Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Somewhere Back in Her Long Ago

Lucky me. I may have gone to bed at 3 a.m. last night, but when I got up, it was to go to a rehearsal of the Richmond Ballet.

Short of a champagne brunch with an adoring man who woos me with intellect, desire and humor, I can't think of too many finer ways to start the day.

The Richmond Ballet was rehearsing "Windows 3" and ballet master Malcolm Burn welcomed me in before using the next hour to direct, assess and demonstrate exactly how he wanted this section of the ballet to look.

What was most enjoyable as an observer was watching him use his keen sense of humor, Australian accent and flawless technique to teach the young troupe what he wanted out of this ballet. There's a reason he's called a master.

Using constant correction, he detailed a dancer's suspension and engagement, bemoaned technology (the remote for the music) and joked about how modern ballets are always shown in the dark. And he wasn't shy about correcting a company member.

What's going on, he asked a male dancer, who explained he was slipping in a certain corner. Malcolm walks over to the dancer, meeting him eye to eye and says softly but authoritatively, "Don't."

The implication is: Ever. Again. The dancer doesn't.

I marvel at being close enough to hear the heavy breathing of the dancers performing athletic endeavors over and over again. Or being close enough to see their rib cages expanding and contracting after an arabesque or two.

It was almost humorous when a dancer looked guiltily at him and admitted that the last step had been his mistake.  "Uh-huh," Malcolm agrees. "Do tell." Again, the mistake is never repeated.

Or, "I could be in Ohio and I'd see that mistake." Malcolm seems to be a pro at getting his point across with a smile. "I'm not asking your opinion and I don't care what you think," he tells a male dancer. "I want your hands on her waist."

By the way, this is good advice for any man, not just dancers.

It's also a marvelous thing to observe up close. It gives a balletomane the opportunity to witness the work that goes into shaping a ballet into the finished piece an audience sees while providing a close-up view of the blood, sweat and tears involved in making it happen.

And if this is how you get to start your day, it's bound to be a good one.

Just as good is being asked out to dinner. Expecting a mob scene like the last time I went to the Roosevelt, I am suitably impressed when we walk in and find two bar stools free in an otherwise full dining room.

Good karma rolls on when we begin with Thibaud-Janisson Brut, followed by an unexpected gift ("prezzies" as Pru would say) and friends stopping by my stool. The wine geek wants to tell me about half price bottles at her restaurant and the guitarist wants to share a band he knows I'll love, but being given a present is the best part.

Bartender T., clearly not working tonight, says hello and I inquire if his sole reason for being there is to look good in his blue t-shirt. "I may drink some coffee, too," he says laconically, hoisting a coffee cup.

The restaurant is loud, its hard surfaces and boisterous conversation making it tough to hear the music, but my date leans in and we manage conversation about California wine country, the best places to read a book and lighthouse tours.

Someone looked around and observed of the capacity crowd eating and laughing at tables, "It's a good-looking bunch tonight." Probably anything would look good after the rigors of the recent restaurant week.

Dinner began with a scrumptious plate of varying textures and flavors: burrata, fried Brussels sprouts, Asian pear, sunflower seeds and bacon vinaigrette, followed closely by a rich and satisfying Virginia lamb Bolognese over a polenta cake with fried egg and Parmesan.

Neither dish felt especially Roosevelt-like and both were stellar.

Next came a bistro steak with fingerling potatoes, bleu cheese, bacon, pickled red onion and homemade steak sauce and then farro with celery and apple which led to a discussion of it currently being celery season, a fact I'd recently read.

In season or not, the dish was a hit, its earthy nuttiness the ideal foil for the crunch and sweetness of apples and celery. My date suggested it tasted like breakfast, but not to me.

Michael McDonald came on the sound system overhead and suddenly, half the staff were trying to recall a certain one of his songs.

Given that they could have been the singer's grandchildren, they didn't know any of the words and their humming left a lot to be desired. Even so, it wasn't long before they figured out it was "What a Fool Believes," a song I didn't need to hear again in this lifetime, and put it on.

A group of us got started on what to do and see in Philly - the mosaics, the Liberty Bell, certain restaurants - in anticipation of the host's upcoming visit. I wasn't much help; I haven't been there in about eight years, so I'd be very curious about the scene these days, too.

I recognized a guy I'd met out the other night when he'd been a bit loopy and tonight we made formal introductions.

By the time I was ready for dessert, the restaurant was beginning to clear out and Monday was making its presence felt. While people headed out into the cool night air, I asked for Coca Cola cake and a glass of the bartender's housemade grapefruit-cello, a riff on Limoncello.

Much as I liked the cake, I felt like the mini-marshmallows in it were overkill, or perhaps I was just so full at that point that they seemed extraneous.

But my grapefruit-cello was delightful, tart and fresh tasting with just enough kick behind the citrus. Sipping and chatting, it reminded me a bit of nights in Italy sipping ridiculous amounts of Limoncello into the night.

For the record, tonight I only had two. A girl can't stay up until 3 a.m. every night wondering what a fool believes.

Or at least not blog about it when she does.

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