: get into the season : our favorite christmas albums :

I am a huge fan of Christmas music. Yes, it can get stale, but there’s something soothing about its spirited nature. While no surprise that some of my most beloved Christmas songs are by artists such as Wham! and N*Sync, this list is dedicated to comprehensive albums that provide holiday cheer from start to finish. In no particular order, here are my most cherished Christmas albums (that have been on rotation for a few weeks now!):

A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him

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Why I Love it: Classic Christmas tunes sung in an old-time fashion, but with an indie rock flare.

Let It Snow by Michel Bublé 

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Why I Love It: This was Michel Bublé’s first Christmas album. While his second, Christmas (also on this list), is the widely popular one, this gem of six holiday classics is pure magic and my favorite of the two.

Christmas by Michel Bublé

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Why I love It: The right mix of cheerful and somber, this bonanza of holiday hits personalized to his special brand of crooner is Michel Bublé’s extended ode to Christmas that leaves you psyched for the season.

Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey

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Why I Love It: Establishing her as the Queen of Christmas, Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey brought us such forever classics as “All I Want for Christmas is You”  and the popped up version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”  Not to mention, the film Love Actually is basically an ode to this hit record.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio

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Why I Love It: If Jazz is your thing (or even if it’s not), this album provides holiday ambiance in the form of instrumental bliss. This is the perfect soundtrack for when you’re quieting down in front of the Yule Log with a glass of mulled wine.

White Christmas by Bing Crosby

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Why I Love It:  For me Bing Crosby is the King of Christmas. This album, sung with classic Bing Crosby gravitas is an all-around classic. I especially love how I got my copy — a serendipitous summertime discovery at a Brooklyn vintage store, price $1.99.

: tis the season : alvin ailey holiday performances kick-off with a star-studded gala :

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature. Photo by Gert Krautbauer

Last week, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday season at New York City Center kicked off with an Opening Night Gala Benefit. The one-night-only benefit performance and party honored BNY Mellon for its major support of the Ailey Organization since 2007, and Agnes & Gerald Hassell accepted on the institution’s behalf.  Film star Chadwick Boseman and actress and Grammy-Award winning artist Brandy served as Honorary Chairs, and the event’s co-chairs were Simin Allison, Kathryn & Kenneth Chenault, Debra L. Lee, Doris & Gilbert Meister, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach and Joan & Sandy Weill. $2.5 million was raised in support of the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey’s extensive educational programs for young people.

The one-night-only program included a performance of David Parsons’ signature gravity-defying male solo Caught, and the world premiere of Ronald K. Brown’s Cuban-inspired Open Door set to music from Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra’s most recent album, Cuba: The Conversation Continues. Alvin Ailey’s beloved Revelations rocked the crowd in a rousing finale to live music with singers that included the incomparable Ella Mitchell.

The celebration continued at the Hilton New York’s Grand Ballroom where approximately 900 guests from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment and philanthropy, including Savion Glover, Andre Holland, Glorya Kaufman, Ricki Lander, New York’s First Lady Chirlaine McCray, Janet Mock, Joe Morton, Arturo O’Farrill, Phylicia Rashad, and Kelly Rowland, Darren Walker, Elaine Wynn, and Malik Yoba, joined in dinner and dancing with Robert Battle, Judith Jamison and the stars of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Throughout December, Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will unveil a variety of premieres, new productions, and special programs. After the New York City Center engagement concludes on January 3rd, Ailey will perform in 20 cities across North America beginning in February. For more information, visit www.alvinailey.org.

SEASON PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:

AWAKENING – WORLD PREMIERE
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4TH
Awakening is a work featuring Robert Battle’s signature taut, ritualistic choreographic style and a score by American composer John Mackey. The much-anticipated world premiere is the first work Battle has choreographed since becoming Ailey’s Artistic Director. Buoyed by the complex rhythmic quality of Mackey’s music (“Turning” and “The Attention of Souls,” the third movement from the symphony Wine-Dark Sea), a dozen Ailey dancers lead the audience on a cathartic journey in this powerful dance of dissonance and harmony, chaos and resolution.

Performance Dates: Dec 4, 5 eve, 12 mat, 17, 19 eve, 22, 24, 26 eve, Jan 2 eve

UNTITLED AMERICA: FIRST MOVEMENT – WORLD PREMIERE
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9TH
In the first installment of a three-part suite to be completed in 2016, MacArthur “Genius” Kyle Abraham, renowned for his avant-garde aesthetic and powerhouse athleticism, explores the lasting impact of incarceration in the prison system on individuals and families across generations. Untitled America: First Movement is a trio set to a contemporary sound score comprised of Laura Mvula’s “Father, Father.” Fusing many facets of dance vocabulary, Abraham’s movement style is decidedly original and contains wealth of physical detail that resonates with the Ailey dancers’ trademark versatility.

Performance Dates: Dec 9, 12 mat, 17, 19 eve, 22, 26 eve, Jan 2 eve

PIAZZOLLA CALDERA – COMPANY PREMIERE
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11TH
Set to music by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky, Piazzolla Caldera is a finely wrought work sizzling with erotic energy by modern dance masterPaul Taylor that captures the essence of tango culture. 12 men and women engage in a series of fiery encounters, in turns playful and predatory, in vivid duets and trios through the work’s four sections in this passionate homage to tango’s Argentinian working class roots.

Performance Dates: Dec 11, 13 eve, 17, 19 eve, 26 eve, Jan 2 eve

EXODUS – 2015 SEASON PREMIERE
Hip-hop choreographer Rennie (Lorenzo) Harris’ critically-acclaimed 2015 season premiere explores the idea of “exodus” – from one’s ignorance and conformity – as a necessary step toward enlightenment. Set to gospel and house music along with spoken word, the work underscores the crucial role of action and movement in effecting change. Exemplifying his view of hip hop as a “celebration of life,” Exodus marks Harris’ latest invitation to return to spiritual basics and affirm who we are.

Performance Dates: Dec 3, 6 mat, 9, 12 eve, 22, 23, 26 mat, 27 eve, 3 mat

REVELATIONS WITH LIVE MUSIC
For one week only, Alvin Ailey’s beloved Revelations will be performed to live music with singers that include the incomparable Ella Mitchell.

Performance Dates: Dec  4, 5 mat and eve

: adele : 25 : you had me at hello :

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Fact, everyone loves Adele. Well, at least everyone I know. There is something about pure vocal talent that transcends music genres and allows for that rare agreement on an artist’s deservingness of stardom. Adele has this in spades. Yet, even for an artist with such hutzpah, the question always looms — have they already shown the world their best work? 

It’s been four years since Adele’s last album, 21, hit shelves / computers. In that time, she’s seen chart topping singles and received critical acclaim. We all know that this is both a blessing and a curse for any artist, creating amazing amounts of pressures for their next release.

A few weeks ago the first single from 25 flooded internet newsfeeds and I can easily say that Adele had me at, Hello. From the soulfulness of its delivery to the lyrics that will resonate with anyone, to the expertly executed music video (yes, even the flip phone), Adele killed it. Which left me wondering, can the entire album deliver like this earworm has?

When my pre-order of the album arrived, it wasn’t even five minutes through the door until the album was on the turntable and I was singing along to my already favorite track 1, Hello. Then came track 2 — could she do it? Could Adele deliver on the promise of Hello. Simple answer, a resounding, YES.

The curiousness of 25 is that it takes us on a musical journey that spans ballads, pop tracks, bluesy country and ties it altogether with the beautiful bow that is Adele’s signature authentic soulfulness.  The honesty with which she writes and sings always grabs our attention. What really got me on this album though was her innate wisdom as she reflects on heartbreak, as well as the way she captures the speed of life, “I feel like my life is flashing by and all I can do is watch and cry…Life was a party to be thrown, but that was a million years ago.”

For several years I have missed the pre-digital music world for the mere fact that we used to value the carefully curated album from start to finish. This is one of the main reasons I started to buy music on vinyl. I like to force myself to listen to an album through and through. In two days, I have already listened to this album in its entirety four times. I can easily say, this is a new staple to my collection.

