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Snowy Stone Mountain, Great Family Fun!



When we received an invitation to come out to “Stone Mountain Christmas” and “Snow Mountain” at Stone Mountain Park, we we’re so excited we almost couldn’t wait!

Georgia’s most visited attraction was ringing in the holiday cheer last week for us with more than two million lights, a spectacular new Snow Angel Palace, a new Wonderland Walkway, and a new musical revue, the Holly Jolly Cabaret. The Backstage Beat invites you all to enjoy its popular holiday attraction, Stone Mountain Christmas on select dates through January 2.

New for the 2010 season, families can stroll through the Wonderland Walkway, a magical tunnel of lights and melodies.  The Wonderland Walkway leads kids and parents to visit SMP’s Christmas icon, the Snow Angel, who unveils her new home, the Snow Palace at Memorial Hall.  The Snow Palace is the perfect backdrop for family photos and decorating cookies all next to the Snow Angel escorted by her toy soldiers.

In addition to the new attractions, Stone Mountain Christmas is the only place in Atlanta to see the Polar Express 4D Experience.  This is what we Alex’s call a “Must DO”.  As we waited to enter into the theater, we watched a promo video to get us prepared.  Then with the help of the lovely conductor, we all open the doors by yelling “All Aboard”.   We made our way in to the very front row!  Taking our seats and putting on our 3D glasses, we we’re ready for this show!  The Polar Express is one of our families favorite movies so we wondered what they would show us for a total of 15 minutes.  As the movie began,  we were so surprised by the amazing feel and effects of the show.   As the train we were ‘riding’ on slid across the ice, we could feel the blasts of air and the spray of ice and snow!  It was amazing!  This is one thing you simply have to do while at the park.

Families can get into the Christmas spirit with the nightly Christmas Parade and visit with Santa Claus.  The experience culminates with the magic of the beautiful Snow Angel as she flies high over Crossroads® creating a nightly snow and fireworks celebration.   While it was dark, our favorite thing to do was roast marshmallows and make s’mores over the park’s fire pits!!!  Yes, you can buy kits to make s’mores or just roast marshmallows.  We highly recommend doing this as it was cold that night, and we were able to keep warm and enjoy our delicious treats.

While we were at the park we visited Snow Mountain!  This was huge with more than 20 slides and an expanded snow play area. This year, the snow park opened the new Avalanche Alley, a family snow tube ride which accommodates up to five guests to ride together in one tube.  This was by far my favorite!  Although the walk up to it was very long and steep, it was well worth it.  Plus I kept thinking, “Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, if I cant make this hike, I’m never going to make it.”   The line moved pretty quickly and before we knew it we were in the tube and sliding down the hill!  What a ride! In the park’s snow play area, the Snow Zone, Fort Snow also makes its debut, where kids of all ages are invited to slide and crawl through a tunnel of snow.

For lunch we visited Miss Katie’s Homestyle Southern Restaurant.   We met the manager, Lucy, and she was very knowledgeable about the park.  She let us know that we should definitely see the Polar Express 4D and ride the train around the park.   The waitstaff was beyond polite, always answering your questions and your thank you’s with ‘my pleasure’.  I really enjoyed how they brought out their hot, freshly made rolls.  The waitress threw them to us!!  We caught our warm rolls and were nearly in heaven eating them while they were fresh.  They also brought out our appetizer,  The Complementary Pass Arounds, which consisted of fried pickle spears,  onion peals and sweet potato fries!  So yummy!!!  Everything we got was delicious and was definitely home cooking.  We had leftovers to take with us!  This is the place you need to eat at while you are visiting Stone Mountain Park!  Check out their menu now and decide what you are going to eat!  MENU

While we were at the park, we took a walk to the Scenic Tramway which took us to the top of the mountain!  It was a quick ride, only about four minutes.   We saw amazing views of the park and the city of Atlanta!  It was a little cold that day so we couldn’t stay out long and the mountain had patches of ice.

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We made our way to the  Antebellum Plantation & Farmyard.   The Antebellum Plantation at Stone Mountain Park is a collection of original buildings from around the State of Georgia, built between 1783 and 1875.  Each structure was moved from its original site and carefully restored to preserve its authenticity and historical value.  As we walked from building to building it was very surreal, especially since we were the only people there!  Once we toured the cookhouse, it became apparent to me that I had just seen all of this on a episode of  “Ghost Hunters”.  Yikes!  I then asked the lady working in the Cookhouse if in fact I was right.  Yes, I was.  I then remembered the segment were they are inside the Slave Houses and I knew we must go there next!!  I was disappointed that we could not go into the Slave Houses but it was interesting to read all the information they had about them and the other buildings.  If I had more time, I would have loved to read more information about the history and ask more questions of the workers, who were all dressed in period clothing.

For a great family adventure, The Backstage Beat highly recommends going to Stone Mountain Park!  Get there before Jan. 2nd to experience a little Christmas and magic too!  Snow Mountain runs through March 6th.

More information about Stone Mountain Christmas is also online at THEIR SITE.


Rain and Fire in Sedona



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



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



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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