Sunday, February 7, 2016

My FB posts on Ras Nijinsky in Drag as Ana Pavlova by Peter Minshall and Ja-Whan Thomas

First post: Saturday, February 6, 2016 

The Dying Swan - Ras Nijinsky in drag as Pavlova. A Mas by Peter Minshall and Jha-Whan Thomas.

So I finally take a little sit-down to watch this video because I can't see the mas any other way. I am a Trinidadian who is an American who loves the ballet. I love the husband and children and whatnot, but the best part about moving to NYC has been being able to go to the ballet. And the rueben, but that's another post.

I've also seen Pavlova's Dying Swan on YouTube, as well as a video performance by my favorite ballerina, Uliana Lopatkina of the Mariinski Theater. I will see her perform it live for the first time later this month at Bam Theater when the Ballet Mariinski pays tribute to Maya Plisetskaya, Pavlova, and others. Lopatkina has 2 nights all to herself and I am attending both. I became a member of Bam when I realized that Ballet Mariinski takes up its winter residence there. I almost froze my ass off 2 years ago to go see Swan Lake with Lopatkina. I was tired and sleepy and frozen, but I made it and she was glorious. I cannot imagine the emotions this time around.

But that was a fairly long digression (and it's my wall, so I can digress) away from this mas. So back to Bom.

I read that Thomas took 3rd place in the King of Carnival and some other fellas get real vex because that is not what a Carnival King is and how he is just a fancy-up moko jumbie and the other fellas who place after third place had real costumes and so on. I didn't know if to twist up meh face at the sour grapes or find more head to roll meh eye in.

Even the designer of the winning costume had shite to talk. According to a Guardian story, "Marcus Eustace, the designer of the competition’s eventual winner Psychedelic Nightmares, worn by his brother Ted, described Minshall’s high placing as “ridiculous.”

“Put it this way, if you call that mas, how would it look if next year everybody play moko jumbie. That is not a mas. That is why the stands are empty.

“You have people building all kinds of expensive costumes and they coming tenth and 11th, and a moko jumbie come third,” Eustace said after the results were announced early Wednesday morning.

This is the fella who win the thing.

The actual costume-carrier was a little more sportsmanlike: Ted admitted that diversity was welcomed in the competition. “It takes all kinds to make up the pot,” Ted said after being crowned Carnival King for the second time since he began participating.

Remember Tan-Tan and Saga Boy in 1990? Sixteen-to-20-foot tall puppets wining on stage and Tan-Tan run away with the Carnival Queen crown. People did vex then that the Carnival King and Queen people (who does produce this show?) let Saga Boy come on stage as part of Tan-Tan's walk (and wine) after he break up in the semis and was out the running for King.

Two things happen following that win. I decided that if I ever play mas, it would be in a Minshall band so I could experience some real mas. The next thing was Mr. Man get a work with the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Oh. One more: Janet Jackson totally tief him in her Escapade video. Google it. About a minute, 37 seconds in.

But, world acclaim aside, for me, Minshall's creation was a small slice of heaven. And there was actually something behind it. Sometimes you listen to the commentators tells the designer's "story" and you wonder what the fucking fuck? That float is supposed to represent what? Em... I not so sure that all that ribbon really mean what he thinks it mean. Worse for that actual band. I not so sure you should tout your bikini costume with beads and a feather headdress as having some kind of deeper meaning. It is what it is. A bikini costume with beads and a feather headdress. With maybe a staff in case you can't find somebody to wine on for a hot second. And, face it. You paying all that money not for the bikini costume with beads and a feather headdress, but the accompanying rum, pelau, and a place to pee.

I am still close enough to the generation that came before the bikini mas. Don't get me wrong. I love the bikini mas. I love watching up a hot woman wine up on a man. Or a staff. I love the collection of beads and color and jumping up on stage from the comfort of my bed. I love the next-day pix by the lech photo-take-outers who get to go up on stage and get a free wine. But Trinidad Carnival didn't always used to be like that. All the ole mas had a story and it getting hard to find. George John did a Midnight Robber for me and I died dead. Minshall did pretty mas but told a story with the design. And it was always stunning. And inventive. And unique. And real mas, by any definition that doesn't involve a bikini wax. And maybe Mr. Eustace is younger than me and just don't know that.

Maybe he also doesn't know when I Googled "Marcus Eustace Psychedelic Nightmares" I can't find a pix of his costume. What I did find was this: If veteran mas-maker Peter Minshall enters the Carnival King competition with a costume comprising only “two crocus bags”, the crowd would applaud simply because of the legacy he has built. And it is because of this nostalgia that people have they are not willing to accept the fact that Minshall’s presentation this year is not worthy of a third place finish in the King of Carnival competition. That is Eustace defending his earlier comments.

And what does Minsh have to say? Well, Judy Raymond has begun to tease her interview with Peter Minshall in tomorrow's Express. Thank goodness the paper is online, sad as the design and surf experience is. Once they don't cut off the woman's words or cock up the upload, is me, a cuppa, Judy, and Minsh tomorrow morning. I bet anything she sit back and just let the man talk, the most effective way to interview a Trinidadian in my book. I have a book because I interviewed plenty artsy people when I was at the Guardian, so I am actually not talking out my ass. And I like reading anything Judy writes, so win for me.

Second post: Saturday, February 6, 2016 

So I write all that blather [above] about The Dying Swan - Ras Nijinsky in drag as Pavlova. A Mas by Peter Minshall and Jha-Whan Thomas. And I send it to THW. If you cannot remember, THW is The Hot Woman.
I love that woman to the back of beyond. She not on FB so I email her the post and she What's Apps me to give me the down low on what SHE did with this costume. I. DIE. DEAD.

She is my ride or die. She was so intimately involved with this mas and I want to tell everybody that I am exactly once removed from it and I found out after I wrote that post which took 2 days of writing in my head before I actually began to type it. Mightn't mean much much to you but she would know.

She have a friend in the Trini sense of the word and he practically single-handedly raised the money to build the mas. That is no easy feat in a country that produces great artists but won't help produce the great art. THW tells me how she "clean that damn swan by myself on hands and knees." Nice nice.

So there you have it. My love and her friend were part of a very tiny handful of people (it had 2 other women and 2 fellas in actual production and another fella who sew all the feathers) who brought The Dying Swan - Ras Nijinsky in drag as Pavlova a Mas by Peter Minshall and Jha-Whan Thomas to life. Is like it was me!

Third post: Sunday, February 7, 2016 

A very nice lady made it possible for me to read Judy Raymond's stories in today's Express. I am so glad I wrote and posted my bit yesterday before I read Judy's because people go say how I tief she. And, let me tell you, I would take that as an effing complement.

She answered a few questions I had. I couldn't figure out if Minsh had a band this year. Turns out, no. He designed Ras Nijinsky as a king for another band, which is amazing in itself. She also told me that the stilts were carved into ballet shoes en pointe. She also elicited great detail from Minsh about the production of the costume. From that interview, Judy's own account of seeing the King come together - a delightful read by itself - and THW's inside info, it really is like I was there.

I could see why Marcus Eustace vex, though. No one wrote tenderly about the backstage experience of his king the way Judy wrote about the 3rd place contestant. No one examined the way his king got into a character the way she described how Ja-Whan Thomas did. No one put him in his place the way this lovely paragraph did: Thomas is the third king to step out under the lights, after great wheeled contraptions that the masqueraders can barely drag into laboured motion. Where they were earthbound, this is a creature whose element is air. Thomas is a man transformed. This woman really has an evocative way with the word.