Boston Ballet Shades of Sound

Event Disclosure.jpgLast week I had my very first trip to the Boston Ballet. My first trip to see any ballet since far too many trips to The Nutcracker as a teenager. I’ve been immersed in reading about ballet for months and I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see one live. I chose to attend the dress rehearsal so that I could bring my camera and maybe get a few pictures of the Boston Opera House and the dancers on stage.

When you think of attending a ballet, you probably imagine a super swanky crowd and a few dull hours of girls in tutus. But this performance is actually three short dances (with two intermissions) that provide a really fantastic set of modern and traditional music and choreography mixed together. If you’ve never been to a ballet, you’ll find there’s a lot more than you could have expected. This is a great show for a newbie.

First: the Boston Opera House. It’s nearly 100 years old and was completely restored in 2004. It’s got great history and it’s in great shape. (It’s the home not only to the Boston Ballet, but to many of the touring Broadway shows that come through town.) I could’ve stared at their light fixtures all day…

Boston Opera House 1

Boston Opera House 2

Boston Opera House 3

It’s not so big that the seats in the back feel too far away. The chairs were all in great condition, too.

The three ballets in Shades of Sound are all relatively modern. It began with Chroma choreographed by Wayne McGregor with music that includes orchestrations of The White Stripes. It premiered in 2006 and feels distinctly modern. Some may even call it more modern dance than ballet. 

All three of the pieces, including Chroma, have specific costumes and sets to go with them. Chroma is perhaps the most distinctive, with its strange shapeless costumes and bright white background. It also has the most distinctive choreography. The dancers aren’t wearing toe shoes or tights. Their muscles are visible, if anything they’re often emphasized by their movements. It’s a very visceral and physical ballet, the steps vary from animalistic (several are very birdlike) to sensual to awkward. It ignores much of the typical masculine and feminine roles, and when the dancers break into groups there are often men dancing with men and lifting each other instead of just the typical male/female partnerships. 

The bright white lights and sets meant I got my best pictures here, though I was sitting a little bit too close. (Note to attendees, sit at least 5 rows back if you want to see people’s feet.)

Boston Ballet Chroma
Dancers: Bradley Schlagheck and Kathleen Breen Combes

Boston Ballet Chroma 2

Boston Ballet Chroma


Dancers: Lasha Khozashvili, Kathleen Breen Combes, John Lam, Jeffrey Cirio, and Misa Kuranaga.

This was the piece I loved the most. The music was sometimes melodic, sometimes atonal, and the movement had the same mix of traditional and unusual. It was always unexpected and always interesting and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. If you’d like to get a little taste of Chroma, you can see this excerpt from the Royal Ballet.

After Chroma comes Episodes, the most well-known piece of the 3, dated 1959 and choreographed by George Balanchine to the music of Anton von Webern. The music is spare and distinctly modern, the dancing looks much more like a traditional ballet. There are toe-shoes and tights, but the typical ballet movements are punctuated with bursts of angular and blunt steps. The women often do a play on a doll, pointing their feet and knees in instead of out. There are several rounds, where one dancer starts a series of steps, then another starts it a few beats behind, then another, then another. The usual synchronicity of the corps de ballet is not what you’ll get here.

Like ChromaEpisodes has a few distinct segments with different pieces of music and different combinations of dancers. All the costumes are black and white and the sections range from more traditional to more modern. Each piece stands alone but they work together as well.

I couldn’t get much from my camera, it was a bit too dark for my lens, so here I’m borrowing lovely photos from my friend Nikki Myers

Episodes 1
Photo by Nikki Myers. Dancers: Whitney Jensen, Diana Albrecht, Dawn Atkins, Lauren Herfindahl, Bradley Schlagheck, Junxiong Zhao, Matthew Slattery, and Patrick Yocum.
Episodes 2
Photo by Nikki Myers Photography. Dancers are Paulo Arrais, Lia Cirio, Maria Alvarez, Ji Young Chae, Corina Gill, and Brittany Stone.

Closing out the evening is Black Cake, originally performed in 1989. It’s choreographed by Hans van Manen and has a variety of music, including Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Yet again, the performers are in different costumes and different shoes. This time the men are in head to toe black and the women wear black dresses in all different fabrics with high heeled shoes. 

Much of Black Cake looks like a ballroom dance, there are bits of foxtrot and quickstep and waltz peppered all through it.  The piece itself takes the conceit of a ballet that tells the story of a party or event, but plays with the idea by letting the party get a little bit out of control the way these things sometimes do. There’s a fighting couple, there’s a surly waiter, and everyone has a little bit too much to drink. A great way to end the evening with a little bit of lightheartedness. 

I only took one picture because I thought they weren’t turning out. Big mistake. It’s not half bad given the light! Wish I’d had more, it was such a lively and delightful dance.

Dancers: Misa Kuranaga, Erica Cornejo, Ashley Ellis, Caralin Curcio, Brittany Summer, Lauren Herfindahl, Eris Nezha, Jeffrey Cirio, Lasha Khozashvili, Patrick Yocum, Junxiong Zhao, and Matthew Slattery.
Dancers: Misa Kuranaga, Erica Cornejo, Ashley Ellis, Caralin Curcio, Brittany Summer, Lauren Herfindahl, Eris Nezha, Jeffrey Cirio, Lasha Khozashvili, Patrick Yocum, Junxiong Zhao, and Matthew Slattery.

You can see a little teaser from Universal Ballet Korea that saves the best jokes but still gives you a feel for the dances. 

You’ll have to hurry, Shades of Sound is only running until March 29th. Tickets start at $29. 

Thanks to Boston Ballet for inviting me to their dress rehearsal!

A Little Better

February was a month of snow and more snow. A month where every single thing was difficult. Where all my normal routines were thrown off. It took me longer to get anywhere and do anything. Quite honestly, it’s been exhausting.

I hoped March would be a fresh start. But it’s already snowed twice and my weather app says it’s currently 6 degrees outside.

It also says that on the 16th we’ll have a high of 58 degrees. I simply cannot believe this. I have been lied to before by this very app, which told me last week that this week we’d have plenty of warm days but then decided we’d just have one. 

On the bright side, this week I’ve had an entirely normal commute time both going to work and going home. That hasn’t happened in a month. For weeks it was an unknown quantity. A commute could take hours, and you didn’t know how many hours. In February we had maybe one or two days at work this month where our whole team is in the office. A couple of vacations, yes, but mostly the commute has been too unreliable to make it worthwhile 5 days a week. 

We had one day with a little melt. It was immediately followed by a deep freeze. So now many sidewalks that were cleared are now covered in an ice slick. (And yes, our day of 45 degrees this week had rain and was followed by two days of sub-freezing temperatures so we’re just repeating this over again.)

Things are better without being good. But we are a beat down bunch over here, so we’ll take better happily. You still can’t park anywhere. You still can’t walk down the sidewalk. It’s still frigid and awful. But I wore sturdy shoes yesterday instead of snow boots and it felt like a revelation.

February is also the month where I give up a significant chunk of my free time to Listen To Your Mother auditions. It’s a completely worthy cause, but now that we’ve finished and selected a cast, I am looking at this weekend wondering what I am supposed to do with it. (Answer: clean my house, cook real food, and hopefully squeeze in a little House of Cards.)

We are all a little less sane than we were in January. At least now we can say it’ll be warm soon. Most of us didn’t dare say that in February. But we topped 40 degrees this week so it’s starting to feel like a possibility. Not that it’ll be all sweetness and light. There are lots of icicles to fall, lots of snow to melt, we’ll probably see more roofs collapse and more homes infested with leaks. But someday soon you won’t have to wait for the bus in the street because the snow drifts are too high for it to see you on the sidewalk! 

It kind of feels like March is the new January. That this is the time when we really get to start over. 

I’d like a vacation. I have a work trip to Phoenix at the end of April. It feels like a long time away. Maybe I can save my pennies and get a new swimsuit. Last year’s new swimsuit doesn’t fit so well since I lost weight over the summer. I can close my eyes and imagine sitting by the pool. I’m guessing I will be out there a lot. Maybe I will take meetings there. Maybe I will make all meetings swimsuit meetings and drink something with a little umbrella in it. Is there a pool bar? I love pool bars and the only time I had one I was pregnant and couldn’t drink. 

I’ve been thinking about moving somewhere warm, which I can’t do any time in the near future and possibly not ever. I’ve been thinking about how I can get myself back under a yellow umbrella sitting on sand and watching waves. It’s progress. Last month it was too wonderful to think about it. I had to block it from my mind. But now I can think of it, even though it makes me kinda sad and wistful. 

So yeah. I’ll take better.

New Children’s Room at the Boston Public Library

There aren’t a lot of places for kids to play indoors in Boston’s downtown and Back Bay. So the new Children’s Room at the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch is a big deal for city families. It’s also a pretty big deal for tourists. If you’ve been dragging a child to historical sites and they need to blow off a little steam, this is a great place to do it.

We took a Saturday afternoon, rode the train to Copley, and decided to check out the room to see if it would help us kill some time inside on a cold day.

It did the trick.

Just a heads up. If you’ve got a baby or watch one, you’d better get here soon because once all the moms and nannies in the city find this place it’s going to be crawling. Literally.

First up, there’s a big play area with bins full of board books and big foam letters. The walls are covered with built-in toys. Oh, and there’s stroller parking and two family restrooms inside.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Toy Wall

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Toy Wall

Oh, and did I mention there are toys? Dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, and more.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Play Area

There’s a great storytime area with risers for kids to sit on to listen (or play on otherwise), plus some little puppet theaters. All of it in front of a big gorgeous window, a brightly colored Storyteller’s Chair and with some beautiful brownstones with built in shelves on the walls.

I was able to snap plenty of shots without asking for poses. They played. I took pictures, it was easy. Have you been to one of these indoor play areas? They cost a ton and they’re crazy and kind of smelly. I’ll take this place any day. Especially since I can curl up in a chair with a book of my own while the kids have fun.

 Boston Public Library Childrens Room Storytime Chair

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Brownstone Bookshelves

Kids dressed up at Boston Public Library Childrens Room

At first I was a little confused about all the toys but then I got it. What better way to escape and pretend than through books? Why not add some dress-up to the mix? 

The area for older kids and teens is a little more spare, with seating and shelves below this bright mural.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Teen Section

And don’t forget the books!

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Book Display

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Black History Month

Boston Public Library Childrens Room From Outside

Plenty of computers. A big room for activities. Oh, and 3 friendly lion cubs. They’re currently having a contest to name them. Graham decided his entries would be Bob, Fluffy, and Sunny.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Lion Cub 1

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Lion Cub 2

We were there for well over an hour and could’ve stayed longer. For our next trip, I’ll take the kids here and then we’ll walk over to the old building to check out some of the art, there are a bunch of Sargent murals I love. 

We also need to check out the AWE Early Literacy Stations, which have computers with touch screens for kids age 2-8 and don’t require a library card to use.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room AWE Early Literacy Station

You can get info on events and more at the Boston Public Library website. FYI, most events are weekdays during school hours. But you can’t hang in the Children’s Room without a kid, so curious browsers best bring the littles along. 

Breakfast for Dinner at The Breakfast Club

Whether it’s an outing with girlfriends, a date with a new guy, or just another meal with the kids, breakfast food is a go-to. I love breakfast for any meal. I adore brunch. Breakfast for dinner is a big thumbs up. It’s the meal with the most sweet, the most savory, the most eggs, and the most coffee. 

The Breakfast Club is throwing three amazing Breakfast for Dinner nights, and to spread the word they kindly invited me over to try out their food.

So glad we had a pre-scheduled outing for brunch today. Thanks for hosting us, The Breakfast Club.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

The Breakfast Club is nestled in Brighton with a parking lot AND on-street parking nearby. We found a spot the day after the last big blizzard just fine, a true shock. Diner style digs with big booths and a bar greet you, along with plenty of 80’s memorabilia.

