself about it. But one thing seems to be going right…

I have never been a heavy sleeper, and never really one for dreams. The few dreams I can remember really clearly from more than a year or so ago are mostly recurring nightmares, and they’re full of dream logic and are quite frightening and make absolutely no sense at all.

There are of course a few exceptions to the trend. There always are. But mostly, nightmares or stress-dreams involving having to go onstage to perform without any hairpins. Or costumes – so, naked. And with choreography changed last minute.

But lately, something interesting has been happening. I’ve been dreaming stories. Some make more sense than others, and even have a bit of plot. Some are just sort of vague ideas or impressions of a story, and are more traditionally dream-like. Some are like watching a scene – or several- play out in front of me, complete with actual dialogue.

All of them have odd dream-elements. The one that was most developed and straightforward included aliens from Mars, just because. Obviously those were replaced with something more genre-appropriate when I wrote the dream down. That’s not to say that you couldn’t make aliens work in a fantasy novel; just that I wasn’t interested in doing so, and the aliens in my dream were clearly and obviously out of place and mostly there because I’d just seen War of the Worlds.

In any case, the reason I mention it is because just last night I had another story-dream. It’s been happening a lot lately. I can now bring the total up to – including one from a few years ago that I still remember bits of, clear as day – 5.

I’ll probably spend the next couple of posts talking about them in a little more detail – just the basic idea and in what direction I see them going.

In any event, it’s an interesting new fount of ideas. I wonder if I’ve been dreaming stories more because, while on break, I’ve been reading more? Providing my brain with new material? And sleeping more. I’m sure that helps. It seems I have my deepest, most detailed dreams somewhere between 8 and 10 in the morning – funny because I never used to sleep that late.

Anyone else dream stories?

A Morsel: Pendant, Tea, Rabbit


In response to a writing prompt from Tami Moore:     
          It rained again during the night. I spent hours putting bucket and bowls and cups under all the leaks in the rotten roof. One of these days it will fall on our heads and then we’ll have to move again, but I can’t fix it myself and I certainly can’t afford to hire someone to do it for us. I’ve got a little money saved up from working down at the watch shop, but anyone who came up here to work on the cabin would meet Lara.
                 I glanced over at the bed, where Lara was wrapped in the blankets like a little caterpillar in its cocoon. She was dreaming, her eyes flicking back and forth under her pale eyelids. Lara has always had very vivid dreams.
                The sun was just rising over the ridge, rays spilling in through the cracked windows of the cabin and reflecting off the knife in my hand. Lara would be up soon – she always woke with the dawn – and I had to leave for work. The watch shop opens at nine but it’s a long walk down the mountain to town. I went back to the sandwich I was making. Peanut butter and strawberry jam, cut into quarters with the crusts removed. It’s what she’s had for breakfast and lunch every day for the past eleven years, and she cries when I don’t take the crust off or use jelly instead of jam. I suppose I should be lucky that she eats any food at all. She only stopped breastfeeding when our mother died, and she was three years old then.
                I finished the sandwich and went to draw a bucket of water from the well. I didn’t have time to empty the things in the cabin, but if I filled a pitcher and added lemonade mix, maybe she would drink that instead of the rainwater. Maybe not.
                When I returned Lara was sitting up in bed, clutching Bunny to her chest. It was my toy first. I can remember giving it to Lara the night after Mother died, to get her to stop crying. She hasn’t let go of it ever since. It even bathes with her. The white fur is grey now, and patchy, the glass eyes are dull, and the lavender ribbon is shredded, but if you try to take bunny away from Lara, she’ll scream until she makes herself sick. Lara was looking out the window, blue eyes wide, not blinking. Sometimes she’ll go for days without talking, without even looking at me, just staring at things that aren’t there.
                “Lara, come eat breakfast.” Suddenly her eyes focused on me.
                “A witch tried to take Bunny away.”
                “What witch?” I dropped lemonade mix into the pitcher and stirred.
                “She was pretty, but her hands were black and her teeth were green. She tried to take Bunny but I kicked her, and then she screamed.” Lara got up from the bed and came to the table. I brushed her messy curls out of her face as she started on the sandwich.
                “You were just dreaming, Lara,” I replied.
                “No I wasn’t.”
                It’s hard to argue with Lara, but I tried. “I was watching you. You were sleeping.”
                Lara put down the sandwich and turned to look at me, her expression earnest. “I was asleep here, but I wasn’t asleep there. On the Other Side.”
                The Other Side. The land of the faeries. I sighed. “I have to go, Lara-bear. I’ll be home later. Try to stay out of trouble.”
                Lara gave me one of her rare, gorgeous smiles. “Don’t worry sissy, Bunny will keep me safe.”
                I took one last glance in through the window before I left. Lara was having an animated conversation with the air.
                The sun was setting by the time I returned to the cabin. I was usually back much earlier, as I only worked part time and left in the early afternoon, but – well. I’d been working on his watch when he came in, a complex piece with a fish that moved around the watch face and acted as the hour hand. It had taken me the better part of two weeks to build it and he’d been using it as an excuse to come see me. The shop’s bell rang, and that was all the warning I got before he was sitting in front of me.
                “Come to dinner with me tonight.” I confess I was shocked. I thought I’d been doing a good enough job of discouraging him, but it seemed not. “Come on! It’ll be fun. You never do anything for fun, do you?” His tone was light, teasing, flirty even, but I made myself keep working on the watch, kept myself from looking at him.
                “I can’t.”
                “Why not? What excuse is it this time, Ivy? There’s always something.”
                “I – I don’t feel well.” My heart was beating double-time, and my palms were starting to sweat. He smelled like cinnamon, and I wanted him to lean in closer.
                At the same time I wanted him far, far away.
                “So let me drive you home. Where do you live? Not in town, or I’d see you a lot more often. Up on the mountain?”
                I stood up so quickly my chair fell down, slamming into the floor. The noise startled him, and he jumped up.
                “Your watch is done.” I was out the door before he recovered enough to chase me. He wouldn’t want me once he met Lara. I’d be the girl with the crazy sister. And then he’d tell his friends, and word would get around, and people would bring up doctors and hospitals and Children’s Services. Maybe it was time to move again.
                It took me a long time to calm down, so I didn’t get home until sunset. It’s no use going home when I’m angry; Lara tries my patience enough as it is. So as I walked up the path to the cabin I wondered, with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, what Lara had gotten up to while I was gone.
                I pushed open the door of the cabin and gasped. Lara had picked hundreds of flowers, pulled off the heads, and set them to float in the rainwater buckets and pots and bowls. And she had taken out every candle we owned and lit them. It was magical, and beautiful, and crazy, just like my sister.
                Lara came over to me and tugged my hand.
                “It’s for the faeries,” she said. “They won’t come inside unless there are flowers.”
                I felt like I was sleepwalking. “Of course…faeries…”
                “They’ve mostly left, but you can meet Violet.”
                I looked down at her. “What?”
                “Look.” She pointed to the table, were my tea mug sat, filled with tiny violets. I peered in, preparing myself to converse with Lara’s imaginary faery.
                But then, over the far rim, a tiny head appeared. Emerald eyes met mine.
                “Oh my God.” I closed my eyes and opened them again, wondering if I was dreaming –or hallucinating. But she – brown hair, emerald eyes, and delicate violet gossamer wings –was still there.
                I looked at my sister in disbelief. “A faery.”
Lara smiled. “I told you,” she said, “It’s all real.”

