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If you’re looking for something fabulous and spectacular to do tonight in Memphis, here it is:

Much Ado About Shimmies

There will be an array of beautiful dancers paying homage to authors and their great works: Edgar Allen Poe’s Mask of the Red Death, Isaak Asimonv’s Robot Visions, Nicolaus Coperneicus’ On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Anne Rice’s Witching Hour, Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, Shi Jin’s Ancient Book of Songs, George Martin’s Game of Thrones, and of course One Thousand and One Nights…and many, many more!!

Come celebrate art in its many forms.

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Night Circus

I didn’t intentionally set out to read a bunch of books on magic last year, but that’s what happened. We can blame Erin Morgenstern because it all started with her Night Circus, which was magically delicious and one of the best books I read all year.

Night Circus 2

 

Two ancient magicians pit their young pupils against each other in a strange and beautiful competition that takes place in a very special circus. The ‘competition’ wasn’t the fighting contest sort. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure what the point of the competition was. It had something to do with the creation and development of the circus.  Regardless, I was more enthralled by the characters and the scenery than the dumb competition. The performers were delightfully circus-y, of course, and the reveurs (i.e., the devoted followers of the circus) were also an entertaining set.  The circus’s scenery was so vividly rendered it almost felt like a painting. Good stuff.

~~*~~

At Morgenstern’s recommendation,  I discovered V. E. Schwab and she kept me entertained for a good two months with her work. First came Vicious.

ViciousCollege students Victor and Eli are researching and provoking near-death experiences amongst themselves, which leads to them developing supernatural powers…and a rivalry. The comic-book style characters with special abilities reminded me a little of the T.V. show Heroes.  It wasn’t my usual reading fare, but it was smart, well-written and suspenseful enough that I wanted to read more by the author.

~~*~~

I liked Schwab’s writing style well enough to plunge right into her Shades of Magic series.  It was awesome.  The trilogy centers around court magician, Kell, of Red London.  Kell is one of the last of the Antari, who are powerful spell casters able to travel between the parallel Londons: Red London, White London, and Grey London.  There’s also a Black London — the source of all magic existing in the other Londons, but the magic consumed that version of London and it was sealed off.  Back to Kell – he has one entirely blacked out eye – as Antari do – and he’s a smuggler, which gets him into big trouble. His smuggling eventually becomes a threat to all of the Londons, but you can’t be mad at him for that because he’s so dreamy! I might have fallen in love with him a little.

A Darker Shade of Magic

In the first book of the series, A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell meets Delilah Bard, otherwise known as Lila.  She is a bad-ass thief and to-be pirate lass from Grey London.   She is quite possibly one of my favorite characters ever.  She has her own names for the various Londons: Dull London, Creepy London, Kell London, and Dead London.  The interactions between Kell and Lila are worth the cover price.  They are adorable together. It’s hard to know who’s the hero and who is the side kick – they complement each other so well.

~~*~~

A Gathering of Shadows

The next book in the series, A Gathering of Shadows, features all sorts of magicians who come together in Red London for a magical fighting sort of competition. Kell and Lila do all sorts of bad things. I’m not one for reading fight scenes, but they are well written, so I was all into them. There’s also Alucard, who is a awesome pirate, or ship captain, depending on how you want to think about it. He becomes Lila’s teacher and their interactions are a riot.

~~*~~

A Conjuring of Light

The third book in the series, A Conjuring of Light, is about Black London.  Prince Rhy Maresh, Kell’s brother of sorts, plays a larger role in this story. There are all sorts of twists and turns, subplots, drama and intrigue. And magic. Lots of magic.   

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes about Delilah Bard:

“Lila smiled at that, one of those smiles that made Kell profoundly nervous.  The kind of smile usually followed by a weapon.”

“There were moments when Lila wondered how the hell she’d gotten here.  Which steps–and missteps–she’d taken.  A year ago she’d been a thief in another London.  A month ago she’d been a pirate sailing on the open seas.  A week ago she’d been a magician in the Essen Tasch. And now she was this.”

