Archive for December, 2010


December 31, 2010



Well, here’s my usual list, in order of merit. (Note that some of these films were actually released in late 2009, but I didn’t see them until 2010.)

1) Winter’s Bone, dir. Debra Granik
2) The Ghost Writer, dir. Roman Polanski
3) Bluebeard, dir.Catherine Breillat
4) The Secret in Their Eyes, dir. Juan Jose Campanella
5) Mother, dir. Joon-Ho Bong
6) The White Ribbon, dir. Michael Haneke
7) True Grit, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
8) 127 Hours, dir. Danny Boyle
9) The Kids Are All Right, dir. Lisa Cholodenko
10) The Fighter, dir. David O. Russell

Also recommended: The King’s Speech, Inside Job, The Social Network, Not yet seen: Carlos, The Prophet, Exit through the Gift Shop. Seen but not recommended: Black Swan, I Am Love, Inception, The American.

While the Coens’ True Grit isn’t going to knock the Hathaway version off its perch, it was surprisingly good. What it lacked for me was what all Coen films (save for Lebowski) lack–heart. Everyone, especially the Coens, say it is more “faithful to the book”–and in a literal sense it is, although the Hathaway version was scarcely a whole-cloth reinvention of the novel (and is in one way–the death of LaBoeuf–tougher and crueler). But when it comes to the spirit of the thing and to just plain old-fashioned good storytelling, I’d argue that Hathaway does a far better job of making us understand why Rooster nearly kills himself (and does kill poor Little Blackie) trying to save Mattie’s life, because he makes us understand the unlikely romance of these two oddly kindred spirits–and, for me at least, the Coens don’t.

The first True Grit is, when all is said and done, a better piece of storytelling and a more satisfying movie. This said, Bridges is excellent as Rooster (though, once again, he ain’t going to knock the Duke from memory and legend). Indeed, the Coen film is extremely well acted by all and very well shot by Deakins (who happens to be my favorite cinematographer). But I’ll take the heart–when it is earned, as it is in the first version of True Grit and that everyone now seems so eager to dismiss as “corn” or “hamminess”–over Coen-style ironic distance and literalism any day of any week of any year of any decade you’d care to name. For me, there is almost always a whiff of a postmodern lab experiment about the Coens’ work.



December 31, 2010

get some applewood bacon and slice into batons then cook in some bacon drippings you hopefully have saved from your last bacon excursion

Get some frozen black-eyed peas and simmer them according to directions (about 40 minutes but worth it)

Chop up some carrot, celery and onion, and put that in the hot fat after you have removed the bacon bits

Then add some salt, lots of pepper, some hot paprika, maybe some garlic salt to saute of vegetables - stir a little more. Almost done - in off-heat skillet stir in peas and season to taste. Serve on brown rice with garnish of grated cheddar, green onions and splashes of tabasco as you like. Happy New Year.


Charles L. Reinhart Celebration in NYC: January 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm

December 31, 2010

If you should happen to be in New York City soon here is something you might put on your calendar! It is a celebration of the life and work of Charles Reinhardt, long associated with the American Dance Festival (now held in Durham, North Carolina, each summer).

It is FREE! You’ll need to rsvp, see below for instructions.


Please let us know if you will be joining us by
Wednesday of next week!

Celebration will include performances by:
Paul Taylor Dance Company
Eiko & Koma
Shen Wei
Ariane Reinhart

Guest speakers include:
Ted Steeg (long-time friend and filmmaker)
Anna Kisselgoff (former Chief Dance Critic for The New York Times)
Scott Reinhart (son)
Jodee Nimerichter (ADF Co-Director)

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Peter Jay Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

RSVP by next Wednesday, January 5
to be added to the guest list.

To RSVP: Please provide attendees names and a contact email or phone number to

or by calling the ADF NY office at 212-586-1925

In lieu of personal gifts, donations may be made
to the American Dance Festival’s
Charles L. and Stephanie Reinhart Fund.



December 17, 2010

I encountered this charming young lady with stars in her eyes (and her doting mother) primping after yesterday’s opening night of Frisch’s presents The Nutcracker at The Aronoff Center in Cincinnati.

Like many other little girls, she was dressed in her best ballet-style finery, with a lovely tiara on her head (if the picture was a little larger, you could see the Nutcracker book she was clutching).

But what are we, as adults, to make of the ballet, aside from enjoying the kids in attendance?  

I believe many adults, and count me in on this, actually revert to a kind of childlike state, a suspension of disbelief, if you will, during the ballet. Thursday’s opening night performance of this annual treat was entirely satisfying on this count. But, full disclosure, the adult me has seen this particular show (with Val Caniparoli’s entrancing choreography) every season except for one since its 2001 premiere. I have written thousands of words about it, from playbill notes to critiques.  

Trying to find a new and different approach is something of a challenge – and not only because certainly one point of The Nutcracker is that it is a tradition. That is,  in order for it to be meaningful, it had better NOT change, at least not too much. A big part of the fun is knowing what is coming up and especially watching the little ones for whom it is all new.

