I’m Breaking Free and Introducing Me…

This past weekend was a flashback to my childhood as Disney Channel had a whole weekend full of Disney Channel Original Movies in celebration of the 100th movie premiere. It is always the nostalgia that makes us wish for simpler times where memories flood back like a waterfall and you wished every day you could break into song for no reason without someone giving you side-eye.

The storylines don’t change much – finding yourself, learning that people are more important than things, and understanding that having integrity can lead to success. These popular television movies have catchy tunes that tie each story together, whether it is a full-blown musical or a theme song, it bring the soul alive and revives a little child in all of us.

Watching all these movies made realize that two songs really stand-out from the crowd for me which are “Breaking Free” from High School Musical and “Introducing Me” from Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam; both were written by the same person – Jamie Houston. Lyrically, these songs have a vulnerability to them. The ability to show someone your true self. In a world full of judgements and status quo, people constantly trying to put you in a box that formulates to their own images of who they think you are can make you feel like the walls are always closing in, but “Breaking Free” is a duet that creates a bubble that negative opinions can’t penetrate.

“You know the world can see us
In a way that’s different than who we are
Creating space between us
‘Til we’re separate hearts
But your faith it gives me strength
Strength to believe
We’re breakin’ free”

As an adult, have you ever notice that the first thing we ask people when meeting them is what do you do for work? In college, you ask someone where they are from? In high school, you ask someone what activities they are into, but in elementary school it simple. You ask someone if they want to play. When we meet people, we try anyway to connect with someone, but when you are young there are no walls up. You are an open book, honest and truthfully. Your heart is on your sleeve and telling someone your most intimate secrete isn’t terrifying.

“If you wanna know, here it goes.
Gonna tell you there’s a part of me that shows,
If we’re close, gonna let you see everything,
But remember that you asked for it.
I’ll try to do my best to impress,
But it’s easier to let you take a guess, at the rest,
But you wanna hear what lives in my brain, my heart,
Well, you asked for it
For your perusing,
At times confusing,
Possibly amusing…
Introducing me!”

Find something to hold on to. Beauty, art, and music are important, it gives people hope. So, in hopes that the rest of you let that wall down a little and really tell us who you are; here is a little about me:

Reading is my favorite past time
And I get truly excited when lyrics rhyme
Listening to violins brings me peace of mind
And when you smile I know it is all going to be just fine
So remember that I’m right here
No judgement from me should you fear
And in time that wall will come down
In hopes that laughter and imagination will always be around

For music click here!

Advertisements

Justin Peck: A Choreography Role Model for the Millennial Generation

imageBeing a dancer takes sacrifice, while being a choreographer takes vulnerability.  The documentary “Ballet 422” explores the development of twenty-five year old Justin Peck’s ballet creation “Paz de La Jolla.”  In 2013, within two months, he set New York City Ballet’s 422nd creation to a musical composition from 1935 by Bohuslav Martinu.  The ballet featured three company elite principal dancers (Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin, and Amar Ramasar) along with a 15-member corps.  Peck explores a contemporary ballet style with constant fluidity and directional changes.  His style, movement quality, and confidence reminds me of Jerome Robbins’ work where he intertwines movement within a story while bringing the audience deeper into the musicality of the composition.  Peck uses every beat from the quick sound of the violins to the strong brass blows that brings the piece of music truly alive.  His attention to detail and specifics from hand placement to body angles for a lift shows his ability to create strong work like Balanchine.

Peck had a modest start in dance training in tap at age 9.  It wasn’t until he was 13 years old that he started training in Ballet after he saw an American Ballet Theater performance of “Giselle” that inspired him.  At 15, he moved to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet where he ultimately joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 2006 at 18.  From there, Peck rose through the ranks.  In 2007, he became a member of the corps, and as he continued to choreograph and dance his career flourished, and in 2013 he received the title of soloist.

As a choreographer, Peck produced his first Ballet in 2008.  He found success in the Company’s Choreographic Institute.  In 2013, when the documentary was created, he was commissioned to create the only new Ballet of that year for the winter season at 25 years old.  Now at 28, Justin Peck is a soloist at the New York City Ballet and has become one of the most requested choreographers in the Ballet world.  In 2014, he was appointed Resident Choreographer of the NYCB; only the second person in the history of the NYCB’s 68 year institution to hold such a title.  Peck has choreographed 25 works for companies all over the world such as San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, LA DanceProject, and the Paris Opera Ballet. His choreographic work – “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes” was award in 2015 with a Bessie for outstanding production.  His focus for the work was about finding a balance between athletics and artistry.  It was primarily an all male cast with men partnering men. It explored that aspect of the men being the center of attention instead of the women, which was a refreshing view considering other Ballet casting structure.