Don’t miss tracks: (in order of appearance): Hello, Send My Love, When We Were Young, Water Under The Bridge, The River Lea, Million Years Ago.

: a view into nycb : ballet 422 :

Justin Peck in BALLET 422, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Justin Peck in BALLET 422, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

I have been much anticipating the arrival of the documentary film, Ballet 422, by Magnolia Pictures. The film brings together so much of what I love — the arts, ballet (New York City Ballet in particular), Lincoln Center — do I really need to go on?

The film loosely chronicles the creative process for New York City Ballet’s 422 piece, choreographed by the 25 year old Corp de Ballet member, Justin Peck. I say “loosely” since the film takes an artistic route with focus on cinematography and voyeurism over a pure documentary approach.

As we literally walk through the corridors of Justin Peck’s life, we get a glimpse into a world not usually accessible from the seats of David H. Koch theater.  There are vignettes into Justin Peck’s creative process, rehearsals with Principal dancers, consultations with costume design and lighting, pep talks with the orchestra, dress rehearsals, and of course, the piece de resistance — when it all comes together for opening night.

Ballet 422 captured my attention from beginning to end with its seeming simplicity and perfected beauty, which appropriately reflects the spirit of the New York City Ballet. Through the film, I developed a stronger appreciation for the work of the Balanchine grounded troupe and their innovation and modernization of the ballet art form. I came to understand the complexity of what looks in performances to be effortless — fabric selection, the dye process to get the colors “just right”, the thought behind each twirl and the related movement of the fabric, the attention to detail in each hand movement and jump — the effort that goes into it is incredibly impressive.

The film also focuses on humility, with Peck going from proud choreography to Corps de Ballet member in the same evening. While we never truly get to know any of the dancers or even Peck, for that matter, we really aren’t meant to. Ballet 422 is a quiet peak into a world that evokes curiosity and admiration and I was happy to have a view.

Ballet 422 is playing in New York City at Film Society of Lincoln Center (Feb. 6 – Feb. 19) and Landmark Sunshine (now – Feb. 19).

: netflixed : frances ha :

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I haven’t written a post in awhile, but this weekend I watched a film on Netflix that reminded me of why I started this blog and I was inspired to start-up again.

Frances Ha captures in black and white the realities of life in New York City for twenty-somethings with an air of nostalgia mixed with an understanding of the essence of what makes growing up beautiful.

Like many others in its genre, the film tells the tale of a struggling dancer, Frances  (Greta Gerwig), whose dream is simple: to become a member of a respected dance company and to hold on tightly to her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), and their life of adventure.

The film moves through a sequence of simple daily occurrences that artfully depict the complexities of growing up. Frances is stuck in a world where she cherishes her freedom, but is unable to pay her rent and unwilling to become an adult. Contrasted with Sophie, her wild best friend, whose job in publishing and Wall Street boyfriend quickly steer her into the world of moving for love, taking care of aging relatives, and getting married. Exploring the lives of these two characters, the effects of stagnating in one’s youth become painfully clear, as does the understanding of why we must constantly move forward.

This movie is a must see that will resonate with not just young New Yorkers, but with anyone that has learned what it means to truly become an adult.

: alvin ailey american dance theater : episodes :

If you spent any time in NYC during this past holiday session, you definitely saw on every street corner, bus, and subway, ads for Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater season. Prompted by years of urging from family and friends alike, I went to see it in December. The show I attended had three performances, all beautifully choreographed, but only one stood out to me as captivating. For both its story, dance, and music, “Episodes” by Ulysses Dove was what made the show worth it for me. This interpretation of the conflict of mind and heart that arises from love relationships was compounded by enthralling music, lighting, and athleticism. See below for a taste of the show:

: the strokes are back : one way trigger : free download :


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I literally listened to the Strokes last album this week and commented to myself on how brilliant it was and how I wish they would’ve stayed together. While I don’t recall an official “break-up” announcement from the quintet, rumors were flying and many of the members had gone off on side projects. Today, Nylon Magazine made my day by announcing the release of the band’s new single, “One Way Trigger.” While the music takes the cake over the lyrics (sorry, Jules), it is still a solid showing in the rockers’ signature style. Best of all, you can download it for free on their official website: http://www.thestrokes.com. Happy listening.

