Jamaican Ballet and Moko Jumbie

By Nicosia Smith

A story of folk songs, reggae and dancehall music is wonderfully told through graceful and skillful dancing.

When watching the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) you get an authentic, down-to-earth Caribbean experience through dance.

Choreographer Renee McDonald, ‘Into The Blue’ (2015), revised 2016, reveals a beautiful mixture of Caribbean integration. Nineteen dancers in blue danced as if the ocean pursued. It was a scene of battles lost and won at sea. Their fluid movements created a lot of waves that took you through the waters with them. The powerful dance moves, although distinctly Caribbean got a twist with official soundtracks from the movies ‘Gravity‘ and ‘Kung Fu Panda‘. To become a ballerina it takes years of training, some dancers begin at 4-years-old. But after seeing this piece these dancers have what it takes for ballet. I believe it should be the next step the company takes.

However, this will take more than just will but on the ground support.

Dance, culture and the arts must become more meaningful to the Caribbean populous. Our love for dance must transform our focus to demand more from our entertainment than street corner parties. It means we must support formal dance projects.

But back to NDTC.

NDTC co-Founder Rex Nettleford choreographed ‘Gerrehbenta’ an all traditional Caribbean folk piece. The folk singing, dancing and drumming in Gerrehbenta is charged with traditions, namely African ones. This piece showcase’s to its fullest that part of the Caribbean culture that was adopted from Africa.

It reminds us of a people brought to the Caribbean against their will. And reflex the content of their minds and the fight in their spirits to survive. I like that even the cloth around the waist and necks of the dancers were interwoven into the piece, as skirts flared and pants waist were tighten. In the center of this dance is a long moko-jumbie like character, with a cow-like mask a-top the colorfully clothed stick frame. The NDTC noted that the dance takes its name from two of the major traditional rites practiced in Jamaica, ‘gerreh’ in Hanover and ‘dinky-mini’ which uses the musical instrument, the benta, in St. Mary.

We have some ways to go to have the Caribbean’s distinct cultural dance styles achieve global recognition but certainly the NDTC is doing their part. And the audience last month at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College felt the same, judging by the thunderous applauding.

 

A Tiger Woods experience

By Nicosia Smith

It’s Spring in New York City and I was going to meet Tiger Woods.

Yes, the Woods.

The occasion, a Barnes and Nobel Event at 33rd East 17th Street.

Excitement bubbling, I entered the book store, I was already late for the 12:30p.m. event, or so I thought. A poster declared, signing on the Fourth Floor, so I confirmed with the book seller.

However, with sincere firmness I was told the signing was closed. For a moment that sounded strange.

So I kept probing. I asked! So no one else is allowed into the event. A resounding ‘no’, I got. My heart sunk. I heard the bookseller vaguely saying – at 9a,m. the store began sharing wrist bands, 300 bands were shared, allowing Woods to sign two books per person.

How naïve can someone be, I thought. How naïve could I be? Could this really have been a free-for-all event, even on International Happiness Day.

I circled in the store. Pondering, strategizing, rethinking and planning my next move.

I was not the only one trying to get in. Others were too. I got as far as the entrance to the Fourth Floor. A wired security guard was checking for wrist bands.

I watched.

There must be a way, I thought. Seeing Woods may be off the table, but maybe, I can get a signed book. Determined, I went to buy a book. Selling the book, the bookseller reiterated, I will not get it signed. I bought the book.

I returned to the escalator, at the ascent of the Fourth Floor. But who can get it signed for me?

The first person I asked, did not hear me or so I thought. Another man I asked was willing but already had two books. I changed to the other side of the escalator.

it was getting closer to 1 p.m. The event was closing at 2p.m.

I was desperate and I needed a bathroom break. As a slender man came-by with one book in hand – I made a move. I reached out my book pleadingly. Looking at the security he wanted confirmation to take it. Sensing his agitation I yelled, ‘you are allowed to have two books signed’. Satisfied he took the book. “Are you going to wait for it,” he asked, ‘Yes I said’. trying not to shout, ‘are you kidding me, you bet I am waiting’. “Do you know him,’ a man looking on asked, ‘No’, I replied. He too was trying to see Woods.

I moved to the descending end of the escalator and waited. I waited, waited and I waited!

