(Photo by Marie Daix)
The passion of flamenco music has been well-documented. So why have I never been to a professional performance? Weird. Maybe it's because while living in New Orleans I actually learned about an intense rivalry between two figures in the local flamenco dance community (I crap you negative) in which one of them begged me to cover the controversy. Maybe I was too scared someone was going to drive one of those sharp heels in my gut regardless what I wrote. Call me a coward. I'm used to it.
But this is one performance I hope not to miss: Noche Flamenca & Soledad Barrio are coming to Atlanta on March 15 to perform at Georgia State's Rialto Center for the Arts. Showtime is 8 p.m.; tickets range from $36 to $62 (call 404-413-9TIX).
Founded in 1993 by MartÃn Santangelo and his wife, Soledad Barrio (pictured at right, and not to be confused with CNN's Soledad O'Brien), the group equally balances the holy trinity of flamenco: dance, song and music, and just a brief glance at a performance (see below clip) shows they've pulled off the mix nicely. Barrio received a Bessie Award for outstanding creative achievement.
Don't believe me? Check out this review in the New York Times on Dec. 31, 2007. Here's a sample:
The show concluded with the earthy, sensual Ms. Barrio performing the solea, a cathartic tour de force for which she is perhaps best known. The music pushes her extraordinary athleticism until it appears she is moving by instinct; with her eyes partly closed and her hands twisting deep creases into the folds of her black skirt, she leaves one world and enters another, all the while riding a wave shaped by her quicksilver feet. As her muscular arms rise above her head and her wrists swirl in intricate patterns, Ms. Barrioâs fingers seem to vibrate from a mysterious inner pulse.
To quote Shaggy: Zoinks! Count me in.
Here's the clip:
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In my review of the DVD Justice League: The New Frontier this week, I mentioned how Warner Brothers had shelved plans for a new live-action movie about DC Comicsâ famed superteam. It turns out that obituaries like this one were premature.
According to more recent reports, the Justice League film, to be directed by George Miller of Happy Feet and The Road Warrior fame, is moving forward now that the writerâs strike is over. One should never trust blog reports as Gospel truth (as this case demonstrates), but it sounds like Warner Brothers has decided to proceed with Justice League as its big superhero popcorn film for the summer of 2009. Supposedly its other contender for that slot was a sequel to Superman Returns, the middling Man of Steel vehicle with Bryan Singer once again to direct Brandon Routh.
In the wake of the strike, other would-be blockbusters are firming up their dates for the summer of 2009. Anything could change, but the current lineup of May alone includes a Wolverine prequel with Hugh Jackman (May 1); J.J. Abramsâ Star Trek reboot (May 8); The Da Vinci Code's prequel Angels and Demons (May 15); Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins with Christian Bale (May 22); and Night at the Museum 2: Escape from the Smithsonian (May 22). That sounds like intimidating competition for Justice League, which Miller has cast with largely unfamiliar young actors.
Presumably Warner Brothers reasons that if a Justice League movie succeeds, it can spin off stand-alone films about member heroes like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, etc. Justice League: The New Frontier makes me wonder if superhero movies are going about things all wrong.
(Courtesy Sideways Contemporary Dance)
Douglas Scott has been planning this weekend for almost a year. The founder and curator of the 14th annual Modern Dance Festival, Scott began plans for this yearâs festival almost immediately after last yearâs performance ended. But he isnât the only one whoâs been looking ahead. Dancers around the city have been practicing and polishing their pieces for months in preparation for the festival.
The Modern Atlanta Dance Festival is sponsored by the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and Full Radius Dance, a dance company comprised of dancers with and without disabilities, where Scott is the artistic/executive director. The shows on Saturday and Sunday (March 1-2) feature performances from some of the literal movers and shakers in the Atlanta modern dance scene â both individual artists and companies.
âIt is a great introduction to modern dance and the local dance scene. You get to see seven different dance works by seven different choreographers. I guarantee that youâll find something in the program that inspires you, makes you think, or creates wonder for you on a personal level,â Scott says.
(Image courtesy of Cartoon Network)
It seemed like it was only yesterday (actually, it was Tuesday) that I said âGem of the Ocean and Radio Golf are the two plays of August Wilsonâs 20th-century play cycle that have not yet received Atlanta productions." Turns out that both plays will receive high-profile productions during the Alliance Theatreâs newly announced 2008-2009 season.
In addition to the Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (a world premiere with Broadway aspirations), the most exciting news of the Allianceâs new season is that it will open with a repertory production of Gem of the Ocean, directed by True Colors Theatre Company artistic director Kenny Leon (who became one of Wilsonâs go-to directors of his work before his death in 2005), and Radio Golf, directed by Alliance associate artistic director Kent Gash. Chronologically, the plays bookend Wilsonâs 10-play cycle of African-American life in Pittsburgh, with Gem taking place in the 1900s and Radio Golf in the 1990s. The pairing evokes the Wilson team-up of 2003, when Leon directed Fences as True Colorsâ inaugural production, while Gash directed King Hedley II.
At first glance, the Allianceâs 2008-2009 season boasts the single freshest lineup of plays Iâve ever seen at the theater: no Sleuths, Crimes of the Hearts or other theatrical chestnuts this time (the perennial production of A Christmas Carol notwithstanding). Expect local interest to be sky high for Class of 3000 Live, the Alliance Childrenâs Theatreâs stage interpretation of the Cartoon Network series "Class of 3000" (pictured). OutKastâs Andre Benjamin co-created the show and provides the voice of its main character, but I wouldn't expect to see him on the Alliance stage next February, although the play is produced in association with the Cartoon Network and Moxie.
