Monday, May 31, 2010

Hip Hop Mondays

Nothing beats the Monday blahs like my hip hop class. It's just five girls in the company of Rihanna and Chris Brown (though not together) with the occasional 90s flashback. Oh, do we have fun! Our current routine is set to "Picture Perfect," and as far as we know we all look great - we have no mirrors in our dance practice room!

Now that we know the steps, we can start to put the routine together and do it back-to-back, which is giving us a pretty good workout. It might be heading into winter, but after the warmup dance and one or two run-throughs, the sweatshirts have been flung into the corners of the room. Our instructor, Katie, is pretty awesome - charismatic, encouraging, laid back - and she's got skills. Funky sexy hip hop skills.

All of us were in black and grey this week, and we looked like a dance troop. We're really starting to come together as friends, too, over the past six or eight weeks. The most experienced dancer there - who's done ballet and contemporary before starting this class - mentioned that our personalities were starting to come through the moves, and she loved seeing it in us when it was her turn to watch. Hip hop has been such a stretch for me, coming from a swing and ballroom background, and I'm still trying to take up more space and make things big and strong on the dance floor. It's what I wanted, though; it's a chance to grow, and push myself, and see how it feels to dance solo.

Mondays aren't so bad. I tie my hair back and pull on my silver high-tops, and I'm ready for hip hop.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Street Scene

She had a smile as bright and wide as Miley Cyrus, but infinitely better fashion sense than the starlet. Even from my seat on the bus she was captivating. I noticed her shoes first - black of course - platform peep-toes with a heavy heel. They showcased her fluoro pink toenail polish, and she teetered on them, shifting her footing as she interacted with the three guys around the bar table. It was a Thursday, just after office hours, and Sydney's favourite happy hour had begun.

The young woman's beer was perilously close to the edge of the outdoor table, but she didn't pick it up. Her friends had her laughing every few seconds, and when she smiled her eyes shut, elfin-like. She laughed with her whole body, her mouth fully open, head thrown back, shoulders shaking with mirth.

The bus pulled away, and I still wonder who was enjoying themselves more - the dark-haired beauty, or those in her company.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Green Beans and Saturdays

I woke up to the sound of rain, and the washing machine churning away on its delayed-start load. Fall has come to Sydney, and with it, a lot of rain and dark evenings.

I must admit, I've been looking forward to wearing boots and jumpers, so this weekend I will be putting away sundresses and shorts. Last night was cool enough to wear my vintage suede jacket down to the pub for a drink with workmates. Seated outside on Darling Harbour, we were treated to fireworks honouring Jazz weekend.

Too tired after the workweek to do more than boil up some ravioli and toss it with pesto, I put off my dinner plans until Saturday lunchtime rolled around. And since it was a lazy Saturday, it was closer to 3pm when I heated up the wok.

With precious little space for cookbooks, I often rely on the internet to find out what's for dinner. My favourites are listed in the "Kitchen Encounters" links - those foodie blogs I check each week - and are often just what I need to get myself out of a pasta rut. This week Luisa, aka The Wednesday Chef, was sharing a vegetarian Indian dish from Julie Sahni.

Bihari Green Beans Masala

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 tablespoons flaked or sliced almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until light golden. Remove from heat and transfer almonds to a plate or bowl; set aside for garnish.

2. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, chili pepper flakes and salt to the unwashed sauté pan, and return to medium heat. Sauté until the onion is tender and begins to fry, about 4 minutes.

3. Add coconut milk and green beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 6 minutes.

4. Sprinkle beans with lime juice, and toss lightly. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with plain cooked rice or roti flatbread.

Julia's notes:

I used flaked almonds and they were lovely. I think any pre-chopped almonds would work. Their toasted, buttery crunch really makes this dish. I admit I forgot to add the lime - it will brighten this up. The green beans were quite crispy as I didn't let them cook for long, and I like them that way, but you may prefer softer veggies. Jody made the rice and added flaked coconut while it was cooking. We had very little left, so I also toasted some naan.

