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Cirque Du Soleil – OVO Review

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It was my great pleasure to be able to attend the Cirque Du Soleil’s performance of Ovo last week on behalf of The Backstage Beat.  As a newbie writer to The Backstage Beat, I can’t think of a better way to start than with a review of this amazing feast for the eyes and ears!

Cirque Du Soleil (Circus of the Sun), is based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and is a Canadian entertainment company, self-described as a “dramatic mix of circus art and street entertainment.”  (Until I looked that up in Wikipedia, I always thought they were from France!)  Its theatrical, character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals help define Cirque du Soleil as a contemporary circus.  With approximately 27 different themed shows, and more in production, each show has its own theme and storyline.

After dinner at a local Italian restaurant, my boyfriend, Dave, and I headed down from Woodstock to Atlantic Station.  Parking was a breeze in the parking deck at Atlantic Station, right next to the big tent, and cost $10 to park.  Always a good sign of a good night!  Walking into the refreshment tent first, my nostrils were assaulted with the smell of popcorn, just like the circuses from my childhood.  Missing, thankfully, was the smell of the circus animals!  Of course I had to have a box of popcorn, along with a glass of wine, to take with me inside to watch the show.  Who knew wine and popcorn would go so well together!

Immediately upon entering the big tent for the performance of Ovo, you know that the theme for this show is about insects.  Grasshoppers and bug catchers walk around the arena as the audience is filing in for the show.  Your eyes are immediately drawn to the oval stage which features a large egg (ovo).  Cricket and night sounds fill the air.  You are now in the world of insects.

Dave and I had awesome seats, in section 102, close to the center of the stage.  It was Dave’s first time seeing a Cirque performance and my second time.  I was able to see the show Ka’ in Vegas a couple of years ago so my expectations for Ovo were high.  Dave, being the Cirque Du Soleil virgin, was very excited to see the show, not knowing quite what to expect.  I was just as excited being able to share this with him! (Insert awwwwwws here! Or gag, whichever comes natural!)

Ovo starts out with the insect world coming alive on the stage in front of us.  The theme of the show centers on a quirky insect bringing an egg into the midst of an insect community.  The insect community is run by a beetle munchkin look-a-like who wants the egg for himself.  The Beetle draws the quirky insect’s attention to a lady bug in order to take the egg away.  The quirky insect then falls for the lady bug.  Throughout the rest of the show, it’s a cat and mouse game with the two.  I kept waiting for something to pop out of the egg and was a little disappointed when nothing did.  I hate to spoil that for you but better to know that ahead of time and not be disappointed by it as I was.  This show, as in all other Cirque du Soleil shows, does feature amazing performances by so many talented acrobats and athletes.  At the beginning of Ovo is a performance by a dragonfly, who’s balance and core strength defy gravity.  The balancing and tumbling act of a group of ants, playing with their food, was fun to watch and was one of my favorite acts.  The scarab trapeze artists reminded me of circuses from my childhood.  Many more athletes, including spiders, who seemed to have no waist, fleas performing acrobatic moves, flying butterflies, and a juggling bug, had their turn on the stage in the insect world.

My absolute favorite performance was by the grasshoppers, a very talented group of acrobats who could climb up walls and leap tall buildings!  Those ‘grasshoppers’ must have spent hours watching real grasshoppers as they seemed to have mimicked their movements precisely.  All and all I thoroughly enjoyed the show, although I felt it didn’t live up to the first Cirque performance I saw of Ka’.  Dave enjoyed it as well and is eagerly awaiting his next Cirque Du Soleil show.

I do recommend that you go see Ovo while it’s in Atlanta, especially during this holiday season.  In addition to the wonderful performance by the different acts, there is some comedy and great music too.  I can also say it’s a great place to take the kiddos to.  For more information on the dates, times, and tickets, please visit WEBSITE HERE

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Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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