Sunday, 22 February 2015

Goth Bloggers Meeting at Sleepy Hollow Ballet in Washington DC

Me and Goth Gardener
As I mentioned in the Homework Assignment post, I am spending three months in Washington DC. It is to do with my studies but luckily I do have time for social life too. Today I met the lovely goth blogger Goth Gardener at the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, after the Sleepy Hollow Ballet! First I review the show and then tell about our meet up.

The show itself was ok. The first half of the ballet was better, the choreography was decent and the set was nice. So were the costumes though they weren't as elaborate and wonderful as I had thought. Some of the innovations for props were lovely, for example the horses Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman rode. They were sort of steampunkish and rough but beautiful. 

I was surprised how much media was used during the show. They screened texts at the back wall during some of the dances, introducing characters and to tell one story that Ichabod Crane was reading from a book. I was not disturbed by the decision to screen them, but I had not seen stuff like that before in a ballet. Usually information like that is in the little leaflets one can buy before show. 

I sat on the balcony, the second best seat, and unfortunately I could not see half of the texts that appeared on the back screen during the performance. There was some ornamental fabric hanging from the front of the stage. So one really big fat minus for the settings because of that! How could they not think about a thing like that? My ticket cost more than 100 dollars and I could not see the bloody texts! They were really vital on the story inside the ballet, that Mr. Crane was reading. I did not have a clue what was going on in the story, since it was not part of the original Sleepy Hollow short story.

That was on the second half of the show and I must say it was a disappointment. The horror story was interrupted by some weird scene of pumpkins. Even worse, those pumpkins were small children, who danced a little dance. Most of the audience said "Aww!" But me and as I would later find out, Goth Gardener too, thought it was creepy. What would the people of Sleepy Hollow do with pumpkins? Carve them

The interruption continued with the other short story inside the main story Sleepy Hollow. It was some weird village theater and it was poorly executed. It was supposed to be funny I guess, with one of the dancers pretending to be a dog that peed everywhere. I think it might have been another short story by Washington Irving, who is the author of the Sleepy Hollow ghost story, but I could not see the darn texts on the back of the stage!

Our reaction to the second half.
Some things about the show and architecture differed from European ballet and opera houses. I found that interesting, so I am going to share it with you. First of all it was odd that I could not see the orchestra from the balcony. In all opera and ballet houses I've been you must see the orchestra or at least the conductor. The music is what brings the show to life and therefore the conductor is one of most important persons. As soon as you see the conductor appear, you are going to give a round of applause! In order to do that you need to see the person.

The other thing I found different and irritating too was the habit of spotlights on main characters (dancers) in group dances or scenes. The light of the spots was too cold, it did not highlight the lead dancers well, instead they made it harder to enjoy of the whole choreography the dancers were a part of. When they were alone on the stage it was pointless too, the light made the set vanish a bit since many of the sets were screened and that is light too. Besides, we could see the dancers clearly anyway. I have not noticed this habit in the ballets I've seen in Helsinki or Paris. I am pretty sure they do not do it, though of coarse they might just do it well and therefore I had not noticed it. 

Third thing that was uncommon for me was that people would eat candy and stuff during the show. Not a lot of coarse and not most of the people I'm sure, but when the woman next to me started to rustle her M&M's I just kindly turned to her and said "Excuse me, could you please NOT? Thank you." 

Now to the more fun part of the evening; the goth bloggers meeting! I read from Goth Gardener's blog, that she and her man were going to see the ballet and since I am in DC and thought the ballet and another goth would be nice to see, we decided to see also each other. 

We met after the show and went to the cafeteria to grab a bite. Goth Gardener was so nice and sweet and it was tremendous that we both did not like the show so much! She said she had worried for a fleeting moment that I might not like her, since she is so quirky. I laughed and said, that why should I not have liked her, since she wrote about her life and thoughts in her blog! I was a tiny bit worried that I would not be like she might have thought based on my blog posts, since till recently I have been quite private even though my blog is public! 

Here we are (yet again) on royal red carpet. :D All pictures except the second photo of the Sleepy Hollow poster and stuff was taken by Goth Gardeners man, so a big and warm thank you for him! 

