Carousel (A Dance)

Carousel (A Dance)

My fellow balletomane and dear friend Susan and I enjoyed last night’s performance by the New York City Ballet at the Kennedy Center–a feast for all senses, and in all senses, a masterwork. The program opened with “Carousel (A Dance),” music by Richard Rogers, choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. Under carnival lights, a coltish Lauren Lovette, pursued by partner Robert Fairchild, swoons her way through young love while cheerleader-skirted girls romp with athletic guys on an imagined fairway.

Glass Pieces

Glass Pieces

The stand-out performance of the evening was the stunning “Glass Pieces,” music by Philip Glass, choreography by Jerome Robbins. The piece opens against a stark background, like an enormous sheet of graph paper, and as the music bursts forth, the entire corps is purposefully striding on and off stage, bodies crisscrossing, a pedestrian melee moving to Glass’s hypnotic pulses. Amidst this throng, suddenly couples unite, their matching leotard colors signaling that they are mated in some way, and fated to meet, even as the crowd continues to churn around them. In the second movement, solos and pas de deux take place against a black-silhouetted line of female dancers, swaying, stepping, marching, like a frieze on a Greek vase brought to life. Yet, that allusion aside, there’s nothing classical about this piece. It is an utterly modern fusion of art, dance, and music. We could have sat through it again and again, riveted.


The final piece, “Vienna Waltzes,” set to music by Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehar, and Richard Strauss with choreography by George Balanchine, was equally engrossing and demanded the same level of athleticism of its dancers who are constantly on stage and constantly moving. A full-blown romantic confection, this piece is strikingly different in its classicism and exquisite period costumes. The first act evokes the sweetness of a youthful prom taking place in the Vienna Woods, all swirling pink and cream. The woods part to reveal a flock of wood sprites in hellebore colors. Next comes a burlesque polka in which the couples—girls in saucy frocks dishing it up with their partners (in striped pants and

Vienna Waltzes

Vienna Waltzes

pompadour wigs that Susan described as “Bob’s Big Boy meets Liberace”). We gasped as the next scene was revealed: the last of the woods melt away and we’re in an elegant Belle Époque interior; a mysterious and seductive black-clad woman appeared among the swirling couples. She, pursued by all, chooses the natty red-jacketed cavalry officer as number one on her dance card. Finally, the scene shifts again, and, stag-horn chandeliers lit, the whole company explodes into an exuberant crescendo of whirling ivory skirts and black tuxedos, like calligraphy set in motion.

The same program will be performed today at 1:30 and again at 7:30. If you can make it, go!


P1000051Visit this jewel box of a museum to clear your mind and spirit while feasting on one of the world’s most stunning collections of 19th and 20th century paintings, sculpture and African and Asian art. The private collection of Carmen and David Kreeger is housed in a 1967 Phillip Johnson home, a work of art in itself, with its Byzantine domes, travertine limestone clad walls, and interior courtyard filled with towering tropical plants.

The Kreegers had a rule for collecting: each of them had to love the piece or they wouldn’t buy it . . . charming, no? Their desire, as expressed to Johnson, was to be surrounded by their art so as to be “refreshed” at the end of the day. And, oh yes, the place should have perfect acoustics so that when Itzhak Perlman stopped by, they could play together for friends. David Kreeger was an amateur violinist whose legacy includes a vibrant chamber music program.

The dining room, now the Monet Gallery, is filled with luminous seascapes and the atmospheric river at Giverny. In the intimately scaled salon, the watercolor, “Dying Sunflower” (1907-1908) to the left of the fireplace is a surprise. You’d never guess that it’s by Piet Mondrian – at least I didn’t. No hint of abstract geometric grids in this highly representational arabesque of a flower. Hidden behind the sunflower is a secret door leading to the Kreegers’ bedroom.

P1000050After passing through the grand salon (Picassos to the right of you, Braques to the left of you!),  you’ll come to a magnificent stairway, its railing clad in molten bronze grill work. Each of the rectangles and parallelograms is a work of art, no two alike, like links in an enormous necklace. Please touch! Descend the staircase, passing a Calder mobile, to the lower gallery. Here you’ll enjoy Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Jean Dubuffet, Frank Stella, among others. Knockouts include Sam Gilliam’s vibrant “Cape” (1969), and Gene Davis’ candy striped canvas, untitled, so you can make up your own (1953).

On the terrace, the sculptures, including works by Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, are placed as they were when the Kreegers lived here. The swimming pool on the lower level has been converted to a reflecting pool and will be accessible to the public in warmer weather. Take a walk around Jean Arp’s “Twisted Torso” (1958). Yes, she does have two P1000053backsides. Both are lovely.


Enjoy a virtual visit:

P1000044Seeking total immersion in the early to mid-’eighties, the time in which my novel, Still Life with Aftershocks, is set, I dove into the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s show, Pump Me Up, which explores the DC go-go, punk, and hardcore subcultures through memorabilia, photos, videos, and iconic Globe posters in knock-your-eye-out Day-Glo orange, red, yellow, and hot pink.

The exhibit’s chronologically arranged “funk-punk spectacular” wraps around the open first floor atrium. Times were tough then. Neighborhoods were crumbling, lethal drugs like PCP were rampant, AIDS had begun its horrifying rout of the gay population, and gangs ruled. A corrupt, but, in some quarters beloved, Marion (“Mayor for Life”) Barry had been busted for cocaine possession. Ronald Reagan, cloistered in the White House, likely had no idea what was going on in the “other Washington.”

The other Washington’s raw creative energy was bifurcated: punk was a white art form, go-go, an African American one. The twain, as far as I could see, rarely met. The joy of this show was being able to experience both halves of the underground scene: the Cramps, The Slickee Boys, Trouble Funk, and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers all coexist here in a way that they would likely never have done back in the day.

One exception was the captivating video of the boys in the Junk Yard Band playing their paint tub, hub cap, cans and pans drums on M street in front of the long-gone Gusti’s restaurant. White folks are loving it! Everyone is moving to their syncopated, utterly infectious beat. Suddenly a guy is spinning on his head on a sheet of linoleum laid out on the sidewalk for spontaneous break-dancing demonstrations, and the kids, in their powder blue matching sleeveless T-shirts and shorts, slide into choreographed dance moves worthy of the doo-wop era.

P1000046Other stand-out items include: Chuck Brown’s red leather jacket, a lurid poster for the movie “DC Cab,” skate boarders’ graffiti art notebooks, posters for a boxing match pitting Darryl “Too Sweet” Coley against Che “The Destroyer” Lars, and a “Gotta Go-Go” record jacket with a “Reagan Wants You” illustration.

I came away with a newly gritty and authentic perspective of the era and some juicy details to insert into the novel. Instead of seeing anonymous graffiti on the side of a bodega in Adams-Morgan, Mariah now sees “Cool Disco Dan’s” omnipresent tag next to a poster for “Tony Perkins and the Cramps.” When Mariah’s cab driver turns on the radio, they both hear a very specific summer hit, Chuck Brown’s “Block Party,” announced by WOL’s DJ, Moon Man. Want more? You can read an excerpt under “The Book” tab on my website.

If you live in DC, enjoy the show. It’s up until April 7. If not, check it out here:

And, for a real treat, pop into NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert featuring Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go: