Boston Ballet Shades of Sound

event Boston Ballet Shades of SoundLast 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…

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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.)

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Dancers: Bradley Schlagheck and Kathleen Breen Combes

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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 Boston Ballet Shades of Sound
Photo by Nikki Myers. Dancers: Whitney Jensen, Diana Albrecht, Dawn Atkins, Lauren Herfindahl, Bradley Schlagheck, Junxiong Zhao, Matthew Slattery, and Patrick Yocum.
Episodes 2 Boston Ballet Shades of Sound
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.

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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!

Massachusetts Conference for Women 2014

I was happy to be on the social media team for MACFW this year. It meant I got to attend and tweet constantly all day. Not a bad gig. Here’s the highlights of what I learned, including sessions on personal finance, work/life balance, and workplace style. Plus keynotes from Lupita N’yongo and Hillary Clinton. Speeches, talks, and videos from the conference will be posted at the MACFW website

Highlights from Keynotes and select sessions

Back to School at Macy’s

sponsored post image Back to School at MacysIf you’re in that boat like me, there’s a big Back to School event at Macy’s at South Shore Plaza in Braintree tomorrow (Saturday) at 2 pm. I’ve covered a bunch of these Macy’s events in the past and I am always able to shop, have fun, and keep the kids busy when I go. A triple win, especially on the weekend when the errand list gets a little long.

BRIDGEWATER FINAL Page 2 2 1 Back to School at MacysYou know that wave of Back to School shopping you do? And you know how you always forget that second wave of Back to School shopping you do after school starts when you realize what you missed the first time? Yeah, that.

The kiddos and I will be there and so will crafts, games, and Radio Disney. 

Want to come? Head to South Shore Plaza (I know you’re probably heading somewhere like that anyway. Let’s be honest.) and you’ll find it at Macy’s on the 2nd floor at 2 pm. Updates on styles for kids clothes this year, stuff to keep the kids busy and happy, and a gift with a qualifying purchase. Full info here.

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Tire Track Test

sponsored post image Tire Track TestThere are a lot of things I need to learn more about, and pretty high on that list is my car. After last year’s horrific winter, one of the biggest things on the list for my car is my tires. I’ve bought tires, but I don’t feel like I know enough about them, so I was happy to take a chance to really review Sailun Tires under pretty tough conditions.

Sailun is a newer brand I hadn’t heard of before. Here in New England you can find them at Sullivan Tire. They’re a value brand, at a much lower price than many other tires. That’s speaking my language. Of course, you always wonder with a low price item if you’re sacrificing quality, and that was our challenge: to try out Sailun Tires against a higher priced tire and see if we could tell the difference.

Sailun Tires Track Tire Track Test

It may look like a big parking lot with a bunch of random cones all over the place, but this was our test track. We did two courses and focused on handling, acceleration, braking, and more. I should add: this was not like Driver’s Ed. This was FAST. You may notice the burnt rubber all over the track up there. 

Professional drivers guided us through the course. They started with a test drive where we sat and watched. I have been on plenty of roller coasters, but this was a thrill ride like nothing I’d ever experienced. My stomach was still churning hours later. Then it was our turn to try.

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There were plenty of cone casualties.

We drove the course in one car, then immediately switched to another identical car outfitted with a different set of tires. We didn’t know which was which. Basically a blind driving test. Except we could see. Thank goodness.

I learned a lot about driving and a good amount about how your tires help you drive better. 

Sailun Tires Track Map Tire Track Test

This was one of our courses. Starting out, we’d hit the gas as hard as we could, then when you hit the cones we’d brake as hard as we could. This was the place where the difference between the tires was the starkest. (And wouldn’t you know it, the Sailun tires performed better than the more expensive ones. It was easy to tell by how far the car went before stopping.)

sign Tire Track TestNext came the panic turn. Imagine someone slams on their brakes in front of you and you need to get out of the way with a hard right or left turn NOW. That’s the panic turn. Through one set of cones, then immediately over to the side through another set. My first few times in the panic turns I learned what it feels like when your car loses control. Long after I’d straightened out the wheel, the car continued to fishtail like I was in the snow. A crazy experience. Luckily these days a computer helps you from spinning out, but my professional in the passenger seat had to guide me through how to execute a panic turn well. Turns out you only need to give the wheel a little nudge, which explains why so many accidents are caused by people over-correcting. 

Finally, a slalom in wet conditions. The slalom wasn’t too different from a panic turn, you didn’t need to turn the wheel as much as you’d think. Plus you can go a lot faster than you’d expect.

Yeah, fast was the name of the game. I’ve never driven like that before and I doubt I will again. 

During my second go-round on this track I had my professional assistant take some video of us doing the first part of the track, aka slamming on the gas and then slamming on the brake.

Yes, those are my giggles you hear.

Our crew of bloggers (yours truly and my pal Kristin) and tire pros alike thought the Sailun Tires performed just as well as the other tires, we know because they had us all take surveys and compiled the data afterwards. The SUV tires we tested in the more expensive competitor were over $90 per tire more than the Sailun tires.

The whole thing has me seriously considering getting myself a set of Sailun Tires for winter. Because after getting myself stuck going up hills, sliding through stop lights, and generally having a miserable drive on every snowy day, I’m thinking some solid winter tires could be just what I need.