The documentary “Ballet 422” brought the audience into a behind the scenes peek at a young choreographer as his career was beginning to explode.  Unlike most documentary, there was no interviews with any of the members of the production.  The viewer saw the the blood, sweat, and tears that went into “Paz de la Jolla” without verbal interjection.  Seeing Peck develop the work through movement studies in the studio alone as he sketched out formations and movement phrases showed that artists truly need time away from others to be creative.  Many artists are all about control, but Peck seemed to understand that it is important to let others interject in the creative process as it makes the work better as a whole from the costume designers to the dancers.  He seems to have an open forum for the people he works with that makes him approachable as the work is developed in a collaborative atmosphere.

Justin Peck is a forward thinker. Someone who thinks outside the box as a choreographer, dancer, and collaborator, which makes him push the boundaries as an artist.  Mikhail Baryshnikov said, “I found that dance, music, and literature is how I made sense of the world…it pushed me to think of things bigger than life’s daily routines…to think beyond what is immediate or convenient.”  Watching the end of the documentary as you see Peck walk away and preparing to dance after watching his piece on stage, I imagine that the wheels never stop turning for someone who is multi-talented from development to artistic you need consistent evolution.

Frank Sinatra at 100 Still Has Got The World On A String

imageWhen I think of romance and love, the first person that comes to mind is Frank Sinatra.  The backing brass and big band sound, accompanied by his smooth and calming voice that flows through the lyrics of classics such as Fly Me To The Moon, Love and Marriage, and I’ve Got The World On A String gives me chills.  These songs bring me into an image of a club in the 1940s as people dance cheek to cheek.  Sinatra is one of the best selling artists of all time.  He has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, and is considered one of the most popular and influential artists of the twentieth century.

He was more than a singer.  Sinatra was an actor, producer, director, and he created a vision and persona around all that he was as an artist.  A perfectionist, known for his impeccable dress sense.  Image and sound were important to him.  He always insisted on recording his band live during sessions so the sound was organic.  Being a singer that learned music by ear and never learned to read music, I think he needed the sound to be live because it was how he learned to sing and react to the instruments being played.

It is the year of Sinatra’s centennial as society celebrates a hundred years of his existence.  Even though he is gone, his legacy lives on through his music and movies.  In the film On The Town, a construction worker asks Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin “What can happen in one day?”  It isn’t important what can happen in a day, but those moments in a day that can change you as a person over a lifetime.  He did that with every word he sang.  What is interesting is the songs that Sinatra sang were never songs he wrote, but collaborations with various composers and lyricists – he was the one that made the songs famous; he was the one that made them classics.

Come Fly With Me, Witchcraft, and All The Way are iconic, and the epitome of sound that Sinatra stood for during the 1950s.  In 2016, the 1950s are starting to show back up in music like with Panic! At The Disco’s new album Death of A Bachelor.  It is full of trumpets, big drums, but a mix of rock n’ roll on tracks such as Crazy = Genius. Other artists like Michael Buble have that same old style, no matter how pop he tries to be.  Songs like Haven’t Met You Yet, You and I, and Everything remind me that heartbreak can be minded, dreams can still be a reality, and a smooth voice can give you hope.

Sinatra followed and idolized artists like Bing Crosby.  He wanted to work hard, and for everyone else to follow suit.  In 1945 & 1946 he sang on 160 radio shows, recorded thirty-six times, shot four films, and performed up to forty-five times a week singing up to a hundred songs daily.  He won eleven Grammys over his career.  He release one hit after another, but my favorite will always be Young At Heart.  Granted it isn’t one of his more popular songs, but the lyrics by Carolyn Leigh defines what it is like to get older and still feel that coloring or swinging in the park is great idea.  In the words of Frank –

“You can go to extremes with impossible schemes.
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
And life gets more exciting with each passing day.
And love is either in heart, or on it’s way.
Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart.”

Amy Winehouse – Another Lost Legend

Asif Kapadia, the director of the released documentary Amy stated, “She was the unlucky one to be having a nervous breakdown in the public eye.” Amy Winehouse was a singer all to similar to Kurt Cobain.  An artist in her own right that wasn’t ready for celebrity.  The scrutiny, judgement, and overbearing view of the press and the general public.  She was always a punchline to a joke, and instead of showing support and love with her struggles and misfortune society laughed.  Her drug abuse, alcohol addiction, and bulimia was pushed off as self sabotage when it was a cry for help.  A cry for help that started when she was young.

