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About Birdsall

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
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  1. No one cares more about Chase Johnsey than his family or friends probably. Those are the people who need to worry about his health (physical mostly, in my opinion). We can't do anything about it. I have helped my mother go from 67 lbs. to 84 lbs. (she is 5'1") and just took her to the doctor and got him to convince her that my concerns are valid (she thought she was getting fat). So even a family member who LOVES you can't necessarily fix an eating disorder. So BA members aren't going to have much of an effect on Chase Johnsey at all IF he has an eating disorder, and we don't even know if he does. As for mental health, I think we should all look at ourselves and all visit counselors before we point any fingers.
  2. I believe that the American Psychiatric Association does not think that gender nonconformity/gender dysphoria is a mental disorder by itself. It is not a situation where psychiatrists say, "Oh, you are a physical male and want to be a woman so you have a mental disorder!" The situation of gender dysphoria causes distress, because it is a situation that the majority of society does not understand or want to understand. Even the person experiencing gender dysphoria may not understand the physical element to it all. The distress is probably due to people's judgments and they are not walking in the person's shoes, and when you are not walking in the person's shoes no one should judge, in my opinion. Chase Johnsey may or may not want a physical transition, but that is up to him. It is up to a ballet company to decide if he is a good ballerina who they want to hire as a ballerina. Years ago when I was bringing up LGBT issues to the school board I worked for by taking harassed, beat up gay and lesbian students to the school board to tell their stories (way before this was popular to do), and these stories involved beat up kids where administrators did nothing because the student was acting too effeminate or too butch (for a girl)......I was very ignorant about transgender issues and did not want transgender students included in my quest to get a Southern school board to understand that children are getting beat up. My attitude was, "We will be lucky to help gay and lesbian kids from getting beat up and including transgender kids as a protected class is going too far!" When I said that in a planning meeting I noticed a hush in the room of various LGBT community leaders. The transgender woman at the meeting lowered her eyes and her body melted into her chair. I felt the feeling that I had hushed the room and hurt someone deeply. I knew I had let her down, and I do not like hurting people, so I wondered if I should learn more about her, to hear her side of what life is like for her. I invited her to another meeting and she discussed medical issues that I had never heard about. She said there are babies born all the time who have atypical genitalia and they are assigned a sex (male or female) at least in the past without the doctor being 100% sure what the actual genitalia was (an enlarged clitoris or small penis). She won me over, and I always included the T in LGBT after listening to her experiences and fears. Even when we don't fully understand another person's situation and we don't stand in their shoes, our compassion for them as human beings must come out. This is why I love Wagner's Parsifal. Compassion is an element of both Christianity and Buddhism (both mixed in the opera) and instead of demanding our view of the world, we need to simply have compassion toward each other, because life is hard for all of us. I just felt the need to say all that. Not sure why.
  3. Life on Earth is hell and anyone who can find a way to be who he or she wants to be to get through life gets my applause!
  4. In Europe audience members bring flowers, and the prima ballerina on some nights gets nothing while a soloist from the corps can get a huge bouquet because someone is a fan. It is up to the audience. I think some American companies buy their own ballerinas bouquets (equal size and for each soloist) for Opening Night..... But I think it tends to mainly be up to audience members.
  5. The Cuban version has a lot of small differences that are fun to see though.
  6. Birdsall

    Tampa performance

    Oh, btw, I also meant to mention how the Willis are much more aggressive and threatening in the Cuban version. I wasn't used to that, but it is a legitimate interpretation that makes sense. Afterall, they want to kill men who betrayed them.
  7. Birdsall