(Photo courtesy Margaret Mitchell House)
There were some past and present Creative Loafers in the crowd last night for an evening chat at the Margaret Mitchell House with âThe Wire'sâ Felicia âSnoopâ Pearson (that's her, posing at Margaret Mitchell's typewriter. Man, is she cute). Mara Shalhoup, currently working on her St. Martinâs Press book about the Black Mafia Family, was in attendance, along with former Loafer (and current Atlanta magazine senior editor) Steve Fennessy. IMAGEâs executive director Gabe Wardell was also in the house. He sat next to me and was clearly beside himself with excitement, being a huge "Wireâ fan.
Literary Center Director of the Margaret Mitchell House Julie Bookman told me she had been trying to book Pearson as far back as April. She said she was happy to see that the crowd of 140 or so was composed of some new visitors to the space, attracted by "The Wire's" cachet. Let's just say the center named for a Southern white chick was looking very urban and cool with Pearson on the stage and a diverse crowd raptly following her every deadpan word.
The androgynous, cold-blooded gangsta âSnoopâ on âThe Wire,â Pearson was in town to promote her memoir, Grace After Midnight.
The book chronicles Pearsonâs crack-addicted birth, her arrest at age 14 for self-defense murder, her prison time and her eventual 21st-century Schwabâs Drug Store discovery in a Baltimore bar.
As Pearson tells it, âThe Wire'sâ Michael K. Williams (aka Omar Little) had been watching her at the bar all night and finally came up to ask her, âAre you a boy or a girl?â The rest is history.
Pearson was interviewed by Writtenâs publisher Michelle R. Gipson, who was funny and real, and made the evening fly along.
Pearson killed âem. She had to temper some of her discussions of the homemade dildos she fashioned in prison, and the open abscesses and HIV that make finding love in prison a bit of an ordeal. There were, after all, children in the crowd. Those kids sure love âThe Wire.â
Why wait until Steve Harvey hits Philips Arena on Saturday night, along with Mo'Nique, for some down-home hilarity? (Tickets are $39.50-$49.50; show's at 8 p.m.) For my money, Harvey's morning show on WAMJ (102.5 FM, "Grown Folks Radio"), weekdays 6-10 a.m., is the most entertaining drive-time show carried on local radio. My wife keeps staring at me blankly while I laugh at his shtick, which admittedly can grow tiresome when he's little more than cranky. But when he's on, the dapper Harvey has a comedic sensibility that I think is better suited for morning radio than his uneven stand-up act. A lot of this has to do with this sensibility; spend some time listening to his show, and you get the feeling Harvey's more about creating positive role models in the African-American community and holding people to account as much as he is goofing on guests and fellow staffers. He always sounds like he's about to totally go off on a subject, as if he needs holding back. And while Shirley Strawberry sometimes relies too much on her "You so crazy!"-style of straight-woman co-host, you really do get the sense that he's cracking everyone up in the booth.
Then there's Nephew Tommy, who's the king of the crank phone call. Check out this classic example ...
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(Sony Pictures Classics)
It feels like it's been a decade since "The West Wing" went off the air, and I'm still waiting for a TV show that matches its blend of wonkish politics and lofty idealism whipped into a compelling and witty dramatic narrative. Maybe that's because, in 2008, I'm pining for Jed Bartlet as my president, because Martin Sheen portrayed a greatest-hits/composite president that was one part John F. Kennedy, one (small) part Bill Clinton and bits of other Democrats who deserved a closer look but never made it to the White House.
But that's not to say the TV series' legacy exists in a vacuum, as Slate's Torie Bosch notes in this fascinating "Life Imitates 'The West Wing'" video posted today. Seems the parallels between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain and "The West Wing" last-season candidates Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits), Bob Russell (Gary Cole) and Arnie Vinick (Alan Alda) are more than merely coincidental. Seems that a "West Wing" writer had picked the brain of an Obama political consultant while shaping the Matt Santos character, hence Santos' lofty rhetoric of hope, change and tolerance. And while the Vinick/McCain parallel apparently wasn't so consciously crafted, here's one Democrat who wouldn't mind seeing McCain in a Santos â¦ er, Obama cabinet.
The big world-premiere musical of the Alliance Theatreâs 2008-2009 season will mark a collaboration between a pair of all-American icons, rock star John Mellencamp and horror novelist Stephen King. Ghost Brothers of Darkland County takes place in 1957 Mississippi and dramatizes an old legend about the deaths of two brothers and a young girl. The Alliance Theatre officially announces the rest of its season Feb. 29.
The Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre has become a go-to playhouse for regional tryouts in anticipation of Broadway runs, with previous world-premiere musicals including Elton Johnâs Elaborate Lives (which opened in New York under the name Aida), The Color Purple and last fallâs The Women of Brewster Place. Sister Act: The Musical notwithstanding, most of those shows had literary roots and slick, Broadway-ready orchestrations. Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, coming from the singer of âJack and Dianeâ and the author of The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and Shawshank Redemption, sounds like a more unusual project, probably with plenty of country, zydeco, blues and other ârootsâ rock.
This isnât the first King-inspired musical to have its world premiere in Atlanta, however.
The Doug Dank Project celebrates two years of innovative, brainy and hilarious improv at PushPush Theater with a three-night party. THE LAST SEEN IMPROV FESTIVAL (pictured) gathers the cream of Atlanta's improv crop and visitors from New York and L.A. Thursday's show features an improvised cartoon, and a live, improvised film piped into the theater from locations around town. On Friday, it's a comedy battle royale between competing improv troupes. Saturday's finale is "The Last Seen," a live show featuring all the participants in a never-to-be-reassembled ensemble. Through March 1. $5. 8 p.m. PushPush Theater, 121 New St., Suite A, Decatur. 404-377-6332. www.thedougdankproject.com.
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