I brought the kids along since they are up for pancakes everyday. There’s no kids menu, but that didn’t matter. We ordered a short stack for them to split along with a fruit bowl and a muffin.

Eating out with kids often means ordering a fruit bowl. Nice to see one that looks so tasty. #hosted

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

I admit, I use the fruit bowl as a measuring stick for any restaurant that offers one. It’s where you can tell who’s phoning it in and who’s trying. The Breakfast Club gave us a gorgeous fruit bowl that was nice and big, with a wide variety of fruit, and none of it looked old or sad. Nicely done. The pancakes in the short stack were bigger than the kids’ heads, which didn’t stop them from diving in. Syrup in squeeze bottles meant things were less messy than usual, too. Oh, and the muffin was served halved and toasted. 

Sorry vegetarians, but there's little I love more than a house-made corned beef hash. Swoon. #hosted

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

As for me, I ordered the eggs over house-made corned beef hash. I adore corned beef hash and I’m lucky enough to live in a place that considers it a normal breakfast food. The downside is I’ve had a lot of mediocre hash. In fact, most of it doesn’t seem to have a hint of corned beef, there’s none of that bright tang in your mouth when you take a bite. But this hash? This hash was delightful. One of the best I’ve had in ages. The sourdough toast was wonderful and well-buttered. The breakfast potatoes were a little boring, but I honestly didn’t mind. 

The best part, to me, is that the prices were actually lower than what you find most places around town. All omelets and breakfast plates are under $10, and the cups of coffee are bottomless. They’re open until 2 a.m. so I know where I’ll be getting my next late-night fix.

If you’re a fellow hash fan, the first of The Breakfast Club’s three Breakfast For Dinner nights are for you. Monday March 2nd from 6-9 pm their St. Patrick’s Day Dinner has all kinds of cheeky Irish food in a four-course meal. It includes Lucky Charms parfaits, Bailey’s French Toast, and a riff on Corned Beef & Cabbage with their house-made hash. Finish it off with an Irish Coffee milkshake. Tickets are $35.They’re also offering Easter and Spring-themed dinners on the first Mondays in April and May, tickets at the same link.


What It’s Like Living In Boston Right Now

Living in BostonSomeone tweeted an article about how Boston needs to stop complaining and enjoy the snow. 140 characters weren’t nearly enough to say just how wrong I think this is. 

Here’s the thing:

This isn’t just some crappy weather we’re dealing with. This isn’t just some minor annoyances that we should just deal with and get over and worry about real problems instead.

It’s a real problem. A significant problem. A problem as big as the giant piles of snow that now line our roads.

This is people missing work, which means people not getting paid, businesses not getting revenue, families that will struggle to pay their bills this month. The snow keeps us inside and puts a huge damper on our city’s retail and tourism economy. 

This is dangerous. Our narrow roads are banked with giant drifts of snow. Two lane roads are now one lane, and encountering a driver going the opposite direction can mean someone gets stuck. Four lane roads are down to two lanes. Sidewalks aren’t shoveled. Even sidewalks that are shoveled are narrow and difficult to navigate. People are walking in the streets, streets that are already crowded with cars in snowy conditions. And it’s not just people who can walk. There’s strollers and wheelchairs out there in the roads because we have to get where we’re going and there’s simply no other way. 

Everything is difficult. For the last two Wednesdays I’ve done my usual normal routine. First, drop Tessa at daycare so she can make her morning therapy session. Second, get Graham to school, usually just get home and wait for the bus. But for the last two weeks it’s taken over 2 hours, nearly 3, to get this done. Graham spends nearly 3 hours in the morning in the car and then when we get to his school, which is on a small side street and has little parking on a good day, there’s nowhere for me to pull in and drop him. So we have to park down the street and around the corner and walk up to school. It’s not the worst thing that ever happened, no, but all that happens and I still have to get to work. I made it in at noon yesterday. I had to miss the Parent Council meeting in the evening because leaving in enough time to get there would’ve meant leaving at 4 when I’d already missed the entire morning. It’s a problem.

