Visiting the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum is always visiting a very special place. Almost a world of its own, the museum sits at a distant end of The City on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge.The site is so breathtaking that one’s attention could be turned away from the beautiful building. It was built to echo the Legion of Honor in Paris and to honor the Californian “boys” who had died in World War I. As it is just two days away from Veterans’ Day, it is worth remembering to remember. Now, until January 18, 2015, the Legion hosts an exhibition which re-creates another special place within the museum. In 1728, Houghton Hall was called “the completest, beautifulest” of all country houses. It is gigantic, full of treasures and history. It was the home of Robert Walpole, England’s first Prime MInister and a voracious collector. When he died, in 1755, he left an enormous debt. His family sold Robert Walpole’s collection of Old Master paintings to Catherine of Russia, helping to make her Great and their debts less. In an odd quirk of history, the family has been able to hold on to the property because no one would buy the immense house and its 17,000 acres. Lucky for us. The property passed to Horace Walpole and then to a grandson of Sir Robert’s daughter. A fortuitous marriage to the Chomondeley family of Cheshire further secured both families’ properties. David Cholmondeley, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley (pronounced “Chumly”) and Lord Great Chamberlain of England is now in charge of both. His grandfather married the exquisite Sybil Sassoon, a descendant of the Rothschild family who brought her personal elegance, devotion to Houghton Hall, and more financial stability. Speaking to a group of journalists, David Chomondeley reminisced of happy times with his grandmother. She introduced him to treasures and special places in Houghton Hall, including the grand staircase which she restored. Among many fine things in the exhibition are paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Andrea del Sarto, Artemesia Gentileschi, and Hogarth. Visitors will be inside the library from which Robert Walpole ran England. This was the first house in England to use mahogany instead of oak. While building it, Robert Walpole took import duties off of mahogany; he put them back when the Hall was finished. There are also Sevres china rarities collected by George Chomondeley, the current Marquess’s grandfather, grand silver, statues. One gallery has portraits of Sybil by John Singer Sargent. The beautiful lady is now overseeing the visits of so many new guests to her San Francisco home. When you visit, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy an English tea being served in the Museum’s lovely cafe. Pictures, courtesy FAMSF: Houghton Hall exterior; Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Chomondeley, by Sargent; interior of Houghton Hall; Hogarth painting of Chomondeley collection.
The opera Partenope: 6 characters, 3 hours and 20 minutes, Baroque opera by Handel. Turns out it is a laugh riot. What 21st century music lover who is not totally up on Baroque could guess that? San Francisco Opera’s production of Partenope, performed Oct.15-Nov. 2, 2014, was originally created by the English National Opera and Opera Australia. It traveled well. An attempt at a summary of the plot: Partenope loves Arsace, the cad who abandoned Rosmira. Rosmira, convincingly dressed as a man, shows up at the house party. She/he claims to be in love with P., too. Shy Armindo is madly in love with P., but she can barely see him. Emilio arrives and offers to marry P. She refuses. E. threatens war. P. asks A(Arsace). to lead her forces. The other men and “man” have their feelings hurt. Ormonte observes. That’s just the first 20 minutes or so. The voices of all the performers were outstanding. Two of the men sang countertenor roles; David Daniels as Arsace and Anthony Roth Costanzo as Armindo. Those voices are higher than the voices of the two females; it’s just one layer of Handel’s satire of operatic conventions of his time. Daniels and Roth Costanzo were wonderful performers. Arsace’s emotions ranged from ardent suitor to dejected reject. Armindo, amazed by Partenope’s sudden declaration of love, breaks into a tap dance with top hat and cane on top of his nightie. Daniela Mack as Rosmira/Eurimene is conniving, passionate, heartbroken while in excellent voice. Danielle de Niese as Partenope, the Queen Bee to whom all the energy of the others is devoted, is more than an opera singer. She moves with the grace and assurance of a dancer thoroughly at home moving on stage. Her statuesque form plus her engaging presence showed that Handel was correct to make an opera all about her. It is a funny opera.Would we have missed the satire without the toilet paper? Director Christopher Alden packed the 200 minutes with sight gags including potty jokes. Emilio is interrupted by a sound; is it water? oh, no, it is a toilet flushing. Partenope walks out a door revealing a toilet. Emilio, sung by Alek Shrader with authority and a self-satirizing awareness, sings while hanging from the bathroom’s transom, makes hand shadows as though at camp, and executes a hilarious yoga routine. The set designed by Andrew Lieberman adds another star to the cast. The winding staircase in Act I is not only gorgeous but also gives Armindo an opportunity to show that he can fall down all the stairs–face down–and hang from the edge while still singing. A great addition to SFO’s repertory, it suggests one get out there to see more of Handel’s operas, maybe even this one in another production to see if Handel’s own humor is still there. Pictures: (L to Rt, top row)Danielle de Niese, David Daniels, Alek Shrader, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Daniela Mack(bottom row) Philippe Sly, staircase, Danielle de Niese.
