Saturday, December 13, 2014

Razzle Dazzle - DV Dance Showcase - 2014

All pictures thanks to Sandy who guessed well when to snap the next photo.

Was not going to add any more pictures but I just couldn't pass on these!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Divino Ritmo Dance 6th Annual Grand Ball - 2014 - Mo Pictures

All photo's from the artistic eye and camera of Jackson Cho. 

Divino Ritmo Dance 6th Annual Grand Ball - 2014 - Pictures

Professionals Artem and Inna dancing one of their numbers at the Divino Ritmo Grand Ball. 

Included below are a smattering of pictures sent to me by close friends, and do not do justice to the other performers that are heretofore not included.  PLEASE send me pictures that you would like me to consider posting.  I will try to "showcase" other students dancing at the Grand Ball as well as some pictures of guests and family members enjoying the evening's festivities.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Divino Ritmo Dance 6th Annual Grand Ball - 2014 - Personal Reflections

There were no less than 900 eyes at this Divino Ritmo event last Saturday, but no more than two of them were seeing the same thing.  Some were there to perform and showcase their efforts and progress in dance over the last year; some were there as guests and invited family members to cheer them on; some were curious supporters from other dance clubs there to enjoy the event, and even some who were were unexpected or thought to be unlikely to attend. 

If practice makes perfect, this event has benefited through practice to perfection for this, its sixth iteration.  A thousand moving parts, the elaborate set, slide shows, music with a fabulous sound system, coordinated spot lights and floor lights, the event program, the integrated and tightly timed single and group performances, Lucas and Yanna’s performance, Artem and Inna’s beautiful magical dancing, and the dozens of helpers staffing every conceivable function to make this years event nearly flawless. 

Clearly this event has become the premier dance event of the year, and by some people’s account including some hotel staff, usurping the Hawaii Star Ball in that distinction.  Anyone interested in a spectacularly entertaining evening with a three course meal, ample time for social dancing to some great DJ music, being entertained by students and internationally renowned professional dancers and overall a unique holiday treat that doesn’t happen often in Hawaii, would thoroughly enjoy the this Divino Ritmo event.  This year the guests topped 450!  It’s not too early to put in your request for 2015.  This event should not be missed!

Of course, as a student of Yanna, my opinion is biased and I admit that.  But I truly believe that this showcase event takes more than hard work, it takes a true gift and innate organizational capacity to jell this event together so well.  But instead of just providing broad platitudes, I will make the effort to provide a brief but critical account of the event citing some positive and negative aspects.

First, the ballroom and outer area was amazingly decorated beautifully for the event with the theme being “Gangsters and Dolls”.  The Sheraton ballroom is arguably one of the most beautiful in town and to add to this, there were Christmas trees and other ornaments adorning the ballroom for the holiday season.  However, the set was simply incredible!  It was truly a labor of love done singlehandedly by one of Honolulu’s well-known doctors and dance student, Paul Laderta.  The time and effort that it required must have been daunting.  Always the gentlemen and extremely gracious in his demeanor, Paul never wants to call attention to himself, but he deserves the greatest of compliments, praise and appreciation.  Indeed, while not finding time to take pictures of much else, I focused my attention on trying to capture some good images of the set. 

There were 21 student performances, accounting for most but not all of the serious Divino Ritmo student pool. It was fun watching students who you see in the studio working on their routines, trying to perform to the best of their ability on the big night.  It is always fun to watch performances from students representing the extremes of life, from Uncle Wes (I am of course in this category but I lacked the ability to observe my performance) to the wonderful keiki dancers. Little skits flavored the routines done by Maria Handl, the formation team was entertaining and student performances ended on a cute foursome performance by Yanna, Lucas, Marie and Paul.  My last comment is that from all the applause that Tomo Sasakawa drew after he performed, it was clear that he was the most improved performer and deserved such recognition with his confident flawless “Listen to my Rhythm” solo.

I can’t say enough good about Yanna and Lucas’s professional performance and I’m glad that they had the energy to perform their exciting, flawless but nevertheless risky routine (the lifts were not for the faint of heart) after so many student dances.  Indeed, even if I had not been required to dance one dance, the energy, speed, coordination, and stress of changing into so many costumes to accommodate all of the student dance routines would have exhausted me!

I won’t say anything more about the invited professionals, Artem and Inna.  They were everything we expected they would be.   They left us wanting to see more.  Please see:

Ok, a few criticisms.  Overall, I think the event was a little long for those early to bed folks in Hawaii.  There were 21 student performances; this raises the question of whether to limit this number for the sake of time, and or how to do it.  …Which further begs the question of whether the purpose of the event is to showcase the progress of the students or not…..I won’t pretend to try to answer this question or to offer any advice.

