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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Giordano Dance Company's "the only way around is through" Tells HCV Patient's Stories and Hope

The Giordano Dance Company marked over half a century of work with their 155th world premiere last night at The Harris Theater. Choreographed by company member Joshua Blake Carter with concept and structure by Nan Giordano, “the only way around is through” stood out from the other pieces performed at the spring engagement.
Giordano Dance Chicago performs the world premiere of "the only way around is through", choreographed by Joshua Blake Carter, concept and structure by Nan Giordano. Photo by Gorman Cook Photography. “the only way around is through” tells the stories of people living with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and is part of a worldwide awareness initiative including over 100 artists from 35 countries. GDC should be proud of their contribution. Executive Director Michael McStraw talked to the audience before the piece and explained how the dancers and choreographers met with patients who have HCV to hear their stories and learn firsthand about the burden and stigma surrounding the disease. “What resonated most was the hope each one had,” McStraw said. They were honored the patients entrusted them with their stories. “As much as we saw dance enriches lives, these stories enriched the dances,” he said.
Giordano Dance Chicago performs the world premiere of "the only way around is through", choreographed by Joshua Blake Carter, concept and structure by Nan Giordano. Photo by Gorman Cook Photography. The journey is well translated into dance. The stigma, burden, and hope are clear, heavy but beautiful, and completed with grace and control. It opens with the dancers crouched low to the ground, rocking with repetitive movements, every now and then stretching up trying to stand only to snap back down. Some drag each other down. The next captures the isolation and loneliness, being the only one in the crowd, feeling like you’re frantically running around in all directions while everyone else is going forward. Finally dancers show a unified front dancing together then unzipping the charcoal gray costumes showing different swatches of bright colors, revealing their true colors. One dancer is last to join them, giving a sense of community and acceptance. They are not alone. Even though they have this disease, they are not the disease. They are still individuals.
Giordano Dance Chicago performs the world premiere of "the only way around is through", choreographed by Joshua Blake Carter, concept and structure by Nan Giordano. Photo by Gorman Cook Photography. “the only way around is through” felt fresh and cohesive. The performance was honest and genuine. As an audience member you really felt the emotional evolution and were imbued with a feeling of hope. The spring engagement continues tonight and tomorrow. For more information about performances, visit giordanodance.org or harristheaterchicago.org

The Martha Stewart Wedding Party - featuring Lauren Conrad and Darcy Miller

The Martha Stewart’s Wedding Party was a blast! It was produced by Claudia Hanlin the Wedding Library and Lovebird Events, Inc. and they featured Darcy Miller, the editorial director of Martha Stewarts Weddings, who gave a great opening speech and awesome advice to the brides in the audience as well as Lauren Conrad, celebrity and designer of the paper crown bridesmaid collection. The audience was given a chance to ask Darcy and Lauren a few questions, here were some of Darcy’s answers:

“What is a good color for all skin tones?”
I have found that blush works well and is very neutral.

“How do you incorporate a man if he is one of the bridesmaids?”
An option would be matching his tie or pocket square to the ladies.

“How important are the bridal/bridesmaids shoes?”
Comfort is number one, and depending on how long the dresses are - you may or may not even see the shoes! However, you can never go wrong with a neutral colored shoe. Just make sure to tell your bridal party beforehand if you will be walking in grass so they can be prepared with a thicker heel or wedge.

“What color palate would be good for grandmothers/moms? And should they match the bridal party?”
 They could be similar but it is really up to you!

“Other than a bachelorette party what other fun activities would you suggest doing with your bridal party?”
Go to a cooking class together or a wine tasting, whatever you enjoy doing with your friends, do it!

“What are your thoughts on a big bridal party?”
The bigger the bridal party the more work for the bride. Need to take into consideration bridal party gifts and more meals to pay for during the rehearsal dinner, more flower bouquets and boutonnieres… and it adds up quick!

“What are some tips you have to stay present during your wedding?
Make sure to eat and enjoy it and that is the mindset you need to have before you go into it. Also remember that not everything will be perfect so pick your battles and let it go! Nobody knows all the details, guests are just there to have fun and celebrate.  Also pretend the wedding is actually 2 weeks earlier than the actual date and it will really help with not planning last minute.



Lauren Conrad also answered a few questions:

“How do you know what looks good as a bridal party?”
Pull pictures online and arrange them on the screen to give yourself a visual.

“What is your favorite part of a wedding?
Favors! Love wooden boxes with cards and little treats inside of them, that is what I had at my wedding.

“What was your inspiration for your bridesmaids line?”
I couldn't find what I was looking for in the stores and wanted an very unique and eclectic look so I created my own line!

The party attenders were able to enjoy 100 of the finest wedding vendors as well as attend several useful workshops including learning how to create your own boutonniere and floral headpiece, cocktail mixology, learning how to tie a bowtie, as well as fun paper napkin folds. It was a very exiting Sunday afternoon – can’t wait for the same event next year!


