Tag Archives: NYC

Ballet is serious business

Ballet is serious business. That’s the gist of a new film called “First Position,” which follows the adventures of several youth from various parts of the globe competing in the Youth America Grand Prix — an annual dance competition that holds its finals in NYC. Winners receive scholarships for coveted dance training opportunities or the chance to work with the world’s most esteemed ballet companies from American Ballet Theatre to the Paris Opera Ballet.

Though the film feels at first like a no-drama documentary, the suspense soon builds — leaving those who watch it eager to learn the outcomes of the dancers it profiles. A girl in America whose room is filled with dance trophies and pink teddy bears. A boy from Columbia whose parents put him in ballet to keep him off the streets. A girl rescued through adoption from war-torm Sierra Leone, where she witnessed her teacher suffer a horrible fate.

“First Position” follows not only young dancers, but also their families and coaches. As dancers speak to others’ suggestions that they’re sacrificing childhood too soon, we see the impact of a life devoted to dance on those around them. Parents make dance-driven decisions, eager to support their children’s dreams. Unlike most teens, serious dancers are looking for work before they’ve finished high school — though they know careers achieved will end well before midlife.

Because it follows the everyday lives of young dancers, “First Position” paints a realistic picture of the issues they face. Whether to home school. What to eat, and how much of it. When to rest injuries, and when to work through them. How to handle doting stage parents and demanding coaches. What to tell peers who questions their choices. How to manage their own perfectionism.

The film, directed by Bess Kargman, is a rare glimpse into ballet training for those who’ve never tried it. Think devices for stretching muscles. The intricacy of building costumes. Training and travel expences. Backstage butterflies. And more. My favorite scenes feature an impromptu teacher/student toe-pointing contest and a coach cautioning an overzealous dance mom against giving her daughter direction. Best to leave such things to the professionals.

“First Position” makes clear the athleticism and artistry of the world’s most elite student dancers, but furthers my concerns about the state of recreational dance in America. Rigorous competition is the 1% of the dance world, but youth who participate in other 99% are no less important. When more studios show equal concern for the bodies, minds and emotions of everyday dancers, we’ll all be in a better position.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “First Position, which I saw Saturday at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre in Scottdale

Coming up: The fine art of paper

Hangin’ with Haring

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Now that our youngest daughter attends college in Lower Manhattan, I’ve taken to exploring various parts of NYC the way I hope Phoenix visitors will also hit Scottsdale, Tempe and such. My latest forays have taken me to Brooklyn, which is home to charming architecture, top-notch art venues and lots of young families.

Walking is the best way to explore NYC, but sometimes the sheer volume of things on my “must see” list makes cabbing it the more logical choice. I’ve thrown more than a few taxi drivers for a loop by rolling down the window to snap photos of street art while whizzing past it or sitting idle at a street light.

That’s when I call artist Keith Haring to mind. He gleaned more than a few glares during early days creating street art in NYC, and snapping photos of similarly-inspired artists might be the closest I ever get to achieving his level of creativity. Haring lived from 1958 to 1990, and his work is featured in the “Keith Haring: 1978-1982” exhibition running through July 8 at the Brooklyn Museum.

It’s startling, when you consider the size and scope of this exhibition, to realize that it represents just a four year period in Haring’s life. The man was prolific, passionate and provocative — often depicting body parts in unconventional ways during a time when America was coming to grips with the AIDS epidemic and shifts in cultural norms around sexuality.

Folks unfamiliar with the name Keith Haring have likely seen some of his tradmark images. Black outlines of people with red hearts. Dogs and babies. Nowadays you can find Haring creations on all sorts of things — like the round kitchen brush I brought home from the Brooklyn Museum store, hoping it’ll inspire more time with dirty dishes. Art should make even the most mundane parts of life more interesting and fun.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore Brooklyn Museum offerings, here to learn more about the Phoenix Art Museum and here for information on the Tucson Museum of Art.

Coming up: New finds at the Tempe Center for the Arts gallery, Play time with James Garcia

Going rogue?

I've always got my eye out for art -- like this "Right Eye from an Arthropoid Coffin" (1539-30 B.C., Egypt) recently spotted at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

I feel a bit rogue sometimes — writing for an Arizona magazine, but finding such delight in covering NYC arts and culture. So I decided maybe it was time to share with readers in both states, plus others, my rationale for marrying the two. The initial lure, of course, was our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Like many born and raised in Arizona, she’s chosen to further her arts education in NYC — so I visit several times a year in “mom mode.”

