Monthly Archives: May 2011

Don’t Call Him Gaga: Taylor Mac is his own Woman

Taylor Mac, the ultimate, the inimitable.

Have you ever been compared to someone?  Sometimes is a huge compliment, sometimes a backhanded one.  To Taylor Mac, when someone said ‘Wow, you must have been influenced by Lady Gaga,’ it was not a compliment.  “I’m a little bit older than her…” Mac says, and he’s been donning sparkly non-sense long before her antics hit the stage.

Contrasting two performance artists is also nothing new.  Comparison is Violence: The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook is part monologue, part concert, with selected music from each artist.  Because Taylor Mac wears sparkly make up on his face, he’s been compared to David Bowie’s alter-persona Ziggy Stardust.  Because she plays a mean ukelele, much like Tiny Tim, fans have compared Mac to him as well.

We compare people to help others understand something or someone they do not know personally, and giving them a context through comparison can be very helpful to gain a superficial understanding.  But does it really benefit them?

Taylor Mac says no.  I tend to agree.  We are each our own person, and having someone reduce one to a stereotype or a comparison doesn’t do justice to the uniqueness we each have inside.

I highly recommend you wear sparkly things to see Mac perform.  She likes that best.  Have a cup of coffee before, as the show can go late, and bring your sense of humor.

And whatever you do, DON’T call Taylor Mac a “Niche Performer”!

Corella Ballet: The evolution of ballet

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The Corella Ballet had a short but brilliant run at Spoleto Festival USA.  With just three performances, they were in and out over opening weekend.  However, it was a spectacular show.

Angel Corella created this company only three years ago, and it is the only classical ballet company in Spain.  Corella Ballet performed four pieces total, two larger ballets, a pas de duex and For 4, originally created for “The Kings of the Dance.”  With a two intermissions, the show lasted over 2 hours, but didn’t feel long/boring/snooze-fest.  (Thank God.)

Simplification?  Ballet seems to be undergoing an evolution in style, a shift from focusing on the story to the movement.

Movement, costume, and emotion are all elements that can be used to tell a story in dance.  Over the last several performances the emphasis in choreography seems to be on movement first and conveying an emotion or a plot line second.

That being said, this shift doesn’t bother me.  Paring down the superfluous movements typically associated with emotion streamlines the dance, and showcases the talent and athleticism rather than a flowery, floufy motion that is supposed to show love or loss or some other contrived emotion.

The sheer strength, force and grace theses dancers exude is breathtaking.  While there were a few missteps that the audience caught, overall the execution of the choreography was near perfection.

Costuming was particularly lovely for the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, where each couple was in a different color–aqua, red, blue and pink, and the corps in a more neutral color. Complimentary colors in the tutus added a touch of fun too.  I really want the blue costume for my own closet.

The pas de deux, Solea, choreographed by Maria Pages, featured Corella and his sister Carmen.  Solea had a flamenco tint to the movement and Corella frequently clapped in time to his sister’s movements.  Their ease and comfort on stage together drew the audience in.  You couldn’t escape this, not even to look away for a second.

If you ever get the chance to see the Corella Ballet, take it.  This company better be in it for the long haul, because what they have to offer is first rate.  And I want more.

Lee Barbour Rocks Jazz at McCrady’s

Lee Barbour

Honestly a lot of the events that I attend are to support a friend.  In this case, friend and writer Vikki Matsis.  Lee Barbour is her other half, and I’ve always wanted to hear him play.  When most of the people I talked to about the Jazz Series told me this show was high on their list too, I knew it was a good decision.  I was really thrilled with just how good a decision it was.

Barbour, on guitar, was supported by Gerald Gregory on piano, Ron Wiltrout on drums, Jake Holwegner on bass, and Robert Lewis on saxophone, who showed some serious chops as a last minute sub for Kebbi Williams.  As Lewis only had one rehearsal to get up to speed, it’s fair to say they picked a great replacement.