I know when I’ve bought tires in the past I haven’t put much thought into it. Whoever helps me at the tire place pretty much gets to make the decision for me. But now that I know more about the tire market I feel like I can go in and talk a good game. Which is definitely a plus when you’re a woman going into anything car-related.

win Tire Track Test

Thinking about the tires on your car right now? Well if you’d like a nice new set of Sailun Tires, you can head over to their Facebook page. Submit your coolest or craziest road trip stories with the hashtag #SailunRoadTrip to enter to win. The contest goes through September 15.


Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Sailun and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Blue Man Group Boston for Kids

event Blue Man Group Boston for KidsWhen the Blue Man Group in Boston invited us to come to a show, I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into. I’d never been to a Blue Man Group show before and I didn’t know how Graham would feel about it, but I figured the worst that could happen was we’d leave early and he’d still be happy we got to take the train to the show. (The Charles Playhouse is very close to the Tufts Medical Center stop on the Orange line and a short walk from the Boylston stop on the Green line.)

It turns out it wasn’t hard to get Graham excited. When walking around town we saw a big sign for the Blue Man Group on the back of a tourist trolley and I told Graham we would go to that show. He was pretty pumped after that and spent a good week talking about going to see the “blue guys.”  

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Photo provided by Blue Man Group

I learned pretty quickly that The Blue Man Group is an experience from the moment you walk in the door. The Charles Playhouse has been totally remodeled all around the BMG experience.

Inside there’s a wall of light and sound called the “Lounge-U-Lum” where kids can interact. No more standing around before the show listening to whining for snacks, instead they’re immediately engaged and curious and interested. 

Special School Vacation Week Bonus for April 21-24: there will be face painting before select shows as well. 

Inside the theater there are snacks and drinks for kids and grown-ups. Yes, you can get a beer. And yes, they have bags of goldfish for the kids. Though I’d recommend finishing your snacks before the show, since it’ll get pretty dark.

Once the show started, I admit, I worried a little bit. I knew BMG involved drumming but I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. The first 5 minutes of the show were loud and I started to worry that maybe the noise would be too much for my noise-averse kid. We did get some earplugs from the ushers (who are SUPER nice, the nicest and most helpful ushers I’ve ever encountered anywhere by a long shot) but after those first 5 minutes the noise wasn’t so loud that Graham had any problems.

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Photo provided by Blue Man Group

After those first minutes, my fears abated. The show is great for kids. No intermission (I’ve found intermission is just an opportunity for kids to say, “Can we go home now?”) and not too long. The show is made up of several small pieces so the action is constantly changing and no one part gets boring. There’s interaction with sight and sound and then there’s plenty of audience interaction, too.

It’s a huge relief for me to go to a show with my kid that’s also fun for ME and not just for him. Yes, I love watching him enjoy things, but being able to enjoy myself is a big plus and a reason why I’d take Blue Man Group over a little-kid-geared-live-show  any day. Jokes abounded, the show is really funny, and even if the humor is often over the kids’ heads, they’re still so excited to be a part of it that they don’t notice much. They’re also pretty excited to watch the adults be silly.

I cannot express to you how excited Graham was. This was not a show where people in the audience were expected to watch silently. The relaxed atmosphere made him very comfortable. Maybe too comfortable. He would yell out with glee to the point where I had to shush him a little. At one point, there was a rousing version of “Tequila” on the drums. So of course, at the end, all the adults in the crowd yelled, “Tequila!” The kids looked around in delighted confusion. Then someone in the back yelled, “Free Bird!” The adults laughed, the kids looked around in delighted confusion. Graham thought he had this figured out. We were taking turns yelling out words, so at this point he hollered, “School bus!” It was perhaps one of my proudest moments as a parent. His enthusiasm, his excitement, his willingness to jump in and be a part of it, it was thrilling for me.

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Photo provided by Blue Man Group

If you ask Graham about the show, even though it’s been two weeks, he will happily tell you all about the very end where the giant balls bounced through the crowd. He had never seen anything like it before. I think he would’ve happily watched those giant balls bounce through the audience for hours. 

So what do parents need to know for a family Blue Man Group Boston visit?

  • Pay attention to where you sit. The front rows of the theater require a poncho because you may get… well, not wet exactly but you’ll want that poncho. We sat in Section C which was perfect, right in the middle with a great view but not too close. The theater is nice and small so most seats are good seats, though if you sit in the balcony, you won’t get the full bouncing-giant-balls experience.
  • Kids 5 and up should be just fine at the performance even though it’s officially recommended for 7 and up. They have booster seats for smaller kids so they can see over big people’s heads. 
  • If you have a noise-sensitive kid, consider bringing some headphones for them in case they need them.
  • There are jokes about butts. So, you know, do with that what you will.
  • After the show the guys in blue came out into the lobby for pictures. Don’t be surprised if your kid is a little scared to have a picture with them, even if they loved the show. Most of the littler kiddos kept their distance.
  • There is a garage where you can get discount parking for the show just a few blocks away.
  • School Vacation Week is a great time to visit, with extra shows and extra events. (Oh, and free meals for kids at MJ O’Connor’s Park Plaza.) 

I honestly never would’ve thought to bring a child to Blue Man Group, but it turned out to be one of Graham’s favorite events of all-time, and as the kid of a blogger he gets his fair share of cool stuff to do. 

Blue Man Group only has 5 locations around the country, so if you’re visiting Boston it’s definitely something to put on your to-do list. If you live here and have friends or family visiting, it’s a nice break from your usual Duck Boats and walking tours. Tickets start at $49, but you can also find them at the BosTix booths for same-day sales or advance sales.