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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Sunday, February 18, 2018

10 Hairy Legs Heat Up the Theatre Project

Part of 10 Hairy Legs company.  Photo: Facebook
When I first saw the term “10 Hairy Legs” I thought we were talking about a mutant spider. Then I learned it is the name of an all-male, New Jersey-based repertory American modern dance company that is in the midst of a 10-state national tour with an all-too-brief stop at the Theatre Project in Baltimore.  #hocoarts

Enchanted by the Winter Olympics figure skating competition in the days leading up to the performance reviewed, I envisioned that 10 Hairy Legs (10HL) would be a natural extension of the artistry, gracefulness, poise, power and creativity displayed by Olympics skaters. 

It was. 

While the stage floor of the Theatre Project is not ice and the five good-looking, physically fit young dancers perform in bare feet as opposed to skates, the snowy, frosty night of 10HL’s Baltimore debut felt like it could have been PyeongChang.

Part of 10 Hairy Legs company.  Photo: Facebook
First-rate choreographers David Parker, Megan Williams, Hedi Lansky, Stephen Petronio and Doug Elkins are ingenious in creating five separate selections each with its own identity, movements and expression as well as utilizing their own specific costume designer.  With the five men (not very hairy legs, but so what?) displaying solid form, technique and precision, Exploring the Artistry of the Male Dancer, overseen by veteran 10HL artistic director Randy James, provides an entertaining glimpse into the breadth and inventiveness of American modern dance.

Unlike classical ballet with its specific positions, style and content, American modern dance contains more unstructured, free-wheeling, improvisational movement that allows for an unlimited amount of creativity. In fact, modern dance is often considered to have emerged as a rejection of, or rebellion against classical ballet.

10HL’s opening number (and my favorite) drives home the point.  Aptly titled “Slapstruck,” Derek Crescenti and Jared McAboy are stuck on each other through black Velcro costumes and engage in slapstick combat with rhythmic moves as they try to decouple from one another.  This terrifically comedic sequence absent of any music ends as they manage to strip down to tee shirts and boxers to escape the Velcro connection. 

 Mr. Crescenti and Mr. McAboy then join Alex Biegelson and Robert Mark Burke in “Quadrivium.” The quartet, displaying proficient, fluid technique, splits up in pairs at times during the sequence engaging in rhythmic moves and intricate lifts.

Alexander Olivieri beautifully performs a short solo (“Solo1”) clad only in shorts.  In this unique number, he uses mainly upper body movements while his legs are basically stationary.

Part of 10 Hairy Legs company.  Photo: Facebook
To Rufus Wainwright’s “Oh What a World,” Mr. Biegelson and Mr. Crescenti pair up in “Bud.” Dressed in black half-shirts and bright red shorts, these dancers heat up the stage with a high level of sensuality through a variety of superb moves both on the floor and through lifts and acrobatics.

The glorious finale, “Trouble Will Find Me,” brings all five dancers in harem pants, performing to a mid-Eastern number by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  This is another freestyle selection in which the performers are entangled, set free, leap, and roll around— all with precision.  

10HL combines athleticism, emotion, energy, technical mastery, ingenuity and range in a power-packed one-hour performance. Unfortunately, there is only one more performance left in this visit to Baltimore. Please check the group’s website to find out more about 10HL and where you could find them next.  The show should not be missed.

Running time. Approximately one hour with an intermission.

Advisory. Some dance sequences contain sensual physical contact and may not be suitable for children under 12.

Exploring the Artistry of the Male Dancer plays through February 18 (3:00 p.m.) at the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., Baltimore, MD 21201.  Tickets and information are available online

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Democrats Must Play the Trump Card

Some pundits have said that for the Democrats to win big in 2018 they should not run against President Donald Trump and instead provide a positive message.  A positive message to be sure and that should include appealing to working class Americans of all stripes. But they should also definitely run against Trump Republicans in every contested seat from the Senate and Congressional races to the governors’ contests and state legislatures down to the local level.

Why?  Because the Republican Party is now the Party of Trump, and the Dems must run against HIM to run against THEM.