Friday, March 27, 2015

How to have coworkers when you work remotely

Do you work from home? Ever wanted buddies to work alongside you or just to be able to share a space with someone to motivate you while building strong relationships? More and more of us in the working world are starting to work remotely cutting off the relationship building that happens in an office space – well now you can have it! The Shift was started by Nicole Vasquez, a business owner paving the way and helping out other entrepreneurs!


The Shift is located in Uptown and to date is the only work-share space there is around. Nicole was inspired to create this “co-working” concept when she realized that there were no spaces near her home for her to work in her community and she was tired of commuting to the city to get stuff done. “We are a hub in the community for working, learning, civic engagement, and socializing” said Nicole Vazquez. Since the Shift opened its doors in November, it hasn’t stopped evolving as Nicole listens to what the community needs and molds the space to what her clients need. For more information on The Shift you can go to: www.theshiftchicago.com.

How to rock a designer dress without the designer price!

I had nothing to wear. It was Friday and I was attending the Chinese Lunar Ball the very next night, I didn’t know what to do. I was on my way to meet the owner of the Frock Shop, Jennifer Burrell, to check out her designer dress rental space located at 2150 S Canalport Ave, when I realized that my solution was approaching! As I walked into The Frock Shop, I was warmly welcomed into her space and proceeded to ask her questions regarding her business and how she came to be. She was inspired one day as she was cleaning out her closet and noticed that there were a lot of dresses in there that she had only worn once that were still in great condition and thought that it was a shame. So with the help of her friends and family she decided to open up a designer rental shop! She carries sizes 0-22 and has designers ranging from Herve Ledger, Jovani, BGBC, Alice+Olivia, Black Halo, to Elizabeth&James. I had never worn a designer dress in my life but with the help of the Frock Shop I was able to rent my very first one for only $85!




The majority of the dresses range from $85-$175 for a 4-day rental and $100-$150 for a 7-day rental. I was looking for a red dress but ended up picking out a coral dress from BGBC instead because I fell in love with it. I didn’t need any alterations, though they do have a seamstress, and they even have accessories and designer clutches for rent as well. Jennifer gets new dresses in every week as well as changes her stock seasonally. She also has a super fun Fashion Event coming up on April 2nd from 6:30-8:00 at her very own Frock Shop. This event is open to specially invited guests and the general public. General public tickets are limited. For full event details and tickets, visit www.springinthecity.splashthat.com. They will also be presenting fresh new Spring designs from Chicago evening wear designers Boris Powell and the 828 Collection. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to their non-profit partner, The Migration Heritage Foundation (501(c)3). See you there!

It Follows Review: Go Away, Death, Nobody Likes You

It Follows



Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary
Rating: Four Stars out of Five

Death is inevitable. It may take its time getting to you, but it will get you. You can fight it all you like, avoid key developmental moments along the way, stick your head in the sand, try to prolong the good – or at least endurable – parts of youth, but you will never get away.

That is the central conceit of It Follows. For all the sexually transmitted infection allegory on its surface, it's really about the fear of death, and more specifically, the fear of aging that signifies the impending nature of the end of one's life.

Maika Monroe (co-star of last year's phenomenal The Guest) plays Jay, a girl in her late teens on the outskirts of Detroit who is seeing a guy she likes. Things aren't great at home. Her father is gone, either because he's a deadbeat or because he was also unable to head off death's encroachment, and her mom is more interested in leaving empty wine bottles around the house than in her kids. But this boy, Hugh (Jake Weary), likes her and takes her places. He's nice to her. He represents a space between childhood – Jay's sister and her friends are always laying on the couch, literally farting away their time – and adulthood – her mother is too busy with work and drinking away her pain to have any free time. It's a precarious position, having one foot in each world, and Jay feels it every second. Monroe plays her as tentative, a quiet and meek person, not quite ready for the transition yet.

As part of her attachment to her childhood, Jay invites Hugh to play a game with her while on a date, a people-watching challenge that involves scanning the crowd to guess which stranger Jay and Hugh would like to switch places with in that moment. Tellingly, Hugh chooses a young boy “with [his] whole life ahead of him.” Beyond that pregnant acknowledgement, it's mostly fun until Jay can't see the “girl in the yellow dress” Hugh points to. Upon realizing she's oblivious, he becomes petrified and they leave rapidly. Unfortunately for Jay, he's not petrified enough to put off their first time having sex. There's a reason for this, one that exposes human ugliness and self-preservation, but not necessarily the one you'd expect from a 21-year-old male.

After their first sexual encounter, things go haywire. Hugh explains the deal they made without her knowledge or consent: this thing, the “It” of the title, is now following her, and will get her, if she does not pass it along to someone else, and soon. Then comes the sound of footsteps. Hugh makes sure Jay sees what he's talking about, this hugely unsettling grotesquerie, and quickly gets her to the car so he can dump her in her front yard with a reminder to get rid of this curse as soon as possible.

