This is definitely it. This is the last of it. A few cool soft breezes at night with the windows open will taunt you in your memory a week from now. Soon we’ll be closing the blinds and hissing at the sunlight like trapped vampires. It goes by many names but I like to call it “underwear weather.” More traditionally, it’s called summer. And, as every good Phoenician knows, summer begins in May.
Years ago, it used to be that once May rolled around, all of the art spaces in downtown Phoenix that didn’t have functioning A/C or swamp coolers would shut down for the summertime and stay closed until re-emerging in October. Now, considering the vast amounts of Facebook event invitations I’ve been getting, this tactic is no longer the case. Either art spaces have suddenly come across a windfall of cash or people in town are more willing to brave sweating together in a small room for the sake of seeing art.
While venues like Lawn Gnome, The Trunk Space, Frontal Lobe and Crescent Ballroom seem to have plans scheduled deep into the beast that is high summer in Phoenix, I see this time of year as having an additional advantage.
All good work needs time and focus to develop. With a self-imposed sun and heat quarantine, the summertime in Phoenix is the perfect time to think, read, write, develop, plan and scheme all of the ideas there was no time to focus on while friends were luring you out the door for beers on a patio or a hike in the mountains. The winter weather here can be blissful but is really not conducive to hours of concentration. I find myself staring longingly out the window and cursing our American workaholic existence.
When staring out the window means being blinded by a high noon reflection of the sun or witnessing a sweaty individual finding a sliver of shade to wait for the bus, the prospect of hiding indoors seems much more inviting. Living in such a unique environment, we must take advantage of the odd variances of this place.
Starting right now, you have five months to work on your grand plan. Instead of going stir crazy and disgusted with the sight of four walls, an entirely new project could be born. Most of the time, people don’t discover the benefits of focus and development. It can be ugly. Starting off is always a struggle of the conscious as it battles to defeat the beginnings of any idea. But this time, with fewer distractions, instead of saying no to the idea, you can say yes.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that philosophy is useless in the practical world without action that could take the form of writing or spoken words. Simply by stepping forth with the ideas in your head and putting them in to reality, we change the make-up of our world and begin participating in life.
So, although you might be sitting in your dark cave space, blinds closed, fan on, a/c set at 82 degrees so you don’t break the bank, and limiting contact with the “outside” world, you may ultimately be taking a greater part in it.
Once September or October approaches, emerge from your cool dark place and share your results with the city. If all works out, we should see some pretty amazing and weird work and maybe even some projects that expand on the conceptual groundwork that was created the previous year. Summer is the time to hibernate, develop and grow. Take this time to walk around in your underwear and see what’s possible.
Frontal Lobe, Go Joe show, May 24
Lawn Gnome Publishing, Sole: No Wising Up, No Settling Down Tour, June 18,
The Trunk Space, event calendar for June
Crescent Ballroom: Sea Wolf, June 17, Melvins, July 12
The authenticity and accuracy of Ballet Arizona’s All Balanchine program this weekend relies on the invaluable knowledge of Artistic Director Ib Andersen, himself a Balanchine protégé for whom the great choreographer created major roles in Ballade, Robert Schumann’s ‘Davidsbündlertänze,’ and Mozartiana. With a distinguished background in the Royal Danish Ballet and the New York City Ballet, Andersen now serves as one of only a few répétiteurs authorized to stage George Balanchine’s works.
The program includes Serenade, set to music by Peter Tchaikovsky and the first work Balanchine choreographed for American dancers. The Balanchine Trust describes it as “a ballet of patterns that…explores academic ballet technique…the choreography, as the music, has overtones of love, loss, yearning.” Serenade’s glorious lighting, long translucent skirts, and stark staging are quite literally breathtaking when the curtain rises.
Ballet Arizona dancer Natalia Magnicaballi explains that Serenade’s unusual combination of classicism and drama began as exercises. “Balanchine started choreographing in class…and this girl came late, and he put that in the choreography.” The role continues with a waltz and later an elegy, where a relatively small movement provides striking visual contrast: the dancer unpins her hair.
