Hate is such a strong word, Mr. Fry

A spirited response to comedian Stephen Fry’s contrary confession

On hearing English writer and comedian Stephen Fry express his strong dislike of dancing, Los Angeles-based filmmaker and dancer Jo Roy responded in the most appropriate way she could: through the medium of interpretive dance. In a film likely to make the outspoken Brit shudder, the choreographer and director filmed herself performing a moving reaction to his energetic outburst.

 

Watch it here: I Hate Dancing

 

 

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David Bowie 1947-2016

DavidBowie-portrait

The first time I saw David Bowie, he was staring back at me from the record cover of ‘Hunky Dory.’ Someone had left the record on an upright piano in a hall while I was away at summer camp, and before I first heard ‘Changes’ and ‘Life on Mars?,’ I was perplexed by this strange man who looked like a woman. It would have been very early in my childhood, but it was to have a lasting influence in my thinking about music.

Billy Bragg, a voice of reason in all the noise, said it is “… not only the timing of his death and that fact that he was 69 that links Alan Rickman to David Bowie … both were working class kids from council estates who went to art school where they gained enough confidence in their own creativity that they were able to go on to find fame and fortune … The social mobility that Rickman and Bowie experienced is increasingly stifled.”

That would truly be a shame, because the world needs more people like David Bowie and Alan Rickman.

Starman. Life on Mars. Space Oddity. Heroes. Ashes to Ashes. Under Pressure. Let’s Dance. Modern Love. Black Star. So many songs, sounds and visions. His career spanned six decades.

heroes

Perhaps his shape-shifting nature was what made him so popular. Perhaps it was his extensive collaboration with musicians and vocalists (some with successful results-think Freddie Mercury, others less so-think Mick Jagger). Perhaps it was the staying power of someone who met with failure and bounced back, wrestling with personal demons and using music as catharsis.

He captured people’s imagination in a way that made it all right to be different. In fact, he actually made it cool to be different from the norm and challenge the status quo. According to Annie Lennox, Bowie was “…a quintessential visionary, pushing the limits of his shape-shifting persona. The ultimate iconoclast – gracious, dangerous and legendary.”

He was a black star, but only because we live in a world in which all the characters, as David Bowie’s imagination created them, could exist, however alien. He will continue to inspire as the music lives on. We can be heroes, but only if we can be ourselves, allow young people to imagine, and create visions that resonate and transcend beyond the prosaic realities of life.

Starman – 1972

Ashes to Ashes – 1980

 

Chris Hadfield singing Space Oddity (revised) in Space – 2013

Melodians Steel Orchestra – The Man Who Sold the World for Jeremy Deller’s English Magic – 2014

Blackstar – 2016

References:

Hitt, Carolyn (January 16, 2016) Working class heroes Bowie and Rickman were forging their career paths at a time when the arts were seen as a necessity rather than a luxury, Wales Online

 

Review: London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

I watched the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics with a mixture of trepidation and awe. It certainly was spectacular, what with the thousands of volunteers making the night memorable as part of the show for the privileged who got a seat. It was an impressive collection of star power, with Rowan Atkinson donning his Mr. Bean role as part of the London Symphony Orchestra playing Chariots of Fire, Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the Internet,) the royal family, and yes, the queen parachuting in with Daniel Craig as James Bond.

Music performers included Sir Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Dizzee Rascal, and Emeli Sande. There were also nods to the UK’s vast musical legacy, which included everything from the Beatles to the Sex Pistols, from pop to punk.

The set began with idyllic countryside, with actual grassy hills and country cottages eventually giving way to massive factory chimneys belching smoke. The industrial revolution paved paradise and put up a parking lot of sorts–a sprawling city with soot-faced workers and rich businessmen in top hats, which after the birth of capitalism and world wars, was ready to come into its own.

No one can question the literary powerhouse that is the UK. Indeed, the show began with Kenneth Branagh quoting Shakespeare’s The Tempest in the guise of Isambard Kingdom Brunel:

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

–Caliban, The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 2

History played a massive part, and Danny Boyle, the director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire fame, directed the spectacle, conveying different aspects of Britain’s success well. Ian Dunt on politics.co.uk recognized the complexity of trying to define Britain, as “downcast but always joking, traditional but forward-looking, arrogant but self-deprecating, inward-looking but open, the birthplace of capitalism and the NHS.” By showing this complexity, Boyle shone.

Particularly striking was the tribute to the National Health Service (NHS) that had nurses and sick children in a massive performance complete with glowing beds. The UK is proud of their health service. The proceeds of J.M. Barrie’s children’s book Peter Pan was donated entirely to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, which was such a massive act of philanthropy at the time that it’s hard to fathom an author (such as JK Rowling who in a rare public appearance read a quote from it) doing that today. After seeing the children dancing around in their pajamas at bedtime and the nurses putting them to bed, the baddies came out, looking someting like Jawas from Star Wars with dark hoods and glowing eyes. Who else could rescue the children from the bad guys (including a giant Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, spewing sparks from his magic wand,) than Mary Poppins. Yes, the loveable nannies, like a painting by Rene Magritte, flew in on their umbrellas to save the day.

This was a show all about the kids, after all, and in the end it was 7 promising young athletes who got to light the Olympic cauldron. It was an impressive blending of myth and fact, and I think Danny Boyle, despite the trappings of telling such a vast story, had his heart in the right place.

The Olympic Games: a short animated history – video

Polly Toynbee: Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony history is only a partial truth

Reclaim Shakespeare Company takes on BP

Can Shakespeare be bought? I hope not. Environmental protesters from the Reclaim Shakespeare Company recently performed an unexpected prelude to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Could it be that BP’s sponsorship of cultural events distracts from its environmental record, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster? You be the judge.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/video/2012/apr/25/rsc-bp-protesters-video