Monday, April 7, 2008

big culture

the first of three installments recounting this weekend's journey to the big apple. the big city culture aspect of the trip was great. on saturday, when she and i got off the train at grand central station, we took a big walk to the metropolitan museum of art. as with the larger art museums i've been to, the grand scale of the building awed me immediately. the entrance foyer with its high domed ceiling and columns and elaborate floors set the tone for what turned out to be a pretty awesome whirlwind tour.

she and i wound through the egyptian exhibits, getting lost in its labyrinthine display cases and larger-than-life artifacts in our search for the stairs down to the first exhibit she wanted to see, a constantly changing fashion exhibit recommended by my cousin. being the fashion maven in this relationship, she was not disappointed. visually, i enjoyed the exhibit, but the history was lost on me. she related it to a book she'd just read, the other bolyn girl, and its mention of the women in the queen's court who were charged with keeping conversation going and looking pretty. few men's clothes were found in this part of the exhibit. i did recognize some of the designer names, but they were the couture designs that you often only see on fashion runways.

following that exhibit, i found myself disappointed with the scale of the photography collection. it was part of a larger group of prints and drawings, but after seeing the annie liebowitz and ansel adams exhibits at the corcoran in d.c., i was a little tired of typical landscape photos. there were a total of five prints that didn't fall into that category. one held my interest for a few minutes, a gruesome shot of a head in a cake box crime scene. it had an interesting vantage point and disinterested expressions on the faces of the police detectives working the case.

we quickly found ourselves searching for something different, winding up with the europeans. picasso, van gogh, seurat, matisse, and others practically wallpapered several rooms in the collection. it was breathtaking to see the pointillism up close and personal. the tour guides filtering through were both insightful and annoying with their basic observational instructions for their groups. their tones echoed in the large space, and the hipster/scenester kids in the groups added to the already loud din with bad acoustics. we tried our best, but had trouble outrunning them until we stumbled downstairs through modern art to the american classics.

never seeing georgia o'keefe up close and personal before, i really dug her immense detail and bold colors. the depth of field of her canvases were almost three dimensional. people watching while breathing in the beauty gave a few chuckles with the cast of characters stumbling around us. the disinterested old man and his flitting wife. the french tourists. the asian dancers. everyone with their cameras trying to take pictures on the sly of the works, while i tried to capture their reactions to said works as they shuffled past.

labyrinthing out, it took far longer than expected. on a brighter note, we did happen past some very bright rooms and heavy armor in the medieval exhibits.

after drinks and appetizers later on, we caught my cousin's performance in chelsea at the small joyce theater. i had not a clue what i was going to see. modern dance meant nothing more to me than ballet, much as a non-teacher wouldn't see the distinction between whole language versus phonemic reading instruction. what i got was a visual spectacle that i absolutely loved. from my sixth row seat in the 500-or-so seat theater, i barely blinked throughout the whole performance. there were three distinct pieces, each with different costumes and feel. modern dance, i came to realize is quite an expression of fluid movement. i appreciated it for that element, much in the same way that i enjoy watching great climbers style their way up routes or tough boulder problems. unlike climbing however, i have no basis to mimic any of the movements, except for what i recognized as strong body control and awareness of movement from practice in yoga. the feet of the dancers made nary a sound as they leapt and stomped and effortlessly glided through the performance. the first piece was my favorite. it was a comical take on a guy picking up a girl on the beach. the background beats were french hip hop with lyrics of, "je ne sais pas porquoi." the next two pieces were equally as pleasing, though i have a little more difficulty explaining what i saw. if i had to guess, this modern dance thing had elements of ballet, yoga, pilates, kickboxing, hip hop, belly dancing, break dancing, and various other lava lamp fluidity and flow. [check out what the new york times thought of it.]

all in all, i feel quite a bit more cultured. perhaps i'll see some more dance somewhere around here...

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