NYC

  • I Went on a Solo Date to See Swan Lake Now I’m Hooked on the Ballet

    If you live in Bed-Stuy and wondering who’s been playing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at max almost volume daily for the last serval months, it’s me. I cannot tell you when I became such a huge fan of classical or what prompted me to even give it a listen, but what I DO know is classical is awesome and I can’t make it through the day without it. It centers me and keeps me sane.

    So how’d I go from blasting Swan Lake at home to having a near front row seat to the ballet? I’ll tell you. It all started with a Facebook post. Some people talk about how folks share too much on social media. But let me tell you if it wasn’t for a friend sharing that she and her husband were going and the particular performance they were attending was starring Misty Copeland I would have never known.

    As much as I enjoy listening to Swan Lake, Op. 20 on repeat daily it never dawned on me to get tickets to actually see it. So you see social media has its useful moments.

    What is Swan Lake about?

    I’ma give you the short version with no spoilers. It’s about Prince Siegfried coming of age and finding a bride so he can become ruler of the kingdom. There’s a ball (isn’t there always a ball?) and the most beautiful women from near and far attend to grab his attention and his heart. None do. During the party, his mother, the queen gifts him a crossbow. As he sees his carefree single days coming to a close he hauls ass out of the party and into the forest.

    While in the woods, he sees a swan but before he can shoot it with his crossbow it turns into a beautiful woman. He approaches and learns her name is Odette and that she’s under an evil spell cast by von Rothbart. The only way to break the spell is to declare his love and fidelity to her. From there, things happen and shit gets wild as we see the lengths two people will go to break the spell and be together.

    Getting my ticket

    After reading about my friend’s excitement I knew I had to try and get a ticket for myself. This is, after all, Misty Copeland. The first Black woman in 2015 to be appointed Principal Dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. I had always been a fan of hers and as a Black woman, newly in love with classical, I understood the importance of seeing her in this particular production.

    Now in my mind, I thought the ballet was something that rich people did because they were the only ones who could afford it. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I was shocked to see so many affordable seats. I grabbed a seat to the far right of the stage with a slightly obstructed view in row N for $75. This was the closest I was going to get without blowing my budget, cause like most things where you sit determines what price you pay.

    Once I had my ticket I was hyped. I finally put my planner to use and marked the date which was exactly three months away on June 26. This was a night that I would take myself out on a solo date to see my very first ballet.

    Why did I go to the ballet alone?

    I’m always down to go somewhere alone with Jeff. It’s our time to reconnect with one another and do things that we want to do as opposed to the kids dragging us all over. But, there are times where I want to be alone to reconnect with myself. Yes, I’m home alone all the time with the kids in school, but I’m not really going anywhere besides Target and the market. I spend most of my days in the house and while I’m quite happy about that there are days where I want to dress up just a little and indulge in something that’s going to bring me joy. Not that Target doesn’t bring me joy, but let’s face it there’s no comparison between Target and The Met Opera.

    The Opera House

    swan lake misty copeland valerie pierre mommyrandr

    Since this was my first time at the ballet I was worried about what to wear. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry too long as I learned the American Ballet Theatre has no dress code. The only exception to that rule is for galas and special events, obviously. Allowing people to come as they are leads me to believe they want you thinking less about you’re gonna wear and more about the performance you’re going to experience. I couldn’t agree more.

    When I arrived at The Metropolitan Opera the lines were outside the door and almost at the iconic water fountain. It seemed like all of NYC turned out for this performance and I was ecstatic to be a part of it.

    I’ve never been to an opera house and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. From the rich red carpeted floors and thick cushioned seats to the stunning snowflake like chandeliers and brass accents. I was not prepared for this kind of luxury. I had to restrain myself from looking like deer in the headlines, which I probably did anyway since I can’t control my facial expressions. But for real, this place is breathtaking. Those private donations be large, okay.

    swan lake misty copeland valerie pierre mommyrandr

    swan lake misty copeland valerie pierre mommyrandr
    The performance

    As the lights dimmed and the orchestra began to play, I felt the tears well up inside me. I had to tell myself to get it together but then Misty glided across the stage and I lost it. There I was weeping thug tears in the darkness and Act 1 wasn’t even 30 seconds in, and I would remain emotional throughout all four acts. It was magnificent. What parts? ALL. OF. IT.

