Tap dancing!

When I was a little girl growing up in Canberra, I really really REALLY wanted to learn how to tap dance. I’d grown up watching Fred and Ginger,

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Gene and Debbie (and Donald),

Debbie Reynolds Gene Kelly Singing in the Rain

Anne

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and the great Eleanor.

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However, being a little Spanish girl growing up far away from home, the only dance lessons my mother let me attend were flamenco, which I enjoyed thoroughly, don’t get me wrong. But tap… Ahh tap had always been this dream, for decades… until now. I am proud to say that I am a student at the Sydney Dance Company! Located by the Harbour Bridge, the moment you walk in you feel you are stepping into the set for Fame (minus the leg warmers, apparently they’re not that cool). There’s a great vibe and all sorts of people, joined by their love of dance. Just so you can get a sneak peak into what a class looks like, they have their own vimeo page, which includes a video of a tap lesson similar to the one I’m attending. If you are in Sydney and want to have the best workout whilst listening to swing (heaven?), then look no further.

NOTE: None of the photos are mine. The Swingtime photograph is from here, Singin’ in the rain from here, Kiss me Kate from here, and Rosalie from here.

Rose Bay at dusk

If you follow me on Pinterest, you will have seen a flurry of activity earlier today on my “Paintings that inspire me” board. Particularly with quite a few Raoul Dufy paintings added to it. And just like that, immediately after adding the images, Pinterest worked its magic. I suddenly had an urge to paint something à la manière de Dufy, and very quickly decided on doing a view of Rose Bay at dusk. During my first two months in Sydney, I lived in Rose Bay and took the ferry to work from there. To walk to the harbour every morning and back in the evening was a true blessing. And therefore, a perfect subject matter.

Rose Bay at dusk

I used watercolour and casein on Arches 300gsm paper. But if you want to know a bit more about the process, well, have I got a treat for you! Below is a little film that documents it all. To make it I used an app called “Miniatures Pro” and set it to take one frame per second. And as for music, it’s Dustin O’Halloran’s Prelude 2. Trusty iMovie glued it all together in style. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did painting and putting it together!

 

Harlem & Columbia

On our last day in NY, we visited Columbia University and Harlem. I took the highest number of photographs that day, so I guess that shows quite accurately how much I loved both areas.

Columbia University campus (pictured above and below) is simply stunning. If the architecture alone weren’t enough, the notable list of its alumni is impressive enough to leave anyone bewildered. Jack Kerouac, whose On the Road I’m currently reading, is part of the list.

From there we walked to Harlem. The closer we got there, the cleaner and wider the streets and the friendlier the people. I saw many a brownstone:

But this is my favourite:

Probably because it reminds me of West Side Story and I was somehow expecting Bernardo and his gang to appear (and dance).

Naturally, as with things I really REALLY like, I had to do a watercolour of it:

NOTE: All photos by Araceli Robledo, except from the West Side Story clip, which is via On the set of New York

Mansfield Park & Northanger Abbey

My favourite Jane Austen novels are, and in the following order: Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility. Why, then, is this post about Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey you may ask? Well, just in case you haven’t noticed a certain tendency in my recent literature posts here and here, they are both names of novels AND names of houses. Genius.

Not surprisingly, the best Jane Austen screen adaptations have been made in the UK. The BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation of Mansfield Park chose the gorgeous Newby Hall in North Yorkshire as the filming location for Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram’s estate. Currently the home of Mr and Mrs Richard Compton, Newby Hall was designed with the assistance of Sir Christopher Wren.

Also in 2007, ITV produced a TV adaptation of Northanger Abbey and Lismore Castle played the fictional abbey. With foundations that date back to the 7th century, the Irish castle has been linked to an array of historical figures, from Henry II to Sir Walter Raleigh, as well as Fred Astaire! It has been the Irish home of the Duke of Devonshire since 1753.

NOTE: The photograph of Newby Hall was taken by Roberto Tomei for Panoramio and that of Lismore Castle is via Guide to Castles of Europe.

Howards End

Howards End,
Tuesday.