The awards ceremony could have been shorter, or limited or maybe even eliminated.  I could see guests heading to the door after Act 2 of the student performances, thereby missing the marvelous professional show that was about to begin, which was truly the highlight of the evening.   This is just my opinion.

Hope to see you all next year!

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Love Italy

Fingers find their way to the keyboard with a life of their own typing thoughts from the heart.  Just thinking about my latest trip to London, and certain parts of Italy starting from Milan.  Sitting in Business Class – trying to rationalize the exorbitant expense even purchased as an upgraded fair – and happy that I’m finally on my way back home having successfully accomplished the goals that I set out as I imagined the trip’s evolution several months back.  Maybe I’m in a good mood because for some reason as we wait to take off, Delta is playing Hawaiian Christmas music – Mele Kalikimaka.  Maybe they know that I’m from Hawaii and they are playing specifically for me….ha ha… nevertheless it’s a good omen for a safe trip.

Having written about my time in London, I will focus on my time in Italy.  Fortunately, I was travelling with someone who will remain unidentified by her choice but who happily spoke Italian.

This was not my first trip to Italy (not even my second), but I have been longing for this one for many decades. This was not the Rome, Florence, and Venice trip that most would envision.  I wanted to go to some small towns and villages for some beautiful sites, hear the music of the language spoken, taste the home made pasta and pesce and wine at quaint and charming local restaurants, feel the cobblestones under my feet, and sense the aura and community of these close-knit protected villages and towns – living within the confines of solid stone built structures - built for another time and another people, but nevertheless adapted with taste, dignity and imagination for the present.

Most of the places that I visited I did not know existed before this trip, and thanks goes to my travel companion for my wonderful experience.  She left with one last day for me to travel into Milan from the Moxy airport hotel that I was staying at, so I’ll intersperse a few words about Milan here and there. 

Of the towns that I experienced (or remembered), Pavia, Cremona, Bergamo and Bellagio, Cremona and Bergamo stand out.  Bellagio was beautiful but a little too touristy for my taste. There was another town we stopped for some tea and coffee and a pleasant drizzly walk through the shopping street downtown.  Unfortunately, I do not remember the name but it rhymed with placenta, so I will forever remember it as Placenta.  Which reminds me of another nearby town that sounded like “Pissonyou”. 

Modern buildings sit peacefully next to those built centuries ago, blending in as well as an extended family with generations living under the same roof.  The new was not overpowering or intrusive but melded in, while not subjugating or trivializing or towering over the historical monuments of the past for profit.  It seems that, for better or worse, Italy respects Italian history more than its share of self-serving corporate and entrepreneurial predators.

The truth is that I would only be paraphrasing some other account of history, so I won’t bother to try to impress.  But I was patently impressed, for every building that was more than a hundred years old looked like it was some impressive historical site that demanded understanding and recognition.  Built on beautifully carved stone and perfectly blended mortar, the permanence and security that it exuded and personified was the guiding light of life in these communities. Contrast this with the flimsy plastic and feeble construction of modern day communities, erected instantly, prefabbed for efficiency of construction, cost and appeal while emulating its inhabitants, here today and maybe gone tomorrow….as surreal as the internet, the smoke and mirrors of modern day existence. 

About the only thing I didn’t like in Italy was the cigarette smoking.   At least the US has done one thing right.  It looks like Italy did not get the memo on how awful smoking is for your health.  And despite the fact that no one is allowed to smoke indoors, the outdoors do not protect you from the stench and poison of exhaled smoke that permeates the air and your senses from 10-20 feet away.  It seemed like everyone smoked in Italy….sad, very sad.

There were an endless number of beautiful squares or piazzas to walk around in every town.  And of course, each major town had its own Duomo, denoting the center of town’s cathedral.  Some were hundreds of years old and some took hundreds of years to complete like the one in Milan. All were unique and beautiful.  Watchtowers, government buildings, museums and other historical sites were everywhere.  I would have had to study each town’s architecture to fully appreciate its history. 

As mentioned above, the Duomo in Milan was magnificent to say the least.  The 5th largest cathedrals in the entire world, built carefully over almost six hundred years, it is truly a labor of love.  Walking around it you can see the scaffolding surrounding certain parts attesting to the continuous need and unrelenting commitment for renovations.  Now I do not say this glibly, the Milan Cathedral rivaled the Taj Mahal in terms of magnificence and beauty.  I was overwhelmed with emotion trying to capture the essence of this superlative building, with little time to do so.  I could have spent a few more hours there, or more.  One very strange carved out sculpture near one main entrance is shown below which might be a soldier holding a decapitated head with the unfortunate laying draining blood into the street with the exposed dissection fully in view.  This gruesome scene seemed totally out of place as imbedded in this magnificent house of God.  But it also reminded me of the recent (and not so recent) beheadings of Americans and Brits at the hands of the Muslim radicals.  It made me truly wonder where this gruesome obsession with such acts of cruelty has their origin? 

