Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Merry Widow

The Merry Widow
Music by Franz Lehar
Choregraphy by Ronald Hynd

Hanna, A Wealthy Ponteverdrian Widow: Victoria Jaiani
Count Danilo, A Pontevedrian Officer: Fabrice Calmels
Baron Zeta, A Pontevedrian Ambassador: Matthew Adamczyk
Valencienne, His French Wife:  April Daly
Njegus, His Personal Aide:  Willy Shives
Camille de Roussillion, French Attache:  Mauro Villanueva

World premier: November 13th, 1975, The Australian Ballet
Joffrey Premier:  February 16th, 2011
Emma and I look tremendously forward to the evenings we spend together taking in a breath-taking ballet more than I can even say!  Last night we started our evening with our traditional sushi dinner at Tamarind and made our way to the theatre to enjoy The Merry Widow, a light-hearted, slightly boozy, politically tinged romantic three act ballet adapted from Lehar's 1905 operetta by the same name. 

To say that this production was a visual feast would be a grand understatement!  The opening scenes boast a bustling ballroom of waltzing glittering gown clad ballerinas; few things I've seen on the a stage have been more opulent and Roberta Guidi di Bango deserves enormous praise for her costume design for this ballet.

Victoria Jaiani and April Daly were, as always, nearly flawless and breathtaking to watch.  A last minute cast adjustment left the handsome Fabrice Calmels in a leading role for the evening and Mauro Villanueva easily matched his big stage presence making him one of the stand-out performers of the evening.  Special mention should also go to the effervescent John Mark Giragosian for his boundless energy as Lead Pontevedrian Dancer in Act II.


Emma and I love all things Joffrey and we would never abandon this band of talented artists or dream to criticize their tremendous efforts, but honestly, neither of us enjoyed this particular production as much as we thought we would.   We knew this was a tricky little story going in and did a good amount of pre-reading to ensure we could follow the plot, but were surprised to discover some of the dancing was more than a little shaky.  One performer imparticular was off his game entirely, but more than that I was simply not a fan of the choreography.  I adored the spirited character driven national dances performed in the second act, but overall felt like the production didn't show off the extraordinary talents of the Joffrey dancers in the best light.  Something about the production just seemed a little heavy and at times the movement seemed incomplete.  Personally, I think the style of dance tampered with the innate humor of the tale; the choreography left me with grinning when I expected to enjoy a couple of really good belly laughs. 

I could see how many many people would fall in love with the production and I think our opinion is a matter of personal taste.  After all, ballet is subjective.  Every production can't be our favorite and this one just wasn't.
(Photo Credits to Herbert Migdoll and the Joffrey Ballet)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fun Fair!

This year marks our last "official" fun fair at Irving.  I am sure we'll attend even after Finn moves onto Julian, but I am sure it won't feel quite the same.  Finn adores the Fun Fair and most especially loves the pie in the face contest!  This year the contestants upped the anti and added performed a group dance!  The New Beats (all the new Irving teachers) took home the "Irving's Best Dance Crew" throphy, but the The Rejects (including Emma's former teacher Mr. Sak) earned the most money and a pie in the face!  Even though The Beat Street did not win either award our principal deserves an honorable mention for breaking it down in front a packed house of cheering fans!  He rocked it!
I am also thrilled with my big win at the silent auction! 
I cannot think of a better way for our family to commemorate the end of our Irving school years than taking home this vintage card catalog from the school library...
Bidding on this item got a little heated, but thankfully I won out in the end,
I love the idea of owning a little piece of Irving history!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A bathroom notice

My friend found this sign in the ladies room of a public library.
How many times did officials find more than one person in a stall before determining it was a problem large enough to warrant hanging a sign stating the rule?  How many arrests have been made for this violation over the years?

The questions just keep coming, but that is an unquestionably funny sign!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Icons of Early American Dance

This morning, with her teachers' permission, Emma and a small group of her fellow dancers headed down to the Harold Washington Library to perform as part of the visual and performing arts programs offered by the Chicago Public Library.  Today's program entitled, Icons of Early American Dance: Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Doris Humphrey represented a collaboration between Stephanie Clemens & MOMENTA and Lori Belilove&The Isadora Duncan Dance Company.
(On the left, Miss Doris Humphrey and on the right, Miss Emma Elsmo)

Emma has been working diligently over the past few months learning A Burmese Yen Pwe choreographed in 1925 by Ruth St. Denis and Doris Humphrey.  Originally performed as a solo by Doris Humphrey, the piece was reconstructed as a duet for MOMENTA in 1988 by Karoun Tootikian of the Ruth St. Denis Foundation.  As part of the performance today, Emma and her best friend Juliette performed the sweet, upbeat, and bouncy piece together for the first time. 
Choreographed by Ruth St. Denis and Doris Humphrey

Choreographed by Isadora Duncan
Lori Belilove rehearsing Isadora Duncan's moving solo entitled Revolutionary.
Emma had the chance to take a Duncan master class from Lori Belilove over the week-end and it was quite and eye-opening experience for her! This afternoon she commented that Emma is a dancer who shows much promise and feels a Duncan workshop is in her future.  Needless to say, Emma had an extraordinary afternoon and we all have a better understanding of the dances she is learning every day.  I am delighted that Emma is experiencing the joy and a privilege of keeping history alive!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The photographer and the sleeper

Every year, my sister-in-law sets up her camera during our Christmas celebration and captures an honest portrait of our family.  I absolutely love this tradition and I know my parents love it even more than I do.  On  more than one occasion my mother has commented on how much she enjoys looking at photographs and seeing new family members appear on the scene from year to year.  I completely agree, looking at Amy's annual portraits feels like watching our little family grow on fast forward.