Flavourful onions and spices

I was nervous about the chili flakes but it wasn't overly spicy, though I did cheat and use the garlic paste I had in the fridge. These two are the flavours you can adjust for heat. I can only stand mild to medium, and the ratio here was good for me. Adjust as you like - just taste as you go!

Stir in the beans and coconut milk

Luisa has some lovely photos on her blog and while mine aren't as sophisticated, you can see that it's an easy dish to plate up and it will look fantastic, even from an amateur cook.

Plate it up and enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Traditional Grace

Last night Jody and I took in a traditional ballet at the Sydney Opera House. Coppelia is full of village charm, graceful movement, magic, gorgeous costumes and living dolls.

Dr Coppelius is a secretive pensioner living in a small village, and everyone wants to know what he's up to. Franz, a young man engaged to village girl Swanilda, is distracted by a lovely figure on Dr Coppelius' balcony. Swanilda is none too pleased when she finds her fiance mooning over Coppelia, posturing below her balcony with a bunch of flowers.

Soon afterward, the doctor (who is, in reality, an alchemist) locks up and leaves his house on an errand. The village boys rough him up but are unable to get his key. Coppelius heaves a sigh of relief and wipes his brow with his handkerchief - dropping his key, which was wrapped inside the cloth, in the process. He doesn't notice, but Swanilda does, and she snatches it up with glee. Meanwhile Franz runs off to find a ladder to lean against the upstairs window.

The seven village girls sneak into the house and discover a room filled with life-sized dolls. Cautiously they look around, and find that some can be prodded into movement. (At first I assumed at least some were props, but they were all dancers - eight of them - and able to sit or stand remarkably still! Throughout Act 2 they 'came to life' and danced like rag dolls, robots, a jack in the box or a windup toy.) Coppelia is discovered in a cabinet at the centre of the room, and her jerky movements remind one of a puppet on strings, but she is lovely nonetheless.

Coppelius arrives in a fury and chases the girls out - all but Swanilda, who hides in the cabinet with the alchemist's "daughter." Franz tumbles through the window, and Coppelius drugs him and pins him to a large wheel. Franz is spun around and around, unconscious of the spell being worked on him. The alchemist believes he can make Coppelia come to life and be a true daughter to him, if only she has a soul, and he tries to take Franz's from him.

The cabinet is opened and the audience is sure of Swanilda's discovery - but she has disguised herself in the doll's clothes, and begins to move as she saw Coppelia move earlier. She fools the alchemist, and dances for him as he attempts to transfer Franz's soul to her. The other dolls come to life and Swanilda uses the confusion to try and free her fiance. Eventually he recovers, and the two are reunited. Dr Coppelius is heartbroken that his daughter has not truly come to life, and the scene closes.

The final act involves a lot of group dances as the villagers rejoice in Franz and Swanilda's marriage. Aside from the second act's superb doll dance, the third act held my (and Jody's) favourite number - 12 lovely ballerinas in midnight blue tutus, beautifully in sync and as traditional as you please. Later in the act, nearly the whole cast took part - 35 dancers filled the stage in a country dance. I can't imagine what it would have felt like to be part of that company.

The costumes were fantastic, and even from our position (six rows from the back, in the centre of the upper-level Circle seating) we could see that tremendous attention to detail had been paid. There was tulle and ribbon everywhere, and a great deal of pastels. The sets were just as spectacular, giving off old-world charm. Dancers were supported by a strong and talented orchestra. Don't you just love the jumbled sound of strings and horns that signals the performance is about to start?

It’s lovely to live in a city where I can take advantage of the cultural offerings. Jody and I very much enjoyed our evening out, and it was a memorable way to celebrate our third anniversary.

*Picture from Sydney Opera House website, as photography was not allowed. Coppelia runs from the 4th-22nd of May 2010, includes matinees, and is suitable for family viewing.
The storyline is based on my interpretation of the performance I attended. I'm sure there are numerous sites with other synopses, but this is mine.

Design by: Blogger XML Skins | Distributed by: Blogger Templates | Sponsored by Application Monitoring