Dearest Meg,
It isn’t going to be what we expected.  It is old and little, and altogether delightful–red brick.  We can scarcely pack in as it is, and the dear knows what will happen when Paul (younger son) arrives tomorrow.  From hall you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room.  Hall itself is practically a room.  You open another door in it, and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the first-floor.  Three bedrooms in a row there, and three attics in a row above.  That isn’t all the house really, but it’s all that one notices–nine windows as you look up from the front garden.
Then there’s a very big wych-elm–to the left as you look up–leaning a little over the house, and standing on the boundary between the garden and meadow.  I quite love that tree already.  Also ordinary elms, oaks–no nastier than ordinary oaks–pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine.  No silver birches, though.  However, I must get on to my host and hostess.  I only wanted to show that it isn’t the least what we expected.  Why did we settle that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their garden all gamboge-coloured paths?  I believe simply because we associate them with expensive hotels–Mrs. Wilcox trailing in beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying porters, etc.  We females are that unjust.
I shall be back Saturday; will let you know train later.  They are as angry as I am that you did not come too; really Tibby is too tiresome, he starts a new mortal disease every month.  How could he have got hay fever in London?  and even if he could, it seems hard that you should give up a visit to hear a schoolboy sneeze.  Tell him that Charles Wilcox (the son who is here) has hay fever too, but he’s brave, and gets quite cross when we inquire after it.  Men like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of good.  But you won’t agree, and I’d better change the subject.
This long letter is because I’m writing before breakfast.  Oh, the beautiful vine leaves!  The house is covered with a vine.  I looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden.  She evidently loves it.  No wonder she sometimes looks tired.  She was watching the large red poppies come out.  Then she walked off the lawn to the meadow, whose corner to the right I can just see.  Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday–I suppose for rabbits or something, as she kept on smelling it.  The air here is delicious.  Later on I heard the noise of croquet balls, and looked out again, and it was Charles Wilcox practising; they are keen on all games.  Presently he started sneezing and had to stop.  Then I hear more clicketing, and it is Mr. Wilcox practising, and then, ‘a-tissue, a-tissue’: he has to stop too.  Then Evie comes out, and does some calisthenic exercises on a machine that is tacked on to a greengage-tree–they put everything to use–and then she says ‘a-tissue,’ and in she goes.  And finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still smelling hay and looking at the flowers.  I inflict all this on you because once you said that life is sometimes life and sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish t’other from which, and up to now I have always put that down as ‘Meg’s clever nonsense.’ But this morning, it really does seem not life but a play, and it did amuse me enormously to watch the W’s.  Now Mrs. Wilcox has come in.
I am going to wear [omission].  Last night Mrs. Wilcox wore an [omission], and Evie [omission].  So it isn’t exactly a go-as-you-please place, and if you shut your eyes it still seems the wiggly hotel that we expected.  Not if you open them.  The dog-roses are too sweet.  There is a great hedge of them over the lawn–magnificently tall, so that they fall down in garlands, and nice and thin at the bottom, so that you can see ducks through it and a cow.  These belong to the farm, which is the only house near us.  There goes the breakfast gong.  Much love.  Modified love to Tibby.  Love to Aunt Juley; how good of her to come and keep you company, but what a bore.  Burn this.  Will write again Thursday.

Helen

And so E.M. Forster’s novel beings… Though my first introduction to Howard’s End wasn’t done through Helen’s letter to her sister Meg, but through Vanessa Redgrave’s walk during the opening titles of the Merchant Ivory film adaptation.

Though Forster based his description of Howards End on a house at Rooks Nest in Hertfordshire (his childhood home from 1883 to 1893) the film’s location for the house was the gorgeous Peppard Cottage in Rotherfield Peppard, Oxfordshire.

For more information on Peppard Cottage, as well as some fantastic pictures of the house, click here and here.

The Tree of Life nominated for Best Picture… why?

As a teenager I used to watch the Oscars every year. I LOVED the show, filled in the printable ballot from the official website with my fellow geeky friends and entered various competitions. I was an Oscar freak. I mean, I must’ve loved it in spite of the fact that it started at 3am (Spanish time difference), on a Sunday (?!), I always had an exam the following day, the Spanish journalists on the red carpet made the worst questions and attracted the least interesting celebrities and THE ENTIRE SHOW WAS DUBBED IN SPANISH! ARGHHHH. Even though I never even came close to guessing who the winners were, I always supported the decision made by the Academy. BUT this year, I seriously think something has gone awfully wrong: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is nominated for Best Picture and two other awards. WTF?

I have left the cinema halfway through a film only on two occasions: some obscure western in the 1990s and The Tree of Life. And we’d only watched it for about 30 minutes. The feeling of guilt for convincing my two friends to watch Terrence Malick’s film was just unbearable and I found myself either saying “sorry” to them every 5 seconds or just laughing at the screen – it’s not a film, it’s someone’s brain mush after taking industrial quantities of LSD.  I mean, can anyone endure 30 minutes of THIS:

We couldn’t… and found ourselves doing our own version in the bar next door to the cinema. It’s even shorter than the clip above and it doesn’t make you want to kill yourself after watching it:

I have done some research into the matter and was literally gobsmacked when I saw that The Tree of Life has also a great score on IMDB. I don’t get it. Part of me wants to rant about the film as Mark Twain did on Fenimore Cooper’s The Deer Slayer, but that would require me to watch the ENTIRE film and I have a feeling that if I did, I’d want to shoot myself after plucking each of my eyelashes slowly…

NOTE: The poster for The Tree of Life is via Film Book

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

I seriously cannot get enough of Pinterest, nor of Kate Spade tumblr. Below is another GORGEOUS image I pinned. Unfortunately in this case I don’t know who the author is but the street looks like somewhere in Spain.

And as soon as I pinned it I knew I wanted to do this:

Umbrellas, 60s vibe, hmmm… Initially reminded me of Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg!

But then I remembered that, as much as I liked the film, I wouldn’t say it bursts out colour and happiness. And so, another Jacques Demy film I love came to mind, which is all colour, joy and just FUN really: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.

It’s the story of  a pair of artistic twin sisters, born in the sign of Gemini, who live Rochefort. The film takes place over the course of a weekend when the fair comes to town. The wonderful music composed by Michel Legrand with Jacques Demy’s lyrics can linger in your head for hours, thus making you extremely happy and bubbly during that time. It’s like a happy pill! The colourful design throughout the film, cinematography and choreography just add to this burst of sheer joy of the senses.

The cast is also top notch: Catherine Deneuve and her sister Francoise Dorleac (who tragically died in car accident shortly after completing the film) play the twins. Gene Kelly (who was 55 when he played Andy in the film and is still incredibly young and athletic and overwhelmingly attractive), George Chakiris (who can forget him as Bernardo in West Side Story?) and Grover Dale bring a foreign element to an overall French cast.

I could talk about the film for aaaaaaaaaaaaages but it’s best you watch it – and later on agree with me, of course 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: The picture of the umbrellas above was taken from Kate Spade Tumblr, via one of my Pinterest boards. The poster of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is via Cinephiliaque  and the images of Les Demoiselles de Rochefort are via Lark About.