    Tampa performance

    I saw the Tampa performance of the National Ballet of Cuba's Giselle last night (May 23). It is the one and only Florida appearance in this tour. A Chicago friend said a local orchestra performed with the company in their Chicago performances the other week, and I hear that the Kennedy Center Orchestra will play for their DC performances. Unfortunately, in Tampa there was no orchestra, so they danced to a recording. Sadaise Arencibia danced the title role, and she did a good job. Her looks reminded me of Alicia Alonso (nose, eyes) that I have seen in pictures and video. There was nothing wrong with her performance, but I am used to more ethereal Giselles. Arencibia was much more earthy. The ballones or hops on pointe were the ones where the ballerina hops and then the working leg is moved toward the body and then more regular hops and then the leg is moved toward the body again, etc. (so sort of like an about face) showing off control and balance. That caused her to only move 8 feet or so. I have to admit I love how the Russians cross the entire stage (at least Somova and Tereshkina do, and the others go pretty far). This sort of summed up my experience. I enjoyed the performance very much, and I knew I was seeing a great company, and the dancers and corps were great, but I think I prefer the Russian style and the attempt by Western companies to create a more ethereal Giselle. For me this Giselle was very grounded and earthy, and that worked in the first act, but I felt the second act of this Giselle was too human and less like a spirit. However, I can't say I disliked Arencibia's Giselle. It had great moments. An interesting tidbit is that Giselle does not throw the flowers behind her like in Giselles we are used to....she holds the flowers and Albrecht comes jumping behind her and grabs each one. Raul Abreu was fabulous as Albrecht gaining strength and excitement as the performance progressed. He proved that the National Ballet of Cuba continues to produce amazing male dancers with strength and bravura dancing. Great leaps and acting. I wouldn't mind seeing him again, although I probably never will unless he defects or if the company starts to tour more often. Claudia Garcia as Myrtha had such smooth bourrees as she entered. Like butter. These are the type of bourrees I like. The second of the two soloist Willis showed off amazing renverses that had the leg circling around very high all the way through. This is how I love the renverses, and I have to say I rarely see them done this way. I think that was Barbara Fabelo. Basically, this is a company with a great reputation and well deserved. However, there are differences in style compared to Western and Russian companies, and that is not a criticism. I wouldn't mind seeing the company again and getting used to this more earthy style. The Tampa audience applauded every little thing that isn't normally applauded. I suspect many were not ballet lovers, rather there to see the Cuban ballet and feel proud (many Cubans live in Tampa). According to news articles it was a huge effort to make it happen in Tampa (many trips to Cuba and lots of red tape).
  8. Birdsall

    ABT 2018 Firebird / AFTERITE

    .....and if it is a reference to Nazi Germany maybe it is a "Never Forget" moment. I feel many fringe people in America and even the world have forgotten and need to be shown how horrifying it was.
  9. Birdsall

    ABT 2018 Firebird / AFTERITE

    My only problem is if this ballet condoned or made gassing a child humorous. I have not seen it, so I should not comment, but I wonder if it was trying to show that we have not changed since primitive times. Children continue to be the victims in our world (Syria, for example). Maybe the overall message was, "Let's wake up! It's still happening! We think only primitive people killed off children! Have we really changed? Are we any different?" If that is how this ballet can be interpreted I would actually be inclined to go see it one day. If the ballet means to show the image as truly horrifying and not something to take lightly, then I think it might have a good underlying meaning. Often shocking images will cause us to want to change.
  10. Birdsall