    I looked at these performers captivated as they beautifully executed intricate routines on their toes with perfect posture. I wanted them to teach me their ways despite my arthritic knees and achy back. And when I wasn’t watching the performers I closed my eyes to take in the sounds of the orchestra. It’s one thing to listen to Swan Lake at home and quite another to be in the room with it truly hearing it. It was an otherworldly experience, one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

    swan lake misty copeland valerie pierre mommyrandr
    Photo Credit: Misty Copeland in Swan Lake by Gene Schiavone
    Getting tickets to my next ballet

    Now that I’m hooked I gotta get my coins ready for the fall season. Tickets go on sale starting July 22. I’m not gonna play around cause I know they will sell out. I’m not trying to be so far on the right side of the stage again. I need to see EVERYTHING. Right now I have my eye on the 2019 Fall Gala even though I really wanted to see The Nutcracker but that’s in Cali. But honestly, it really doesn’t matter to me what I see I’m just trying to go again to bathe in the beauty of the ballet.

    Have you seen Swan Lake at The Met or at any other location? How did you like it? What other ballets do you recommend? Share with me in the comments.
  • The Gang’s All Here for the NYC Downton Abbey Exhibition

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    Downton Abbey may be long over *tear* but that doesn’t mean you can’t relive every moment from the show. And no I don’t mean reruns on Amazon Prime, though that’s a great place to start. What I mean is, what if I said you could actually step inside of Downton Abbey? No, I’m not talking about the actual castle, although that too would be a show lover dream destination. But no, what I really mean is some genius (who deserves a raise), had a brilliant idea to bring Downton and all its aristocratic prestige to America, despite the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s and Mr. Carson’s objections. Cause, of course, they would be the ones to object.

    As an obsessed fan of the show, I had to go and it did not disappoint me. As a matter of fact, it gave me an all new appreciation for the show all over again, but more specifically the history of the period, costuming and the lives of aristocrats.

    Join me as I give you a quick tour of the Downton Abbey Exhibition in New York City. Since I can’t talk about Downton without the theme music I’ve included it for your musical enjoyment.

    The First Level

    Upon entry, you’re greeted by none other than Mr.Carson. He welcomes and shades you in true Mr. Carson fashion. Then you enter the lower level service area and this is when you realize you’ve entered Downton.

    Because you’re downstairs the first room you will enter is the kitchen. The sights and smells allow you to imagine all of the delicious meals that are prepared for Lord Grantham’s family. The only thing missing is Mrs. Patmore in your ear telling you to get a move on cause the bell board is ringing.

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    The Second Level

    After you leave the service level you come into the main area of Downton. At the center of it is the famous dining room table. This is where the Grantham’s dine for all of their meals. I don’t know about yall but I consider the table is a silent character. This table has been at the center of many jaw-dropping moments.

    The table is large and it’s place settings intimidating. There’s a fine art to English dining and one wrong misstep you’ll give yourself away as an American. As Myka Meier, an Etiquette Expert owner of Beaumont Etiquette explained, pinkies up in England is a dead giveaway that you’re an American. The proper way to sip tea is to grasp the handle between your thumb and index finger and your remaining fingers are tucked under for cup support. And if you’re wearing lipstick sip from the same spot so you don’t have lipstick all over the cup. For more information about the courses Myka offers click here.

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    The Third Level

    This is where you’ll see iconic pieces from Downton’s most memorable episodes. This includes the wedding gowns worn by Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Rose MacClare, as well as leisure wear, formal dining wear and uniforms worn by the shows main characters.

    All of the costumes displayed come with background and scene information. There’s even historical information relating to life (across all stations) during the early 20’s in England, fashion, and how aristocrats were expected to carry themselves.

    Examining the costumes (from a close distance) is how I spent most of my time. The detailing in the stitching, overall designs and how they’re coordinated together are impeccable. It’s truly a sight to behold and made me feel like I was right back in the original scene.

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    downton abbey movie mommyrandr valerie pierre

    The Dowager Countess said it best, “You’ll find there’s never a dull moment in this house”, or in this case the exhibition. I’ve been twice and there were things that I saw on my second trip that I didn’t see on my first visit. There’s that much to see, far more than what I shared with you here. Thankfully this is a walking tour so you can take your time exploring, learning, and being amazed.

    The exhibition runs through September 2018, and after that, I don’t know where it’s headed. So if you love Downton Abbey and find yourself in NYC you need to add this to your must-see list.

    Have you been to the Downton Abbey exhibit? What was your favorite part?

    *FYI: I was given a complimentary ticket for my second visit to the Downton Abbey Exhibition for the purpose of this review. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links.

    Cover image credit: Downton Abbey

  • Kinky Boots the Musical Is a Holiday Season Must See!

    Ladies and gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds…

    I have been transformed!  It’s no secret that for years I judged Broadway. I claimed I didn’t like something when I really had no clue what it was about. I judged its surface without bothering to learn more about its core. But now, I am officially in love with everything about Broadway. It has awakened my soul to the point where I can no longer live my life without Broadway.

    So what happened that sparked this long overdue change in my perceptions towards Broadway? Kinky Boots The Musical.