As far as narrative propulsion goes, this is some compelling stuff. It would be perfectly serviceable as a schlocky horror flick if it stuck to this level, but It Follows gets deeper. Mitchell uses every tool in his cinematic tool belt to explore the themes he sets forth. This is a movie about isolation and the steadiness of doom, so he keeps the camera calm. It's not static, because life isn't motionless. To depict this, Mitchell uses a handful of 360-degree pans, at a hauntingly deliberate pace, to show the decreasing space between Jay and “It” during several scenes, all while a John Carpenter-inspired score, complete with doom-laden electronic bleeps and bloops, rises from almost nothing to terrorizing levels. It's so clear that “It” is always there that Mitchell has no need to get jumpy with camera trickery and quick cuts to artificially heighten things. The tension is always present and growing, like “It” patiently working its way toward Jay.

Mitchell keeps the fear of aging at the corner of every frame. Jay's mother is never fully seen. You get glimpses of her feet, her forehead, her hands, from behind, but never a solid shot of her face, like a sad version of the housekeeper in Tom and Jerry. She has faded away already, sunk in a pool of wine, never to return. She is an example of what adulthood means to Jay, embracing theoretical death before the physical version takes place. The dilapidated nature of their house – the carpets are the color of used cigarettes, the televisions are all of 1980s or earlier vintage, the above-ground pool is teetering on the edge of collapse – and their larger surroundings of Detroit are constant reminders of the impermanence of things, always deteriorating into nothingness. Despite some hints of modernity, like the occasional new car and an e-reader, the ratty clothes and almost total lack of cell phones would signify this as a period piece. The fact that it takes place in the modern day only serves as a frightening reminder that the end for this part of the world is coming. These characters will try to outrun that fate, but they cannot. They may fight it or they may accept that it will happen.


Where It Follows takes an optimistic turn, if you close one eye and cock your head, is its ending. It is in the spirit of horror movie fake-outs of old, but there's a mature acceptance that, while death is always on its way, there are some nice things you get to enjoy beforehand.

Some Movies to See This Weekend, March 27, 2015

This weekend is packed with new releases or somewhat new movies going wide across America. We've got your teen drama thingie! We've got your all-star adult comedy! We've got your animated family blockbuster starring cute things! And we've got your crowd pleasing redemption dramedy!




A Girl Like Her
Director: Amy S. Weber
Writer: Amy S. Weber
Starring: Lexi Ainsworth, Hunter King, Jimmy Bennett



Teenagers deal with bullying a lot. This movie looks to explore that. Based on the trailer, the entire thing is shot on smartphones and spy cameras, which sounds like an iffy proposition. It's unnecessarily limiting to the storytelling, but maybe it works. I haven't seen it yet.

The story centers around a group of teen girls doing the Mean Girls thing around school, all “I'm better than you” and whatnot, minus the comedy. They bully and belittle their way to the top, and two of the more “normal” kids at school look to expose it, I guess? It seems like there are some sort of stakes involved, with the sharp, scary music heightening as the trailer goes on, and the, “What if she finds out?” and, “It's too risky,” stuff being said. I hope that means some crazy thriller stuff awaits those who see it.

Get Hard
Director: Etan Cohen
Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, Etan Cohen, Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie



Will Ferrell is a Wall Street-y executive who has committed a no-no, legally speaking. He has some downtime before his prison sentence begins, so, in a panic, he hires an employee, played by Kevin Hart, to coach him on prison life. The thing is, Hart has never been to prison and Ferrell is being racist. Comedy ensues.

But there is more reason for hope than that remedial-sounding premise. Director-cowriter Etan Cohen was one of the masterminds behind Tropic Thunder, which probably holds the distinction of being the best comedy of the last decade, plus he wrote the return-to-form third Men In Black movie. The guy understands humor, and there are some hints in this trailer that some goofy world building will happen, with a prison wonderland being constructed in Ferrell's backyard.

Home
Director: Tim Johnson
Writers: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember
Starring: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez



Dreamworks made the Shrek movies. The Shrek movies are not very good. Dreamworks also made How to Train Your Dragon. How to Train Your Dragon is terrific. So, Home could fall on that scale. It's about an alien who finds his way to Earth after not fitting in on his home planet. He befriends a fat kitty and a young girl. Could be fun, could be migraine-inducing.

Danny Collins
Director: Dan Fogelman
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale




Al Pacino stars as the eponymous character, a Neil Diamond-style singer who looks to reconnect with his adult son (Cannavale) after decades of not being in contact. On the side, he tries to write new songs for the first time in years, after doing greatest hits tours to buy nicer mansions. It's a story about redemption, recognizing the things that matter in life, and going about attaining those things that matter. “Heartwarming” is the word that will probably be used most to describe it, which is fine and borderline exciting in an irony-heavy era.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Giordano Dance Company's Spring Engagement Debuts New Work at Harris Theater