Playing original music and plugging his upcoming cd, due out July 20th, Barbour was a great mix of quality music with just enough story.  Let’s be honest, an over-explained song makes me think the music must be lacking.  Barbour let his songs speak for themselves, like Wolf Blitzer and Guinevere.

I was sitting across from a hip young couple, she studies art history in Baltimore and he studies Jazz Guitar with Barbour.  He even went so far as to call Barbour his mentor.  The admiration and respect in his voice was clear, which speaks volumes.

Barbour learned to play by ear as a teen, and then studied Jazz Guitar performance at the University of South Carolina.  He returned home to Charleston and was made the youngest adjunct professor at CofC within the year, teaching Jazz Guitar.  Don’t his youth fool you.  This guy has talent and a sound that is all his own.

So, as I told our Facebook and Twitter friends last night, if you weren’t at McCrady’s to hear Lee Barbour, I feel sorry for you.  Don’t despair too much, you can catch his cd release at the Pour House on Maybank Highway on July 20th.  You won’t regret it.

Visit www.thejac.org for upcoming performances in the Jazz Series Upstairs at McCrady’s and www.leebarbour.com for more info on Barbour.

Spoleto Opening Ceremonies Video

Mayor Joe Riley welcomes all to Spoleto Festival USA!  We particularly love the canon of confetti.

Spoleto Is Here. Benvenuti!

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So the Spoleto Festival season has begun in earnest for me.  Last night the SCENEsters attended the final dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute.  It was pretty impressive, but as this operatic masterpiece of Mozart’s boasts a three hour engagement, we left at intermission.  I’ll report back on the full performance next week.

I hope you are all planning to attend the opening of Winter Stories and Kcymaerxthaere at Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (5 – 7 pm) and Contemporary Charleston 2011: Under the Radar (6 – 8 pm) at City Gallery at Waterfront Park tonight.

Make sure you check out the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow at 12 noon (free!) in front of City Hall.  You always get a little taste of a featured performance and hear Mayor Joe welcome us all in Italian.

Another free goodie for you tomorrow is the Piccolo Spoleto Sunset Serenade with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Piccolo Spoleto Festival Orchestra at 8 pm in front of the US Customs house (water side, not East Bay side).

We’ll be seeing Corella Ballet and Comparison is Violence, or The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook this weekend, so stay tuned for more on those.

And above all, make sure you check out the Jazz Artists of Charleston’s Jazz Series Upstairs at McCrady’s, happening every night at 7 and 10 pm!  This weekend is Heywood + Yost Jazz Flute Ensemble (26th), local favorite Lee Barbour (27th), Mutato featuring Clay Ross (28th) and Leah Suarez & Friends (29th)

We love to LEAF town!

This weekend is the semi-annual Lake Eden Arts Festival, better known as LEAF, an arts-centric, family friendly, rollicking good time in the mountains of North Carolina.  You can camp out, take a yoga class at sunrise, learn to contra dance, listen to music from cultures that span the globe, all in one weekend!

This is definitely one of Olivia’s favorite festivals.  I have a bachelorette party this weekend, otherwise I’d be joining her.  So I hope you can and plan to go–and that you already have tickets.  It always sells out, so get moving to www.theleaf.org today!

SEWE Announces 2012 Featured Artists!

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It seems like the 2011 Southeastern Wildlife Expo was just yesterday, but it’s already time to announce the Featured Artists for the 2012 SEWE!

Meet them:

Dustin Van Wechel left his advertising job in 2002 to devote all his attentions to his art work.  Dustin was named the 2011 SEWE Best in Show, along with many other prestigious awards and shows across the U.S.  He paints in a looser style, with plenty of light and color.  Dustin lives in Gilbert, Arizona.

Don Rambadt completed his BFA in Sculpture in 1995 and began working at a Milwaukee foundry.  In 2002, he left to focus solely on his own artwork and participating in shows, and has been included in museums and exhibitions across the country.  His abstracted sculptures are based on completely correct anatomy.

Make sure you put the 2012 SEWE on your calendar–February 17 – 19, 2012!