Driving in this is rough. Imagine every street in your city is down by 1-2 lanes. Just one street with lanes closed can cause backups, we’ve got all of them. And when you hit a side street that is full of snow and you’re sliding around, it’s white knuckle time.

It’s cold. And it keeps being cold. They tell us it’s good because warmer weather during our snow is when you have trees falling and power lines going down and the only blessing in all this is that the suburbs haven’t lost power for days at a time. But with it being cold and staying cold, the snow isn’t melting. We haven’t had anything resembling a thaw since the snow started and my weather app doesn’t show a day where the high is above freezing for the next week. (My weather app describes next Wednesday as “Dreary.” No joke. It also says more snow today and Sunday.)

Roofs have begun collapsing under the weight of the snow. (We’re at over 6 feet of it in a very very short time.)

Our transit system, which everyone in the city and nearly everyone in the suburbs relies on, is old and outdated and is constantly breaking down. Getting on a train at rush hour has turned into a ridiculous farce where you stand on a platform that’s packed with people, wait for a train, and if it comes it’s already so full there’s no room for anyone else to get on. Here’s a few local Instagrams to show you what it looks like:

No train for you. #mbta #latetowork #Boston #snow

A photo posted by Jason Zavala (@braczav) on

It’s not about the shoveling (although that really sucks and have I mentioned no one here has a garage?) and it’s not about the snow days when the kids are home from school (which also suck and have I mentioned the kids have been out of school for 7 days so far this year?). It’s that after the entire city shuts down, when it starts back up everything is difficult. We lose hours of our day. We lose time and money and some people are going to lose their lives because of this stupid snow.

So yeah, I think it’s okay to complain. 

I get that some complaining is useless and stupid. I have a 5-year-old. We are right in the middle of the “No Complaining” thing. But the thing is I may come down on complaining about things that are silly and pointless, but if he’s actually doing something difficult I let him complain. Because it legitimately sucks.

The thing about complaining? It can actually help.

Complaining can get things done. And right now our city and our state really need to hear us complain. They need to know that we can’t be an urban center without being able to get through a heavy winter. We should plan for a heavy winter and be pleasantly surprised if it’s not that bad. We need serious changes, we’ve needed them for decades, and if we don’t complain we may not get them.

Complaining can also help the person doing the complaining. Talking to other people about how bad your commute was is actually a pleasant thing, even if your commute was not. When you’re bursting with frustration, it actually helps to say something and let out some of that pressure.

There’s a reason people go to therapy to talk things out. When you’re facing difficult emotions caused by something out of your control, you don’t just get to say, “Hey, I’m from New England and I love this and bring on more snow yay!!” if that’s not how you feel. You can’t change your emotions just by deciding to change them. 

The view out the window right at my eye level. Can't see the street anymore.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

Today I’m driving to the station because I’ll need my car for a delivery shift after work and if I have to get back to my house, my commute could take 90 minutes and I’ll lose a good hour of time. Or more. So I’m going to drive over with my shovel and see if I can find a spot and it may not work out and I may be pretty frustrated and if I can’t get my work done in the office I may have to cancel that shift and lose the extra money it would’ve brought. If that sounds extreme, take my word for it that it’s not. It’s completely possible that I won’t be able to find a parking space and that the piles of snow will be far too high for me to shovel into. Paid lots are packed full because street parking is virtually nonexistent on many of the city’s streets. 

I just checked Twitter and the train line I take to work has “limited service” today. Meaning they’re running less trains. Meaning every station will be full of people waiting. And I think I may just have to cancel that shift. We just can’t win.

We just can’t. If your friends who live here have been moaning about the weather and you’ve playfully said how it’s so warm where you are and you wish you could have some of that snow, you should probably know that we are way past joking. We are tired and beat down and every single day is a struggle to get to work and leave again, to drop off kids and pick them up, to do anything. 

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