Giordano Dance Company will present an American debut at their spring engagement at The Harris Theatre March 27 through 29th. “The Only Way Around is Through” was choreographed by company member Joshua Blake Carter, with concept and structure by Nan Giordano.
Photo by Gorman Cook The three movements depict the critical and empowering role human connection play in helping us cope with chronic illness and move beyond isolation and despair to a bright new future. “GDC has always found the experience of performing works from our repertoire at Dance for Life events very fulfilling,” said Nan Giordano. “However creating this piece with its very origins based on personal accounts of those dealing with debilitating disease really changed us all and we look forward to sharing this extraordinary new work with our audiences in our upcoming concerts.”
There are six pieces in the program including ones choreographed by Emmy Award- winner Mia Micheals (“So You Think You Can Dance”), Liz Imperio whose extensive staging and choreographing credits include Jennifer Lopez, Cher, and Madonna and many more, and a piece performed by the full company by Ray Leeper, an award-winning choreographer on “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Got Talent”. There is an intimate fundraising reception at the Radisson Blue Aqua from 9:30 to 11:00. Tickets are available at giordanodance.org
Courtesy Giordano Dance Company website Known for its cutting-edge jazz and contemporary dance, Giordano Dance Company celebrates its 52nd anniversary this year. It is one of the longest running theatre companies in Chicago and one of the only dance companies to reach this anniversary. GDC also has a strong outreach program and education programs with three Chicago public schools. For more information about Giordano Dance Company and this weekend’s performances, visit giordanodance.org or harristheaterchicago.org

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Marci Kessler's Tips for Spring

Get excited for spring with the latest fashion and looks! As founder and CEO of DoubleTake Consignment, Marci Kessler has been a name to know within the fashion industry. For over 20 years, this innovative go-getter has developed her knowledge of fashion and is offering her expertise! Get a flawless look for spring with Kessler's tips.
Photo Credit: turningfashion.io

6 Trends for Spring:
Gingham print: This happy-go-lucky print is showcased best through dresses, tops, and bottoms for your new spring wardrobe.

Suede: Base your outfit with suede in an assortment of silhouettes, bright colors, and textures.

Fringe: Who's been waiting around until the 70's came back? Add some flare to your look with a fringed bag or shoes. BEWARE…just because the 70's are back, it doesn't give permission to pair a fringed dress with your favorite necklace from the decade as well. You don't want your outfit to be confused with a costume!

Boho: Free your style to become what it craves with the Boho look. Referring back to the 70's look, dyed garments with a touch of floral, lace, or ruffles leave you with the perfect romantic Boho look.

Denim: You can never get enough denim now-a-days… Whether it's a dress, jumpsuit, jeans, jackets, or a twist of distressed and military style, denim is top dog!

Get Professional: Pantsuits, cropped pants, and slim blazers are recommended for all you powerful ladies out there in the workforce! Seeking perfection? Try a white suit with a navy top.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Listening to the World — One night only. Banda Magda in Chicago, Thursday 3/26

Banda Magda will burst on to the Chicago stage and leave you breathless. Get your dancing shoes on. One can't help but go crazy over the music. It is infectious. What does it mean when one says "World Music"? Yeah... I was skeptical thinking "what the hell is world music?" OMG. In this case, it means music that everyone in the world will jump up and want to dance to. Rated the number 2 band in iTunes on the world charts, Banda Magda careens around leaving listeners thrilled. Banda Magda moves from samba to French chanson, from Greek folk tunes to Colombian cumbia and Afro-Peruvian lando. Truly, it is not uncommon to hear 6 or 7 different languages (even Japanese) during the course of the concert — all with a sense of unchanged musicality. Banda Magda's songs capture the best of mid-century pop ballads and cinematic arranging while drawing on the band’s global background.

Intensely Delightful!

On stage, Banda Magda bursts with humor and quirky sensibility, powered by a unflagging energy. This group of close musical friends turn their songs into engaging romps that have won them the spotlight in Carnegie Hall Musical Explorers Series, as well as performances at discerning venues and festivals such as Webster Hall, Irving Plaza, The Kennedy Center, The Jefferson Center, Celebrate Brooklyn, Jazz al Parque, St. Moritz Festival Da Jazz, and the Chicago World Music Festival.

The band was founded by Greek-born singer, film scorer, and composer Magda Giannikou. Trained in film scoring at Berklee, Giannikou’s film music finesse has won her awards and caught the attention of Kronos Quartet. After the success of their brilliantly colorful albums, Amour, t’es là? (Top 10 Billboard World Music Charts, NPR’s All Songs Considered, First Listen, NPR’s 10 favorite World Music Albums 2013), and Yerakina (co-produced by GRAMMY Award-winners Michael League and Fab Dupont), Banda Magda is in pre-production of their 3rd opus, the vibrant, Technicolor Tigre to be released in January 2016. Thursday will be a chance to hear some really amazing music.


Musical notoriety

Banda Magda's album Yerakina hit #2 on the iTunes World Charts and was co-produced by three-time Grammy Award Nominee Fab Dupont and recent Grammy Award Winner Michael League. The album appeared at #9 on the Billboard World Music Charts and made the Top 10 World Music Albums by NPR. Magda Giannikou's songs Amour, t’es là? and Ase Na Bo were part of the GRAMMY Award Winning Album Snarky Puppy Family Dinner, Volume 1. Those who love a musical experience have gone wild over Banda Magda. The band is usually one of their favorites:

“An artist who fires on all artistic cylinders”

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR

“Banda Magda’s music is polished to a high pop sheen, but beneath the glossy surface the beats veer off in unexpected directions. American swing, bossa nova, gypsy jazz, soca, tango and cinematic string charts collide with Middle Eastern and Latin rhythms for tunes that will leave your brain delightfully confused.”

