Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Nutcracker - A Trini Christmas continued

It seems that every year in December the city goes just a little crazy. One couldn't take more than a few steps without running into a billboard, sign or flyer dedicated to The Nutcracker. From just around the end of November through year end, it's suddenly "hey, go see The Nutcracker, it's at the Fox, did you see it yet?"

I've been meaning to see it, really I have, but life, finances and former sweethearts not keen on going always got in the way. Not to mention that getting tickets often required nothing short of ritual sacrifice.....but that was a bygone era, before Groupon.

Let me explain something to you fine folk, if you can find the time to do nothing else each Christmas, make it your business to come see this. In the span of two hours, I was made to regret not having seen this each of my eleven years an Atlanta resident. I also regret not taking the youngster with me either, everywhere I looked, whole families present.

Atlanta Ballet's The Nutcracker
I may be no expert on interpretive dance, but from my layman's perspective, the performances were spellbinding. The choreography had a rhythm that when combined with the musical score, created an effect that was enchanting, almost magical. The costumes, though unique and imaginative, still maintained the classic Nutcracker look. What I liked most was despite the lack of dialogue, the audience was still able to experience at various points, the emotional depth evident in the story.

There  were times of joyful celebration, youthful exuberance, other times a sense of foreboding and fear, I remember feeling a knot in my stomach in the lead up to the Rat King's appearance.

Obviously because of the lack of dialogue, some familiarity with the story is needed lest you be totally lost. The ballet still lacked that bourgeois element that normally accompanies productions of this nature in that there were more than a few instances of genuine comedy resulting in raucous laughter. Many of the performers also engaged their audience throughout which really left us with a sense that we were all part of something truly extraordinary.

As one might imagine, Atlanta Ballet's production isn't the only Nutcracker outfit in town. Atlanta-based African American dance company Ballethnic has been staging it's immensely popular Urban Nutcracker at Georgia Tech's Robert Ferst Center for the Arts for more than a decade. I'd actually seen it twice during my Morehouse College days as well as another production of theirs called A Leopard's Tale. The Gwinnett Ballet also stages it's own production which it has apparently been doing for thirty two years.

Theatre isn't always on the bucket list for the average islander family at Christmas especially when there's ham and black cake to be had; but perhaps it's time we try something a little different. Next week I'll talk about Alliance Theatre's A Christmas Carol which I also saw this past Christmas. be continued.


Friday, January 17, 2014

A Trini Georgia

In my twelve years abroad, Christmas had always posed the greatest challenge as one might imagine, recreating an authentic Trinbago Christmas is no easy task. For years each December, Atlanta's own "The Parang Side" did their very best to bring some sense of home to the dirty south. Following the pattern of a traditional parang band, the paranderos went house to house on weekends and we their rabid fans followed right along, eating and drinking as we went. Trinis delighted in the experience and our hosts responded in kind with platefuls of black cake, sweet bread, pastelles, endless food and of course, ponche a creme, sorrel and ginger beer.

But the Parang Side has long since passed from existence, it's various members now married, had children or moved away and this trini eventually had to find some other medium for Christmas entertainment. I suppose their absence was a good thing (please bring them back) as it had forced me to open my eyes to the dizzying array of alternate Christmas-time festivities right here in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Christmas Lights
"Garden Lights" - Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Among my fondest of childhood memories, were those of "old grey", the family Nissan Bluebird, all Johnsons on board on our annual Christmas night pilgrimage to look for Christmas lights. One of the more popular destinations was always (and probably still is) the Bhagwansingh home in Valsayn just off the highway. The lights at this home were always a treat. For those of you that might remember, this custom was often repeated on one other popular night of the year, Divali. 

Finding homes was quite a chore though often relying on daddy's near encyclopedic knowledge of past years' displays and of course a little bit of luck. Here in the US, the house-to-house grind is certainly an option but it's far simpler to just visit a dedicated Christmas light display instead. Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier, Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanic Gardens and the now world famous Christmas lights at Callaway Gardens are just a few of the better ones in and around Atlanta. 

This was my first year doing Garden Lights and it was absolutely worth it. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens had gone to great lengths to create an enchanting display that demonstrated why theirs had been consistently lauded as one of the city's best light displays. If nothing else, I'd highly recommend adding this to your Christmas routine.

A word of caution though, as popularity often brings problems, on peak nights, the traffic situation gets out of control. With some knowledge of Piedmont Park and it's environs though, the hour-long parking nightmare can be avoided. I was able to quickly secure parking near the Atlanta Beltline just off Monroe, only suffering a 10 minute walk in the cold for my troubles.

Christmas Plays
As Turkey is to Thanksgiving, The Nutcracker is to Christmas, in Atlanta anyway. The popular ballet held each year in December practically begs it's own dedicated post........which it certainly will have. Catch me next week as I continue to expand on this my first attempt to experience a not so trini Christmas.


Atlanta Botanical Gardens
1345 Piedmont Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30309