Children, parents, grandparents and entire families came down. Lawn chairs, lunch bags and blankets in hand. The press interviewed, photographers shoot and book scalpers sought to buy the signed books. By this time, I was painfully awear that I could not withstand nature’s call much longer. But not wanting to leave I prayed the wait would end. I kept trying to remember the exact description of the kind man – blue flannel shirt and tall. Panic stepped in, is that all! Should I be remembering something else I asked myself.

I hope he does not take off the flannel shirt, I hope he remembered me and I hope I am not going to be ‘stiffed’. One man shouted toward the escalator: “How does he look?” Holding his signed book, “buff,” the man respond. Descending, they gently hugged their books, some smiled, proclaiming Woods’ generosity. In my mind I though, Woods must be tired. By now he had signed hundreds of books. One hour had passed.

But where is my book? Where is my book?

Then I saw him, to say I was happy to see him would be an understatement. I was ecstatic, thrilled and kept smiling at him as he descended the escalator. Looking at me, a slender man in blue fannel shirt, he remembered. Thank you, thank you, I said. As I held the book, I realized that I do not know his name – I forgot to ask him his name, but I will always remember him – my Tiger Woods replacement.

“The 1997 Masters-My Story,” by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein, will always mark International Happiness Day for me.

 

 

Hi Misty

 

By Nicosia Smith

Her glorious stresses spilling over her shoulder, did not hide that signature smile.

Prima, Ballerina.

Misty Copeland.

Standing behind a packed seating area on the Fourth Floor at the Barnes and Nobel Event, I listen.

American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) first black principal dancer, was enthralling all with her eloquence. It is an astronomical achievement for Copeland, who accomplished what many before her did not. And even she admitted, during conversation with Damaris Lewis, her struggles. ‘It’s hard to accept that people can judge you base on something you have no control over’, Copeland said, speaking on her skin color.

Nevertheless she stressed, ‘I think it is important for me to represent’.

One cannot deny that ballet companies are very white. It took 75 years for ABT, one of three major companies in America, to make that ‘principal move.

It was a joy to see the numerous kids and parents in the audience. Their smiles and giggles of excitement could not be hid. As they held ‘Firebird’ dolls and books. Neither did they shy away from the microphone, asking a barrage of questions.

One wanted to know when she will take the stage again. Copeland in her signature “Hi,” before every response explain, ‘It’s so hard…I needed a year off’. Next month, she is set to perform ‘Giselle’, in Mascat, Oman. And the follow up, how does she remain motivated to continue dancing?

“I love what I do, I love going on stage and performing.”

Debbie Allen Dance Academy dancer enquired when she met the iconic Allen. At around 14-years-old, Copeland recall, she worked with Allen in the Chocolate Nutcracker playing Clare, while Allen played Oz. That was in her second year as a classical dancer. Allen is a pioneer in the field of contemporary dance.

On March 20, I attended the Tiger Woods signing, and Copeland’s the next day. At the first, scalpers were trying to buy books, wired security guards blocked the Fourth Floor entrance, suits milled around with strict wrist band enforcement.

No such thing at Copeland’s signing, even at 7p.m. – opening time, I could still  purchase a book and get a wrist band. What a difference a day makes.

And then it was time.

  • “Hi Misty,” I said, and there was that signature smile saying with a raspy slightly hoarse voice, “Hi.”

Signed “Ballerina Body,” by Misty Copeland in hand, I walked off the stage with a satisfied feeling.

 

 

Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris

Ask the Agent

mary norris new small (1 of 1)Mary Norris started working at The New Yorker  thirty-one years ago, in the editorial library, moving on to the collating department and the copy desk. Since 1993, she has been a page O.K.’er, or query proofreader.  She has written for The Talk of the Town and contributes to the New Yorker books blog.  She is working on a memoir about having a transsexual sibling, the legendary Baby Dee.  You can read Mary’s fabulously entertaining blog: “The Alternate Side Parking Reader.”

 By the way, if you want to learn more about copy editing from those who are the best in the business,  check out: The New Yorker Festival (October 16-18). This year  there is  a master class in copy editing, on Sunday, October 18th, at 2 P.M., with Ann Goldstein, the head of the copy department; Elizabeth Pearson-Griffiths; and Mary Norris. A program guide to the festival is…

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Libraries – read, dream and become

By Nicosia Smith

For some it is their favorite place, where words and images spring off sheets of paper and tug at the heart.

Inspiring and giving reasons to change.

It is where the international and local meet and communities are invited to join in.

And kids can dream.

There are very few places where you can get this escapism for free. But I am grateful for this mostly publicly funded oasis – the library.

