Fashion Ball 2014

Eleven days to Fashion Ball 2014 – DollNation! Really excited about this one. Grant has come up with a great concept this year. I really hope everyone comes out to see this. It is something that needs to be seen. A true collaboration. Dancers, hair and make-up artists, models, video artists, lighting designers, sound designers, costume designers and fashion designers and a 10 year old DJ from NYC. Then add to all of that (as if that wouldn’t be enough) food from some of the Twin Cities best restaurants, AVIV Vodka drinks, mind-blowing silent auction items (and I mean that. Things you could never find anywhere else) and you have DollNation! Check out the recent article on Grant and the show from St. Paul Pioneer Press.

http://www.twincities.com/shopping/ci_25289890/fashion-ball-founder-grant-whittaker?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

Now- check out the website of our amazingly talented young DJ from NYC.       http://www.aidenjude.com

More to come. Stay posted!  XO, Myron

New stuff

“Mozart” closed. What an experience it was!

An anonymous audience member wrote ” I just saw the Ballet of the Dolls show..it was SO amazingly wonderfully beautifully transcendentally brilliant. Seriously, wow and sigh. I’m still feeling high. I don’t think I could have coped with liking it more” Now I know I like to say that (I will quote Mozart) “I don’t do my work for the praise or the shame” (shame made me laugh when I read it) however…”praise” is wonderful especially when you are exhausted from the amount of work it takes to manifest it, and “shame” I have enough of to last at least a few lifetimes yet so…it was a nice response to get. My personal feelings about the show are: amazing and beautiful dancing by the artists, visually stunning and simple setting, great energy in the audience for each show and I really enjoyed running the lights and sound. I was the “man behind the curtain” and considering my love of control; it was the perfect place for me.  :)

Now, moving on: Fashion Ball – DollNation!  We start rehearsals in a week for that. Check out http://www.fashionball.org to get details. It’s fun! It’s a fundraiser for Ballet of the Dolls that Grant Whittaker producers. I just choreograph! We have a committee of amazing people that are helping make this event something to remember! I am excited about it and will write about it as I get more into it.

We also have SCUBA this week and then Renovate! our choreographers evening that Lisa Conlin produces. Check out Ritz-theater.com for all the info.

I will write soon about how all of this is going and how I feel  :)

XO, Myron

 

 

mozartian pas de quatre

Dress rehearsal tonight. This ballet has brought me to tears more times than I can count. Many years ago I asked myself what I really would need to make my art. The answer: A room, a candle, dancer friends and some music. Well, here I am with a theater, some candles, dancer friends and Mozart. The simplest of wishes come true. I like to think that I respond to where my world is at when I conceive a dance piece. This piece is certainly evidence of that being true. My desire for simplicity and simple beauty is evident in this work. I have spent over 40 years creating dance as entertainment. Big and broad. Colorful and splashy. Funny and sarcastic. Kitschy and wonderfully off-beat. I LOVE doing that stuff…however when life gets complicated and emotionally challenging it is so spectacular to realize that you can create the world on stage that you are longing for and dreaming of. That’s this show “a Mozartian pas de quatre”….Curtain opens, one light cue, 4 dancers, chandeliers, candles and Mozart music. 65 minutes later the curtain closes and that was that! Turns out it is one of the most complex pieces I have ever done. How ironic is that? It’s a tour-de-force for the dancers and compelling as anything I have ever done. The last time I felt this way was in 1991 when I did the “Mozart Requiem”. Interesting to say the least that that was Mozart also. If someone asked me what my favorite piece that I have ever done it would be “Mozart’s Requiem” and we created that in 12 days. So now 23 years later I create another ballet in 12 days to Mozart. Funny thing: no one came to the Requiem when we premiered it…it built an audience over time and became a rare piece that we actually did several times (which we rarely do) and I have been competing with that piece (personally) ever since then. Now, this ballet comes along. I am in love with it. Please come see this. It’s a gem, if I do say so myself. :)
XO, Myron

Brrrrr!!!!!

