Brave New World

Written by Susan Reiter on . Posted in Dance, Posts.

Over six years, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has quickly
established itself as a feisty, independent addition to the city’s dance scene.
From the unheard-of luxury of its own comfortable studio and theater space on
West 26th Street, to the European choreographers whose work has formed the
basis of its idiosyncratic repertory, this company definitely marches to its
own drummer.

Artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer has a knack for cluing
in New Yorkers to what has the European dance scene buzzing. Next week, the
company performs in the city for the first time outside of its home theater,
introducing a full-evening work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a Belgian choreographer
with a considerable European reputation, whose dances have only begun to be
known here. Orbo Novo marks the first time he has worked with an American
company, and all indications are that this collaboration has been marked by a
rich, open exchange of ideas.

First performed in July at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance
Festival, Orbo Novo features a striking and dominant set (by Alexander Dodge)
consisting of four large brick red latticed walls that glide around in shifting
configurations that frame and divide the stage picture. Its original score, for
chamber ensemble (performed live), is by Polish composer Szymon Brzóska.

Cherkaoui, 33, was born to a Flemish mother and a Moroccan
father, and has often explored cross-cultural issues. This was particularly
true in zero degrees, his collaboration with Akram Khan, seen at City Center
last year. In it, Cherkaoui’s amazingly flexible body slithered through
unexpected, surprising shapes. His most recent project, unveiled last May in
London, was created with the Buddhist monks of the Shaolin Temple in China.

Orbo Novo takes its title is based from what is believed to
be the first reference, in 1493, to North America as “the New World.”
Cherkaoui’s extended residency with the Cedar Lake dancers represented an
immersion in a new world for him. The resulting piece incorporates ideas and
concerns that fascinated Cherkaoui, incorporating his interactions with New
York City itself as well as with the 18 Cedar Lake dancers. “It’s natural for
me to try to adapt, and find ways of reflecting my impressions. Sometimes I’m
not even aware of what is going to come out,” Cherkaoui said recently, speaking
from Austria, where he had a performance shortly before returning to New York.

“In the beginning I gave them a lot of information to express
how I felt about movement—that it was something that needed to resonate within
the whole body, that it was very anchored in the floor, that there is a sense
of recycling of energy, and that it needs to keep flowing all the time. There’s
something quite organic, very animal-like as well.”

He familiarized himself with the Cedar Lake repertory,
before beginning his process with them. “I really wanted to have a sense of he
company’s history, so that I realized what I could bring in that is another
step within their own evolution. I felt like the dancers were really very open
and non-judgmental, which is fantastic. They just went all the way into every
single detail. They’re extremely gifted, technically amazing, very open-minded
and very creative.”

A significant element in the creation of Orbo Novo was
Cherkaoui’s encounter with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s memoir about her 1996 stroke
as well as a lecture, available online, in which she describes the experience
and explains the contrasting functions of the brain’s left and right
hemispheres. In an extended, meticulously timed opening section, the dancers
speak her words, sharing the text between them as they perform quietly
unsettling movements, which are adapted from Taylor’s own gestures. “In that
lecture, she basically re-lives her experience as she tells it to an audience.
I was extremely moved when I saw it; it haunted me,” Cherkaoui said.

“What she’s basically saying is: the more you are
open-minded to the present moment, and not with all this baggage, the more you
can be at peace with everything around you. I thought that was a beautiful
message. That is really what performance is about: being totally open-minded,
letting it happen, not coming with too many expectations. For me, it’s as much
about society as it is about what’s happening within your own brain. The two
cannot be disconnected.”

For Cherkaoui, the ever-evolving set—which can entrap the
dancers, forcing them to climb or grope through its openings, or break apart to
allow for open space—resonates on both those levels. “In the beginning, we were
trying to generate a sense of the city, [of] its streets being so square and
also the experience of coming into this country as a foreigner with an Arab
name. It’s like going through a maze. Once Dr. Taylor’s text became an element,
the set became as much about the connections within the brain. The city
functions like the brain: there are borders, but at the same time, everything
is connected.”

> Orbo Novo

Oct. 20-25, Joyce Theater, 175 8th Ave. (at W. 19 St.),
212-242-0800; times vary, $10-$49.

Brave New World

Written by admin on . Posted in Eat & Drink, The Penniless Epicure.