    Great Masters of Dance

    I saw the Sarasota Ballet's final program of the season last night. It was called "Great masters of Dance" and included Balanchine (Tarantella, Bugaku), Tudor (The Leaves are Fading), and Ashton (Marguerite and Armand). Kate Honea and Logan Learned were terrific in Tarantella mastering all the fancy footwork as well as balances, turning attitudes, etc. This piece was added to the other 3 ballets about a month or so ago due to Logan Learned's decision to retire from ballet and study at a university in San Francisco, according to an article. He is young and petite. He delighted Sarasota audiences for 10 years in many roles. His small stature was probably an obstacle to securing a position at a larger company (I am just guessing), because to me his Blue Boy in Les Patineurs, Alain in La Fille Mal Garde and other shows he participated in showed a huge talent. He seemed to love what he was doing and gave his all. At the end of Tarantella during curtain calls Kate Honea hugged him, and it looked like tears came to his eyes. He will be missed in this little gem of a company!!!! I had never seen The Leaves Are Fading and may need to revisit it. I closed my eyes and dozed several times. Maybe I was still tired with jet lag (I was in Berlin for an opera trip and to see the Berlin Philharmonic) and then drove down to Sarasota yesterday. So the warm Sarasota Opera House, Dvorak's calm music, and the subtle choreography (from what I did see) put me to sleep. Bugaku was great fun with Ryoko Sadoshima and Lucas Erni in the female and male leads. It actually helped to buy into Balanchine's take on Japan's Imperial Court arts that a Japanese dancer was in the lead role. Ryoko was beautiful and delicate in the role. Slight wobbles on the difficult balances on one leg as the other leg changed position and went into other steps, but that was a small quibble. Even the very best international dancers might wobble during some of these moments. I do feel that Balanchine did this ballet as an homage to Japan and not to make fun. I think there is an element of respect and awe to the ballet. The various steps of ballet were at times re-imagined so that the Russian attitudes were more bent and squared, more entrechats that landed on one foot (the various numbers that I could not count because they were fast), etc. Lucas Erni was a very handsome lead male, and the entire "ceremony" was dramatic and beautiful. The audience loved it. The final ballet was Marguerite and Armand, and, in the past, I have considered Sarasota Ballet best at Ashton. However, I felt last night's performance was slightly off from their normal level. Victoria Hulland was a gorgeous Marguerite and acted very well. I had no issues with her. However, I found Ricardo Garziano, who I thought was excellent in other shows in the past, a bit subdued compared to Shklyarov who I have seen in this role. A big whoops moment happened when David Tlaiye (as Armand's father) was dragging Hulland and somehow tripped falling down under her and dropped her at the same time. However, she was being dragged, so it didn't look like she was hurt at all, but he might have hurt himself the way he fell. Some audience members gasped. They recovered as quickly as they could which showed great professionalism. The main problem in the scenery/costumes was that I felt some of the supporting cast looked way too young to have the fake beards and wigs, or else the wigs and beards needed to be improved upon. Not sure, but it did not help you forget it was theatre. I believe Xander Parish was originally scheduled to dance Armand, but he must have cancelled long ago, because there was no mention of that on the website for months. Overall, the entire evening was a very nice evening. I think I enjoyed Bugaku and Tarantella the most. There is a restaurant called Mozaic around the corner from Sarasota's opera house which I love. Tiny hole in the wall but great food. Just threw that in for those of you who decide to visit Sarasota.
  11. Birdsall

    MCB program IV. Apollo, Concerto DSCH, La Valse.

    Last time MCB did Apollo it was without the birth and the climbing the stairs at the end. Interesting that Lourdes Lopez went back to the original.
  12. I have been saying for a long time that the performing arts, especially in the 19th century, were a living thing. I know in opera, composers would often rewrite an aria or compose a new one for a new singer. Both the composer and the singer wanted a success. Things would be changed for a different singer, different theatre, or country (the french were used to 5 act operas that included a ballet). There was less, "It must be exactly what I created" concept in the 19th century. In some ways each new production was a new work b/c you had new stars and a new format at times. I think reconstructions are very interesting, and it is worthwhile to stage them, so that maybe we get a glimpse of what the style MIGHT have been, but I think a rigid adherence to what "should be" is foolhardy. I also suspect that if we could go back in time we would all be disappointed with Giuditta Pasta's Norma (Callas changed it forever, in my opinion) or Kschessinskaya's fouettes. Technique in both opera and ballet has evolved/changed......what we are used to is different. That is normal in the performing arts, in my opinion.
  13. Birdsall

    Sarasota Ballet 2018-2019

  14. Birdsall

    Yulia Stepanova

    I love the photos from Andris Liepa's FB page!
  15. If that article is accurate what a creepy psycho he must be, and it sounds like he messed up people’s lives!