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American Idol:Clearing the Dust

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When the dust cleared from last night’s elimination, many were left in shock. Obviously, I wasn’t shocked that Stefano was in the bottom. In a way, I wasn’t that surprised that Thia was there, but Casey was a HUGE shock for me. Sorry folks, but Casey is way better than that. There’s just no accounting for taste, not when you’re talking music. As I’m wont to say: Music is subjective, depending on who’s listening. Second huge shock of the night: Thia being called safe first. Of course, Idol viewers know that the one left with the one going home isn’t necessarily the second lowest vote-getter, as the Idol producers do love the drama. Imagine, however, my complete and utter surprise when Stefano was sent back safe. Of all the surprises I had tonight, what happened next wasn’t one of them.

Those of you who are my Facebook friends saw me call this one, and I agree that the save should have been used on Casey. From here, it gets harder. No more saves. I’m just glad I don’t have to make the final decisions this season. Honestly, while I would have put Paul, Pia, and Stefano in the bottom, it would have been hard to release any of them. This is the first year that American Idol has had this range of talent, from pure musicians to pure singers. I appreciate both types. As the manager of a band full of pure musicians, my heart does belong to them; however, I love a good singer too. This is going to be a tough one, folks. If you seriously have a favorite, you had better take the time and vote for him or her. Casey should not have been the lowest vote-getter this week, but Casey is more musician than he is singer. I can relate to that, and personally, I love it. It’s time for Casey to break out the upright and show people what he really does. The “tween” vote might not get it, but music lovers will. The band I manage appeals to a more mature audience, an audience that can appreciate a very talented musician/singer, an audience that knows the value of the music itself and not all the “smoke and mirrors” that sometimes accompanies labeled artists. For you mature people who appreciate real music as much as I do and are watching this year, you’d better vote if you want those musicians to stay. Honestly, I’m just glad they’re getting the opportunity for this type of exposure, as they usually don’t.

I also have to say that American Idol is a much better show than it has been in recent years. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that it has become a virtual “celeb-fest.” Note that Ryan said that Sugarland has never graced the Idol stage before. We’ll probably see other artists (and I mean artists) who would not have been caught dead on American Idol in the past. That’s a testament to the level of talent and, I believe, to the fact that we now have two artists on the judging panel. We’ve seen Stevie Wonder before, but we weren’t expecting him tonight. What a nice surprise, including the birthday celebration for Steven Tyler. I even like Ryan this year, when I could barely take him in past years. Maybe all the changes that came on Idol were a good thing, including Simon moving on. I’m likely one of the people who thought the show wouldn’t be the same without him; I was right—it’s better.

Pardon the cliché, but hang on to your seats; this is going to be a very bumpy ride. I think there will be disappointed fans each week as we wind our way to the eventual winner of American Idol this year. The good news is the concert will be worth attending. I remember the Ruben/Clay year, when the Idols sold out arenas across the country. Then, the next year (Fantasia was the winner), the arenas were half empty, and the tours moved to much smaller venues. Along comes season 5 (Elliott Yamin/Chris Daughtry), and the Idols had to double back and play the same cities again because the smaller venues sold out too fast. I won’t be surprised if they move back to the arenas this year. Thank God Nigel Lythgoe returned, Simon left, Ellen and Kara left, and Jennifer and Steven came on board. This Idol season may well go down in history as one of the absolute best.

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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