There are many questions that I get on a regular basis concerning , but the one I get the most before I do a private tasting is usually, “So, what’s this whole ‘Old World/New World’ thing I always hear people talking about?” I’m sure that’s why the “Old World/New World”-themed tastings I do are the most popular. But it also gets to the root of what’s been happening with in general over the last 30 to 40 years.

The concept of Old World/New World didn’t really exist in the early 1970s. Respectable wine came from France, straw-bottle Chianti came from Italy and Gallo came from California. Then the revolution happened. Innovators like Robert Mondavi and landmark events like the Paris Tasting of 1976 changed the landscape forever. The “New World” of wine emerged, and for the next several decades, wines would begin to fall squarely into two camps: Old World and New World.

The first thing that distinguishes whether a wine is Old World or New World is where it is made. This is becoming less and less so now, but is still somewhat applicable. Areas of the world that have been important in winemaking for hundreds of years tend to fall into the Old World category. The Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Loire Valley regions of France; the Piemonte, Tre Venezie and several other smaller regional spots of Italy; Germany; and much of Spain and Portugal are all considered Old World. The United States, Australia, South America, New Zealand and South Africa are considered New World. There are confusing areas, however, like the Languidoc-Roussillon area of Southern France and the Rioja area of Spain that make wines that can be considered, taste-wise, both Old and New World.

Which brings us to the second category that distinguishes the two types of wine: taste. Generally speaking, New World wines are what wine snobs call “fruit forward.” What that really means is that when you take a sip of one of these wines, the first thing you taste is bold fruit flavor. Old World wines may have a fruitiness to them, but that may not be the “main event,” so to speak. There are many other earthier, spice-driven and herbal flavors that are hallmarks of the Old World style wines. Also, while New World wines are simpler, easier to drink on their own and, by some accounts, more immediately accessible, Old World wines are more complex and are oftentimes better to pair with food.

Another very important part of what differentiates Old World wines from New World wines is climate and soil. Old World areas tend to have soils that are less fertile and sometimes are downright rocky. This may sound terrible for growing grapes, but the struggle the grapes go through to thrive in these areas produces a lower yield, and therefore, more intense grapes with a stronger flavor. Very often these regions also have cooler climates, which also prolongs the growing season, adding to the complexity. In many New World areas, soil is fertile and the climate is warmer. This produces a higher yield of grapes that ripen faster, making a wine that is often simpler, fruitier and higher in alcohol content.

The final component of what differentiates New World from Old World is winemaking technique and philosophy. This is part of the reason why New World-style wines can be made in Spain and the South of France. With New World wines, the emphasis is put on immediate enjoyment, with or without food. New American Oak is often used, which imparts a stronger flavor and smell than French Oak. With Old World wines, the emphasis is often put on making wines that are complex and layered. Oftentimes wines are made that aren’t meant to be opened until many years after they’ve been released.

To get a good idea of how Old World and New World wines compare, get two wines made from the same grape, but from different areas. A perfect example of an Old World/New World pairing for Pinot Noir would be trying the Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir (New World) next to the Chateau de la Maltroye Bourgogne Rouge (Old World). The difference will astonish you, and your palate will be illuminated.

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Brave New World

Written by Jason Singer on . Posted in Posts, Sports.

The recent heat wave unequivocally ensures that no one will mistake this for October, but this week’s series pitting the NL East-leading New York Mets against the second-place Atlanta Braves—which begins tonight—certainly has a playoff feel to it.

Although the Mets currently lead the Braves by 4.5 games, the kings of Queens have lost six of nine games to Atlanta this season and realize the importance of these next three contests. “I don’t know the history of it, but I’d be willing to guess that there haven’t been too many division champs that didn’t beat the second- or third-place team in a series over the whole season,” Mets third baseman David Wright said.

Atlanta is especially primed to cut into New York’s lead after upgrading both their lineup and bullpen before last week’s trade deadline. The Braves struck last-minute deals to acquire Texas slugger Mark Teixeira and Kansas City reliever Octavio Dotel, which bolstered an already strong squad that currently ranks second in hitting and seventh in pitching in the National League. Still, Mets manager Willie Randolph said his team wasn’t worried about Atlanta’s transactions. “We don’t react to other people,” he said. “We take care of our own business.” Well this week’s business seems especially important, Willie, so your team best be ready.