Her mother couldn’t control her bad behavior and instead of doing something about it, Janis Winehouse never said no, and never disciplined.  Her father, Mitch Winehouse left when Amy was nine years old.  After his disappearing act she became promiscuous, skipping school, and got into drugs and smoking.  She felt that no one cared, so why should she care either.  It seemed that her friends became her family.  Lauren Gilbert, Juliette Ashby, and Nick Shymansky became the people that would do their best to protect her, make the right choices, and they were the ones who tried to get her to go to rehab before the alcohol and drugs got worse in the height of her success; unfortunately they failed.

In the film, it showed that Amy was her own worse critic. She made the statement, “I’m not a natural born performer. I’m a natural singer, but I’m really quite, shy really.”  She grew up idolizing great jazz singers such as Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Artists who come along once in a lifetime, and become classic greats in the history of music.  When Amy released the album Back to Black she made it in that history book.  She had an edge and honesty in the album that could relate to people.  The hit single “Rehab” made her a superstar and celebrity, which in her state of being with the alcohol, drugs, and self-conscientiousness would be her down fall.  The album is full of sadness, heartbreak, and regret.  In “Love Is A Losing Game” the lyrics express falling in love being a series of mistakes:

“One I wish I never played
Oh what a mess we made
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game”

The song “Back to Black” is one of my favorite on the album as her deep, raspy voice flows over the lyrics and melody just like Frank Sinatra’s style way of carrying the audience over the emotion of every word she breathes.  She loved being in the studio – developing new songs, playing instruments, and learning and honing everything about her craft as a singer and musician.  The song “Back to Black” was more than just about losing her lover.  It was seemed to foreshadow her fate.  She sings:

“You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black”

One of the final scenes in the movie that really stuck with me was when she was watching a video of herself singing with her bodyguard Andrew Morris.  Andrew said that during that time Amy said, “I would give it back, if I could walk down the street.”  Those few words expressed what really mattered to her.  Being normal.  Not living in a fish bowl.  Her life ended tragically by a drug overdose and I still don’t think society has learned anything from the loss of artists like Amy.  For them to continue to create the music we love, they need respect.  Personally, the paparazzi and the people trying to make a buck by making artists sign objects doesn’t show any of kind of respect.  The best you can do for an artist is show your support by going to concerts, posting their music and videos to social media, as well as continuing to listen and be a fan of their work.

“That’s Just The Way It Is” – Straight Out of Compton

In the song Been There, Done That, Dr. Dre raps, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.”  This song came out in 1996 after he parted ways with Surge Knight at Death Row Records, and the aftermath was all that was left from N.W.A and the first ride as a solo artist and producer.  I think this song stands for everything that happened.  This line expresses the importance of truth and vision, and that is what separates you from the masses.  All the members of N.W.A had parted ways back in 1991 where cheap shots at one another in their music filled the air ways.  Boys that grew up in Compton fell apart when money became the focus of their arguments.  When you grow up in an environment where money has always been the for front of an argument who keeps you grounded?  I think the million dollar question is how does a brotherhood of boys that grew up in Compton together, go from having each other’s backs to slinging insults?

I have been hearing the phrase “That’s just how it is” a lot, and with every fiber of my being, I hate that phrase.  N.W.A never accepted the status quo.  Easy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella, and Arabian Prince pushed boundaries with their music. F*** the Police gave people a voice who didn’t have one, who were getting abused for being a different race, and brought to the for front of society the abuse of power that was being thrown around in the depths of the hood.  It was never meant to start a riot or dangerous activity.  It was meant to inspire and drive people to do the right thing if authority was taking advantage of you.  So, why do we in the 21st century still feel that accepting what is considered the rule as what is?

In every part of my career and drive to be in the entertainment industry, I have never accepted people telling me “You are never going to change that,” “That’s just how it is,” or “That’s how it works around here.” Ice Cube and Dr. Dre fought against the unfair pay and contracts they were given as apart of Ruthless Records and N.W.A; and when they hit their breaking point, they stepped away from the group and did their own music, their way. I wonder what would have become of N.W.A had the blow out not happened.  What would they have created had Easy-E not died in 1995?  What if Jerry Heller actually cared about the men in the group and not just the money?  N.W.A were striving to be well-known artists in Compton, but they became a generation of men that turned the music industry on its head into a voice to be heard.  They put rap music into popularity and wrote lyrics that wasn’t coated with a string of lies and fantasy, but more of a sense of reality they dealt with everyday.

In the end, N.W.A was family.  Even when they were fighting they ultimately forgave each other for everything, because in the end, all they were doing was being honest and expressing themselves.  The beauty behind the madness was always the music, and honesty was what they chased.  I think they said it best:

“When I start expressing myself, Yella slam it
Cause if I stay funky like this, I’m doing damage
Or I’mma be too hyped and need a straight jacket
I got knowledge and other suckers lack it”
-Express Yourself (N.W.A)