I could talk about the weather. I could talk about how it feels to be frozen. I could talk about the fact that it gets dark right after lunch. I could talk about the layers of clothing you have to have on in order to move around. I could talk about how much energy it takes to just not want to gather nuts and berries and build a cave, put on a fur, light a fire and not come out until the daffodils sprout. But, how about I talk about what it’s like trying to have a creative thought when all the elements are drawing you into hibernation. Or, maybe I should just share all the wonderful heart-warming things going on here at Ballet of the Dolls between now and then. I think that’s a better idea.
In two days we start “Diversi-Tease” a burlesque extravaganza starring the brightest and biggest stars from here and around the world in the art of Burlesque. PLEASE check out the RitzDolls website for all the information about this event. I promise you that if you can manage to crawl out of your igloo for this you will be so happy you did.
Then, The Dolls are back from a break after an amazing run of “Nutcracker-not so suite”. I am working on “Hi-brow and Lashes” an evening of classical music. A year ago I planned on doing a mix of classical music that I would interpret in whatever way my imagination took me. Now, as of two days ago I have to admit I was not inspired, motivated or even thinking about it. Managing a theater, finances and business took priority over creating anything new. Felt like a bummer until I realized it was just the winter blues getting a grip on my soul :)
So yesterday, driving through a blizzard of white, what should come on the radio but Mozart (it was his 258th birthday or something like that) and it started a flood of ideas. 35 years ago I did a ballet called “Myron and Mozart” at the Children’s Theater Company. I came to my office and looked at an old VHS of that show. Wow! Did I love Balanchine or what? It was so sweet to see how I had been inspired by him. Suddenly I had the urge to tackle Mozart again. What would I do now? Have I gotten any smarter? Did I still have the “balls” to even put myself in the same room as his music? The answer was yes of course I do. Then; would anybody want to see it? I had just watched “the Grammy’s” the night before and was left with a bit of an empty feeling about music, artists and the future. A part of me said “just cancel this show and do a modern, show-biz, high-kicking blow-out dance show that would please the audience”. Bam!!!! Right back to uninspired! So, that said; here is what I am into:
Hi-brow and Lashes – an evening of Mozart!
As I just typed that I got a thrill of excitement. Obviously opening in 16 days is not going to happen considering this weekend I have to choreograph opening and closing numbers for “Diversi-tease” (each night is a different bevy of beauties so each night we have to stage new numbers at 6:00 before an 8:00 curtain). The new plan is to open Hi-Brow a week later! I cannot tell you how wonderful this is for me to have a home and theater where we have the flexibility of making changes according to the realities of life. Good business? Probably not. Can I make those kind of changes regularly? Probably not. However, as many of you know, change is inevitable. Fear of change is deadly. Embracing change is healthy and the fact that with every artistic decision I make means everyone around here has to scramble means I do not take it lightly. So, starting next week I will be in the studio with the dancers working on Mozart. On February 20th we will premiere a new ballet and see how it goes. THEN:
We move onto “Fashion Ball- DollNation”
A benefit celebration for Ballet of the Dolls.
Grant Whittaker first created this event 5 years ago when we had a cancellation of a show and he said “How about we create a fashion, dance, music and video performance that would give our patrons a chance to gather together in celebration of The Dolls”.
Good idea. We did just that and it has developed a life of it’s own. Just like The Dolls, it is growing and building into something that no one saw coming. Just through that “event” we have raised almost $100,000.00 for The Dolls in 5 years. As many of you know; government funding for the arts has diminished, individual contributions has grown (for us at least) so this kind of event has proved to be a perfect vehicle for us. In my next blog I will spend more time talking about and explaining this amazing event. Stay tuned.
Brrrr. It’s fricken cold here in Minnesota right now…..best to start dancing! The “Inuits” kept their feet moving….so should we! XO, Myron

We opened!

It was a tough week. As I suspected. A few all nighters. The smell of glue guns, paint, hairspray and sewing machines. The sound of saws, drills, laughter and tears. Sawdust, feathers, sequins, wig hair, paint cans, brushes, screws and nails everywhere. We worked right up to an hour before the house opened. AH, the life in the “theatah”. One of these days we are going to follow the process with a video camera. I think that the world would be a better place if people could see what can happen with the dedication and commitment of a group of people all working towards the same goal. Theater is a great example of this. Of course, it’s not just here at Ballet of the Dolls that this occurs. It’s in every theater around the world. I am assuming :)  However, dancers are a rare breed. Not only do they have to go through all the struggles of tech week but then they have to put their makeup and costume on and “hit the boards” as if it all was a breeze. LOVE dancers!!!!  I am constantly reminded of the scene in “All That Jazz” with the Bob Fosse character looking in the mirror at himself and saying “it’s showtime”. For me personally it was an interesting time. I was in the house directing and teching the show, painting the set, recording the music, changing the choreography, re-working the scenes and hiding wood, paint cans, trash and tools from the audience house right up to an hour before the show. Then, going backstage and getting dressed (my pants had no zipper so the safety pins had to come into play), style my wig, paint my face and look over the list I had made the night before at 3 a.m. of my shift duties and hit the deck. I watched the show from the wings when I had time and my heart was so full. There we were….dancing….a show! AMAZING artists here at The Dolls. There was no way the audience could have (or should have) known what the previous 8 days involved. All the artists looked so beautiful, calm, graceful and elegant. Those are the moments I live for.  Here is an excerpt from one critics take on the evening:

“Fans of the show should rejoice and be merry: the production’s subversive spirit is intact, as well as many of its favorite characters. Binky Wood — in a hilarious, over-the-top “Mommie Dearest”-esque turn as Clara’s mother Flo — makes a gloriously hammy return to the stage, as do the Barbie and Ken dolls come-to-life (played by Heather Brockman and Peter Spitsnogle), who perform some of the most inventive dances in the show. Stephanie Fellner, one of the Dolls’ best and most dynamic dancers, stars as Clara, capturing her innocence and inner turmoil with grace and passion.

The show serves as a fantastic showcase for the Dolls’ quirky choreography (by Dolls founder and artistic director Myron Johnson) and eye-popping costumes (put together by stylist and Dolls dancer Grant Whittaker). Throughout the show, the Dolls go through various costume changes and various styles of dance, from the “Rhythm Nation”-esque choreography of the rat pack-inspired gang of toughs to the more traditional ballet dances of the Sugar Plum Fairy-esque Ice Queen (Valerie Torres) and the Rockette-like moves of Mrs. Santa (Lisa Conlin).”

Happy Holidays if you don’t hear from me again until the New Year!!! Thank you to all of you that read this post….

XO, Myron

Nutcracker time…

This sentiment hits me every year at this time: “In just about every city around the world there is a dance company rehearsing Nutcracker Suite at any given moment of the day”. That’s powerful. Well, at least it strikes me that way. There are professional traditional versions. There are sweet student versions. There are jazz versions. There are snowflakes, flowers, soldiers, mice, sugar plum fairies and cavaliers leaping and spinning all day long every day. How amazing is it that considering the ballet had a not so great debut in 1892. It wasn’t produced again until the 1940′s by the San Fransisco Ballet and is now done by every major company in the world and accounts for about 40% of their annual ticket sales. That’s big. I myself have never been such a fan of the ballet. I guess it’s because it veers away so far from the original tale by E.T.A. Hoffman. It turns a very complex story into a popular classical ballet format. Act One: set up the story. Act Two: Dancing variations for no reason and then an attempt to tie the story back in with some kind of epilogue. I know that sounds like a generically negative interpretation but it’s pretty true. Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Nutcracker all follow a similar format. I will have to say that Giselle is an exception sort of.  :)

Now, I have been heard to say many times that you have to respect and appreciate something before you can deconstruct it. So, let me say now, I appreciate the format of classical ballet and I even understand why it is the way it is. The world of dance in the 1800′s was a completely different world than the world we live in today. Thanks to the pioneers of modern dance, audiences are much more willing and eager for deeper adventures and capable of handling more complex plots and sometimes even willing to “suspend their disbelief and travel into new uncharted territory.” That statement leads me to my version of the Nutcracker…..

I always understood the story to be about a young girls coming-of-age. As a young boy myself in the 1960′s and dancing in the classical version, I was completely struck by the moment that the toy Nutcracker turned into a handsome Prince. That was exactly how I fantasized about my Ken doll. Jump forward twenty-some years and I decide to do my own version of the ballet, what a surprise that I turn it into Barbie and Ken. I actually had Barbie dolls. I remember the moment that I got my first Ken doll. Barbie was quickly set aside! For sure this memory has something to do with me being gay but I refuse to believe that there are not other people out there that share that memory. Girls or boys. It represents “my coming of age”.

Enough about all of that. That’s is how it came to be. Now, almost 30 years later and 20 different version of the ballet, I am still “working it out” and experimenting on new ways to tell the story. Such a joy. Such an adventure. So much work. Same objective but different ways to get there. New dancers. New sets. New music. New script. New everything and yet all based on one tale, one ballet, one original idea. It’s my Christmas gift to myself. My creative self. It shows me (good and bad) how far I have traveled in my world of story-telling through dance. It also proves to me how the arts can be a healing and growing experience for both the artists and the viewers. I like to think that when we do the Nutcracker, most of the audience has seen another version of mine. They get to experience this NEW one in the same way that I do. All new. 2013. We’re traveling together……….what a wondrous adventure. Thank you for letting me live my life on the stage!!!!!   I mean that deeply.

See you here at The Ritz I hope!

Tech week starts tomorrow and we are not even close to being ready for an audience. Ha ha…..takes a lot of faith this week. Isn’t that what this season is all about?

XO, Myron  (do reply if you have the time….I’m open to ideas)