With very few exceptions, Republicans have been sucked into the Trump horror show mainly as a result of fear—fear of Trump’s self-destructive but weaponizing tweets, fear of being “primaried,” and the fear of Trump’s base not turning out in November.   #hocopolitics

What used to be a party of chest pounding bravado, they have turned into a squishy band that is weak on Trump. They brag about their “patriotism” yet patriotism does not mean it is okay to allow a foreign government to install a U.S. president of their choice. 

The Republican Congress' steadfast support of Trump is certainly not as a result of principle or ideology.  Recall how the GOP including its evangelical supporters backed Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race –an accused child molester and sexual assaulter—and in doing so, put party over country. 

They support Trump despite his clear incompetence, his complete lack of morals, his corruption, his extreme narcissism, his lying as much as he’s breathing, and his reported cheating on his wife then paying off a porn star to keep her mouth shut.

Yes, the Republican Party and Donald Trump are intertwined.  Every Democratic candidate must couple the words “TRUMP REPUBLICAN” at every turn.  Despite a pre-Rob Porter controversy tiny uptick in the polls, Trump is reviled and remains profoundly unpopular.

Women, young people, and minorities will see this opportunity to repudiate the misogynous and racist president who has churned up the energy and enthusiasm in these key voter blocs. 

Democratic candidates must remind voters about the Charlottesville tragedy when Trump said “there were very fine people on both sides.”   Those fine people included neo-Nazis and members of the KKK.  That should motivate African-Americans and Jews to vote.

Voters must be reminded how Trump has defended all those high profile men who have been accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment and wife beating by insisting they denied it—never exhibiting empathy towards the victims.  And let’s not forget his Access Hollywood admissions. These should further motivate women to vote.

They should remind voters how Trump has played politics with DACA and the Dreamers as well as his vile anti-Mexican comments. They should remember Trump's lack of concerns for Puerto Rico and the degrading paper towel toss.  That should motivate Hispanic voters.

They should remind voters of how Trump mocked and insulted the Gold Star Khan family as well as his Muslim travel ban.  That should motivate Muslims.

They should be reminded how this administration has attempted to roll back key gains and rights for LGBT individuals.  That should motivate that community, their family members and their friends to vote.

Because of their refusal to stand up to Trump and vigorously denounce him publicly, just about every
Republican is complicit with these stains.  While many of them privately do not agree with Trump’s policies and actions on these fronts nor care much for his character, they still must be linked to him because of their reticence.

There is no question that Republicans will label a Dem candidate as a “Pelosi Democrat,” That strategy already worked against Jon Ossoff in the ballyhooed GA-06 race last year.  That is their big weapon plus their overblown tax cuts that mainly benefited the highest income earners and corporations and which have filled the coffers of their donors. That increased the deficit by $1.5 billion paving the way to cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

What Democratic campaigns must avoid is playing the impeachment card. Impeachment is both a legal and political process, which should unfold if and when the circumstances arise. By urging voters to come out to vote for a Democratic candidate because it will make it easier to impeach Trump will also being out rabid Trump supporters, when otherwise may have been dispirited to vote in the mid-terms.   

Play the Trump card: “Trump Republican.” Use that phrase and perhaps Democrats can help make America sane again. 

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Figure Skater Rippon Wins Gold for Pence Snub

Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon  Photo: Instagram
Openly gay figure skater Adam Rippon is poised to begin competition in the Winter Olympics, but before he even stepped out on the ice, he already has given the LGBT community a “short lift” by his reported refusal to meet with Vice President Mike Pence.  Pence, who is leading the United States delegation in South Korea, is the Trump administration’s homophobe-in-chief and architect of the attempt to ban transgender individuals from the armed forces.  Pence’s anti-LGBT record  is notorious.

Rippon will be the first openly gay athlete to compete for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics. Out free skier Gus Kenworthy will also compete.