Musings on Muses

Others have written before me – and very eloquently, I might add – on this subject, so I’ll keep it brief.

Firstly, it’s stupid to avoid writing because you’re “waiting for inspiration to strike” or for your muse to suddenly make everything known to you.

Writing is not magic. Unfortunately.

The truth is, if you want to get results, you have to put in the effort yourself; do the work yourself. Your muse is not going to do it for you.

Except when it does.

I have a muse – or rather, I have a subconscious. When I get stuck on something in my writing  (and I mean really stuck, not just I’ve gotten lazy and don’t want to work, but that I’m working and working and nothing is coming out right), it helps to let it go and work on something else or do something else for a little while. Sometimes it’s an hour, and sometimes its a few days, but without fail there comes a time where suddenly my “muse” comes through and it all comes together in a rush.

Now what is really happening is that my brain is still working on my problem subconsciously, and when I come back to it it’s been worked out. It’s not magic, although as a fantasy buff I wouldn’t mind if it was!

My brain likes to operate this way quite a lot of the time.

Frankenstorm

Due to the Frankenstorm (Sandy), I am off from school today and tomorrow.

The plan: today, finish all my school work. Tomorrow, finish plotting Princess in advance of NaNo.

I currently have lots of fun conflict for the first quarter of the book and the last quarter of the book. Maybe also the third quarter. The second quarter is looking a little empty right now…

Further updates forthcoming.

I hate Organic Chemistry

So I’m sorry that it’s been almost a week since my last post. I’ve got one last push to make it over the insane work hurdle – by tomorrow it will be over! And I will return to blogging.

Living in a Petri Dish

Living in a dorm is like living in a petri dish. Once one person in a dorm gets sick, they gradually infect everyone around them until the number of infected reaches critical mass and the campus descends into chaos as literally no one goes to class.

It’s like the movie Contagion, every day from about October to January.

Over the weekend I was sick. Not with any kind of doomsday virus, just a bad cold (although apparently there is an outbreak of whooping cough…). I did not do any work. I did not do any writing. I had to make a determined effort to drag myself out of bed long enough to shower. I watched a lot of TV and movies instead. All day.

Now I’m playing a bit of catchup. I have been working a bit on Princess and there are updates coming as soon as possible. But first, Organic Chemistry.