Magnicaballi demonstrates another position from a section of the elegy known as “Dark Angel,” sweeping her arms behind her head and extending them like outstretched wings. The pose was inspired by Antonio Canova’s 18th-century sculpture of Cupid and Psyche, according to Balanchine expert Suzanne Farrell, for whom Magnicaballi has danced since 1999.
“It’s very interesting for me,” says Magnicaballi, “because [Farrell and Andersen] both worked for Balanchine [in the 1980s], so I have the female…and the male…so it makes sense how they ask for things.” She pauses thoughtfully. “They’re very different in personality, but I think that they complement each other.”
Magnicaballi joined Ballet Arizona in 2002 after working with the Italian company Aterballetto and Julio Bocca’s Ballet Argentino in her home country. She’s particularly beloved by Arizona audiences from lead roles in La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker), Coppélia, and Swan Lake as well as Ib Andersen’s creations.
The dancer tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in January 2011 — “it totally went tukk,” she describes, accompanying the sound with a twisting, tearing motion. She spent nearly a year recovering and retraining herself. “You have to teach yourself…how to walk again,” she continues. “But I always say things happen for a reason, because I came back stronger. I’m training different — I go to the gym, I lift weights, I do cross-training. It helped like a thousand percent.”
Magnicaballi’s recovery means a return to her signature roles. “I’m so happy to be dancing Movements again,” she exclaims. “It’s my favorite, favorite, favorite.” She’s referring to Movements for Piano and Orchestra, which is paired with Monumentum pro Gesualdo. Igor Stravinsky composed Movements and orchestrated Don Carlo Gesualdo’s madrigals for Monumentum, and pianist William Wolfram provides live music with conductor Timothy Russell and The Phoenix Symphony.
“I had the privilege to work with Suzanne [Farrell] on that,” continues Magnicaballi. “It was created for Diana Adams, and [she] found out that she was pregnant, so she had to rest and stay in bed. So Diana taught Suzanne the ballet in her living room…and she passed it to me, one-on-one…” She nods emphatically. “It’s very special for her, that ballet, and it is for me…I feel like home when I do it.”
She describes Movements as “super-precise…you are constantly moving, and it has to have a certain connection in the way you partner, too. It’s very interesting how the tempo also changes.” Keeping track of the beats in Stravinsky’s music can also be challenging because of meter changes. “When the ballet’s very precise it makes so much sense…it’s like seeing music through the movement,” she says.
Magnicaballi’s perspective on Monumentum was influenced by the composer’s history. In 1590 Gesualdo arranged for the murder of his wife and her lover. “I know that,” says the dancer, “because Suzanne actually came with the story and said, ‘Can you believe this music is so beautiful, and so serene and calm?’”
She continues, “So all those ingredients make you think about how you want to feel and portray the ballet.” Magnicaballi explains that Balanchine’s choreography encourages a natural progression of movement from one balance point to the next. “It’s very rich,” she says, “and the language is very interesting.”
The final work on the All Balanchine program, The Four Temperaments, offers a refreshing contrast. Paul Hindemith was commissioned to write the music by Balanchine in 1940, and it features a theme and variations named after the four personality characteristics of medieval cosmology: melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, and choleric.
“I think what I like about Balanchine is…every single ballet is like you’re stepping into a completely different world,” says Magnicaballi. “We’re doing three different ballets, and I feel like a totally different person in each of them.” She smiles. “It’s so great to have that in a program as a dancer — it’s very fulfilling.”
After Ballet Arizona’s All-Balanchine performances end on May 5, the company moves to an outdoor stage at Desert Botanical Garden for three weeks of Topia, a work choreographed by Andersen using Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony No. 6.
If you go:
Music protesting war and violence takes many forms — from 20th century songs like Metallica’s hit “One” and Sting’s “Russians” to earlier expressions by Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez. And long before John Lennon and Pete Seeger made their mark, classical composers were objecting to conflict; for example, Benjamin Britten with his War Requiem and Krzysztof Penderecki with his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.
English composer, teacher, writer, and conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams brought his own style of protest and commentary to his interpretation of the Roman Catholic Mass, Dona nobis pacem (“Give us peace”). Written in 1936 and 1937, the cantata uses text from the Bible, a parliamentary speech by British statesman John Bright, and verse by Walt Whitman.