According to USA Today, Rippon said last month, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I'm not buying it,” referencing the controversial and scientifically discredited practice that seeks to alter an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Rippon, 28, who is from Scranton. Pa. and reports that he was bullied as a youngster, said multiple times that he did not want to engage with the vice president before competing in the Olympics, but that he was open to a discussion after the games. 

“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon told USA Today.

Rippon & Pence    Image courtesy of Gay Times
He adds, “I’m not trying to pick a fight with the vice president of the United States. If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation.”

An unconfirmed report in USA Today indicated that a member of Pence’s staff reached out to Rippon to have a conversation, which according to Business Insider, Jarrod Agen, the vice president's communications director, denied that Pence ever reached out to Rippon. 

“The USA Today report is false and should be corrected. The Vice President's office did not reach out to set up a conversation with Mr. Rippon," Agen said. “As we've said before, the Vice President is supporting all the U.S. athletes in the Olympics and is hoping they all win medals.”

Rippon's words are captured in tweets.

Rippon is being hailed as a hero to the LGBT community for standing up to Pence and all what he represents.  For that, Rippon gets the gold.

UPDATE:  Making his Olympics debut, Adam Rippon's flawless performance on Feb. 11 helped the U.S. win a bronze.  

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Patriot Games

Trump’s words and actions continue his march towards authoritarianism

President Trump has yet to see the distinction between running a family business empire and being president of the United States.  Whereas in the past he could call the shots, he has been frustrated by those pesky checks and balances, which are contained in our Constitution—a document I’m willing to bet he never completely read. #hocopolitics

Starting with a flood of executive orders (legal) at the outset of his presidency he has taken it upon himself to do things on his own.  As he has achieved some footing, his autocratic posture seems to be gaining, and he’s been using “patriotism,” “love of country,” and most recently “treason” to stomp on those with whom he disagrees.

These tactics are becoming alarming.  It was manifested this past fall when he bludgeoned NFL players for taking a knee during the national anthem as a means to protest social inequality for African-Americans.  He twisted the protesters’ message to make it sound like they were criticizing the military, the flag and what-not.  Unfortunately, Trump seemed to have won that messaging battle, conflating the first amendment right to protest with sticking a finger in the eyes of our troops.   This has emboldened him to go all-out patriotic.

This past Monday, he derided Democratic lawmakers who attended the State of the Union Address for not cheering and clapping his Stephen Miller-written words.  At a speech in a plant outside Cincinnati where he was touting the economy that he produced and which the plunging stock market values were juxtaposed on television screens, Trump complained half jokingly but also half seriously that Democrats didn’t cheer like the Republicans did.

“They would rather see Trump do badly than our country do well," the president said of Democrats’ response to his speech last week. “They were like death. And un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yeah. I guess. Why not?” 

“Can we call that treason?” he asked the crowd. “Why not? They certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

His frequent Kim Jong Un-ish self-applause seemed to have made up for the lack of Dems' enthusiasm.

Nonetheless, imagine if President Obama had called the Republicans treasonous when they sat in stone cold silence as he enumerated his vision for the country.  The Republican noise machine would go off the charts.

The White House said he was saying it “tongue and cheek.” But as the president, words matter.
To be responsible, “treason” should be used only when referring to a person “levying war against [the United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

His base may not understand the seriousness of the term, and it was unwise for the president to say it, displaying his ignorance, just for a few yucks from his cultist supporters in attendance.

Sadly, except for a few Democrats like Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the Dems were too silent on Trump’s accusations.  Where are they? The GOP was even more quiet except for Sen. Jeff Flake.

If that wasn’t enough, the Washington Post reported that Trump wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

To be clear, when countries put on such displays, it is mainly to show off to the world their military might, should there be any doubts.  The U.S. rarely has had to go through this garish exercise since the world already is aware of our military power.

But the need to feed Trump’s ego will probably be enough to appropriate funds for this costly spectacle.  I wouldn't be surprised if Trump invites “patriots” to march following the procession of military vehicles, armaments and matériel. Expect to see a few confederate flags to pop up held by some very fine people, maybe a swastika or two, perhaps a march with a goose step. 

That’s how it starts.