But the bridge between Arizona and NYC (plus Chicago and other communities with a heavy arts footprint) is a two-way street. Many who teach and create art in Arizona communities hail from NYC or other parts of the country, and I enjoy giving voice to the places and spaces that’ve nurtured the gifts enjoyed by Arizona art lovers.

Art is all around and deep within us. Traveling without covering regional arts and culture would be like refusing to breath another city’s air. Suffocating. Rather than distracting Arizona readers from the beauty of our own arts bounty, I hope my writing “on the road” inspires a greater appreciation for the multitude of marvels here at home. Photos from a children’s museum in Manhattan or Las Vegas might inspire a family to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix or the Tucson Children’s Museum. So it’s all good.

Sometimes it feels like the art is keeping an eye on you -- like "Curious and Curiouser" by Mary Lucking and David Tinapple in the Arizona Science Center lobby

I’m fortunate to have lots of “Stage Mom” readers in NYC, and hope my blogging on both states’ offerings inspires them to consider the depth and breadth of Arizona arts and culture. We get plenty of bad press, and I’m privileged to cover what’s best about our state. Young poets, skilled playwrights, talented musicians, inspiring dancers, gifted actors. Also arts educators in our schools, museums and various community venues. Tourism takes place in both directions — and I’m an unapologetic missionary for the Arizona arts scene.

I suppose some of my kinship with NYC was born of years attending touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage. I take special delight on reporting from NYC about shows I’ve seen on Valley stages — plus shows that’ll likely head our way during future tours. Only seeing “War Horse” performed at Lincoln Center in NYC enabled me to appreciate how fortunate we are that it’ll gallop into ASU Gammage during their 2012-13 season.

Some people seem to spy art wherever they go -- like this "Untitled" (1961) by Lee Bontecou that's exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum

Some assume that Arizonans are settling for mediocre on-stage and museum fare, but trips to NYC have heightened my appreciation for local offerings. Sometimes I find things that Arizona could use a lot more of — like arts and culture originating in Africa. Other times, I find modest NYC exhibits of Native American or Latino artworks that make clear the excellence of Arizona collections.

Stumbling on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s “Pattern Wizardry” in NYC years after I’d taken my children to enjoy the traveling exhibit at Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth reminded me, like Dorothy in her ruby red slippers, that you needn’t head over the rainbow to find what’s good and right in the world.

Still, we know that plenty of Arizona families travel — making choices when they do about where to invest precious resources like time and money. In an amusement park world, I’m keen on reminding parents to consider arts and cultural destinations too. Youth theater in San Diego. Orchestral concerts in Los Angeles. Public art in Las Vegas. Dance performance in Orlando. It’s all part of upping their appreciation for aesthetics, and the arts and culture industry so critical to a healthy American economy.

Teach your kids to look for art wherever they go -- like this eye detail on the glass house by Therman Statom located just outside the SMoCA young@art gallery in Scottsdale

It’s easy to take Arizona arts and culture for granted, forgetting just how exceptional our own theater companies from Childsplay to Valley Youth Theatre can be. Seeing touring productions from other parts of the country often reminds me that some of the country’s best artists live right here among us. Wowed as I was by a touring Kennedy Center production of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” performed a while back at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, it confirmed my suspicion that Childsplay in Tempe routinely achieves the same high quality of theater performance for students and families.

Seeing works performed during the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City each summer always makes me more committed to attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions here at home. Admiring works of glass art at the Brooklyn Museum last week left me eager to explore more glass art here at home. Similarly, performances enjoyed here in the Valley up my appreciation for works by artists in other places. During my last trip to NYC, I spent an evening watching local arts programming from Thirteen WNET New York Public Media — eager to watch a show about young poets after covering state Poetry Out Loud finals here in the Valley.

Comparing and contrasting are essential to the craft of theater criticism and other elements of arts reporting, so I’d be foolish to check my memories of places like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the door when entering “Stage Mom” mode. The more I experience, the more I have to share with Arizona readers. “Going rogue” has a lovely ring to it, but there’s a circle to what I do — and Arizona will always be my center.

— Lynn

Coming up: Let’s talk “Bully”

Why I ♥ New York

Nifty streets named for important people or causes

Subways. Glamorous, nope. Cheap and convenient, indeed.

All those public parks and playgrounds within the concrete jungle

Big Broadway shows, tiny theaters and a myriad  of funky venues

All that patriotism on display — in flags, paint choices and more

Seriously fun truck art featuring everything from pigs to plantlife

Squirrels and puppies and chirpers  — Oh my!