J&R Music World

“My favorite band in the whole world. Music and pure joy.”

Michael League, owner of groundUP records, bassist 
(Snarky Puppy, Kirk Franklin, Patti Austin, Robert Glasper)


“With this record Magda managed to make old sound new, new sound old and make the French language an instrument of its own.”

Fab Dupont, Music Engineer/Producer
(Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Bebel Gilberto, Sofia Rei)

“Some of the greatest cotton candy music with substance to come this way in quite some time. The genre splicing keeps it more than fresh as it sounds like you are at a French samba party on the Ivory Coast, all bottomed by a beat that can't be beat. You actually feel like you're listening to music in color. Well done.”

Midwest Record
 

The show is at Martyrs' at 3855 N. Lincoln Ave. The number is 773-404-9494. The show starts at 8:00. $10 in advance and $12 at the door. See you there... and just try to not kick your shoes off and dance.
Written by Thom Olson for HalfStack

Video:
Published on Sep 4, 2013
"Amour T'es La"
from Snarky Puppy's live DVD/CD - "Family Dinner - Volume One"
available for purchase at http://snarkypuppy.ropeadope.com/albu...

http://www.snarkypuppy.com / http://www.facebook.com/snarkypuppy


Hi-tech Under Armour Opens on the Mile



Finding new things to do in the cold is challenging. With the promise of Spring around the corner,  outdoor activities won’t be far behind. Under Armour is looking to gear you up for those activities, so they opened the latest in high tech retail spaces on Michigan Avenue. Located at 600 N. Michigan, at the corner of Michigan and Ohio, the 30,000 square foot space is impressive the moment you walk in. This Chicago Brand House seeks to give buyers a complete brand experience and tell the story of Under Armour in an interactive way. Like their other locations in Washington DC (Tyson’s Corner) and Soho, the store is a complete immersion that seeks to inform as well as be fun. This is the largest Under Armour store in the world. “We’ve had our eye on this location for some time. When it became available, we jumped on it. We really wanted to be here.” said Susie McCabe, Senior Vice President of Global Retail.

 One enters the store from Michigan Avenue into a rotunda of LED lights that leads shoppers to two floors of cutting-edge products and apparel including: outdoor, basketball, team sports, training, running, golf, studio, youth, footwear and cleats. The LED rotunda is lit up by a small portion of the nearly 23.5 million LED lights that jazz up the retail environment. There is much to see. They position the space to be a destination spot for shoppers, sports enthusiasts and tourists. The target market is the active individual who takes sports seriously and want the most technological advanced apparel they can find for their sport. And yes, while much of the apparel is technologically savvy, it is also attractive — even the camo.


Compression for Performance

Under Armour is an originator in performance and compression wear — form-fitting garments made from stretchy material. The compression in the sportswear keeps muscles warm to prevent muscle strain and fatigue. These garments also provide wicking to take sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes. Under Armour products are designed to make athletes perform better.  They rely heavily on an athlete’s feedback to ensure the product lives up to standards. The brand was started by Maryland football player Kevin Plank. Plank wanted a t-shirt that would pull the sweat away from his body when he played. In his grandmother’s basement, he came up with HeatGear®. The fabric is engineered with moisture-wicking properties so athletes can keep cool, dry and at the same time be wearing something that is incredibly light. A year later, he came up with a fabric called ColdGear® which keeps athletes warm, dry and is also light weight but made for cold conditions. Much of the merchandise in the store is made from these proprietary fabrics. These fabrics feel great. There is a noticeable difference when compared to regular cotton garments. They are incredibly light but feel soft, smooth and silky. Many of the shirts and even the pants offer 4-way stretch. Some garments offer UPF 30+ protection on damaging sunrays. Much of the garments construction is well thought out and designed: waistbands allow for expansion without having a shirt pull out, pocket bags that  stretch with the garment or seam locations that allow for greater movement and mobility while at the same time look cool.

Cleats and Shoes... but not a Stilettos in the House.

The shoe department is ample with a complete variety of everything needed for an athlete’s foot including cleats. The Cleat area has a training area so buyers can try out cleats on turf just like in real life scenarios before they buy. Many of the shoes offer the latest in shoe technology that provides cushion as well as stability when running. Some running shoes provide a Change-Cushioning technology that allows the shoe to cushion when not running but then steps up in firmness when engaged in a sport. Designed to be lightweight, their shoes preform like a second skin and allow the foot to breath while providing support. The cleats are now the best selling and most recommended cleat available. Some cleats offer the proprietary ClutchFit® that allows users to get performance without having to wrap or tape.


