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American Idol: The Final Four Make Their Last Bids for Votes

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This week the final four were charged with performing one song that inspired them and one song written by songwriting team Lieber and Stoller. The night was “okay” but not awe-inspiring. This season started out great and has slowly been losing steam for me. I suspect I’m not the only one who has grown weary of James and his screaming and who is beyond ready for Haley to go. Randy said Haley is giving us no hint as to what type of artist she wants to be. And I thought Randy was reading my articles. Haley doesn’t know what type of artist she wants to be, so it’s little surprise that the judges are baffled. I’ve said that a few times too many and wouldn’t repeat it again, but they keep bringing it up. I wonder when they will figure that out. Likely, not until after the finale.

The night started out with James choosing what pretty much was guaranteed to give him some of the cheese he seems to love, “Don’t Stop Believing.” Instead, James decided to save the cheese for his second performance. In the first, his opening vocals on the song were actually quite nice. I did like the way he engaged the audience from the stage for a change, but he returned to his over-the-top, cheese-laced performances with “Love Potion No. 9.” James is going to have to do some work to win me back over. I didn’t like this song choice at all. The song did not give much room to show his vocals, which I suppose is okay if you only want to scream, and that’s what James appears to like best. More power to him, honey.

Haley chose Michael Jackson’s “The Earth Song,” likely one of his most unknown songs. Do I sense a pattern here with Haley? Either way, it doesn’t much matter. She tries too hard and is not that good. On top of that, she must have the worst personality of any Idol contestant in history. She has openly displayed that personality by laughing at Pia’s elimination, smirking while Jacob performed his “swan song,” looking at Jennifer with pure hatred, and having her (frequent) curse words “bleeped” out. Such a lady. Haley obviously doesn’t realize that the judges are trying to help when they criticize. That is the purpose of a “critique.” But, when you (mistakenly) think you’re “all that,” I guess their critiques are useless. Haley’s second choice of “I Who Have Nothing” found her declaring, “I’ve always been into theatre.” Haley is likely into anything that runs past her and temporarily piques her interest. She’s not an artist. Her voice is quite limited (and I still hate the growling).

In stark contrast to Haley is Scotty, who must be the most “happy-go-lucky” contestant the show has ever seen. No matter what critiques are thrown his way, Scotty just smiles through it all. For his inspirational song, Scotty chose “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.” Though Scotty plays it tender a lot, he has not become tiresome to me. He’s quite the stellar vocalist, and his performance revealed a beautiful song, sung beautifully. What I like most about Scotty is that he is exposing a lot of us to music we never listened to before. He’s a wonderful singer, and he comes across as very honest and sincere. To me, he’s far and away the most talented of the remaining group. He’s so natural, and his voice is amazing. To “mix it up,” Scotty’s second choice was “Youngblood.” I love how Scotty shows multiple sides of his personality. He’s ready to move on from this show into a very successful country career.

Another natural vocalist of this group is Lauren, who chose “Anyway.” I have to agree with Steven that Lauren’s vocals are so very pure. This is an emotional song that Lauren delivered like a pro. As with Scotty, Lauren definitely has a future in country music, no matter how this thing pans out. She is so likable, so genuine, and so talented. She balked at the second choice of “Trouble” because she had to call herself “evil.” That was Lauren’s immaturity and sincerity talking. As she moves along, Lauren will learn that singing is sometimes role playing (at least until she can write her own songs). Though she didn’t agree with calling herself evil, she did a fine job of the playing the role of the song. Lauren’s youth belies her stage presence, and she also has a very bright future ahead of herself.

It’s somewhat interesting to me that two of the best contestants this season are the youngest: 16-year-old Lauren and 17-year-old Scotty. I believe that both are just natural singers and performers, and that is really showing at this stage of the game. As Jennifer said, some people are just born artists; both Scotty and Lauren prove that to be true. How much experience can they actually have at this? I would be willing to bet not a whole lot—especially on a professional level. This is what American Idol is supposed to be all about: Finding a raw, untapped talent and molding that talent into a star. I think they’ve got two good ones to work with in Lauren and Scotty.

When the dust clears this evening, who will be sent packing? Using a process of elimination, I suspect it will be Haley. I believe that Scotty has a fairly insurmountable fan base, with James not far behind him. Lauren will receive a huge surge of sympathy votes from last week and will also likely be safe. For that reason, I won’t be surprised to see James in the bottom with Haley, which would actually benefit James. He could use a good dose of humility, and he needs to remind us why we liked him in the beginning. Haley is this week’s Vote for the Worst pick, which has been the death knell of earlier contestants—Paul, Casey, and Jacob. Hopefully, it will work similarly for her. Notice that I purposely failed to mention this week’s mentor. That’s because I think she’s a joke, and her outfits and make-up don’t help. Talent doesn’t need weirdness to showcase itself.

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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