Way cool architecture from neighborhoods to commercial spaces

Farmers markets, waterfront barbeques and other snippets of nature

Bright lights of Times Square, local pubs, tacky tourist joints and more

Museums galore — like the Brooklyn Museum now featuring Keith Haring

Libraries big and small tucked away just about everywhere

Weather and walkways that make strolling a simple pleasure

Temples, synagogues and churches full of character and charm

All those green and growing things — on stoops, streets and more

Public art — like Walks of Life by Claire Johnson

The Strand — and other bookstores perfect for getting lost in literature

— Lynn

Coming up: Focus on children’s art, A tree grows in Maine

A city inside a museum

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I first fell in love with children’s museums when my young daughters, like hundreds of fellow citizens, got involved in developing the Children’s Museum of Phoenix (then dubbed the Phoenix Family Museum) at the grassroots level. Today it’s recognized by Parents magazine as one of the country’s top ten children’s museums.

Both daughters, and our son, are now grown and attending college — one of them in New York City. Each time I visit her, I make a point of exploring another bit of NYC’s vast expanse of arts and culture. I reported on the art of Occupy Wall Street early in the movement’s history, saw “War Horse” and “The Book of Mormon” before they earned Tony Awards for best play and best musical and explored places like the Poets House in Battery Park.

Lately I have the museums of NYC on my radar, wishing I’d discovered them several decades earlier somehow. Many years ago I visited MoMA and the Met, but lately I’ve been focusing on smaller fare like the Morgan Library & Museum in midtown Manhattan (a favorite for one of my friends at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts), which is currently exhibiting drawings by Rembrandt and a look at animals throughout art, literature and music.

Top of my list for next time is the Brooklyn Museum. I missed the opening of their Keith Haring exhibit by just two days last time around and am still experiencing the museum-goers version of mourning. I didn’t really favor Haring’s work at the height of his heyday, but nowadays I’m simply mesmerized. I’m also hoping to enjoy the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

I hit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum during my last trip to visit daughter Lizabeth at Pace University. She’s been busy with rehearsals for an upcoming production of “Our Lady of 121st Street,” so I’ve had more time to kick around NYC on my own. Typically adults aren’t allowed to visit the museum without children, but they graciously let me do my press thing with camera in tow so I could share reflections and images with Arizona readers.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was “the first museum created expressly for children when it was founded in 1899” — 15 years before Arizona achieved statehood. Still, I first encountered one of its offerings — a traveling exhibit called “Pattern Wizardry” — during the fall of 2009 at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa (proving that you should never overlook the treasures in your own back yard).

I found two remarkable things at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. First, a city within a museum. And second, the world. My favorite exhibits featured rooms devoted to various cultures found in the diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and an expansive upstairs gallery highlighting objects and people from around the globe. I’ve come to love the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the same reason I love New York City — diversity.

I get the feeling, when I’m there, that differences are to be embraced rather than feared. That living amidst diverse cultures helps us to appreciate both our own heritage and the heritage of others. That human beings from all walks of life can love, respect and empathize with one another. That mere tolerance falls short when what we need is true celebration.

— Lynn

Coming up: Prison meets performance art

New York state of mind

So what, exactly, is the New York state of mind? I’m afraid I’m close to clueless, having lived in Colorado and states to its west all my life. But a woman rumored to exude all that is New York is headed our way, and she’s not shy about sharing. It’s Fran Lebowitz, who hits the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Thurs, March 1, for an evening sure to up your NYC quotient.

Lebowitz, a writer, recently starred in an HBO Films documentary titled “Public Speaking,” which is directed by Martin Scorsese. I’m still toying with the chicken or egg dilemma of whether to watch the film first or head straight to her writings.

Today I was happy to simply read pieces about Lebowitz published by “The New York Times” and “The Paris Review.” And explore the Facebook page managed by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage Books.

It offers this description of the woman and her work: Fran Lebowitz first hit the New York literary scene in the early 70’s when Andy Warhol hired her to write a column for Interview. Almost immediately, she became a mainstay in the magazine world. As a regular contributor to both Interview and Mademoiselle, she soon became a name associated with irreverent humor and urban wit.

Julie Sperber posted this lovely comment on the Fran Lebowitz wall after learning of her upcoming Arizona gig: “Where’s Scottsdale.. can you take the subway?” Goodness no. But we’ve got Ollie the Trolley, bike lanes and light rail within driving distance. Those of you desperately seeking subways can check with ASU Gammage to see whether the last few slots in their “Broadway Adventure” 2012 trip have filled up yet.