Henry, the youngest member of our brood, tuckered out this Christmas and fell asleep before we had the chance to snap our family photo.  As much as we love our annual picture, we didn't feel like it was worth waking a sleeping baby to capture the moment.  Instead we decided to plan a picture day at my parents house as soon as possible.  
Yesterday we headed up to Lake Geneva for our picture day.  Maybe we were distracted by the amazing lunch my mom made or the quartet of adorable kids running around the house, but before we knew it Henry was asleep, it was time to say good-bye, and Amy hadn't taken the family portrait.  As my dad said, "It appears there may be a gap in the family photo album!"

Actually, I couldn't think of a more fitting end to the day and we decided to plan another get together next month.  Maybe monthly lunches will become a new family tradition! At any rate, it was great to see everyone yesterday and capture the cousins together! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quote from a dancer...

"All of a sudden she had her arms around me.  When I looked down I couldn't even figure out how she got her arms where they were.  She told me to 'consider my elastic waist and let the birds fly from my chest.'  I had no idea what she meant and it sounded a little crazy, but if she is crazy then she is crazy in the best way; by the end of class I felt like a butterfly or an angel with wings."

-Emma in 2011 on taking a Duncan technique master class taught by Lori Belilove

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Principles of Dance

Even though I have lived in the the village of Oak Park for more than twelve years the appeal of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple never fades.  Each and every time I set foot in this stunning building a sincere sense of peace comes over me (except when I look at the vertical woodwork behind the pulpit; then I feel dizzy) and my respect for this cubist revelation grows.  This afternoon the Momenta Repertory Ensemble (MRE) performed works highlighting the principles of dance in the grand space.  Most of the pieces were choreographed specifically to be performed in Unity Temple.
The MRE performs again tomorrow at 3:00pm.  Check it out!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wall Worthy.

I am happy to report, Schwa joined the ranks of my wall worthy kitchen menus today!  I'll have another one to hang early next month.  So excited...

Another Foodie Film Day

Yesterday afternoon my friend Tee and I shared one of our fun foodie film days.  This time around we decided to watch Six Degrees of Separation and whipped  up some Upper East Side Hors d' Oeuvres to enjoy during the movie! 
I have always been a huge fan of the 1993 film and our little dishes made watching it even more fun than usual.  I loved Tee's roasted red pepper, goat cheese, and prosciutto bruschetta and I also like my sweet potato and bacon filled endive leaves!  All in all this was a lovely way to spend an afternoon! 

If you don't take a break like this every so often, I highly recommend you do at least once in a while!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LGC Force.

No, this is not the cast of a new made for TV police drama, but if it was the show would surely be called LGC Force!  Tonight Leif and a couple of his incredible fellow Leadership Greater Chicago participants are looking into crime in Chicago by riding along with a CPD officer for the evening.  They emailed me a picture of Leif in his bullet proof vest!  I hope they are having an amazing time and needless to say I am very excited to hear about his experience.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One True Statement.

The following statement is true:
When you open the lid to your garbage and casually toss a little something in the can, you do not expect to see this...
 I may never take out the garbage again.  
The End.
Oh and one more thing...Opposums tend to hiss or growl and show their FIFTY sharp teeth when frightened. Thankfully, I am alive to tell you that tossing an empty Starbucks cup at one will certainly scare it and quickly illicit the above response.  I say "alive" because I seriously almost died right there in my alley when that fuzz ball showed me it's pearly whites.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love and Gaga

(photo Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Last night we celebrated LOVE with a little family style Valentine's Day dinner and watched the Grammy's.  Nothing beats love, Gaga, and fancy food in the family room!  I created a little plate for each of my Valentines...
Quilcene and Kumamoto Oysters for Leif.
Fancy Shrimp cocktail for Finn!
Mozzarella, Basil, and Roasted Tomato Ravioli for Emma.
Pan Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Dill, Broccolini and Beets for me.
Lamb, Fingerlings, and Sprouts for all four of us!

Needless to say everyone cleaned their plates and we all rocked out for the better part of the evening!
What a fun way to spend an evening together!
Happy Valentine's day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Starting about a decade ago, every time we'd drive down 22nd street Leif would pause and say, "Man, I really want to eat at the Czech Plaza" and each and every time I would look at the no curb appeal building with florescent light in the windows and respond, "I know Babe, but I am not so sure we want to eat at a restaurant with the word 'plaza' in the name."  Yes, I can be a little bit of a snob sometimes, but I have the same aversion to the word 'banquet.' And wouldn't you know it?  They host banquets at the Czech Plaza.  Nightmare.

Despite my objections, Leif's fascination with the Czech Plaza increased over time and he became ever more fixated on what was going on behind all those mini-blinds.  Somewhere around 2005, Leif dropped an issue of Chicago Magazine in front of me that named Czech Plaza one of the bargain dining spots in the Chicago land area. Well...I know when to back down and decided we'd probably be eating the the old Plaza asap!  Honestly, we went the week the magazine came out and were not disappointed!  To this day I have a picture of Leif eating his first meal at the Czech Plaza hanging on my refrigerator and it makes me smile everyday.

 Last night we met up with a bunch of friends at the well-loved Berwyn establishment and dined on Czech Rebel Pilsner beers, liver dumpling soup, and roasted caraway duck. Everyone in the the Czech Plaza is lovely and kind, the fare is filling and comforting, and the bill is as easy to swallow as those big Czech beers!  Don't eat much before you go and even then I'd bet there are few folks who can take down all three dumplings!  I sure couldn't!
 So Leif won this battle and I am thrilled he did. 
The Plaza is even better when great friends join in the fun!  Check it out!

7016 W Cermak Road
Berwyn, IL
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