Monday, July 24, 2017

Multiculti Saturday 5: Ethnic Dance Festival at SF Opera

The final event in Saturday's multicultural marathon was Weekend Two of the Ethnic Dance Festival at the San Francisco Opera House, which was as interesting as the previous week's program. Highlights for me were the great live musicians for Ballet Afsaneh's World Premiere The Persepolis Project, Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza's exuberant La Revoluccion, and the Gurus of Dance, an Aditya Patel Company who closed out the first half with a deliriously synchronized Bollywood-meets-EDM extravaganza.

At intermission I realized that after 40+ years of attending performances at the SF Opera House, this was the first time I was an ethnic minority as a white audience member, which was both refreshing and shame inducing.

The differentiator of this festival is that dance and musical traditions from all over the world are presented side by side, with the implicit message that there are no good or bad cultures, only different ones. And while the various dance troupes are true to their own specific traditions, everyone is influencing everyone else.

After a long curtain call, all the performers exited through the orchestra aisles, into the lobby, and continued dancing. Sunday was a day of rest.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Multiculti Saturday 4: Munch at SFMOMA

A major Edward Munch painting exhibit, on loan from his namesake museum in Oslo, has just opened at SFMOMA and it's well worth visiting.

Even though there doesn't seem to be a single happy person on display in any of the 47 paintings, the effect is not depressing, possibly because the colors throughout are so gorgeously vibrant, including the 1907 The Death of Marat above.

According to a well-written Wikipedia entry, "[On his first visit to Paris in 1889 as a student] Munch was enthralled by the vast display of modern European art, including the works of three artists who would prove influential: Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec." As you can see in the 1894 Ashes above, Munch's use of color is as bold as anything from those other famous artists. And like those artists, his paintings improve when seeing them in person which is not always the case. (For some reason, I've always preferred reproductions of Dali over the real thing.)

Munch was born in 1863 to a large Norwegian family plagued by illness, early deaths and insanity, subjects which wove themselves into most of his work, including the 1895 The Smell of Death above.

Directly before his eight-month, 1908 hospitalization for anxiety, binge drinking, and brawling, he painted a number of commercially successful variations on The Sick Child, dying of tuberculosis. "As part of his recovery, Dr. Jacobson advised Munch to only socialize with good friends and avoid drinking in public."

Munch followed Jacobsen's advice and though plagued with illness all his life (the painting above is the 1919 Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu), he managed to survive to age 81, dying in Nazi-occupied Norway in 1944. He also continued painting to the end and it's all great, surprisingly so because I have never seen most of these paintings even in reproduction.

None of the iconic The Scream paintings or drawings are part of the exhibit, which is refreshing, but never fear. You can still buy the tote bag in the gift shop.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Multiculti Saturday 3: Ensemble Mik Noowoj at Yerba Buena Gardens

The downtown oasis of Yerba Buena Gardens hosts a free summer performance series from May through October where the scattershot programming ranges from poetry readings to musical performances to staged plays. The audiences tend to be small but the quality of performers in my experience has been remarkably high.

Saturday afternoon's "Hip Hop Orchestra" Ensemble Mik Nawooj was a perfect example.

Started by composer/pianist JooWan Kim in 2010 after receiving a graduate degree from the SF Conservatory of Music, the musical ensemble consists of "MCs/lyricists Do D.A.T. and Sandman, a lyric soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, drums and bass," according to their website. I believe Sandman is the rapper pictured above and below.

They were performing an ambitious oratorio composed by Kim, Death Becomes Life, which featured an augmented chamber orchestra and artwork by Ernest Doty.

It was an oddly interesting mixture of hip hop and classical music styles, including the rapper Do D.A.T. and an operatic soprano above.

To top if off, there was also "interpretative" dancing by TURFinc.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Multiculti Saturday 2: Human Flower Guinness World Record

The Asian Art Museum, in conjunction with their Flower Power exhibit, organized a public flashmob to assemble in Civic Center Plaza and attempt to break the Guinness World Record for "Largest Human Flower," held by 2,197 people who gathered at the 2014 Rochester, New York Lilac Festival. There were even turnstiles which recorded every entrance/exit of the flashmob to make everything completely official.

The museum had capped the online registration that included a free admission pass to 4,000, which was probably shortsighted. Only about half the people who register online ever show up for anything, so it was touch-and-go if the record was to be broken. Tony and I showed up as late fill-ins and were hustled into a sea of pink trash bags.

Michael Empric, a Guinness World Record official, was in attendance to certify the proceedings and convey a sense of momentous occasion.

We were soon suffering from heat prostration without shade while waiting for latecomers running from the Civic Center BART station.

We were shoved together in a last push to create a flower-like shape for five minutes...

...and instead of being claustrophobic, the all-ages, all-races crowd were wonderful with each other.

And by a 108-person margin, I am now a Member of the Guinness World Record Family. Guess we can cross that one off the bucket list.