From 1990-2007, The Lively Foundation presented BAT TALES! annually in San Francisco and around the Bay Area. The program included premiere dances, theatre, original songs–all about bats. Most were based on legends about bats from many cultures; some based on legends we made up. Lucy & the Count: the Bat Ballet was choreographed for music by award winning composer, Jon Deak; Mine Bat, a two part solo dance was set to a story by Leslie Friedman and music by English composer Jonathan Harvey. Mine Bat was based on an article written by famed nature writer, William Stolzenburg. The article appeared in Nature Conservancy, the magazine of the international organization, the Nature Conservancy. Mr. Stolzenburg then wrote about Ms Friedman’s dance and story in another Nature Conservancy article. “At the time I first presented Lucy & the Count, with the Bat being the hero, no one paid any attention to bats. The whole program might have been considered wildly eccentric. Bats were only thought of as scary creatures getting caught in some lady’s hair,” says choreographer, Ms Friedman, “but now there is more consciousness of their beauty and their enormous contributions to human well being.” Lively’s annual performances contributed to the raising of that consciousness. Here’s the good news for all of us and especially for the bats: Bat Conservation International (based in Austin, TX) and The Nature Conservancy have managed to buy more than 1500 acres adjacent to Bracken Cave, near San Antonio. That land was going to be developed into many, many houses and other structures which would have meant curtains for the bats in Bracken Cave, home to the world’s largest population of Mexican Free-tailed bats. Millions of bats fly out of the cave at night to hunt insects. The bats are the most efficient pest control in the world. In the summer, the Bracken bats eat 140 TONS of insects EACH NIGHT. Throughout the US, bats save farmers about $23 billion in crop damage and reduced pesticide use. Three cheers for BCI, the Nature Conservancy and the BATS!!! It’s the best Halloween treat of all. Pictures courtesy BCI: Bats emerging from Bracken Cave, a bat visiting an agave. see also: www.nature.org and batcon.org and www.williamstolzenburg.com and www.jonathanharveycomposer.com and www.jondeak.com
The Lively School offers classes for adults–older teens to any age adult (REALLY ANY AGE) in ballet, contemporary dance, dance workout, Yoga for Life, and Creative Movement & Storytelling for Children. Dr. Leslie Friedman, Artistic Director of The Lively Foundation, is an internationally celebrated dancer/choreographer/teacher who has won acclaim from audiences and critics around the world. She has taught technique and her original choreography to national companies in China, Russia, England, Poland, Korea, Romania, Spain, and more. In the US, she has been a guest artist/teacher at universities throughout the country as well as setting her choreography on companies across the US. She has taught adult beginners and children as well as professionals for many years. She is one of the very few acclaimed artists who offers private classes to adults whether beginners or pros. This gives the students maximum flexibility in scheduling classes. She also offers small group classes. Sign up now! The grace, strength, balance, flexibility of dance will add joy to your life! Contact: email@example.com or call 650/969-4110 Classes at: Mtn. View Masonic Center, 890 Church St., Mountain View, CA.
The Lively Foundation asks everyone to patronize the businesses which so generously help Lively in our work. Please stand and cheer Ashley Whitlock, manager of the Starbucks on Castro St., Mountain View, CA. She has donated coffee (and cream, sugars, cups, stir sticks) for the International Dance Festival-Silicon Valley in all three seasons: 2012, 2013, 2014. She also helped The Festival of Lights, Dec. 2013, Lively’s Holidays concert. Ms Whitlock is a musician in addition to being a manager. She says she loves to help Lively help the arts. Thank you, Ms Whitlock! Dear Readers, now that you have stood up and cheered for her kindness, please stop at Starbucks on Castro@ High School in Mtn. View, enjoy a latte, a bear claw, a sandwich, and remember that IDF-SV 2015 comes soon. Here’s Ashley Whitlock:
An innovative and powerful performance comes to the Mountain View Performing Arts Center, Sept. 28, 2:30 p.m. Shambhavi Dandekar, Kathak artist, and Parlmal Phadke, Bharatanatyam artist, perform together in Nritya Sangam. Both Ms. Dandekar and Mr. Phadke are well known and tour widely throughout the world. They have presented this concert in 40 US cities, China, and Muscat. “Sangam” describes the meeting of two rivers; the energy and beauty of these two classical Indian dance forms come together to create a new experience in this concert. It is also the meeting of the male presence in movement and the female presence in movement, an exploration of both traditional and modern form and content. For tickets and more information see www.sulekha.comphotos: Shambhavi Dandekar (L) Parlmal Phadke (R)
Great big thanks to The Posh Bagel on Castro St., in Mountain View, CA. For all three seasons they have supported the International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley by donating many varieties of many, MANY bagels. We set these out all day for the Full Day of Dance© participants and before the Festival Concert and during intermission for the audience to enjoy. We are so grateful to Marie, the lovely and generous manager, and her team. Support our Supporters! Visit The Posh Bagel for a great lunch, morning coffee and bagels, special treats throughout the day. Here is Marie at The Posh Bagel and Marie with her team. They are all as talented as they are good looking!The Lively Foundation says,”THANKS!”