I recently read a quote from choreographer-of-the-moment Alexei Ratmansky, who contended that “the Tchaikovsky music is bigger than any choreography I have seen.”

However true that may be, Caniparoli’s version is extraordinarily sensitive to the score, beginning with the Overture, in which Herr Drosselmeier boxes up his dolls (and the three main characters in Marie’s dream) – Marie, Nutcracker and Rat King, oops, a kinder and gentler Mouse King here. It was all played to grand effect by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Carmon DeLeone’s baton.

But it is Drosselmeier himself who is the framing reference for the entire story, and Devon Carney (who is Associate Artistic Director of the company) could not have been more convincing as the kindly, sometimes bumbling, behind-the-scenes, finger-shaking magician who engineers Marie’s experiences, from a brief mysterious moment during the cheerful Party scene in which he seems to cast a spell on her, to his boffo courtship with Mother Ginger, played to the hilt by Stephen Jacobsen on stilts under his skirt full of tiny pot-bellied children.  

Principals Janessa Touchet and Cervilio Miguel Amador danced their hearts out, without a hint of adult condescension, as Marie and The Nutcracker. Touchet’s technique is amazing – and also amazing is that it seems entirely natural when she exhibits it. During a series of whipping fouette turns, it was not the final count that dazzled, but that she effortlessly threw in triples and quadruples.

Amador makes a wonderful Nutcracker – he also is technically proficient. His jumps, from the first moment we see him as the Nutcracker doll, with large head and muscular white legs, show that all-important effect of suspension in the air, and his turns, like Touchet’s, are nearly faultless. It is his particular trademark to end a series of spins in perfect balance at the end of a musical phrase. Several times he spun her in lots – maybe nine? – of supported pirouettes, and she achieved a twirl and full split before plunging fearlessly into her first fish dive – a neat trick given that he is ever so slightly shorter than she.  

Together, their chemistry was a tad less romantic and more buddy-like than some other partnerships I have seen – maybe due to the fact that he is not a tall cavalier. But, the combination worked wonderfully. When the two arrive in the Land of Toys and Sweets, he begins to tell Drosselmeier the story of the Battle Scene, but graciously allows the over-excited Marie to relate the events, up to the point where he shows how he vanquishes the Mouse King with a well-placed thrust of his sword. Both Touchet and Amador were clear audience favorites.

The stunning grand pas de deux for the two, which comes after the lovely swirling Waltz of the Flowers, featuring Sarah Hairston as one perfect rose, was perhaps the narrative climax of the ballet. The music, with its grand descending scale, and crashing cymbals, is simply spectacular, with choreography to match. Marie, elegant perfection in a sparkling tiara and blue tutu, executes swooning falls into her cavalier’s waiting arms. One of my favorite moments, where the music hits a high point, requires her to run into a giant supported assemble. The timing on this move was just perfect, which is not always the case.

It is also during the grand pas that Marie is given a glittering variation to the Sugar Plum Fairy music, which is lovely.

At any rate, there were lots of commendable performances – in fact, from Edmund Hooker in a first-time appearance as the unruly Fritz, to Courtney Connor as a dancing doll, from Snow Flakes and Flowers (keep your eye on Apprentice Kayleigh Gorham, she is a keeper), to Liang Fu as Chinese Trainer; Dawn Kelly and Courtney Hellebuyck as Spanish women, accompanied by Joshua Bodden and Kevin Terry (who also played the Chinese dragon); and dashing Russians James Cunningham, Selahattin Erkan and Thomas Caleb Robert plus delicate Mirlitons Kelly Yankle, Connor, Jill Marlow and Danielle Bausinger – this was a treat played out in real time by a well-rehearsed group of dancers, including the children’s cast. A special note is due Maizyalet Velazquez, who was the langorous, ever-so-flexible Arabian dancer supported by Anthony Krutzkamp and Samuel Jones.

It just seems unseasonable to find fault (probably there were a few glitches, seen and unseen), so let’s just make this “review” an “appreciation.”

It may be that not every balletomane is a fan of The Nutcracker. Yet there is certainly no holiday show in the area that can top this one. And, you can leave your 3-D glasses at home.

also by Kathy Valin:


December 16, 2011




December 16, 2010

Here’s to dancer and choreographer Heather Britt, pictured at last Friday’s tenth year anniversary celebration of her Rhythm & Motion classes in Cincinnati.



December 16, 2010


December 16, 2010

photo by Peter Mueller

It promises to be something of a real snow scene tomorrow in Cincinnati, with anything from 2 – 6 inches of snow predicted.

I am scheduled to attend Cincinnati Ballet’s opening night (the production runs December 16 – 26 at The Aronoff Center) of Frisch’s presents The Nutcracker, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra playing the famous Tchaikovsky score.

Look for a review soon after right here at!

