Trout KOs Pre Fight Dinner

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In ancient Rome the celebrities and gladiators of the day provided thrills and chills for the screaming mob at the Colosseum.  In New York, artisans and athletes of today make themselves immortal at our version of the legendary Italian amphitheater – Madison Square Garden – and they’ve been doing so for decades.  Madison Square Garden known as “The Mecca for boxing” has hosted plenty of epic bouts.  On Saturday Austin Trout, WBA light middleweight champion, intends to retain his title and have a break out performance that lives up to the awesome boxing spectacles The Garden is known for.  But before Trout defends his title against four-time world champion Miguel Cotto, he made time to do something essential for all champions – he ate.

On November 28, Trout was the guest of honor at an intimate candlelit meal at Courgette Restaurant & Bistro, located at 204 W. 55th Street.   Courgette, the French word for zucchini, features Mediterranean cuisine with Italian and French twists and has a sexy basement speakeasy that includes a state-of-the-art sound system and karaoke room.  The champ and guests, who included designers, press, entertainers and other athletes, savored on a tasting regale of the restaurant’s staple dishes.  The event was a feast that quenched all the senses and provided a scorching hot alternative to the frigid temperatures outside. 

Austin TroutThe man of the hour was as cool as a pair of Ray-Bans as he greeted guests and shook hands with an affable flair that is indicative of all great champions.  He stated he was looking forward to today’s weigh-in and admitted he had no intentions of losing his title tomorrow.  If the 25-0, undefeated pugilist’s fight plan is as killer as his style and personality, then he should have no problem shutting up the pro-Cotto mob at The Garden as he hands Miguel his fourth loss.

Photos:  Greatest Entertainment (www.greatestent.com), Tom Casino/Showtime

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The Secret Life of Trees

“The Wanderer,” acrylic on canvas, 6 x 9,” 2012

In Manhattan or anywhere in the tri-state area – where the words hustle and bustle are placed somewhere in our daily mantra– the opportunity to observe nature is usually far and few between.   Everyone knows the idiom, “Can’t see the woods for the trees.”  But in the case of Mary Hrbacek, she sees the trees, the woods and the world that exists within.

 I first met Hrbacek during a dinner with respected art advisor Katharine T. Carter.  The description of her work fascinated me.  Recently I visited Hrbacek’s studio in Harlem to view her art and was pleasantly surprised to find that she is not only an artist, but a curator of nature.

Hrbacek uses trunks, leaves and branches to compose work that exposes the symbiotic relationship that exists between man and the habitat in which we live in.  Before my visit, I viewed some of her art online and found it to be interesting, but in-person Hrbacek’s work became animated silhouettes – characters anxious to take their cue onto the proverbial stage of life.

 Indeed everyone and everything has a story to tell.  Found in Brooklyn, Central Park, Vermont and other places Hrbacek has traveled, the trees selected in her pieces reach far beyond the simplistic, obtuse approach to featuring nature in art. Hrbacek’s work causes the viewer to pause.   She pulls the soul out of something thought to be void of one and supplies it with a voice.  No longer to be ogled just for the ability to provide shade or admired for their stature or splendor during the changing of the seasons, these trees revealed the delicate dichotomy between masculine and feminine properties. 

Virility, frailty, strength, sensuality are all themes that resonate throughout Hrbacek’s work.  Through a series of bold, contrasting color selections, Hrbacek’s trees express hope and loss, desire and aversion and all that is ephemeral and divine between the relationship that man has with the universe as well as with members of the opposite sex.  Hrbacek’s work presents a pensive look at questions and situations that have reappearing in the telling of man’s history since the days of cavemen.  Through these nameless and faceless subjects, we learn more about ourselves.

The Tuesday after Superstorm Sandy I ventured out my home to discover dozens of trees lying in the middle of roads and resting on the roofs of houses and cars.  Nature’s fury uprooted them from the earth and took blocks of concrete with them.  In that moment, I again realized that nature and art, in one way or another, are always trying to tell us something , and this revelation made my recent visit to Mary Hrbacek’s studio all the more poignant. 

Photos:  Courtesy of  Mary Hrbacek and F.A.M.E NYC Editor

Slideshow:  F.A.M.E NYC Editor

Happy Holidays the Ailey Way

November and December are two of my favorite months to spend in New York City.  Not because of the brisk temperatures, holiday windows, Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center or tons of tourists and shoppers littering the streets, but because it means that Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is in town at New York City Center.  And yes – it’s that time of year again folks – time to see athletic splendor and dance perfection on stage (and of course, Revelations).

November also marks the third anniversary of F.A.M.E NYC!  And to thank all our FAMERS for their support I would like to share with you an interview with Aisha Mitchell, a feature dancer with AAADT, and give you the opportunity to see her and the rest of the phenomenal dancers of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in December.  To enter type, “I Love F.A.M.E NYC!” in the comment section below.  The giveaway ends on Cyber Monday at 12:00 a.m.  AAADT’s performances begin at New York City Center on November 28.

Enjoy the interview and good luck!