The San Francisco Bay Area is rich in artists devoted to classical Indian dance forms. There are performances throughout the year, especially in Bharatanatyam, yet, the concert, Mother & Child, performed by Usha Srinivasan and her daughter, Urmila Vudali, Aug. 24, 2014, De Anza College, Cupertino, stands out. They danced a full, classical program from the opening invocation Pushpanjali to an exuberant concluding Thillana. Clarity of movement and communication of deep emotions characterized the performance. It was beautiful and very moving. Themes of motherhood and a child’s relationship to her mother were expressed through stories of Krishna, Parvati, Ganesha, and others from the human realm. For example, in a Padam selection which called upon the performers’ dramatic skills, a mother questions her daughter’s choice of a boy friend. He has wild hair and his outfit is hardly Brooks Brothers. The daughter has fallen in love with Shiva. That match is far beyond exceptional, but the situation is universal in human families. The Varnum selection was a major effort combining three aspects of Bharatanatyam: Nritta, pure dance (abstract rhythmic movements), Nritya, expressive dance, and Natya, dramatic art. It was a premiere work drawing from an array of religious/mythological stories. It demanded focus and energy from the dancers, and they were more than equal to the challenge. In fact, Ms Srinivasan’s solo piece called out such emotional connection that this viewer felt tears come to her eyes. The program included musical compositions by M.S. Sukhi for the delightful Pushpanjali, the Varnum, Amba Stuthi, and the extraordinary Thillana. The music added extra perceptions to the event. Amba Stuthi was “an ode to Mother Amba, Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva.” The folk melody, Madu Meikkum Kanne, added texture to this well-rounded performance. The musicians, seated onstage in the traditional way, were outstanding: Sri Murali Parthasarathy(vocal), N. Veeramani(violin), M.S. Sukhi(mridangam), Navia Natarajan Menon(nattuvangam and also a dance guru to the artists). The joy obviously shared by this mother and child enveloped the audience. Eleven year old Ms Vudali has studied Bharatanatyam for five years. She danced with energy and precision. One must wonder where she goes from here as her dancing is already well formed artistry. Ms Srinivasan studied Bharatanatyam with her daughter. She proclaims herself an amateur. Being an amateur means she is a lover of this multi-layered, heart shaking art. So much of the dance, music, lyrics is devotional. It is appropriate: this was a performance suffused with love.Photos: Usha Srinivasan & Urmila Vudali, top & below, courtesy Ms Srinivasan; dancer’s ankle bells, file photo.
The International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley offers dancers, non-dancers, the dance audience an opportunity to study with and watch the finest artist teachers in their fields. In Summer, 2014, our third season, Leanne Rinelli came from Buffalo, NY, to teach and perform Salsa; Leslie Arbogast came from San Diego, CA, to teach and perform Dunham technique/Afro-Haitian dance; Sohini Ray came from Santa Monica, CA, to teach and perform Manipuri, a classical dance of India; Audreyanne Delgado tap danced her way from Alameda, CA; Etta Walton came from Palo Alto, CA, to teach and lead Line dancing; Amity Johnson, a much sought after Pilates teacher has taught Pilates mat at all three seasons; she teaches in Menlo Park & Palo Alto; Artistic Director Leslie Friedman has based her work at the Mountain View Masonic Center since 1996. Participants in IDF@SV benefit from this wealth of talent, training, and experience. Photos: (L) Leanne Rinelli performs No Seas Cobarde; (Rt) Leslie Arbogast performs Where the River Meets the Ocean, a tribute to Ocun, AfroCuban/AfroBrazilian goddess of the river & love.
The audience filled the auditorium. The only time there were empty seats was when Etta Walton invited everyone up to do Line dances with her. The Festival Concert was a tremendous success. The art of Leslie Arbogast, Audreyanne Covarrubias & Megan Ivey, Sohini Ray, Leanne Rinelli, Etta Walton truly captivated everyone. Hats off to the Festival Dancers: Kerry Aradhya, Myu Campbell, Vanessa Nudd Chapman, Julie Van Gelder. The Festival Concert was a brilliant finale to the intensive week of dancing that preceded it. Audience members, Festival Dancers, and artist/teachers all were asking about plans for next year before this Concert had even ended. Photos: (L to R, top to bottom) Etta Walton leads the audience; Audience dancing; More audience dancing; Sohini Ray, an ecstatic moment in Kaliyadaman; Audreyanne Delgado & Megan Ivey tap & even juggle in Mixed Nut Medley; Leanne Rinelli calls the moves for Rueda de Casino Salsa with Myu Campbell, Julie Van Gelder, Leslie Arbogast, Vanessa Nudd, Leslie Friedman. Photos courtesy Merv Chapman.