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    What is kinky boots about?

    Charlie Price (Aaron Finley) the owner of a shoe factory who is about to lose it all when help comes from an unlikely person – a famous drag queen named Lola (Todrick Hall).  Together they embark on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance of not only themselves but most importantly others around them. Seeing this show when I did couldn’t have come at a better time considering the current climate.

    And just because the has a heavy topic that doesn’t the show isn’t filled with laughter, tears and all the shade one can handle – after all it did win six Tony Awards! The performances are captivating and the costumes are stunning. Todrick Hall, who is my new bestie in my head, plays the lead character and honey, once he’s on stage there is nothing you can do watch in awe. As a matter of fact, the entire cast did a stupendous job! With music by Grammy-Award winner Cyndi Lauper you are in for an amazing musical ride that will have you singing long after the show ended.

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    Todrick Hall as Lola
    Regardless of what your plans are this holiday season seeing Kinky Boots should be on your list! Get down to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in your finest red shoes cause remember, Sex Is in the Heel!

    KINKY BOOTS HOLIDAY SALE : 

    You can save up to 40% on select performances through 2/12/17! Just visit KinkyBootsTheMusical.com and use code BOOTS3.

    OFFER DETAILS:
    Mon, Tues, Thurs performances through 2/12/17
    $87*
    Select Orch/Front Mezzanine
    (Reg. $99-117)
    $45*
    Rear Mezzanine
    (Reg. $79-$97)Friday, Sat, & Sun performances through 2/12/17
    $107*
    Select Orch/Front Mezzanine
    (Reg. $109-$147)
    $75*
    Rear Mezzanine
    (Reg. $79-$97)Conditions: Offer valid on select seats. Blackout dates may apply. Offer valid for all performances now through 2/12//17. This offer cannot be combined with any other discount and is not applicable to previously purchased tickets. Regular Prices $55-$147. Limit 8 tickets per order. All sales are final. No refunds or exchanges. Offer subject to availability and includes a $2.00 facility fee. Normal phone and Internet service charges apply. Offer may be modified or revoked at any time without notice.
    FYI: I was provided 2 complementary tickets to the show for the purpose of this review. Thoughts and opinions are always my own. 
  • Halloween Terror at New York City’s Haunted Attraction Blood Manor

    Despite the fact that I’m scared of my own shadow I had the brilliant idea to walk through Blood Manor Haunted House New York City’s Premier Haunted Attraction. I make it my life’s mission to avoid anything that has the potential for giving me nightmares yet here I was about to willingly have the bejesus scared of me.

    So every year around Halloween my friends always make plans to visit haunted attractions. These are activities I try to avoid like how those 80’s teens should’ve avoided sex at Camp Crystal Lake. But this year I got tickets to Blood Manor I thought why not. It would be a decision that I would question and regret every step I took through this maze of hell.

    First off,  Blood Manor is not a place that you would easily spot. It’s about 2 feet from the Holland Tunnel on Varick Street in a nondescript building. It’s a two-story walk up in an even creepier hallway. When you step inside the hallway you don’t feel like you’re about to see the white light. I actually thought okay this isn’t so bad. This was my second mistake. My first was even being there.

    When it was our turn to go (you walk in teams up to 6) and we got the rules I thought it couldn’t be any worse than this. My third mistake. When we entered the attraction and the door slammed behind us and all hell broke loose. Now I can’t tell you everything that happened because as a coping mechanism my mind has blocked it out. But I can assure you it went something like this…

    We went in like

    And almost immediately we had some shit coming at us like

    So we hauled ass right into the pitch darkness and I was like, then it was like

    So now we running through there like

    Then run into this dude and his chainsaw like

    Now we like fuck this shit and start running again

    And run smack-dab into this chick acting like

    Now we screaming like

    I end up in a corner like

    Rashidah somewhere like

    This thing appears like

    We hit that exit door at the end of the attraction like

    And never looked back.

    They told us thanks for visiting but we were down those steps and outside trying to catch our breaths. All we could do was wipe the sweat from our brows and thank God that we made it out alive. As we walked away we heard the screams from others who were walking through and could only hope they made it out in better shape than we  did.

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    Me & Rashidah at the bar after we made it out

    Jimmy Kimmel and Kevin Hart walked through Blood Manor a couple days after we did.

    Seeing their video makes me wish I would have inquired about our own. I know our reactions were priceless as theirs.

    So if you want the bejesus scared out of you then  grab your friends and go see for yourself. And if you’re a real badass go on the nights where it’s pitch black and all they give you is one glow stick per group. If you’re opting for that night don’t call me because I’m not going. One walk through was more than enough for me.

    Go see for yourself get tickets to Blood Manor here. Happy Halloween!

    *I was comped two tickets to the show for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.