I’ve been shoving culture down my willing throat these past two weeks and my gag reflex is lovingly dormant.

6/3: Seattle Symphony Orchestra — Shostakovich 10, Liszt PC 2, random recently composed stuff

My face was about 10 ft. away from William Wolfram’s hands and Gerard Schwarz’s tails. I didn’t really get the Shostakovich, though nje recommends Shosty 5. Liszt was really nice–it was quite short, I liked the theme and variations, and there was a shocking little cello sonata interlude where the pianist really clearly became the accompanist.

6/10: Pacific Northwest Ballet — Giselle

So I don’t know ballet at all. I don’t know a lot about non-social dance (and I know precious little about social dance), and I have never seen a professionally-produced/performed dance.

I’m not really able to criticize the dancers’ technique. They looked fantastic, and I was really glad that I couldn’t see their faces from the second balcony, since that would have individualized them too much. The time will come when I’ll care about them as people–right now I need to keep the dancers in the background and focus on the magic of their craft.

Because magic it was. My mind for performance dance is still four years old, innocent, unjaded.

Thus as far as I’m concerned, unschooled, far-fetched magic is ok for me right now. I didn’t read the story of Giselle before I went (accidentally), and I like the story as I’ve interpreted it in my head slightly better than the one that seems to actually exist. You know, I was astounded at how the combination of orchestra, movement, lighting, scenery, costuming, staging, etc. really made characters seem to speak, and speak very precisely. I personally caught nuances as precise as “groupthinking frat-boy well-deserved fright.” And before, I didn’t see the connection between a “phrase” of music and a “phrase” of dance (or mime), but the musical and mimetic? phrases came together to map exactly to a “phrase” of a sentence.

Oh, costuming. It’s like…graphics, with pixels that move around! The people and the set need to look good in all configurations! And lighting! Sometimes the yellow-colored spotlight would hit the part above the stage, and it would look like a little gopher popping up.

The most amazing bit for me was in Act II, where alive? dreaming? true-love boy (I don’t feel like using the characters’ names yet) visits his dead-and-back-as-ghostly-figure love, and the impenetrability of the shroud between the dead and living, in my interpretation, was portrayed by a particularly opaque arrangement of dancers + tutus.

But basically, Giselle’s lover is kneeling, lost in thought, and Giselle’s ghost comes out to dance. At first, he doesn’t notice her, and after a few measures, his reaction is something like, “What was that rustling in those trees in that corner of this very expensive set?” In a while, they begin to dance around each other, and there is one instant where from my vantage point, Giselle’s dense white skirt obscures the wearer’s lover entirely.

From that point on, it was impossible not to see the pas de deux (I have no idea if the part I’m talking about is actually part of an actual pas de deux–I really just mean “one of the many times when they’re dancing together”) as two pas de un(e) in two separate-but-overlapping instances of 3-space. I guess you can even think of it as two instances of 4-space where the last coordinate is “dead” or “alive.” My mind was pulling these cubes apart and forcing them back together through the scene.

I would be gushing a lot more about this except I was stupid and went to the after-performance talk. I did /not/ intend to see the dancers out of costume, or hear them speak about their roles, or find out that my imagine story was not quite the actual story, that the people actually had names, that their staging and costuming was actually fairly cliche, etc. I sat next to a smelly hipster and was surrounded by condescending old women.


I went to a talk, “The Psychology of System Responsiveness” this morning by Steve Seow, a User Experience (UX) researcher at Microsoft, and Brown PhD in experimental psychology. (woot!) I loved this guy. He made great sound effects and was a real pro at miming progress bars and lambasting stupid UIs without being too mean. I want to be his friend, career-wise, except I don’t think I want to get a PhD in psychology.

Or you know? That might not be so bad.


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