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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Apropos the recent leakages about Our War in Afghanistan, it may be time once again to test everyone on the following:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. Is there no other way the world may live?”
a.) Jimmy Carter
b.) Richard M. Nixon
c.) Dwight D. Eisenhower
d.) John F. Kennedy
e.) Gerald R. Ford
f.) None of the above
email the answer to

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

American Dance Festival-Jerome Robbins West Side Story

July 19-21, Chafin Seymour, will perform on the ADF main stage (Reynolds Theatre @ Duke University). Chafin is part of the company presenting the Jerome Robbins choreography of West Side Story. You can buy tickets online and learn more at

Monday, July 5, 2010

Memory Snapshot: Gene's Lunch With Lena

Appreciation: The Ferociousness of Lena Horne
By Amy Alexander
Published: May 11, 2010

Gene Seymour, former film critic at Newsday and an expert on jazz, also found Horne to be few clicks more complex than most of her press clippings -- 70 years’ worth -- indicated. I remembered reading something he’d written about one of Horne’s last public performances, in the early 1990s.

So yesterday, I hit Seymour up on Facebook. He wrote back right away, saying he’d first met with Lena Horne in ‘94, at a restaurant in New York. They sat for 90 minutes and had a wide-ranging conversation-slash-interview. I never met Lena Horne, but Gene Seymour did. I trust his eyes, ears, heart, and his journalism. He will have the last word in this space on Lena Horne, a great performer:

Sitting elbow-to-elbow with a 20th-century myth is intimidating enough to keep you incoherent for weeks afterwards. But five, 10 (at most) minutes into the conversation, she had so completely put me at ease that I felt I was talking not with someone who fueled the steamiest fantasies of several generation of African-American males (including mine), but with one of my brighter, sassier great-aunts.

Today's New York Times obit was about as comprehensive & as unsparing against the people high & low who done her wrong, while remaining attentive to the glories of her youth and to her principled political stances. And yet ... and yet ... there was something missing from the piece, which managed to barely evoke the magic her image could evoke; the terror & wonder of her breakthrough appearance in "Cabin in the Sky," where she & Miss Ethel Waters fought to a fare-thee-well on and off-screen; how she was able, even through the worse times, to cultivate her innate talent for dramatic presentation and siphon a galvanizing array of emotions through her singing; most especially, her brittle, yet playful wit, which I always believed was the most undervalued weapon in her musical quiver.

Overall this masterly juggling of passion & intelligence made her one-woman Broadway shows so theatrically effective and biographically illuminating.

Savion Channels His Inner Miles (and Trane)


To read Alastair Macaulay’s June 23 New York Times review of Savion Glover’s latest extensions of the tap-dance genre, one would have thought Glover mugged him in a dark alley. See for yourself if it doesn’t read, even a little, like an old-fashioned grievance against modernity (at best): (

Glover, in turn, was the one who felt mugged by Macaulay’s review, having opened that night’s performance at the Joyce Theater by invoking Macaulay’s name with saturnine disdain. (Few in the audience seemed to acknowledge his barbs. Don’t people read reviews anymore? Oh, right. They don’t read newspapers either.) He did this, as with everything else in the show’s lengthy first half, with his back to the audience. If this stance was reminiscent of Miles Davis, then the fusillades of syncopated footwork resounding throughout the theater brought to mind the “sheets of sound” attack of Davis’ greatest band mate John Coltrane.
It was enough to make you wonder whether a jazz critic would have been a better choice to review “SoLE PoWER.” Macaulay’s comparisons of Glover’s long-form cadenza to woodpeckers, electric drills and dental equipment were themselves reminiscent of the peevish reactions hurled more than a century ago against modernity in the arts. Glover’s “make it new” impulse to stretch and, if possible, pierce the parameters of tap dance doesn’t seem all that unreasonable; if anything, his sense of adventure seems almost archaic in what we’re supposed to believe is a totally post-modern cultural universe.
This isn’t to say that everything worked. There were times during the first half, (especially when Glover had all the stage lights dimmed except for the starry-sky backdrop), when his efforts to answer his riffing query, “What does sound look like?,” lost their bearings and scattered the energies he was trying to coalesce. But based on this one night’s performance, I’m guessing that “SoLe PoWER” intends to be elastic enough to accommodate whatever dare Glover wishes to take. “We play what the day demands,” Miles Davis was fond of saying and Glover”s program asks (warns?) its audience to make its own adjustments to the imperatives of the moment. As with the modernist innovators of the past, Glover is acknowledging risk and accepting whatever consequences or rewards may come from defying conventions – even those that made him a star. You may not want to go with him. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not onto something.

Gene Seymour