: song of the day : ellie goulding : lights :

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Last week I did something that I rarely do anymore, I listened to the radio. Not satellite, but good ole fashioned real FM. Between the familiar voice of Elvis Duran (a radio staple since as long as I can remember) and odd public service announcements, I heard a song that I recognized, but that I hadn’t ever really paid much attention to, “Lights,” by Ellie Goulding. Giving it a full listen, I realized how infectious it was when I found myself still listening to it non-stop on Spotify over the next three days. Not only that, but I was listening to loads of Ellie Goulding songs that I never realized were Ellie Goulding, because let’s be honest, who the heck is Ellie Goulding? Sure she’s everywhere these days, but I was not connecting the dots. I’m glad I finally did, because between “Lights”, “Starry Eyed,” and “Anything Could Happen,” I found myself drawn to the beats and lyrics belted out by this vocalist who can do Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Kylie Minogue just as well as she can Adele. Here’s “Lights” a little Monday pick-me-up that may just stay with you for the rest of the week.

: book it : unorthodox : deborah feldman :

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I grew up in a town with a large Hasidic community. We lived side by side, yet I knew very little about their world. Kept separate from secular schools and interactions, the insular culture was a mystery; so when I heard about “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman, I had to read it.

The memoir chronicles the author’s life from childhood through a rocky marriage, the birth of a child, and her eventual separation from her community. Not unlike the Amish, or other conservatively devout cultures, the Hasidic world that Deborah experienced kept its practices close to the vest, regulated childhood education, and used the fear of God as a means to promote devotion.

While this book merely reflects one woman’s experience and not that of an entire community, it opens the door to a world that many outsiders know little about. For example, Feldman describes how female education is relegated to prayer and a few hours of secular studies.  At a recent in person appearance I attended, she noted that her teachers told her and her classmates not to absorb any of the secular education that was mandated.The thought process was that women need to be focused on bearing children and running a household and anything that distracts from these tasks were unnecessary disruptions. In a world where your life revolves around men and children, is there really time for such things as deconstructing the meaning of a Jane Austen novel or learning about the basic anatomy of a human being? Deborah Feldman would probably say, there has to be.

Feldman sought sanctuary at the New York Public Library. Teaching herself English and learning about worlds a hundred years apart from her own, but somewhat culturally similar. In these books, Feldman saw herself in the present and who she could be in the future. She saw a world full of possibility and did not let herself settle for her pre-determined path.

Feldman’s memoir tells the courageous story of her journey to find herself against all odds, to fight for the life she believed in, and to make peace with her decisions along the way. The book closes at the commencement of her new life, which left me with many questions about how she moved forward in such a bold manner. Doing some research on the author, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that she is currently working on a follow-up memoir that relays her more recent experiences of assimilation to non-Hasidic society. Stay tuned!

: five seconds to twin shadow :

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George Lewis Jr., better know these days as Twin Shadow is one of many recent artists full on 80s nostalgia trying to recreate the essence of new wave glamor. My first encounter with Twin Shadow was courtesy of my ever-surprising iTunes library that had the song “Slow” tucked away in its trenches. Taking a break from my go to playlists, I went for random rotations and stumbled upon George’s vocals. An ever-80s fan, I was immediately hooked to the synth, deep vocals, and hypnotic ambiance created by the music and lyrics. I went on to explore Twin Shadow via Spotify and got hooked on the vibe. Is this new music? Technically yes, creatively, no. Is Twin Shadow here for the long haul? Probably not. Will you guiltily enjoy every minute of your Deloriane journey back in time with George’s new album,Confess?Yes. Bottom line, the 80s have been done. Many times over. But those of us who loved the decade will never turn away the opportunity to relive it and we are willing to accept any artists willing to risk their street cred to recreate it.

Today’s song of the day is “Five Seconds” by Twin Shadow. A very catchy tune that takes five seconds to get to your heart.