Passione in Napoli

Passione, a film by John Turturro, explores Naples and its dynamic musical heritage.  I viewed the documentary at a screening sponsored by the InterAmerican Development Bank in Washington, DC, part of “Italy @ 150” celebrating the 150th anniversary year of Italian unification.  The year long program was organized by the Smithsonian Institution. The multi-venue cultural celebration started on March 17, 2011, the 150th anniversary of Il Risorgimento.

Released in 2010, Passione was praised by critics, but is unlikely to appear in the local cineplex. The scenes can be gritty and emotionally charged, which can unnerve the bourgeoisie.  Too bad — we could all use a dose of the resilience, chaos and and life embracing realism of Naples.   “Singing is emotional transportation,” says John Tutturro, during this documentary that strings together the many cultural influences on Neapolitan song and performance style.  

Tutturro’s film captures the Baroque facades of Neapolitan churches, the splashes of graffiti and faces etched by smiles and worries.  The director encourages folks on the street to sing songs that typify the culture, then cuts to longer versions by professional singers rendering the same material.  Clips of U.S. soldiers who arrived during World War II as an occupying army that stayed for decades explains some of the multi-ethnic gene pool of Napoli and its music.  Greeks, Arabs, Berbers, Slavs, Visigoths, Spaniards, Celtic-Scandinavian  Normans, French, African-Americans are some of the musical ancestors.  The people’s music of Napoli characterizes a world city, a delicious mix of cultures and sensuality.

Color Me Zelda : Ballet Diary

FLASH!!!   Rare look at Zelda Fitzgerald’s art work on view at Evergreen Museum in Baltimore until January 29, 2012.

Ballet Diary

August, 2011  Gorgeous dance studio.  Barre is installed at an odd height, like a stair railing for giants with long arms.  Designers clearly did not consult the dance professor.  Class group is a mix of those who have never studied ballet to a current high school dance teacher.  Prof.  Meryl  Shapiro directs us through barre work, terminology and suggestions about paying attention to the music.

My fears that I will be too tired to keep up or forgetful of past ballet positions and steps are groundless.  I’m surprised that I can remember so much from decades ago.  Barre work includes plie, grand plie, tendu, sous-sou en releve, port de bras, stretches.  Must look up the correct spelling of the steps and accents.

September, 2011

Relearning and remembering “en croix”, the pattern of barre exercises where the leg away from the barre moves to the front, side, back, and again to the side. Floor work includes  balance, chasse coupe.  I’m weak on my left side.  Can’t remember patterns as readily as on right side.  Why is that?  Brain fog, dominant side wiping out any left side body memory?  I should practice more on the left to ensure body memory.

Looked up en croix in the ABT Ballet Dictionary:

Croix, en  [ahn krwah]

In the shape of a cross. Indicates that an exercise is to be executed to the fourth position front, to the second position and to the fourth position back, or vice versa. As, for example, in battements tendus en croix.

Pas de bourrée added to the combination. Video demonstration in the ABT site shows the bent, elevated leg with foot placed at the knee which I know I’m not doing correctly.

Our class works on the combination pattern to which more steps are added each week.   Grande jeté is my downfall.  I have limited elevation and mix up which foot starts the leap.  Step…step…step…leap or is it step…step…leap, with the leap being the third step?  I’m thinking too much.  Prof. Meryl says to let the music guide dance movements.  If I think less about the “right” steps and more about what the music suggests I might improve my body-music flow!

Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott’s lady, studied ballet before she married the author of Tender is the NightThe Great Gatsby and The Beautiful and the Damned.  Later as an adult, she resumed ballet classes, while the couple lived in the South of France.  She was quite passionate about it.  Too bad there was no YouTube back in the 1920s.

Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama.

This image was published before 1923 and is in the public    domain in the US.

Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th century German mystic, abbess, writer and composer, burst into popular music sales during the 1990’s with the astonishing success of the compact disc “Chant.” The global appetite for polyphonic Medieval music was surprising. Hildegard’s chants were displayed in CD racks, downloaded for MP3s and muted as background music for advertising videos.

Hildegard’s spiritual play “Ordo Virtutum” was staged in several venues including the Washington National Cathedral. Overlooked for centuries, Hildegard’s music now appears on concert hall programs and is featured on meditation recordings. The pure melodies and calming harmonics appealed to audiences in search of consoling and relaxing sound. Feminists and scholars knew about Hildegard’s achievements. That her creative message now reaches mainstream audiences is a worthy tribute to her enduring appeal.

Hildegard von Bingen lived and composed with vital creative energy. That we’re here on earth to use the time wisely, helping others, giving flower to the talents bestowed us. She believed in nature and the healing power of the green.  The traditions of music, scholarship and enjoyment of life are continued at Kloster Eberbach, which is near Bingen on the Rhine.