More info at more photographs by Peter Mueller at


December 10, 2010


Anthony Krutzkamp and Jill Marlow. Photography by Peter Mueller



– collected and edited by Kathy Valin

In today’s ballet world, men are no longer just “porters” carrying and displaying the ballerina. Often they execute choreography in which there is equal sharing of weight, or they dance in unison with their partner, or solo in dances displaying not only bravura but drama. However, it is an important part of the tradition for the man to be a noble partner. A couple of years ago, I talked with Anthony Krutzkamp, a very thoughtful fellow, about the intricacies of partnering from the man’s viewpoint. Below are his comments.

I’m not exactly the quickest learner, because I want to find out everything from “A to Z.” I like the big picture before I move on to the details of the choreography. 

That’s important, because I don’t want to have to learn it by doing it seven hundred times. I’m also thinking about my partner—I’m not in pointe shoes and I don’t know what it is like to have “hamburger feet” from too much rehearsing.

I need to feel the woman’s movement, but each time I change partners it takes a little while to revisit each one. Their weight and height is different. Sometimes when I need to put a ballerina down from the air onto her pointe, the choreography doesn’t allow me to look down and check, so I have to “feel” her foot come down. 

It’s key to figure it out, since I am the support. I have to rely on my strength and control to keep her from being injured. For instance, I always think about where her weight is going, and where my arms have to be to take her to that place. I’ll note if I have to take her from my right arm to my left, or, if there’s a circular motion, I know I have to push with my right, and pull with my left. You’ll figure out when you CAN look down, and how to align your head with her.

After you’ve figured all that out, as a partner you have to figure out how not to show the in-between–to make it look like you are not doing anything. That is actually my favorite part!

I am lucky because the way I am built allows me to dance the roles I want. I am strong, but I am the runt in my family. My brother’s twice as wide as I am, he’s a 44 in a jacket. He’s got 4 inches on me. 

When I watch other dancers in a pas de deux, I look for all the transitions to judge how good they are. One of my pet peeves is when the man needs to be a certain distance away from the woman in order for the line to work. If he cramps her, there is no shape, there is no line.

I think there are some really great partners in this company, like Jay Goodlett and Zack Grubbs. They are very strong:  it’s like “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Who leads? In certain times she needs to lead, but in certain times the man needs to lead. Because if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where she is. And if she decides to move first, she is nowhere, she is on the ground. 

But, I love to run after a girl onstage. When you don’t know where she is going to stop. And then—whoosh—you pick her up.

Or when you are running stage left and she is running a circle stage right, and we are meeting up—she’s completely in charge. She’s going to jump whenever she wants to jump, and you need to be there!

Every pas de deux is different as to how many supported turns there will be. Some partners will just say “we are doing five pirouettes,” and when they are done that’s it. But, certain other women will want to go to that last note. For them, it’s not about the number of rotations, but how you slow it down to the final turn.

Sometimes I do get sucked into a pas de deux to the point where I am so immersed in the acting I actually am remote from what is happening. When I’m done, I’ll ask myself “did that just happen?” It’s the coolest feeling. 

Pirouettes with a woman are simple. So is a torch lift, the pose when the woman sits in your hand above your head. Once she is up there, you hold her foot against your chest. She is not going anywhere.

Harder are supported promenades, where the woman pivots around the heel of the supporting leg. You have to walk a perfect circle around her. There are no ovals! And in a ballet like The Sleeping Beauty’s Rose Adagio, where the promenade by different partners is the highlight, if you are not perfect you can ruin it for the ballerina. 

One of the hardest maneuvers is the double assemble into a fish dive. The woman spins around and lands in your arms chin down, leg up. You can talk it out, but once you are committed to doing it, you have to do it. It’s like in driving school, where they tell you to commit to the light. Not to think “is it yellow? Is it red?” 

And once she is up there? If things go wrong, you can’t let her go down, no matter what. You have to put yourself in harms way in order that she won’t be hurt. Because she has to trust you. It’s never gonna look right if she doesn’t trust you.

The risk I take myself often has to do with the role I am playing. Sometimes, if it’s modern, you just get out there. You’ll see what you have to give. But if I am in Swan Lake, I’m not gonna be the guy that tries to eek out that final flashy pirouette that I might not be able to do. I’m supposed to be The Prince. And The Prince doesn’t bobble.


December 10, 2010

Yesterday, I attended Cincinnati Ballet’s traditional week-before-production “Ballet and (Root)Beer” preview in The Mickey Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio at The Ballet Center.

I saw Anthony Krutzkamp and real-life partner willowy Jill Marlow as The Nutcracker Prince and Marie in a rehearsal of the final act. They were wonderful together. Janessa Touchett was beautiful as “A Rose.”

Seeing Anthony reminded me of an interview I did with him some years ago about the ins-and-outs of partnering from his perspective. I will be posting that later today! and more on this year’s Nut, including casting.

Here’s a snap of some of the young dancers cast in The Nutcracker play-jousting with The Nutcracker himself afterwards.  You can also glimpse Frisch’s Big Boy in the crowd, representing long-time support of the holiday ballet by Frisch’s.

I plan to review the December 16th opening night at Music Hall. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is to play the Tchaikovsky score.

More information about Cincinnati Ballet’s “Frisch’s presents The Nutcracker” can be found at

December 9, 2010