1.       You will be dancing several key roles throughout the season, is there any one in particular you look forward to performing? 
I’m really looking forward to performing Ulysses Dove’s Vespers this season. It’s a work I’ve always admired growing up. I think it visually showcases the many facets of being a woman from elegance and poise, to power and strength.   It’s an incredibly affirming journey to perform that piece with five other women from the company; it’s almost as if we’re dancing as one. 

2.       Revelations resonates with people regardless of ethnicity, age or cultural background and is Alvin Ailey’s most seminal work.  Could you tell us your thoughts about dancing in this iconic dance masterpiece?
We perform Revelations a lot. It would be so easy to become numb to doing the same steps over and over.   But it’s more than just steps, more than just a dance – it’s theater –  living art that we are creating on the stage.   Mr. Ailey’s choreography and the way he conceptualized the memories of his upbringing in the Baptist church for the stage is masterful.   It speaks to people on a level that they can relate to and that’s why the piece is still relevant after all these years.   I perform three roles in Revelations, in the sections “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”, “Fix Me Jesus” and “Wade in the Water”.   These are iconic roles in the dance world.  We are so lucky to work with living legends on a regular basis.  Often Judith Jamison will come into rehearsal and work with us on mastering the nuances of the “Umbrella woman”, a role that she is famous for.   And our Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya is in rehearsals daily. He knows most of Mr. Ailey’s work, he’s like a dance encyclopedia, it’s incredible having them around to keep the legacy alive.

3.       You have performed to several genres of music, but what genres, artists or songs personally get your dancer juices flowing?

I really love all music and my musical education is forever continuing.   I play Michael Jackson at the gym, and sometimes my tour roommate and I crank out Dirty South Hip Hop at 8 a.m. to energize our day!   Any time we travel to a different city, if there’s time, I try to catch some live music at a local spot. It gives touring its own little soundtrack and makes some cities more memorable too.

4.       You are a New Yorker, but which city is your favorite to travel to when performing?
Hopefully this won’t sound too cliché, but I’ve fallen in love with Paris.  I’ve been there twice now with the company and we’ve done three to four week runs.  It’s such a beautiful city, so rich in history and culture.   I could really get used to that lifestyle; sipping on a café in the morning with some leisurely reading, performing in historical opera houses and having a glass of Bordeaux to finish the evening. Perfection!

5.       Whether it’s going to practice or hanging out with friends, what three beauty items can you not leave home without?

Definitely lip balm, Nivea hand cream and mascara!

Photos:  Richard Calmes, Andrew Eccles

Harlem’s Hey Day Lives Vicariously through Cotton Club Parade

As a child I learned not to fool with the art of resurrection.  It is an act that should only be performed by the gods. Tinker with it, and you guarantee folly – The Exorcist taught me that –but when music is involved, you can almost ensure success.  And when a musical titan the likes of Wynton Marsalis is overseeing the music, you know it will be a masterpiece.  Such can be said about Cotton Club Parade; it revitalizes the era of The Harlem Renaissance with toe-tapping pleasure, pizzazz and the elegance of Ellington.

Imagine getting on the A train and instead of it taking you to the Harlem of today, it transports you back to a Harlem that buzzed with intellectuals such as W.E.B Dubois and Paul Robeson, luminaries like Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes and at night sizzled from the red hot jazz of Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Sir Duke.  Well hep cats, I’m here to tell you that time machine is Cotton Club Parade.

Cotton Club Parade ignites a spark that captivates the audience for 90-minutes without ever diminishing its flame.   For jazz lovers, the musical revue reintroduces the music and arrangements of Duke Ellington, and for audience members not familiar with music of The Cotton Club the show acquaints them with a vivacious, harmonious time in American music and pop culture that has long rested in the shadows of the  “15-minute” sensationalized society we have become accustomed to.  And in an effort to recognize the art of a more modern era, Cotton Club Parade infuses urban dance techniques like the moonwalk, made famous by Michael Jackson and is a staple in hip hop dancing.  But what I found most interesting about the connection explored in the dancing is how art and pop culture is a constant evolution of itself.  Cab Calloway did early variations of the moonwalk in the 1930s. 

Along with the modern dance elements, the choreography of Warren Carlyle was spot-on.  I haven’t seen such spectacular live hoofing in ages!  The Nicholas Brothers and Josephine Baker would’ve been proud.  The ensemble and Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars work like a well-oiled machine – no cracks in this production – no sir.  It is a buffet for the eyes and ears.  Audience members feast on selected texts from poet Langston Hughes and wonderful renditions of classics like “Diga Diga Doo”, “Ill Wind”, “Stormy Weather”, “I’ve Got The World on a String”, “Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Creole Love Call” courtesy of Glee’s Amber Riley, Joshua Henry, Carmen Ruby Floyd and others.

Last year Cotton Club Parade played at New York City Center, and Encores! jumped at the opportunity to showcase the production again this year.  And why wouldn’t they?   It is a wonderful awakening of The Harlem Renaissance and the artisans that made it such a significant movement in American history.  The show played its last performance at the City Center on the 18th, but it is my sincere hope that this production will play other famous theaters in NYC such as the Apollo and Lincoln Center and will tour nationwide so others can marvel at the brilliance of this show the way I did.

Photos:  Broadway World.com