“Dona nobis pacem was written in the dark days of the late 1930s as another European war loomed,” explains MusicaNova Music Director Warren Cohen. “Although the last section ends hopefully, the quiet ending suggests that perhaps he [Vaughan Williams] saw that things were not so hopeful in 1936.”
The six-part work includes martial drums and bugles followed by the mourning of a movement titled “Dirge for Two Veterans,” and through it all a solo soprano voice rises in entreaty. “This plea for peace is emotionally direct…[and] can be seen as a plea for sanity,” says Cohen.
This evening, he leads MusicaNova Orchestra in a performance of Dona nobis pacem and other vocal works in a program called And Open to All: Opera, Oratorio, and Song at Central United Methodist Church. The combined choirs of Arizona School for the Arts and Central United Methodist Church join the orchestra (full disclosure: I’m one of the musicians).
Soloists include singers from a newly-formed Valley organization called Opera Revolution, an offshoot of the music advocacy group Classical Revolution Phoenix, which offers casual, free performances in non-traditional venues as well as the annual Classical Revolution Phoestival. The performers include Karen Hendricks Crawford, Daniel Kurek, Susan Hurley, Andrew Briggs, Joyce Yin, John Cleveland, and Robert Altizer.
“This concert is an exploration of diversity within vocal music,” says Cohen, who has a very personal interest in song since he’s married to a soprano. He chose not only the large, introspective work by Ralph Vaughan Williams but also an assortment of art songs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as a classic operatic scene.
“The songs represent five separate and distinct visions of the subject of desire and love,” he continues, describing works by Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf, and Aldo Finzi. “From the expression of lost love in ‘Allerseelen (All Souls’ Eve)’ through the psychopathic manipulation of ‘Der Rattenfänger (The Rat-Catcher)’ – based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin — to the glow of ‘Morgen (Tomorrow),’ the anxious puppy love of ‘Cäcilie,’ and the longing of ‘Catharine,’ each song represents a radically different take on the subject.”
The program’s operatic excerpt is an ensemble scene from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, set at a party hosted by Giovanni himself, who hopes to seduce the country girl Zerlina in the course of the evening. They’re joined by Zerlina’s fiancé, Giovanni’s servant, and three masked strangers who secretly seek revenge against the seducer.
Musically, the scene features multiple voices and three instrumental ensembles, and at one point three different dances — a waltz, a quadrille, and a minuet — overlap in carefully engineered chaos “as Mozart anticipates the experiments of Charles Ives by 125 years,” says Cohen, whose adventurous programming has won him an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and the American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL).
“[It’s] a tour-de-force of complexity,” he concludes. “The seven voices appear in the guise of soloist, duet and trio partners, and ensembles, sometimes tripping over each other as the various operatic conventions run almost simultaneously.”
If you go:
When: Thursday, April 25, 7:30PM
Where: Central United Methodist Church sanctuary, 1875 N. Central Ave.
Music and art—they seem to go so well together. It just sort of rolls off the tongue: musicandart, artandmusic.
For some of us in grade school, they were even taught at the same time and maybe even by the same teacher. If you were good at one, there was a good chance you might have been good at the other.
Then maybe you go to college, or maybe you don’t, but either way a person ends up traveling down a path that is predominantly music OR art. Somewhere in this process, a person might keep ties to both and some people even manage to integrate it seamlessly with the work they do, but most lean to one side or the other.
The artist stares longingly at the violinist, remembering what it used to feel like to labor over a solo. The violinist attends art openings to vicariously sense the feeling of creating a new body of work.
How did we become so separate?
I will admit that I am one of those people. I used to play flute and bass guitar and believed that I could really be amazing at both music and art but at some point, I felt I had to choose to make one or the other better or risk being mediocre at both. The word “dilettante” kept jumping to mind.
Maybe this explains a phenomena I have troubling understanding in our sunny city: the Grand Canyon of a divide between the art and music communities. I discovered this after meeting my partner who came from a music background into multi-media artwork. It seemed like a natural progression. I assumed we would have a lot of friends in common. But, it turned out that we knew virtually none of the same people. How could this be?
