Cirque Du Soleil – Saltimbanco

05/29/2011 at 8:26 AM (Circus, Performing Arts) (, , , , , , , , )

So I went to see a performance of Saltimbanco by Cirque Du Soleil last night. It was held at Rod Laver Arena, a sure sign of a large audience. We were in seats that were upstairs and the extra seating added downstairs made the stage seem quite small.  We started to watch the show without the assistance of a program so it seemed very abstract when the performers communicated in high-pitched squeaks, giggles and relied heavily on body language. The people in the more expensive floor seating were given more interaction with the performers with some being driven off their seats while the performers sat in them or when one member of the audience was separated from his shirt. Saltimbanco is based on traditional circus acts involving humans so what we mostly get is clowns, mimes, acrobats and trapeze artists. This is not the show you want to see if you prefer a narrative.

The bodysuit costumes worn by the performers in an array of different colours made them look like chameleons in my opinion apart from a couple with a fan robes that looked like birds.  They did look a little bit like Teletubbies crossed with leprechauns.  The synchronized dance choreography was quite spectacular as they moved in rhythm with the catchy beats. My favourite part of the show prior to the intermission was the Chinese Pole act. Several acrobats climbed up four poles on stage and performed jaw dropping, synchronized routines with amazing precision. Several times the acrobats dropped into free fall down the poles, heads hanging upside down but stopped just short of banging their heads on the floor. Then they swung off and joined the rest of the cast dancing around them. This should have been the opening or the finale though – not a midway act.

Then we are introduced to the clown again who treats us to some  jokes involving noises. Patrons in floor seating are urged to join in. In one instance, the clown pretend swallows a ball and then we are treated to the prospect of him digesting it and what happens afterwards. I really was not a fan of the clown – too many fart gags. The bicycle act was in better taste with an acrobat riding it backwards and forwards and performing somersaults and hand stands on it while it moved.  It was breathtaking to watch.  Then next was a performance with some boleadoras where two performers were using them in a tandem tap dance. It was a cool sight but not up to par as what came in the second half of the show involving the trapeze acts.

After the intermission, we were treated to the skills of a juggler mounted on a set of mini stairs. He stepped up and down these while his juggling balls stayed in motion in the air. Then there was a solo trapeze act set to some melancholy music and it was amazing to see all the somersaults and backflips defying gravity executed. There was not even a safety net underneath! The Russian swing was another highlight where performers jettisoned off it to form a human ladder and then tumbled on to a mat. In addition, male twins playing the role of strong men created human sculptures as they lifted each other, sometimes balanced with only one arm, and posed in positions likely to give an ordinary person muscle sprains while another duo trapeze act took place above.

The clown then involved another patron in a mimicked gun duel and had him follow a lot of poses instructed to him that we even thought he might be a plant except for the fact he didn’t know the steps. To signal the end of the show, four trapeze artists climbed up to the highest point on the arena stage and faced each other. Then after being attached to harnesses like bungee jumping cords, they jump, flip in the air and link their hands. This sequence is repeated several times in time with the music. The timing by these acrobats is so precise which means they avoid things that look like close calls. But then that is probably why they belong in the big leagues as performers with Cirque Du Soleil.

Note: The performers in the videos may not be the performers on tour.

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Wesak, Poson and Esala – Buddhist Festivals of Sri Lanka

05/20/2011 at 10:06 AM (Tradition) (, , , , , , , , )

I guess this is a week late as  the celebration of Wesak – the day Lord Buddha was born, enlightened and passed – was last week. But I think Buddhist rituals don’t get as much publicity as those of other religions so I suppose this post might have something in it you might not have known. I’m just going to stick to the branch of Buddhism I know about within this although I’m aware there are other denominations of Buddhism in Oriental nations. This post is specifically regarding the Wesak, Poson and Esala days in Sri Lanka carried out on the full moon days of May, June and July. The Buddhists here are generally of the Theravadha variety; the Oriental ones are called Mahayana.

The Buddha I pay homage to is this one and he is called Siddhartha Gautama; lots of Western people that have come to know a little about Buddhism tend to confuse him with the Chinese Laughing Buddha. What Buddha means is “one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment” and there are several monks who have been bestowed with this title.

Wesak is the start of the Buddhist festival season in Sri Lanka. When I  lived there, my cousins and I made candle lit Wesak lanterns and lighted small oil lamps to decorate our homes. Many older people used to dress in flowing white and meditate at temples from dawn until dusk. I found that tested my patience but ringing the temple bells was more fun. To me, the little places called Dansal that sold food and the Thorana statues that illustrated stories from Jataka in panels were more interesting and were much more successful in gaining my attention.

Poson is a festival on a smaller scale. It celebrates the introduction of Buddhism to the island of Sri Lanka. A famous story about the King Devanampiyatissa and the Buddhist envoy Arahat Mahinda Thera (son of Emperor Ashoka) meeting up on the sacred rock Mihintale is one that has been told many times and religious processions are held in its honour. You can read the story itself here. Also, Sanghamitta – the sister of  Mahinda Thera, is credited with bringing a sapling of the Bo Tree under which Buddha received Enlightenment to the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.