~~*~~

I always wanted to run away and join the circus, so I had high hopes for The Book of Speculation after a quick scan of a few pages revealed all the right words: an old, mysterious book, a curse, circus performers, magic, tarot, and mermaids.

book of speculation

The title was intriguing too, so it surprised me how much I struggled to get through this one. I abandoned it twice to read other books, but I kept coming back to it thinking it had to get better. Basically, the plot revolves around a librarian, Simon, who tries to figure out why all the women in his family die tragically before the same thing happens to his sister. The biggest problem for me was that all the best characters who carried the story were dead and in the past while the characters in the present were too boring to hold my attention for extended periods.

~~*~~

return of the witch

A couple years ago I went on a witch kick with Paula Brackston and read all her witchy work. Last year she released, The Return of the Witch, as a sequel to The Witches Daughter. The nefarious warlock Gideon somehow has managed to escape his imprisonment in the Summerlands.  Elizabeth returns to protect her student Teagan,  who has developed strong magic in her own right as a result of  having traveled the world to study with the masters. A handsome Timestepper, Erasmus, is enlisted to help find Gideon who has traveled back to the 17th century to wreak his havoc.  The flashbacks to Teagan’s training were a highlight for me, but it was Erasmus who steals the show in this one.

~~*~~

Untitled

No one has really “read” the  The Voynich Manuscript in a very long time as it’s a one-of-a-kind medieval codex of mysterious origin written in an indecipherable script. However, I am including this one here because I think there is something magical about a book no one can read. To quote Erin Morgenstern,  “…magic is secret and secrets are magic, after all.”

I did read the commentary and history of the manuscript as detailed by Skinner, Prinke, and Zandbergen and I have pored over the drawings of plants, herbs, and their roots. I have pondered its depictions of women erupting from concentric sheathes, each displaying their unique stars while encircling a centralized goat that is always, always eating. These particular drawings are categorized by the “experts” as astronomical, astrological and cosmological.  Then there are the nude women bathing communally in green and blue lagoons, interconnected through a strange system of tubing. The author had quite a lot to write about this, apparently, but the pictures tell their own story as these bathing tubes evolve into individual systems that seem more like a method of transportation and communication. Rainbows erupt between them. Mermaids. I see mermaids and rainbows (f82v-f83r). We go back to the sky then, and return back to the earth.  So cool. I have to wonder if it was indeed authored by a man, as all the experts referenced in this collection of commentary seem to think. I have other ideas.

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.

-Pablo Picasso

battleship cheat

 

 

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

–Sun Tzu,  The Art of War

 

 

Battleship

 

20161028_111848

Thinker on a Rock, Sculpture Garden in D.C.

 

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Somewhere in the bowels of D.C.

 

 

 

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South Main, Memphis, TN

 

 

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An Invasion at the Squirrel Nut Zippers Concert

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a video of another dance from the show Philomena’s Dream.  This medley is a collaboration of two dances across three different dance groups in Memphis: IDA, Jasmine’s Jewels, and Mystic River Dance.

The  choreographer of the candle dance is Isidora Hart. The song is Pachyderm Picnic by Brent Lewis.

Jasmine (of Dance with Jasmine) choreographed the second dance.  The song is Misirlou by Mosava.

I just wanted to share one of my favorite dances that our troupe performed in the show this month.  We started working on this dance around March of this year.

The song is Hanging Gardens by Mosavo on the album Mystic Babylon.  The choreographer is Feyrouz.

 

When not summoning sea creatures, El-D has been in Artist mode, busily creating music this week. When not in the garden, the Linguist Yogi has been busily badgering the Artist with relentless questions about his compositions:

What are you trying to communicate?

Is it a worthwhile message? Is it good? and/or is it true?

Are you expressing your message fully and clearly?

Is it being understood by your listener in the spirit you intended?

Will you take feedback into account to modify your message?

There have been intense philosophical debates about whether such questions are relevant to the creation of art. The Artist proclaims that art is what it is; what flows through is what flows through.  Listeners will interpret as they will, so the message itself is of little importance.

The Linguist Yogi maintains that authenticity take a lot of time and work. One must consider the noise and distortions that get in the way and lead to confusion. Clarity in the head and heart of the Artist is the fine-tuning of the instrument. What flows through the fine-tuned instrument is refined, pure, and more potent.

