Color Pointes Wall Crawl – Royal Urban Art

I was feeling gloomy, as I sometimes do, and I had an intense need to surround myself in color, art, and creativity. So I went on an LA wall crawl…whilst wearing my pointe shoes.

Color Pointes - royal urban art heart wall

If you’ve never been on a wall crawl, allow me to break it down for you. Basically a wall crawl is when you drive around the city to see, and perhaps take photos of, the best painted walls and street murals in town. Los Angeles is a sort of gold mine of good walls so, like a kid in a candy store, I mapped out a few of the walls on the east side of the city that I wanted to hit.

Color Pointes - royal urban art heart wall

Color Pointes - royal urban art heart wall

First on the list is this beauty in Atwater Village. This heart wall, painted by royalurbanart, is located just off Los Feliz Blvd, just east of The Morrison Pub, the Los Feliz Golf course, and Sante D’or Animal Rescue (where I got El Guapo.) The coolest thing about this gorgeous mural is how it has evolved and become a part of the community. People have written in things they love on the hearts, their wishes, their dreams… It’s really a beautiful spot that just exudes love.

Color Pointes - royal urban art heart wall

Color Pointes - royal urban art heart wall

I had been eyeing the wall for years, always thinking, I should take some pictures there, but just could never find the time. I’m glad I finally did it. You can follow more of my wall crawl on instagram with #ColorPointes.

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Movie Monday | The Red Shoes

For today’s Dance Movie post, I’m going big with The Red Shoes…. Arguably the best representation of the ballet world ever committed to fictional film!  Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 masterpiece beautifully captures the obsessive nature of classical ballet and shrouds protagonist Victoria Page’s (Moira Shearer) struggle to choose between her true love and her love of ballet, in gorgeous cinematography, dreamy sets and costumes, brilliant dancing and an outstanding cast.

I recently re-watched the film, and was once again impressed at how it remains compelling and relevant, despite being set during a very different period of ballet than now.  What remains, besides a tour de force in beautiful film making,  is the sense of commitment and sacrifice ballerinas have to make over and over again… The bittersweet struggle of wanting to be at once supernatural and normal; wanting to be a ballerina AND a regular person.  That ambivalence, prevalent in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, is what I think really drew me into this film. The obsession Victoria feels which ultimately leads to pain and loss is something that I feel I can relate to (and probably most ballerinas feel the same way.)  She states her affliction to Artistic Director Boris Lermontov (AntonWalbrook) early on in the film answering his question “Why do you want to dance?” with “Why do you want to live?”

The answer to both is “I must.”  And so begins our journey into obsession.  
Boris Lermontov is the classic picture of the the ballet artistic director – in moments he seems incredibly generous and then suddenly cold.  He’s at once genius and pig-headed.   His tyrannical manner was partially based on Sergei Diaghilev, and as prima ballerina Irina Boronskaja says in the film, “He has no heart!.” He is, in a way, the red shoes in human form – Always demanding that the dance go on for Victoria.  And she can’t resist.  

Besides the powerful emotion coursing through the film, it also portrays a historical era of ballet – when company and choreographer and composer and designer and painter and dancers all worked together to create a full scale production with every story ballet.  It’s the closest one can get to seeing Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in a behind-the-scenes melodrama.  It even co-stars the great dancer and choreographer Léonide MassineA star of Diaghiliv’s Ballet Russes as well as the later Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.  That in itself is thrilling.  Throw in the gorgeous sets, costumes and cinematography of the film, and well, shucks…. How can you not fall in love?
Furthermore, the love story between Vicky and young composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring) provides the other sweet side of the ballet coin.  The two are thrust together by Lermontov in the creation of his new ballet, and throughout the stressful rehearsals the two headstrong young artists drive each other crazy, burt it’s not long before they find a passion for each other that they can’t ignore.  They fall in love, and everything seems perfect for a moment, until Lermontov finds out….

If nothing else you should see this film for the performance of Moira Shearer as ‘Vicky.’  She is nothing short of brilliant.  And her ballet technique is really quite remarkable given the time and taking into account the caliber of other film ballerinas during that period.  Shearer puts them all to shame.  The actual Red Shoes ballet scene is incredibly moving and stunning to behold.  

The Verdict:  The Red Shoes is the full package.  It’s not just a great dance movie, it’s a great film.  Full stop.  It’s compelling, thrilling, entertaining, and has brilliant music, dancing and acting.  It’s a classic, one that every dancer should see and every non-dancer should see too.  Even Martin Scorsese counts it as one of his personal favorites and has an impressive collection of Red Shoes artwork and memorabilia.   So yeah.  This ballet film is the real deal! 

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Movie Monday – An American In Paris

Happy Memorial Day!  I think it’s the perfect Dance Movie Monday for one of my all time favorite dance movie’s ever – An American In Paris!

Released in 1951, and the winner of 6 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) An American In Paris tells the story of an ex-GI who stays in Paris after the war to try his hand at being a painter.  Starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, the film follows Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) as he finds himself caught in a complicated love triangle, or rectangle rather, between himself, Lise Bouvier (Caron) a wealthy American art collector and a famous French singer.

That description doesn’t even begin to capture the beauty and joy of this film though.  Brilliantly directed by Vincent Minnelli, with choreography by Kelly, and bursting with the music of George and Ira Gershwin, An American In Paris is simply 2 hours of MGM musical magic – portraying the look and feel of Paris that we all romanticize and dream about (well I do anyway.)
Nearing the end of the film, Kelly and Minnelli boldly included a long ballet sequence – a day-dream of Mulligan’s as he tries to come to grips his freshly broken heart.  The ballet brings to life French impressionist paintings, and iconic Paris landmarks in ways that colorfully stirs the imagination.  In a word, it’s stunning.

The Verdict:  Clearly I am a huge fan of this film and I cannot recommend it enough to dancers, movie geeks, and civilians alike.  It’s just perfect and a visual “moveable feast.”  While there are moments of less-than-perfect ballet technique from the young Caron (she was only 18 or 19 when they filmed it) it’s completely forgivable for the time.  And her charm and stage presence are second to none.  It’s no wonder she went on to have such a successful screen career after this film!
I’ll admit that I hold this film mostly responsible for my interest in taking up ballet (I was pretty much just a tapper before seeing An American In Paris.)  But after seeing Leslie Caron dance around in pointe shoes in every color of the rainbow, I was hooked.  I wanted to do that too!

Also, as a devoted Gene Kelly fan, An American In Paris is in the running for my favorite movie of all time, along with Singin’ In The Rain.  So forgive me if I sound a bit obsessed… It’s mostly because I am!
If you’ve never seen An American In Paris you’re in for a big treat!
And if you’re in LA, you can actually see it the way it was meant to be seen (on the big screen) at the Egyptian Theater this coming Sunday, May 31st!  This special screening from the American Cinematheque will include a discussion with scenic artist John Moffitt, cinematographer and film historian Michael Lonzo, costume designer Mikael Sharafyan (nephew of Irene Sharaff) and Patricia Ward Kelly, author and widow of Gene Kelly and creative director of “Gene Kelly: The Legacy.”
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