May 13th, 2003


On Friday evening, May 9, we went to the Milwaukee Ballet. I got some last-minute tickets because I was intrigued by the press coverage of "Scheherezade," a new ballet. The seats were in the last row of the balcony, but sight lines were good and we had binoculars, so we were happy.

Besides the premier, the program opened with "Rubies", a part of the famous "Jewels," ballet by Georges Balanchine. This was the second Balanchine piece the Ballet has performed this season and it was done very well. Georgie recalls seeing the New York City Ballet during the latter part of Balanchine's reign, and felt the Milwaukee performance stood up nicely. The dance is a lighter, more sprightly piece than a lot of Balanchine's work and was a lot of fun, enhanced by the gorgeous red satin costumes that are de rigeur.

Lovely as they were, the monochromatic "Rubies" costumes were overwhelmed by the sheer gorgeousness of the costumes for "Scheherezade," which were truly outstanding. Costume designer Judanna Lynn produced a really spectacular set of costumes for Scheherezade, The Sheik, Aladdin, Sindbad, and the other characters.

The choreographer, Kathryn Posin, created a totally new dance to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov that varied widely from an earlier ballet created for the Ballet Russes de Diaghiev in 1910.

The ballet begins with the familiar frame of "The Arabian Nights"--The Sheik discovers his wife embracing a male slave, kills both of them in a fury, and vows to take new wife every day and kill her gthe next morning. The ballet is slightly different, in that Scheherezade is already one of the Sheik's wives, but avoids death by dazzling the Sheik with her story telling. Sequences continue without act breaks, as the dancers portray very condensed versions of Sindbad and the Ruhk, Alladin and the Lamp, and the Flying Horse. Interplay between Scheherezade and the Sheik punctuates the stories, and they gradually become participants, moving the Prince and Princess of the Flying Horse story like puppets. Scheherezade is well on the way to redeeming the Sheik when the wicked Vizier accuses her of unfaithfulness as well, which sets the Sheik and his men off on a murderous rampage. "Reality" and "fantasy" bleed together as the story characters come to the defense of the harem women. At last, only the Sheik and Scheherezade are left standing. Seeing what he has done, he wishes he had not. Scheherezade retrieves the Magic Lamp from the carnage, and he uses it to wish everyone back to life.

In the performance we saw, Amy Fote danced the very demanding role of Scheherezade, which combines both classical "Arabian" movements with modern ballet. Fote was up to the performance in every way, dancing so as to make the best of both sensuality and athleticism. (I must say, she has one of the most remarkable physiques I have seen in a woman in some time. It's very unusual to see a female with such exceptional muscular definition who is not an obvious body builder. She made very good use of it in this role.) Pavel Gurevich as the Sheik danced with power and ferocity as well as precision. There were many witty and charming performances in the Sindbad and Alladin portions, and the Flying Horse sequence was particularly beautiful. We found the Ocean Spirits in Sindbad to be particularly effective in their manipulation of a large sheet of silk that represented the ocean, and by turns covered Sindbad, tangled him in undertows, and dumped him on beaches.

The live orchestra delivered Rimsky-Korsakov's lush score ably and well. All in all it was a remarkably beautiful evening of dance and music that we will long remember.

Spaces and Traces, East Side Home Tour

On Saturday morning, May 10, we took the Annual Historic Milwaukee home tour, which had the theme "The Grand Homes of Kenwood Park-Prospect Hill." This area is one of the grandest of Milwaukee's neighborhoods, and we were eager to take the tour having had an enchanting time on last year's "Storybook Style" tour. The mansion of Paula Uihlein, heir to the Schlitz brewery fortune, was definitely the highlight of the tour, although we wished we could have seen more of it. As it was, the elaborately paneled and carved living room, dining room, library and foyer were magnificent. Other homes were lesser, but had many gorgeous rooms, sweeping staircases, and delightful features. A quirky feature of the tour was its endpoint at the old North Point Lighthouse. We actually got to climb up to the top of the iron and steel lighthouse, fun because we hadn't gotten to see inside actual lighthouses we had toured before. Georgie inspired admiration in our fellow tourers for making it up and down the final ladder in the long skirt she was wearing.

It was hard to choose a favorite after the palatial Uihlein house, but I think we still like some of the "storybook" houses from last year best.

Mystery Men, Episode Two

The second installment of the "Mystery Men" game ran at my place Saturday night. The Plumber, MilitiaMan, Winter Noir, and The Spider Man made a successful data raid on Dr. Nova's headquarters, but got out one jump head of security, but not without encountering one of the dreaded Subterranean Fungus Zombies in the sewers. Revolting development continued as most of the team returned to The Plumber's truck and found it staked out by the vengeful Flattop and his thugs. Timely intervention by MilitiaMan allowed the good guys to turn the tables on the thugs and take them into custody, but at the cost of MilitiaMan's truck engine, which was shattered by a hail of heavy slugs.

Winter spent the remainder of the night accessing the files they had grabbed, exposing the framework of Dr. Nova's plot to discredit known heros and take over the city.

That same morning, the Hell's Angles junkyard robot gang attacked MilitiaMan's favorite junkyard, the one he was depending on to get him a new engine. He arrived in time to witness a debacle, as Master Control, sponsored superhero of "Johnston Controls", deployed his remotes against the robot gang and experienced a massively destructive malfunction, which ultimately appeared to be "pilot error." And of course, the Nova Men appeared in time to save the day. The plot will continue to thicken--.