Esala is another big festival but most of the festivities tend to be held in Kandy near the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa). It is thought the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha is held here. There is a big procession held each July called the Esala Perahera. This parade held in honour of Buddha even has his tooth relic casket transported on the back of the Maligawa elephant draped in decorative robes. In addition, the parade has performances by fire twirlers, whip-cracking dancers, stilt walkers and male Kandyan dancers in traditional clothing who beat drums as they walk. This perahera dates back to the time of King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe who wanted the tooth relic which happened to be the private property of the king to be venerated by the public.

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Murder in Vegas : Picks from An Anthology

05/12/2011 at 10:36 AM (Books, Crime) (, , , , , , , , )

When I first got into mysteries and tales of murder and intrigue, it was through copious volumes of Nancy Drew tales – by the way do you know Carolyn Keene is not one writer but a bevy of them?  I must admit Enid Blyton had a hand in it too what with her Five Find Outers and Famous Five adventure stories.  The most recent crime story related book I read was called Murder in Vegas: New Crime Tales of Gambling and Desperation. It is a collection of crime short stories about Las Vegas edited by Michael Connelly.

Murder in Vegas Anthology


For me, three of the stories particularly stood out: Nickels and Dimes by Ronnie Klaskin, A Temporary Crown by Sue Pike and Iggy’s Stuff by J. Madison Davis.

Nickels and Dimes is a short story about a stop in Las Vegas made by two parents on holiday with two young children.  Once is a bookish sister who tends to have allergies and the other is bit of a tomboy. The father is told by the mother to only use nickels and dimes if he gambles. But he disregards her advice and makes a tidy sum, which he conceals from revealing to her because he used dollars. Then when his young daughter, the tomboy, wants to make her pocket money higher, he places the bets for her and doubles her pocket money. Coming up with a cunning plan, the girl says she wants to nap and she is sent to her room to sleep. But while her parents and sister are in the other room, she sneaks away to take her chances with the slots. When her parents return, they can’t find her in the room or in the hotel and get even more worried when they hear girls have been kidnapped for ransom there.  When they report her missing and the older sister sneezes after receiving a hanky from a lifeguard, she discovers the culprit because of a trick her sister used to play on her using sprigs of lavender.

A Temporary Crown is about a lady who is obsessed about a celebrity and thinks that he is her boyfriend. Somehow she accidentally escapes her confines and meets with a strange woman. This woman who had a temporary crown discards it but fails to notice that a fake pink fingernail also gets dislodged. The celebrity obsessed woman picks up the crown with the fingernail stuck to it and puts it in her pocket because she likes to collect treasures. The woman with the crown then takes this woman who thinks the celebrity is her boyfriend to an apartment and gives her the hotel key. When she goes into the hotel room, the crazy woman sees a murder scene but in her mental incomprehension leaves the temporary crown enmeshed with the fingernail of the true murderer as a tribute.

Iggy’s Stuff is about a stoned pool boy who stumbles upon a murder scene and unwittingly gets involved because of a traffic mishap. He thinks when he gets involved that he is rescuing a woman from a would-be brutal and sadistic rapist but in reality what he is treated to is a staged scene. So when the actors who are responsible for the staging find out the pool boy is a liability because of his accidental heroics, they want to dispose of him but things don’t go quite as they planned.

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Frocks in Film

05/08/2011 at 1:51 PM (Clothes, Fashion, Movies) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

To tell the truth, I’ve been feeling fairly ill this week so this post is going to be rather short. Instead of regaling you with a word fest, I’ll treat you to one of images. So the royal wedding is finally done. I guess Kate Middleton’s lacy wedding dress looked nice although I think there have been far better designs – my father said it looked like our curtains though. Poor McQueen!

So I’ll introduce you to some of the best dresses in movies. Note of warning though – to pull these off, you actually need the type of figure possessed by the wearer.

5. I know this dress appears as a favourite for many but I don’t like this dress because I feel it is designed more for a manly , stick figure than for  soft, womanly curves. So the green number of Atonement takes last place in this list.

Atonement Dress


4. This is a beautiful dress and has been noticed much less. Hollywood unfortunately has a penchant for liking plunging necklines that scream “I am a slut” in a manner lacking class. Contrast that with this sweet number that’s worn by Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer.

3. This dress deserves all its accolades. Sure, it is a bit fussy and ruffly and is rather impractical as regular wear but the design is fantastic. Even if it is old fashioned, this gown worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind should claim its rightful place within the film fashion stakes.



2. This next dress design never really got its due but it is a pretty creation pulled off quite well by film star Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. I admire classy sophistication that still subtly hints at style over being too attention grabbing.

1. Of course, my number one choice is incredibly famous and pulled off by an icon of style. This naturally refers to that little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in her movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

LBD Audrey Hepburn

I do realise fashion is as subjective a topic as music and your ideals of film fashion might be radically different to mine. So feel free to share your views on your favourite frocks!

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