~~*~~*~~*~~

 Two versions of the same song are here for your consideration in this debate.

First is Emeli Sande’s  “Where I Sleep” as it was originally sung by the song-writer.

And here is a very different interpretation remade by Voces8:

Where I Sleep

There’s nowhere that I wouldn’t follow
There’s nothing that I won’t do for your kiss
I love you like there’s no tomorrow
Cause nothing ever felt like this

There’s nothing I won’t steal or borrow
I’ll travel on a boat or aeroplane
I’ll explore a world of sorrow
Cause when I find you I know, I know I’ma be OK

See the times are changing
And I’m sure of nothing that I know
Except this is us, and this is love, and this is where I’m home

In a world that’s breaking, where nothing is for keeps
Oh this is us, this is love and this is where I sleep
This is us, this is love and this is where I sleep

I’m from a generation undecided
I’m restless and I can’t help changing lanes
But in all the noise and the excitement,
you’re love is all that will remain
I’ve said all of my goodbyes to ego
I gambled all I got, there’s no plan B
It’s the first time that I’ve learnt to let go
It’s the only place I feel, only place I feel like me

See the times are changing
I’m sure of nothing that I know
Except this is us and this is love, and this is where I’m home

In a world that’s breaking, where nothing is for keeps
Oh this is us, this is love and this is where I sleep
This is us, this is love and this is where I sleep

In the middle of our life journey, I found myself in a dark wood. I had wandered from the straight path.  It isn’t easy to talk about it: it was such a thick, wild, and rough forest that when I think of it, my fear returns….

Dante, The Inferno

Dante's Inferno

On Saturday, October 3rd, the Inferno choreography was released into the world.

Inferno (2)

The idea for this dance has lived in me for over nine months. In the last trimester alone I poured out over 20 hours of zeal and profound love on just the physical creation of the 4 minute and 23 second dance. That doesn’t include the hours I spent reading, researching, and thinking about Dante’s heroic verses.

Inferno

Before this conception there was a courtship, of course.  My notes date back to August 15, 2014, when I responded to Dante’s call to his Readers:

O voi ch’avete li ‘ntelletti sani,
mirate la dottrina che s’asconde
sotto ‘l velame de li versi strani.

Oh you with sound intellects,
Observe the doctrine that conceals itself
Beneath the veil of these strange verses!

–Dante’s Infeno, Canto IX

Inferno 01

That’s when I began studying Dante’s work in earnest and trying to interpret the mysterious verses. It’s astounding how a 700 year old poem continues to resonate through the work of contemporary musicians, painters, writers, singers, and other artists.

By the time of the performance, most of the choreography was set, but there were unnerving parts I had to improvise.  I haven’t seen the video yet, so I don’t know how well the improvised parts went and whether I was able to express what this dance with Dante meant to me, but I do know that I learned a lot through the process of making it.

IMG_4916 (2)

If you’re interested in seeing the images I collected to guide the choreography, they may be found through the link here on Pinterest:  Inferno inspiration board

Inferno Finale

 

The poets leave hell

Inferno

I’ve been working on a choreography for Emma Shapplin’s The Inferno for months now.  The song stirs something in me that badly wants out. A version of the song is embedded below.

After months of reading, thinking, listening, and moving, the idea is finally beginning to find some form in motion. I need to finish it.

The quote in the image above was taken from John Ciardi’s translation.

Yes, there’s a lot aflame around here lately.  It’s an energy that needs to be channeled somewhere safe, like dance.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

~Edgar Degas

First you get a song in your brain, and then it comes out your body, and that’s how you dance.

~Davis James, age 5

Shimmy Mob Memphis is dancing to change the world. This is our fourth year of dancing for the cause!

This year we dance to raise awareness and funds for the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County. 

Shimmy Mob 2014 flyer

How can you help us end violence and strengthen families?

1. Dance with us

2. Let us dance for you

3. Donate to our cause! Visit www.fundly.com/shimmy-mob-memphis

Related Posts & Links:

Unbreakable

Dancing to Change the World

Shimmy Mob Memphis 2013

Shimmy Mob Southaven 2013

Shimmy Mob Memphis 2012

Shimmy Mob Memphis 2011

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