Cremona was a true delight.  Easy to get to, without having to navigate the endless outskirts and traffic, we found our way easily to the Violin Museum.  Dozens of perfectly preserved Stradivari violins, violas, and some funny looking origins of such were on display at this well laid out museum.  Serendipity also gave us the opportunity to witness a violin audition at the museum. The musician was a young woman in her late teens – early twenties, stunning not only for her beauty but also for the caricature she portrayed.  So taught was her frame and her movement, so strong was her core, and so precise was her violin bow motion and fluidity, she looked alarmingly mechanical and wooden but her violin mastery was spectacular. What a pleasant surprise.

So many places to eat, each one outdoing the next for charm and food selection and quality.  Prices were reasonable by American standards.  Thank God for the strengthening dollar (and the weakening Euro) – now a dollar will buy you 0.8 Euros, the best it has been in years.  I have to also confess that I have never met a white wine in Italy that I didn’t like.  Funny named brands from all over the region, it didn’t matter; all were very pleasant and palatable, and we never paid more than $25/ bottle.   The European waiters and waitresses possess a more refined approach to serve you, not forcing themselves and their comments on you, not introducing themselves to you with names you will never want to remember, and not interrupting your conversation or abruptly hoisting away your plate even before you have finished…..and as importantly, before whomever you are eating with is finished.  Not once did a waiter in Europe ask me if I was still working on my food.  I suppose eating in many US restaurants is work; it is not so in Italy, it is PURE BLISS.  And no one in Europe expects a big tip, and no one seems offended or disappointed when they don’t get one. 

Italy is filled with Italians, with some foreign immigrants visibly interspersed selling their wares (such as umbrellas) on the street.  (I remained wet having lost my Hawaii born umbrella in the airport transit bus, not wanting to fork out money that would showcase my shortcomings) But everyone in Italy is kind, gentle, and boisterous at times but in a quiet way, never imposing or outrageously loud.  It was such a shock when on our next to the last day in Bellagio, a small group of Asian tourists (I won’t say any more) were walking from the opposite direction exchanging comments among one another at a punishing decibel level.  I have experienced this before, but usually in communities where it blended into the street.  In Italy, it thundered like the bellow of an emergency broadcasting system.  And it punished the otherwise calm and quiet and serenity of the street as if it were being violated.    

I could live happily in Bergamo; a truly lovely town with a walled off old town overlooking the sprawling new.  The continuous mist of rain that we experienced for the entire week did not dampen our enthusiasm for exploring and shopping and finding new places to eat and visit.  The temperature was crisp and the droplets of wet gently bounced off our jackets.  In late November, few tourists were in Bergamo, as I can only recall a few Americans speaking English in the three days we spent there.  It is indeed a plus to experience the local people and culture, and not have to fuse into the masses of tourists crowding into places of interest. 

And after my travel companion left for home, on my last day, I managed to find my way to Milan by train and back.  But the day in Milan was mainly spent getting lost in this highly complex city with multi-directional streets emerging like broken spokes from the Duomo, admiring the Cathedral and the Galleria and getting soaked trying to pretend I wasn’t getting soaked after forgetting my umbrella on the airport transit bus.  And I really didn’t like having to speak English after all of the Italian that my travel companion was capable of. But clearly, I had no choice in the matter.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Europe, both England and Italy.   There is nothing more really to say.   Life is short; take some risks.  Fulfill your dreams. 

Which leaves me to relay one last telling experience.  I did in fact freak out on the day before my travel companion left for home.  Driving from Bergamo to Bellagio was a harrowing experience.  It was also a narrowing experience!!  Tapered winding country roads along the lake, dozens of stop and go maneuvers where the road was too contracted for two cars to comfortably pass each other, and aggressive Italian drivers who blow their horns without too much provocation and who tailgate you dangerously close as a matter of custom did play havoc on my nerves.  What I was also freaking out about was the need to drive out of Bellagio that same day to reach Como and the comfort of the autostrasse before it got dark which is very early in Italy in November. 

Anyway, despite worrying about what never happened, we reached civilized driving conditions only to get lost driving to the airport, ironically without the comforts of a well lit highway, having to find our way along a lonely, misty, and foggy country road on the outskirts of Milan - where we would spend our last few nights.   And I was so happy to return the intact rent-a-car to Budget, pay the bill and no longer worry about the semi-treacherous conditions that I had heretofore navigated.  Drinking a glass of wine at the hotel, I overheard another guest telling the story of his car accident and his obligation to pay 1,000 Euros because of the minimum coverage option that he had chosen, the same minimalist coverage that I had chosen as well.  At least he was alive to talk about it, but he didn’t seem too happy. 

Life is full of adventure for the taking; risks are taken even when trying to avoid them as much as when facing them straight on.