We had a great time, even so that it was a bit hectic to try to get her and her man to the train on time. The weather was a bit inconvenient, snow and wind, but luckily our winter coats were warm and Goth Gardener even had an umbrella, with extremely cute print!

Thank you for reading! Me and Goth Gardener plan to meet again and go do some quirky and goth-y stuff, and we both most certainly are going to blog about it!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Creepy Reads Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Today I am going to write about Neil Gaiman's book, or a new fairy tale, The Sleeper and the Spindle, which I found in the department of children's books in Tate Modern's museum shop. I must say that when I was in London, the museum shop of Tate Modern was the best book store I visited.

Many of you certainly know Neil Gaiman's works, the more familiar ones are perhaps The Sandman graphic novels, Neverwhere novel and tv-series, and of coarse Stardust and American Gods. The illustrator of The Sleeper and the Spindle is British Chris Riddell, who has been writing and illustrating books for children and youth since the 90's. I checked his webpage and was thrilled by his The Sleep of Reason series and also added one of his books to my reading list due to its title: Alienography or How to spot an alien and what to do about it.

The elements of Gaiman's fairy tale are familiar. A young queen, who has skin white as snow and hair black as raven, learns from a group of dwarfs her kingdom is threatened by a plague of sleep, that is emerging from the neighboring kingdom. Everybody who doesn't flee falls asleep for all eternity, unless a curse is broken. The curse is coming from a castle, surrounded by roses and thick thorns. Sounds familiar, right? It would seem that Snow White has defeated her evil stepmother and the Sleeping Beauty is still sleeping, and no prince is coming to save the day. I do not want to tell the whole plot because I really liked it and would not want to spoil it from you. Therefore this review too is a bit short.

Since I found this book with children's books, I would like to address the matter of this fairy tale actually being a children's story. That might not be the case though it is a picture book. Illustrator Chris Riddell has made stunningly beautiful pictures that fit perfectly the slightly gloomy atmosphere of Gaiman's writing. As you can see of the photos, the illustrations are black and white with a little highlight of gold. The style is more appealing to people twelve-years-old and up than small children.

As you can see from these two previous photos, the cover is made interestingly out of two layers. The illustration shimmers from underneath, making an eerie and haunting impression.

Another thing that makes this fairy tale less a children's story is the narration. Firstly the narrator is a bit jumpy, and instead of mostly linear story from the beginning to the end, there are flashbacks and meta remarks like the one about names.

"Have you noticed," asked the shortest of the dwarfs, "something unusual?" They had names, the dwarfs, but human beings were not permitted to know what they were, such things being sacred.
The queen had a name, but nowadays people only ever called her Your Majesty.
Names are in short supply in this telling. 

Now that is really untypical for a fairy tale. Of coarse, this tale is written or at least published 2013 so it is not a slave for the conventions of folklore and old fairy tales. Remarks like the one about names interfere with the immersion of the reader and are way more often used in stories for mature readers than for kids. Immersion happens when a reader is caught up in the story and I think The Sleeper and the Spindle systematically estranges the reader from the story's world. The whole kingdom is falling asleep and so the narration becomes more and more like a dream. I loved that the story gets weirder and creepier the longer one reads it.

I am not saying a child would not like this story because of the estranged narration but I do think an adult would enjoy it. I mean that this short novel is fit for people of different ages who like creepy stories. This indeed is a creepy tale, with its sleeping people who move around a bit like zombies, with the heroine who does not submit to the traditional pattern of a fairy tale, and with the evil that is behind the whole curse. Everything is not the way it seems in this story and that is really refreshing for the reader!

Finally, I would like to concentrate attention to what is partly already said; the way the story is narrated is quite unique and the language is beautiful. It is an intriguing clash of a fairy tale and modern suspense. The character of the queen is strong and definitely not just a girl anymore. She has seen so much and suffered so much and the whole atmosphere of the story is somehow extremely melancholic and agonizing. Still, the narration is light and fine, like a girl sleeping in a glass coffin.

All in all, I do recommend reading The Sleeper and the Spindle and I must say that the rich illustrations can keep one in marvel for many views and reads.