I have personally discovered societies the world over through the library. Even though, television has played its part in my discoveries.

But at the library I could feel and touch a book. There, I am much closer to Europe, Africa and North America. And I love it.

At  the Library I dreamt about the places I would visit, before stepping unto dusty and unpaved streets in my small town.

The Public Library – A Photographic Essay,” by Robert Dawson published in April brought back all my early library memories.

This book tells the importance of libraries across America, from the smallest to the largest of them. It took 18 years to complete and involves Dawson’s, immediate family, that is, his wife and son. So in the rare book room of the Strand Bookstore on 12th Street, I listen to Dawson tell the back-story behind his book.

I wanted very much to know what was new on the public library scene. And more importantly the similarities and differences of the library experience.

“We have a lot that we share…that was one of the surprising things,” Dawson said he found. And I agreed when he said that libraries were more about communities and less about the books themselves. But he also warned that it is not to be taken for granted, because there are no guarantees we can keep the current library structure.

In this technological age, it is places like the library that one can still go for a human touch.

That is, speaking to a librarian or an assistant and most of all, engaging with another mind. In contrast, different from having our fingers clued on our cell-phones with our eyes firmly fixed in the same direction.

I hope that libraries remain for a long time, to remind us why meeting, reading and conversing is so important.

 

 

 

FiFa World Cup decision Sunday

Bellaggio, next to the Vancouver Convention Center, Canada Place, has a welcoming sign for sporting fans needing a place to watch the game. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Bellaggio, next to the Vancouver Convention Center, Canada Place, has a welcoming sign for sporting fans needing a place to watch the game. (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Come Sunday sporting fans around the world will be glued to their televisions.

And for what, to see the crowning of the FiFa World Cup champion.

One month of agony and defeat for some and marvelous joy for others will come to an end.

This world-cup has brought much lamentation for the host nation Brazil.

Namely, a 1-7 defeat by Germany in the semifinals.

And having to watch Argentina in the finals against Germany cannot be easy for Brazilians.

But this World Cup has also showed us that a team USA slogan, “I believe we can win” push the team out of the group of death. And this hope produced a record breaking 16 saves by team USA goal keeper Tim Howard.

I have embraced this world-cup like I have done many others, but I have lamented it as well.

Not only because teams I have supported have lost, like Brazil, but also for football itself.

While I have seen some teams fight to the last drop, others have given up so easily.

Others have disgraced themselves by un-sportsman like conduct. And whole teams have been embarrassed by their federations.

Financial disgrace, that is. Some teams did not have sufficient funds to sustain themselves at the tournament.

I love football, but much more needs to be done for this sport by the governments of these national teams.

So many children have attended these games and many of them may become players.

FiFa should ensure that they reach a better sport, worthy of the love it is lavish with.

So which ever spot you find yourself watching the game on Sunday enjoy, enjoy! I will be watching too.

 

Vancouver Art Gallery Gumhead spike public interest

Passersby and gallery goers stick gum on Gumhead, installed adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Howe Street. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Passersby and gallery goers stick gum on Gumhead, installed adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Howe Street. (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

By Nicosia Smith

Whenever you chew a gum in public, in almost every case your next thought is where to stick it.

Well, Vancouver based international artist and writer Douglas Coupland has come up with an idea.

It is interactive and all it asks, is that you stick gum on a head – an image of the artist.

Now here is where it gets sticky, the gum-head head is located only at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

It is Coupland, Gumhead, a public art work commissioned by the Gallery.

No matter what your thoughts are about gum, it is intriguing.

This project makes you feel the need to explore in your head, how gum has served art.

And how exactly is gum serving art you are likely to ask?

Since this 7-foot tall sculpture only calls on passersby and gallery goers to chew gum and paste it on its head.

And that in it self, you can argue is art.

And here is another thought that was shared with me.

One gallery host explain that the public in many cases deface public art, so why not make their input apart of the art.

And a lot of people seem to agreed.  The public has not shied away.

For those of you who enjoy sticking gum in public, it is a dream art project.

For those that don’t, well there is the cringe effect.

Since it went on view May 31, this once plain black-head is now

Douglas Coupland: Gumhead, 2014 made from steel, milled foam, resin and gum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Douglas Coupland: Gumhead, 2014 made from steel, milled foam, resin and gum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

sticky, multi-colored and almost covered with chewed gums.

I must admit I was not chewing gum and sticking it on Gumhead.

Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the numbers that came off the street to add to Gumhead.

Coupland, has described this work as “a gumbased, crowdsourced, publicly interactive self-portrait.”

Through September 1, the public can take part in this very unique work.

Coupland is also exploring the singularity of Canadian culture, technology and the power of language in Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything. The artist is shedding light on what he terms “the 21st century condition.”

A glimpse of Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything exhibit, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Nicosia Smith photo)

A glimpse of Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything exhibit, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

So my border friends go ahead, chew and paste if this takes your fancy.

 

 

FIFA World Cup brings Goal for television

By Nicosia Smith

Social media have quite a lot of power, but for one month a more traditional device takes the lead.

It is that time of the year when televisions around the world are hugged or threaten.

Yes, it is most cherished.

And why does the television become so important, in most of the world, two words FIFA WORLD CUP.

In Africa; South, Central and Latin America; Europe; Asia; North America and Australia, cheers and jeers are directed to the television.

It is an equalizer for one month (June 12-July 13).

In most of the world it will be the one thing that can get a conversation going.

But be careful. Tread lightly. Feel your way through first, before speaking badly about any of the 32 teams

World Cup T-shirt (Nicosia Smith photo)

World Cup T-shirt (Nicosia Smith photo)

.

Because it is also a very passionate time. Some come to bodily blows in defense of their  teams.

It takes considerably strong restraint to be neutral, and it is very difficult to think straight in the heat of the moment.

For the next couple of weeks, I will be watching more television sports than I did in the last four years.

And all of it will be football.

I will get additional news on twitter and post my updates on Facebook, of course.

Nevertheless, it is the television set that I will mostly watch. And if at all on the internet, it will be on the go.

Every four years I get a thrill and excitement from football that is unequal.

So, as the world meets in Brazil I join them from Brooklyn, through my television.

Jean Dubuffet far from ordinary

 

jean dubuffet

A Jean Dubuffet sculpture with his paintings in the background at Sotheby’s, NY,NY. (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Jean Dubuffet.

He is far from conventional or traditional, this French painter and sculptor.

Forty-four of his works are on display at Sotheby’s, Jean Dubuffet – A Fine Line.

This selling exhibit runs through June 13 and gives a very colourful depiction of Dubuffet’s (1901-1985) works.

His paintings carry a lot of wide-eyed ghost-like reflections and is a theme throughout the display.

It is hard to say what the images, which are spread out across the paintings, are trying tell us. At times they are still, drifting or just there.

It’s an exhibit that will certainly make you stop and ponder.

Sotheby’s abuzz with British Guiana stamp

stamp

The 1856 One-Cent Black-on-Magenta on display at Sotheby’s York Avenue, NY, NY. (Sotheby’s image)

 

By Nicosia Smith

There is a buzz in the world of stamp collectors.

And this is why.

The British Guiana 1856 One-Cent Black-on-Magenta will soon go on sale.

And it is estimated to be sold for between $10M to $20M when it goes on auction June 17  at Sotheby’s (On display until Friday).

All by itself, the stamp takes center stage on Sotheby’s first floor, far right corner.

A very wired guard at the entrance of the exhibit keeps a keen eye, before you reach the descending few stairs to the stamp.

The significance of the occasion rests on you.

stamp

The verso of the British Guiana one-cent magenta stamp showing the initials and marks of some previous owners. (Sotheby’s image)

In a darkly lit room, there it was, a small florence-like beam shining on it.

While a very knowledgeable attendant nearby gives you a history of the very famous and rarest stamp in circulation.

Such a small object, but holding so much significant history. I took a moment.

According to Sotheby’s, in July 1850 British Guiana form an inland postal service.

And in 1852, British Guiana began receiving regular postage stamps, manufactured in England by Waterlow & Sons.

But in 1856, a shipment of stamps from England was delayed and threatened a disruption of postal service throughout British Guiana.

Colonial postmaster, E.T.E. Dalton, got local printers Joseph Baum and William Dallas, to print a contingency supply of postage stamps

Baum and Dallas were publishers of the Royal Gazette newspaper in Georgetown, British Guiana at the time.

They attempted to mimic the appearance of the Waterlow stamps and produced a series of three definitive stamps for the colony: the One-cent Magenta, a four-cent magenta, and a four-cent blue.

The one-cent magenta stamp is the sole survivor from its series.

I was told that the printing press for the one-cent magenta still survives in now Guyana, formerly British Guiana.