Calorie Free Fitness Bar

While at the store, one can check out the brand’s first ever Fitness Bar. The Fitness Bar (similar to the Genius Bar at Apple) offers a complete range of wearable fitness devices from brands like Garmin, Pebble and Misfit. As this is a new and budding market, others additions to the roster to be added in the near future. These devices are designed to keep you plugged in while working out. Under Armour sees this as huge step up in training. It offers the athlete direct and instant feedback during performance. These devices, activity trackers and sport watches all integrate with UA Record®. UA Record is an online health and fitness network with 120 million members and is the most comprehensive network of it’s kind. The network helps athletes train, perform and live as well as an opportunity to meet or spur others on to better performance. Under Armour sees this as a way to enhance the way athletes train. At the store, shoppers can log on and set up a UA Record membership and start connecting with other members to build/participate in a community of athletes.  UA Record also integrates with other performance trackers and programs to enhance and support the user experience. A side note (but an important one): the app is FREE.

For the Sportman

The new Michigan Avenue store will be the first to feature the UA Hunt® and UA Fish® brands. For the huntsman, Under Armour has a nice sized area of the store to display their Ridge Reaper® Camo. Designed specifically for the hunter, this gear offers lots of high tech features like scent control strips that hold antimicrobial powder to suppress odors or detectable smells. Some garments offer infrared technological fabrics that are soft but also retain and absorb body heat in the freezing cold. And yes, the stuff looks good and is surprisingly sexy.

Kid Sports

Kids are not left out. The store has an amazing array of kids clothing displayed in a retail environment that kids will want to come to. As UA see it, kids start small and grow to become great athletes. Many of the athletes who work with Under Armour (Stephen Curry or Misty Copeland) started their passion as kids. This budding passion needs to grow and be nurtured. Young athletes can test their “readiness” by participating in an Optojump experience — an interactive digital experience designed to revolutionize athletic training and preparation. Kids can monitor their progress with a high jump tracker that records their height, weight and performance. They can track their performance as they visit the store over the course of time to check progress — and yes, it's free too.


Michigan Avenue Sport — Tourist Watching

Finally, for the tourist there is also a specialty location in the store to reinforce ties to Chicago. A large living wall of ivy inspired by the Wrigley Field is a focal point within the space.  The Brand House also offers localized Chicago apparel that celebrates the legacy of the city in both sport and style. Under Armour has existing partnerships with local athletic institutions, including the Chicago Cubs, University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University with merchandise that uses their proprietary technology or is actually used by star athletes. Some of this equipment is made specifically for these star athletes. Shopper can walk out with Stephen Curry apparel that is made specifically to his standards and size. It is like wearing Stephen Curry's pants. Some of this merchandise is produced in a limited run and being tested perhaps to be integrated in the complete line later. It’s like being a beta-tester for underwear.


This is a fun visit and a good way to get out of the cold. Check out Under Armour's store soon. Also things to note: the gear is high-tech but without a high-tech price. I was surprised at the price points of much of the merchandise — it was affordable and really well made. It won't break a budget. Full disclosure here: I am not an athlete and I was impressed. I have my masters in fashion design — and yes, I was impressed with their product.  The UA Chicago Brand House will be open Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., on Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and can be reached at 312-690-5094. 

Written by Thom Olson
for HalfStack

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Acting Company's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" a Pleasure

The Acting Company’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court” was fun. Directed by The Acting Company’s Artistic Director Ian Belknap, Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of the Mark Twain novel was a fresh contemporary take on a classic. It was the story we knew in a way we haven’t seen.
Picture by Heidi Bohnenkamp Lead character Hank Morgan, played by Andy Nogasky, was relatable and affable from start to finish. While attending his 15 year high school reunion as a failed inventor, he says he’s the guy who regrets everything because of the chances he didn’t take. Going back in time to King Arthur’s Court inspires him to take a risk which ends up changing his present day life. The ending has a little bit of a “Back to the Future” feel. When some people say it a story is “contemporary”, the references are general. It could be set anywhere from the 1990’s to present day because it mentions computers and this thing called the internet. The characters took videos with their phones which were then used later in the story. Political references were a couple years old but still topics we’re discussing today. When Hank challenges Merlin’s approach to creating weapons, he brings to mind President Bush’s regime when he says (paraphrase), “If your contracts rely on destroying ogres, you need to produce a lot of ogres.” Even 3D printing to create guns is brought up and used in the play.
Picture by Heidi Bohnenkamp It was fun seeing the ensemble in multiple characters starting in their present day characters and then several different roles in King Arthur’s Court, requiring quick changes. As Belknap promised, the energy was high and the pacing was fast. The comedic timing was crisp and accurate. It should have a great run.