Artists and musicians share a lot of the same struggles: attempting to make a living while doing the thing you’re good at; fitting in time to practice while managing the making a living part and all of life’s other sundries; determining whether to go the more commercial or more independent route; and fielding all of the inquiries from family members/friends/acquaintances about what you really do. It seems we’d have a lot to talk about with each other.
It also seems as though we’d have a lot to collaborate on. While we’re working at putting together new multi-media pieces and staging impromptu events in vacant lots, members of both communities could step outside of their familiar zones and try something that lands in the middle. In the process of brainstorming, we might even realize that our creative processes are very much the same. John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg collaborated often in the 1950s to 1970s, generating multi-faceted pieces that would have been very different had they been coming from a solo perspective.
Mingling of these worlds surely occurs from time to time but, as both communities struggle for audiences, respectability and a place in the cultural landscape of Phoenix, we could benefit from joining forces more often. Each group brings its own audience that is likely unknown to the other’s. By intertwining mediums and people, we broaden the artistic landscape for both. Downtown Chamber Series has managed this successfully with their performances that take place at various art spaces downtown. They can promote the show and their own concert—promising their audience a dynamic experience that they may not have sought out alone. Before long, both audiences could potentially double while also adding something new to our experience of culture here.
Closing the gap between these two worlds doesn’t have to mean jumping to the other side. It could simply mean acknowledging that we’re both really after the same things. We’re not so different, after all.
Should we fast before we feast? Or maybe proper training includes stretching our stomachs so we can better enjoy the community/gastronomic event that is Feast on the Street.
Whatever your strategy, get the scoop on this first-ever “Urban Harvest Festival.”
What: Feast on the Street
When: Saturday, April 13, from 2 to 9 p.m.
Where: Downtown Phoenix, in the Evans Churchill/Roosevelt Row Neighborhood. First St. will be closed to car traffic to make room for the half-mile long dinner table from Taylor St. to Margaret T. Hance Park.
Admission: Free. Everyone is invited to stroll and enjoy the activities, but you will be paying for the food and beverage you consume. There is also a VIP ticket option that will give you access to a comfy indoor lounge.
Who’s Serving This Feast? It’s a veritable smorgasbord of eats featuring several downtown restaurants and food trucks. Step right up and order, then be sure to sit for the 6 p.m. dinner seating (see below).
- Angels Trumpet Ale House
- Athenian Express
- Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
- Breadfruit & Rum Bar
- Carly’s Bistro
- Giant Coffee
- Hsin Café
- Jobot Coffee Shop
- Matt’s Big Breakfast
- Phoenix Public Market
- Pita Jungle
- Portland’s Restaurant & Wine Bar
- Potbelly Sandwich Shop
- Song Bird Coffee & Tea House
- Squash Blossom
- Tammie Coe/li>
- The Turf Irish Pub
- Welcome Diner
- Plus Food Trucks parked along First St.
Scheduled Highlights (be sure to check out the FULL schedule of events):
The Kick-Off Salad Toss
A “massive” ceremonial salad toss by Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel’s Chef Brian Archibald. Yep, a giant salad will be tossed using a tarp. Guests will gather around a recipe of fresh and local ingredients, typically discarded due to their bruised appearance.
- When: 2:15 p.m.
- Where: Intersection of Pierce & First Street
A “Mobile Garden Parade”
Gardens in buckets, some on wheels, including trucks, wheelbarrows, and bikes, will be led by Bad Cactus Brass Band.
- When: 3:15 p.m.
- Where: Begins at Garfield Street, marching north to Roosevelt and looping back to Garfield
Formal Dinner Seating
Take a seat! Break bread with hundreds of your closest and new-found friends at the half-mile long dinner table.
- When: 6 p.m.
- Where: The dinner table on 1st St.. stretching from Taylor St. to Margaret T. Hance Park
A formal toast to reconnect urban dwellers with a focus on the importance of the sun’s changing position and schedule in agricultural life.
- When: 7:33 p.m. – to be exact. (The official time of Sunset, April 13, 2013.)
For more, visit FeastontheStreet.org.