The June 7-10 trip includes a three nights stay in the Millennium Hotel “in the heart of the Broadway district,” three Broadway shows “of your choice,” expert-led walking and coach tours, seating in the red carpet section of Times Square so you can watch the simulcast and live Times Square activities of the Tony Awards celebration, and more. Call Mollie Trivers at 602-373-3377 if you might be game.

Ballet Arizona’s artistic director Ib Andersen and the cast of “Play” will be traveling later this month for their New York City debut at The Joyce Theater. “Play” is a collection of seven ballets, directed by Andersen, set to music by Mozart, Schubert, Britten and Stravinsky.

Folks who can’t travel to NYC for one of six Feb. 22-26 performances of “Play” can enjoy excerpts of the work Fri, Feb. 17 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Okay, so we don’t have subways or pizza joints that build pies topped with rigatoni. But every now and then, we get a glimpse into that rarity called the New York state of mind.

— Lynn

Note: Images depict detail of “The Many Faces of New York” by artist Hope Gangloff, which is painted on the wall of a Starbucks located at Beekman St. & Park Row in Lower Manhattan. The mural was produced by CITYarts and created in collaboration with youth from Murry Bergtraum High School.

Coming up: Actor Ed Asner — arts, animal and autism advocate

Photos: Lynn Trimble

Nick Jonas meets Marilyn Monroe?

I’ve got Marilyn Monroe on the brain after watching last night’s premiere of the new NBC series “Smash,” which follows development of a musical about the woman we all know as Marilyn Monroe. So I was delighted to learn, while exploring the website for Madame Tussauds in New York, that a wax likeness of Monroe is part of their interactive New York exhibit — which features New York icons from the Statue or Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Kids' Night on Broadway 2012 runs through Feb. 9, so it's not too late to snag tickets

Also Broadway, of course. But kids participating in the “Kids’ Night on Broadway” program this year can enjoy not only the interactive NY exhibit at Madame Tussauds, but also time with plenty of Broadway stars. Nick Jonas, whose career in the performing arts began on Broadway, is hosting today’s “pre-theater party” for “Kids’ Night on Broadway” ticketholders.

Jonas recently joined the cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying,” and is serving as the “Kids’ Night on Broadway” 2012 Ambassador. Jonas will be joined later today by hundreds of kids ages 6 to 18 who’ll gather at Madame Tussauds New York for Broadway dance lessons, time at special theatrical make-up stations, an “autograph alley” with Broadway performers and the chance to participate in Broadway Green Alliance’s bottle cap collection.

My daughter Lizabeth had hoped to cover the event for me, interviewing participating Broadway cast members and taking photos to share with Broadway fans in Arizona, but she’s rocking a nasty cold or flu bug of some sort and doesn’t want to share it. She’s a theater major who knows better than most that no one wants to catch something that might zap their voice or movement mojo.

Nick Jonas is serving as the 2012 Ambassador for Kids' Night on Broadway

Lizabeth and James participated in “Kids’ Night on Broadway” last year during the New York leg of their college admission tour travels. She’s now settled in nicely at Pace University, working on a B.F.A. in acting and helping me with arts coverage in the NYC area. She’s seen both Daniel Radcliffe and Daren Criss perform in “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying,” and she’s eager to see it again now that Jonas is performing the role of J. Pierrepont Finch.

The Broadway League’s “Kids’ Night on Broadway” is “designed to introduce young people to live theater and make Broadway accessible to new generations of theatergoers by offering free tickets to kids ages 6-18 when accompanied by a full-paying adult.” There’s always a cause-related component — and this year it’s Givenik.com.

The Broadway League sent me this lovely list of shows participating in “Kids’ Night on Broadway” this year — Anything Goes, Chicago, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Godspell, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins, Memphis, The Phantom of the Opera, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rock of Ages, Seminar, Sister Act, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,Wicked, Wit.Off-Broadway: Avenue Q, The Gazillion Bubble Show, Freckleface Strawberry, Million Dollar Quartet, RENT, Stomp, Traces.

Cast members from various shows are participating in today’s 3-6pm fanfest for “Kids’ Night on Broadway” ticketholders, which opens at Madame Tussauds New York on 42nd Street at 2:30pm with remarks by Jonas, Charlotte St. Martin (Executive Director of the Broadway League), Jordan Roth (President of Jujamcyn Theatres and Founder of Givenik.com) and Bret Pidgeon (General Manager of Madame Tussauds NY).

This year’s “Kids’ Night on Broadway” program runs through Feb. 9 so it’s not too late to snag tickets. Oh, to be young again…

— Lynn

Coming up: Arts advocates gather at the Arizona Capitol