The Acting Company's "Macbeth": What Was Good Was Good

When you are excited for something there’s the risk of it not being as good as expected. The director Devin Brain said he’s loved this play since he was a teenager. I loved his answers in the interview. "Macbeth" is a challenging play to read much less stage and perform. Shakespeare is a different language for actors to speak. But it was being done by The Acting Company. What was good was very good and what was “meh” was very disappointing.
Picture by Heidi Bohnenkamp What was new was very good and enjoyable. A drum beat played as you entered the theatre and throughout the play, bringing nice parallels to “A Tell Tale Heart”. The Steampunk/post-apocalyptical feel to the stark set and costumes complete with boots, scarves and goggles gave it a fresh, timeless nature. Macbeth wiped blood on the wall after every kill. It progressed from disgusted, trying to clean his hands to triumphant and marveling at his trophies. The Weird Sister stayed onstage for almost the entire play, speaking some lines in unison with other characters, adding menace and foreboding, a reminder fate is always present. There is music to Shakespeare and Brain captured and showcased the musicality of the words. The chants were haunting, some of the dialogue hypnotic, and the rhythm of some of the lines volleying back and forth between characters was a pleasure to see and feel. Brain said he hoped to give the audience a moment of empathy for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. I didn’t have one. There wasn’t clear and driving motivation behind their actions, besides the witch calling him “King” and well, hey, that’s a possibility. Yes, they’re social climbing, but why? I wanted to see why. I would have liked to see more of a pause when Macduff heard his wife and children had been slaughtered, a pause for him to take it in and process it, “feel it as a man” as he says. I’m glad he wasn’t over the top beside himself, but the delivery came off as, “They were killed? Bummer.”
Picture by Heidi Bohnenkamp Lady Macbeth is one of the most powerful characters in literature and many actresses look forward to the opportunity to play her. I have seen her so conniving and manipulative when she breaks down in the end you feel it’s just. I’ve also seen her as an Iron Butterfly, a balance of fierce strength draped in femininity. The performance can be subtle. Friday she was not strong, but closer to a needy housewife. She’s a character you can love to hate or at least understand where she’s coming from. I was wondering what she was doing. Last but not least, we all know fights are choreographed like a dance, but that doesn’t mean they should be performed in a way that would make Fosse proud. Macduff and Macbeth fight each other for their lives, their loved ones, what they believe in, and it was cheesy. Choices that could have been risks paid off. Some aspects of performance that was expected of a company of this caliber did not.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cymbeline Review: The Limits of Modernity

Cymbeline



Director: Michael Almereyda
Writer: Michael Almereyda (from William Shakespeare's play)
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Penn Badgley, Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Anton Yelchin
Rating: Two and a Half Stars Out of Five

There is no new way out there left to adapt William Shakespeare. He's been done in the classic sense, in which the most minute details of the period and play are adhered to. He's been done in strange pseudo realities, like Julie Taymor's Titus. Sometimes his plays are plopped in a modern setting and sometimes his words get chopped up, rearranged, refitted, and redesigned for the adaptation's purposes. In Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, arguably the best cinematic adaptation of the Bard's work, there is a mix of all those, to thrilling effect.

The point is, a filmmaker is unlikely to hit upon a new direction to take Shakespeare's plays, so the choice that is left is in which previous direction – or combination of previous directions – suits the play being adapted. Are the play's specific turns and settings and events truly analogous to modern day? Is realism befitting something with such highly poetic dialogue? Is that dialogue necessary or is the true worth of the play in its structure and themes? Should the actors be chosen for their training and familiarity with Shakespeare's work or should modern sensibilities and naturalism rule the day? These and other questions must be answered and reexamined from the inception of a new project involving the work of such a well known creator. You can't just pick any angle and call it a day, expecting your small contribution to the man's work to result in transporting cinema.

That is where the problems with Michael Almereyda's new adaptation of Cymbeline crop up. With some script changes here and there, he generally leaves the text untouched but situates it in the modern day, with the British upstarts run by King Cymbeline (Ed Harris) portrayed as a biker gang and their Roman overlords as police officers in repainted LAPD cars. Milla Jovovich's scheming Queen character is reminiscent of a mob wife. So far, so fine, whatever. These changes are nothing revolutionary, but they retain the spirit of the work for the most part, which is an adaptation's job.

Where Almereyda first runs into trouble is in casting. As the two lovers at the film's center, Imogen and Posthumus, Dakota Johnson and Penn Badgley are incorrect. Much of Johnson's skill as a performer lies in her comic timing and naturalistic presence, a riffing, improvisational quality that draws strength from her ability to listen and react to the other people onscreen with her. Shakespeare's style does not lend itself to these strengths, all authoritative, flowery language and precision. At times, Johnson's discomfort with the material is visible as these regimented lines struggle to leave her lips. She fares much better at the visual aspects of Imogen's arc, with her eyes searching to trust people and always being let down by their pettiness and manipulation. As for Badgley, well, he's handsome. The lines aren't a huge difficulty for him, but he is fairly blank in delivering them, and he seems less full of youthful angst than Ambien. The film would greatly benefit from swapping Badgley and Anton Yelchin, who gives a spirited, lively-ish performance as Imogen's stepbrother, Cloten.

In a larger sense, Cloten, unfortunately, is another example of the film's issues. He is subtext made text via the literalizing properties of choosing a modern lens for the adaptation. Whereas the character is meant to be in love – or at least lust – with his adoptive sister from afar, the film makes that as crystal clear as possible. It's creepy, sure, so that box gets checked, but the certainty of his intentions is somehow less unsettling than if they were left just beneath the surface. Ditto for the film's handling of Ethan Hawke's Iachimo, whose sleazy, violating intrusion sets everything in motion. Hawke gives a fine, slimy performance as the lying dynamo, but Almereyda's insistence on including the trappings of our modern world takes much of his power away. Whereas the play hinges on the character's con man abilities to convince Posthumus of Imogen's untrue unfaithfulness, Iachimo's access to iPhones and Photoshop feels like a lack of trust in Hawke's abilities as an actor. This is a character who should be able to weave a tale of deception through words alone – doctored evidence is untrue to the strength of the character.

