Monday, February 18, 2013

Free Glow Sticks

The Crow Collection of Asian Art waited until Friday to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which seems a little late, but if you're going to go to the trouble of closing off some streets and filling them with food trucks and photo booths and stations where you could color in a paper snake and then staple it to a hat, you might as well wait until the weekend.

I'd seen the strip of street between the Crow and the Nasher Sculpture Museum converted into a performance area before, so I should have remembered that it's nigh impossible to see anything if you arrive late. Even half an hour early it was already a perimeter of three or four deep, people standing on benches and garbage cans to gain a little height, visibility tolerable except for all the good parents lifting kids up on their shoulders. And so, for a time, our main entertainment was an overheard conversation about the performers having been told one time and the audience another. Which explained the lion heads arriving in plastic, the dancers first in sweats and then in hot pink get ups with fringe all up the pants. A woman with a bucket asked if we had glow sticks and before we could decide if we wanted to pay for such frivolity, we had said, "No," and she had given us two sticks each. Dustin joined them together to make a super necklace. I twisted mine into a crown. And everything was more bearable with them glowing; something to see when the martial artists dipped low or kicked not high enough and  for twenty minutes we knew they were there mostly by the occasional sound of vibration from their shiny, floppy swords. Which is why we hadn't left out of boredom by time the dragon dancers came on. It was hard to see the dancers, but the dragon they manipulated by poles into saunters and chases and dives, the dragon skimmed above the crowd line, chasing a ball.

And then the lion dancers came on, a pair to make up each lion, and the lions all flapping mouths and blinking eyes and wagging tails. We did not have an red envelope of money to feed the beasts, but stayed until the eight of them had worked the crowd, the lions on one end swallowing the envelopes from children and on the other end skillfully ignoring little hands trying to catch the swishing tails. We stayed until the crowd was gone and there was nothing left to see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Drivers Blow Kisses To Me

The first time I was jogging in place, was waiting for the traffic light to change when I raised my hand up to shield my eyes from the dropping sun. The sweep of my arm caught the attention of the driver of a garbage truck, waiting to turn left, who answered the salute with a brief honk. Then he smiled and lifted his hand from the steering wheel to his mouth and blew me a kiss.

A few days later I was cooling down, walking the side streets near my apartment, when a driver of something low and old and maroon pulled up to a stop sign and waved. I waved back before realizing I don't know anyone here, and in return the driver blew me kiss, let it leave his hand through the open window as he drove away.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winspear Opera House

My mother likes to tell a story about a family car trip. She likes the part where we were driving through Las Vegas. She doesn't tell why we would have ever gotten off the freeway, why we would have taken the time to drive down the Vegas strip, but she'll tell you that there were lights everywhere. Every color of neon tube, endless round bulbs, all of it wired to blink and flash and spin. I remember our skin colored by the light. And my mother will say that she heard not a peep from the back seat until, in unison, my brother and I issued an awed "McDonald's!"

Her point is that surrounded by the spectacular, what we noticed was the familiar. My point, when I challenge her interpretation, is that the spectacle was clearly supposed to be spectacular, but a fancy McDonald's doesn't happen every day.

I mention this now because last night I went to the Winspear Opera House for the very first time. It's a handsome building, with a very pretty view of downtown out its glass shell. Inside it is five levels that rise ever steeper, cupped like a nest and filled with 4,500 people. The auditorium has a central chandelier that looks like fifty strands of metal dripping into light, and the whole thing retracts into the ceiling when the performance starts. Certainly these are the things I should mention, never mind the show we saw. But what I feel deserves note is the parking structure, receding into the earth, well run and comfortably designed with an attractive central escalator that doubles as a light well. And what I really want to say is that the Lexus Red parking structure has a special zone set aside just as you drive in marked "Lexus Parking"and sure enough it's already full up with Lexi! What an exotic and esoteric perk. It is indeed so random and ridiculous that I do not begrudge the privilege, am still smiling as I pullinto a corner of the bottom most level, flanked on either side by Lexus overflow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dallas Black Dance Theatre

The Nasher Sculpture Center is always worth a visit, and one certainly can't complain on the first Saturday of the month when admission is free. We didn't mind the flush of families, or the one-day introduction of family-friendly little ropes pinning perimeters around the sculpture out in the garden, but as we discovered the inside galleries were all closed for installation, upstairs and down, we began to suspect we'd picked the wrong day to come. I had, in fact, just turned on my heel to confirm with Dustin it was time to go, when a man with a stack of programs asked if we'd come to see the dance.

"It's starting in just a moment," he said. We were won over by the serendipity, but hedged our bets by standing against the wall near an exit. Our last cultural experience of free dance performances featured girls age 5 to 15 in sparkle and spandex on a stage across the olde tyme Main Street from a general store. After the eighth straight song about jealousy, cheating, the desperation of needing a man, or the satisfaction of getting oneand the precocious choreography to match--I was confirmed as an old prude and had to retreat to the model train depot. At the Nasher, Dustin and I started to get nervous, our strategic position compromised in minutes as we were blocked in by strollers and a carpet of children filled in at our feet.

And then we were won over, hooting and whooping and chapping hard. In all, three companies from the Dallas Black Dance Theatre took to the marley, and each one charmed us, left us spellbound. How beautiful the movement of limbs! My breath caught in my throat with some of their leaps and lifts. The emcee joked at one point that DBDT is Dallas' best kept secret, and I tend to believe she's right.