Friday, September 23, 2011

No, You Won't Be Needing The Insecticide

A favourite of many English dancers who love Pride And Prejudice is this dance from the ball scene with Mr. Darcy: Mr. Beveridge's Maggot. It's a little too advanced for newcomers, which is why you won't see it at the Pride And Prejudice Ball, but it's beautiful to watch.

By the way, the term "maggot" refers to an idea, not a gross worm. Long long ago, people thought creativity came from creatures in the brain, and not just figments of our imagination.

HUZZAH to the lad in the kilt!

A variation of this dance was also popular during the Colonial period... well as the Renaissance:

And here's a slightly slower version:

Finally, your humble servant gives it a try. I'm the lad in the blue outfit, dancing at the Jane Austen Evening last January in Pasadena:

Dance On!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Miss Austen Would Love It

Every year in Bath, England, a recreation of a Regency-era ball takes place, in full period costume and merriment. Of course, you don't have to go all the way to England -- just come to the Pride And Prejudice Ball this Saturday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Your Mother Should Know (If She Lived During The Regency)

"Let's all get up and dance to a song
That was a hit before your mother was born."

--The Beatles

As I pointed out earlier, many dances popular in the Regency era go back at least 100 years earlier, although I've seen one dancing expert argue to the contrary. Why would people want to groove to their grandmother's tunes? Isn't that like doing the twist at the disco? Well, even disco came back. Why not old English Dances?

So let's set the WABAC machine for the 1600's and watch the Newcastle Country Dancers perform their namesake dance: "Newcastle."

Now, here's how it would have looked like during Jane Austen's time:

By the way, the Newcastle dancers also perform a lively version of "Argeers."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Can't Dance If Your Nose Is Up In The Air

I offer you another Regency-era dance in celebration and anticipation of the Pride And Prejudice Ball. This one is called "The Physical Snob." I have no idea how it got that name, but what makes it interesting is all the weaving the dancers do amongst themselves:

Monday, September 19, 2011

But It's Almost Fall!

My Most Honourable Dancing Friends, never mind what the calendar says. It's almost time for the Pride & Prejudice Ball, which means your humble servant shall be offering a week-long sample of period dances for your diversion and enjoyment.

Here's a dance from the Leicestershire Victorian Dancers' Regency ball, "Upon A Summer's Day," which happens to feature some fine period military attire:

You might be surprised to know many Regency dances were also popular during the Renaissance. Here's the same dance performed a little earlier in time:

Set, turn single, and join us again tomorrow...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Reel To Reel: The Debt

Payback is a... well, you know what.

Going Rate: Worth matinee price
Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson
Rated: R
Red Flags: Bloody violence, sexual situations, a throwaway sex scene in a newspaper office

The Debt is an espionage-action film that drags more than thrills and nearly forgets its marquee star. It spends too much time leading up to something we likely will figure out before the end of the first two reels and wastes too much time waddling around details of a mission that's either marginally successful or stuck in neutral.

Mirren plays Rachel Singer, a retired Israeli Mossad agent who has been glorified with her two colleagues for capturing and killing a Nazi war criminal working as a doctor in 1960's East Berlin. That has been the official line for three decades, and it's also the one coming out in a book written by her daughter. We know right away that's not really the truth, but it takes about an hour or so for our suspicious to be confirmed. The film flashes back to Singer's younger self as a rookie agent teamed up with Stephan (Marton Csokas) and David (Sam Worthington) in a ratty apartment. They practice their martial arts training and occasionally some piano, eating rotten food while awaiting orders from Tel Aviv.

The agents get the green light, capture the notorious Dr. Vogel (Jesper Christensen), and pack him up for shipment back to Israel only to see the plan go sideways. They are left with a cantankerous old Nazi in their apartment and no way to get rid of him, except by killing him. However, killing is off the table because the idea of Israeli justice for Nazis is to make them stand trial, not hunt them down and exterminate them as Hitler's gang did to six million Jews.

Moral dilemmas really mess up good covert work, and the film has no problem demonstrating this as it transitions from action thriller to psychological thriller. But this is where the film drags. This is where I wanted to get to Helen Mirren's wrinkled, scarred self and see how the woman who played Queen Elizabeth II a few years ago cleans things up. She does, sort of, in a way that's more exploitative and shocking than satisfying. I heard one woman say on her way out of the theater, "Just another carefree romp on a Saturday afternoon." Of course she was exaggerating, but not by much.

The Debt is a remake of a 1997 Israeli film which I have not seen, so I can't tell you whether Hollywood jiggered with the pieces. I can tell you it would have benefited from some more cuts here and there, and not to Helen Mirren's face.