While Almereyda takes some turns with the material that don't work, he does a lot of the little things so well so as to make up for some of the conceptual misfires. His use of music is so refreshing. While most films of this era are drenched in unremarkable, wall-to-wall orchestration, he lets most of Cymbeline's conversations breathe. He trusts Shakespeare's words to have enough power to make the point by themselves without resorting to extra manipulative tactics like swelling strings. At one point, when it first appears he loses the script on this point, Almereyda pulls a gotcha by cutting to reveal the music being sung by Jovovich's Queen, thus making the song the point rather than an unnecessary enhancer. The same goes for a later scene which makes diegetic use of Toots & The Maytals' “Pressure Drop,” which is perhaps a little on the nose for the theme of the moment, but when used in conjunction with visual montage instead of playing over dialogue like a top-down decree to understand the importance of a scene, it works. Much like his sense of music, Almereyda makes a move in the right direction for the future of low budget, high definition digital moviemaking. While the limits of the medium are still present – everything looks too clean, indoor scenes must be lit less harshly to avoid looking like a sitcom, among other things – the way he shoots outdoor sequences looks terrific. A car chase along a bridge on Los Angeles's outskirts is stark, with the magic hour sun gleaming, showing a better life just outside Posthumus's grasp. A burial site in a quarry of what looks like giant charcoal chips is gorgeous and evocative of crumbling granite, much like the broken kingdom portrayed in the story.


Unfortunately, these technical achievements aren't quite enough to overcome Cymbeline's flaws, but they are indicative of a filmmaker trying things that don't work, rather than someone unable to put together a competent piece of cinema. It's a failure of ambition and effort, and a light failure at that. There's no striking out looking with Almereyda.

Some Movies to See This Weekend, March 20, 2015

This is a weekend many people have likely had circled on the calendar for a while now. In many ways, it marks the beginning of blockbuster season. But like I have said in this space before, March is a little on the weirder side, where the films that get released aren't necessarily sure things to rake in a lot of cash. They're odder ducks, perhaps a little more niche in the audiences they seek. That's a good thing if you're part of those audiences, and it should be embraced. Anyway, let's get to it.



The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James



People, especially the younger set, loved Divergent, which came out last year. They really responded to the themes of being put in a box by society and the urge to break out. The critic community, including yours truly (I'm sorry, fans, because I hate not being able to share in someone's enjoyment of something), have less of a connection to it. It's overly long because it can't help itself from making the same point over and over, those artificial distinctions between groups don't make much sense even within the context of the movie's world, and the character motivations are all over the place.

But hey, I wasn't a huge fan of the first Hunger Games movie, either, but I consider Catching Fire one of the best blockbusters of the decade. Of course, Hunger Games is still better than its spiritual cousin Divergent, but bear with me for a sentence while I make a point. With a similar directorial change and the burden of world building behind it, perhaps Insurgent can make a similar leap in quality. Woodley's Tris and her cohorts, including Four (Theo James and his unnaturally large Adam's Apple) is now on the run from Winslet's Jeanine and her governmental forces. Revenge is on everyone's mind, so the stakes are higher.  There's a lot of hope here, even for a non-fan like me.

The Gunman
Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Don MacPherson, Pete Travis
Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone



The tagline for this movie is “Armed with the Truth.” Knowing a little about Sean Penn's personal history, I'm terrified to see him armed with anything, let alone with what he deems the truth. Morbidity aside, The Gunman looks like a mashup of Charles Bronson revenge thrillers and '70s paranoid conspiracy pictures, with a modern action sheen atop it all. 

Plus the cast includes multiple Oscar winners and some of the finest character actors in the business. Sure, Penn's career isn't what it used to be, but he's not exactly been slumming it recently, and guys like Elba and Bardem are still at the height of their powers. This many talented people in a room together is usually a sign of at least a germ of a good idea. Maybe it won't work out in execution, but there's a lot of enticing stuff in the mix.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Meet Andrea Pabon - Halfstack Highlights


Andrea Pabon is a fresh faced Puerto Rican woman setting out to make Chicago her creative haven. Her ambition, drive and vitality for life are infectious. She draws people in with her positive attitude despite the cut-throat industries she works in – film directing and fashion photography. She also moonlights as a freelance stylist. Yet, it is her love for film, cinematography and photography that takes center stage in her creative endeavors. You can check out our spotlight about her and interview in our spring issue HERE.



In this week's Halfstack Highlights Podcast, I have a heart to heart with her about her journey and talk more about her indie film "In Between". This is a great episode for those of you readers interested in film, photography and directing! Listen to the full episode below.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Listen and subscribe via iTunes.

Make sure to check out the In Between Facebook page HERE and follow Andrea on Twitter HERE
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