Monday, February 23, 2009

Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal and more

We went to see a performance by Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal this past Saturday evening, part of our contemporary dance series subscription. Two things that I learned more forcefully than ever on Saturday evening were that I've got to be well-rested before I go to these performances, and I've got to stop reading the reviews in the paper.

The company performed two pieces, Mapa and Rossini Cards. Mapa began with all of the members of the company on stage, slowly--ever so slowly--raising one leg and moving it forward, then raising the other leg and moving it forward, etc. The movement was interesting for one minute, and then quickly became tedious during the next three minutes it continued. This was all it took to set me off--probably because I was tired (one of my cats woke me at the crack of dawn), and the description of the dances in the morning's newspaper review primed me for not liking the performance (even though the review was thoroughly positive and laudatory). I also wasn't particularly captivated by the music, which was by Marco Antonio Pena Araujo (hence: MAPA).

Then, about half way through the piece, the set suddenly blazed crimson, the music changed to a jazz score with a strong rhythm, and the dance really took off. This portion began with two of the best dancers in a frenetic, sexy duet and carried through to the end. I was wowed.

If only the energy had carried over to the second piece, Rossini Cards. Actually, I don't know how the energy could have carried over because the dancers had to have been exhausted from the full-tilt-boogy pacing of Mapa. Rossini Cards was set to operatic scores by Rossini, including too many (from my perspective) performed on solo piano--plink, plink, plink. Most of the sequences comprising this piece were solos and duets; they were performed masterfully, but none captivated me. Only one sequence near the end with the whole company on stage piqued my interest. By the end, I was disgusted and thoroughly depressed.

What's the matter with me? The audience loved these performances. They gave the dancers (who were excellent performers) three curtain calls and a thunderous standing ovation; I couldn't wait to get out. I think that my definition of "dance" is too narrow, and I need to be more tolerant and willing to broaden my perspectives. The depression came from lots of things bundled together including being tired and cranky, being predisposed not to like the performance by the review, and (honestly) not liking some of the movement. In restrospect, I probably over-reacted.

As a result of Saturday evening, I was in a foul mood all day Sunday. I was surly, moody, and sullen (a real charmer, huh?). The drizzly, cold and cloudy weather didn't help much, either, I'm sure. Late in the afternoon, I used the treadmill in the basement, a cardio workout that usually burns bad moods out of me. It helped, but didn't alleviate the depression completely.

Monday, February 16, 2009

An Unjust Death

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) Image by Cary Maures

Late this afternoon (February 16), one of my employees brought a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) that had just been struck and killed by a car to the office. Not 30 minutes earlier, the employee had seen the hawk circling in search of food over a grassy field and, in fact, the mangled bird was still holding a vole that it had captured in its tallon. What an incredibly depresing sceanario. While there are plenty of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) around, this was the only Red-shouldered Hawk we had seen in quite a while and we'd been watching it for the last several weeks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Winter's Not Over Yet

A good friend of mine is a multi-talented artist. I own some of her paintings and quite a bit of her photography. She shared this image of a corkscrew willow tree in her backyard adorned by the recent snow. She likes to manipulate her images with software on her Macintosh, so this scene has been enhanced by her artistic sense.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


As part of my job, I got a chance to take a walk this afternoon. It was in the mid-60s, breezy, and mostly sunny, although there were high, thin clouds. My assignment was to take pictures of a piece of property, so I figured that the fine mid-February weather afforded me an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. We'd had four inches of snow a week ago, and, while it's nearly all melted now, the soil is still partially frozen a few inches down and the snowmelt has no way to filter into the ground. As a result, the upper few inches of soil are a sodden mess. Nevertheless, I walked across the higher elevations of this property and got this image of a field of broom-sedge (Andropogon virginicus) with a fencerow in the background. It's hard to tell the true color of the grass; this image was made facing almost directly into the gauzy sun, but in other images made facing away from the sun, the grass is tawny.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


It snowed four inches overnight--a light, fluffy flocking that accumulated on the tree branches and made them dazzle this morning. The image is from my front porch at first light, just as the sun just began to illuminated the woods.

Last evening, we went to see the Batsheva Dance Company. The company danced sections from a full-evening work called Deca Dance by the company's choreographer, Ohad Naharin. While the program listed the named sections of the dance, it also indicated that the company would not necessarily dance the sections in the order listed, so I couldn't determine which of the sections I enjoyed and which I thought could (and should) have been left out. The first four sections were powerful and compelling dances--so good that I was glad that I braved the accumulating snow and slippery roads to get to the performance. The first section (Anaphaza), in particular, was, as the local newspaper dance critic noted in her review, "surely one of the most riveting theatrical works ever created." I concur. This section featured the full company, dressed in boxy black suits, white shirts, and fedoras, sitting on chairs in a semicircle. They writhed rhythmically on, above, and below their chairs to a loud, percussive, angry-sounding recording of a Hebrew folk song. Then, the program deteriorated with two pieces that were idiosyncratic, self-indulgent and, ultimately, tiresome.

Following intermission, the company performed two more sections. One section included a duet between two of the male members of the ensemble that was very well done. But, other portions of the same section were danced to "music" that sounded more like random noise, and the dancers writhed and squirmed gracelessly. In addition, further along in the same section, some of the women dancers "mooned" the audience, then they began to expose their pubes. The males followed suit, but their cocks and balls were hidden, tucked between their legs. It was all gratuitous and stupid. The final, unfortunate and interminable section (George and Zalman) involved five women dancing to minimalist musical tinklings with a repeating voiceover that included a few new words with each intonation--sort of a "talk down the lane" scenario. The voiceover was meaningless babble to begin with, and nearer the end, it added gratuitous obscenities designed to add shock value, I suppose. Perhaps the shock was necessary, because the dancing was certainly uninspired and tiresome.

Clearly, Ohad Naharin has some real talent, but is also given to navel-gazing. He needs an editor and some self-restraint.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snowy Saturday (and Sunday)

Our part of the Mid-Atlantic hasn't had much snow this season (thank goodness), but we did receive two inches of snow followed by a light coating of sleet on Wednesday, January 28. The first weekend of February remained snowy, but I went out for a walk on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, my walk took me to the local preserve where I walked on untrodden snow for most of the walk--until I got to the trail that parallels the creek, which had been thoroughly packed down by visitors into an uneven, ankle-twisting stretch of ice. I spent some time photographing my favorite American beech forest. The images weren't extraordinary, so I haven't uploaded them. However, just as I entered the woods to photograph the beeches, I routed a Red-tailed Hawk that circled through the open woods a few times and then disappeared.

Further along the trail, near the creek, I photographed a hornbeam tree. I really love hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana). First, I love their common names: hornbeam (what the heck does that mean, anyway?), ironwood (because the wood is extremely hard and so dense that it sinks in water) and, above all, musclewood (a reference to the trunk's similarity to a man's sinewy muscles). I can't resist caressing the trunk when I take the time to stop and enjoy it.

Any resemblance?

On Sunday, we went for a walk in a nearby public park. By the afternoon, temperatures had warmed into the low 50s, snow was melting, and the path in the park was free of ice and full of walkers. The sky was crystalline blue like it only gets in the winter here. (My brother-in-law, who lives in California, calls the skies here in the Mid-Atlantic "Eastern gray" because, even when it's not cloudy, the sky has that characteristic haze that makes summertime sky images white or pale gray.