Sunday, November 27, 2016

Peter Pan: Landmark Musicals

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is falling asleep at  the theater and 10 is believing that you just saw a production which somehow literally is made of magic, Landmark Musical's production of Peter Pan ranks a 7. Peter Pan, or the original 1904 The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, is a fantastical musical which brings 3 children into the world Neverland where you don't have to grow older. In this process, Wendy comes to learn about herself and how ultimately growing up isn't such a bad thing.

This play begins in the nursery of the Darling Residence where the parents leave for the night after putting the kids to bed. Peter Pan soon enters the room in search of his shadow, which he had previously left behind. Between Wendy sewing his shadow back on, the grand introduction of Tinkerbell and her snide remarks, and the process of learning to fly with fairy dust, the first scene got the play started off on a high note which only went up from there. The flying team did a fantastic job lifting the energetic Zoey Reese, actress for Peter Pan, off the ground. She lifted our heart and our views.

From "the second star to the right and on 'till morning," we were introduced to the magical world of Neverland where you can experience spring, winter, summer, or fall all on the same island, depending on which part you go to. Here we soon meet the Pirates, the Indians, and the Lost Boys. Ultimately, the pirates kidnap the Lost Boys and the Indians and Pan are able to outwit the pirates and make the dreadful pirate Hook walk the plank! With this, Wendy returns back to Earth ready to grow up, accepting every good and bad consequence this brings.

There are 3 moments in this play I wish to discuss further because they were the scenes which truly made this play magical for everyone present.

Firstly, every dance of the Indians was completely, jaw-droppingly, spectacular. Specifically, the "Indian Dance" and "Ugh-A-Wug" dances were unlike any I've ever seen in a musical before. The "Indian Dance" was an outstanding display of athleticism with great themes such as a repeated shoulder shrug to suggest the beating of the drums as the beating of the heart. I can't get their leaps, jumps, spins, and circular formations out of my head because I wish I was one of them up on that stage! Then when they began to use walking sticks and drumsticks on the stage during "Ugh-A-Wug," I couldn't help but pulse my body with the fantastic rhythms created. For these outstanding creations, I personally applaud choreographers Courtney and Louis Giannini.

The next outstanding moment was Pan's hilarious piece "Oh, My Mysterious Lady." Here, Pan drapes himself in a cloak and tricks Hook into thinking he is a wonderful lady because of his lovely singing. This trick kept the audience laughing for minutes on end. Moments like this, more than anything else, helped drive home Pan's personality and why he wants to cling onto his youth with all he has. In the coming scenes when Pan lets all his friends leave him because he refuses to leave Neverland, it makes the audience begin to realize a cost of his clinging. In centuries past, people have wasted lifetimes searching for the fountain of youth and today people spend thousands of dollars on products and surgeries to try to fight aging. With this in mind, these scenes played beautifully by Pan help elucidate two matters in this discussion: first, for him the youth meant more than current friendships and the promise of loneliness and second, that the youth was so important to him because he feared that with age he would no longer be able to have complete creative freedom to be the trickster that brings him so much joy. Everything has a cost.

Finally, just before the intermission was perhaps the most magical moment of the show, the moment when the audience's belief in Tinkerbell helps save her from the threat of death by Hook's poison. As Pan described that Tinkerbell needed people to believe in her or she would surely pass on, we heard the cries of children in the audience yelling out, "I BELIEVE!!" Even if we know fairies don't exist, we, the adults of the audience, felt ourselves wanting to mimic these children and so we joined together in a roaring applause when we were told that was the key to help her live. This moment was perhaps the most magical moment of the night because in it, even we adults were longing to have faith if that meant we could help one being continue to live. That faith is exactly the definition of humanity. It is the hope that our loved ones don't have to suffer, it is compassion for strangers, it is love for all living beings. That is what makes childhood magical, that children instinctively know that everyone can have a "happily ever after". These magical moments of the show which help us realize that we haven't lost our inner child are what Peter Pan is all about.

This show is $22 for adults for the cheapest seats and discounts are available for youth and senior citizens. The show goes on in the Rodey Theater at UNM until December 11th, 2016. These are the times you can check out the show according to

10 PERFORMANCES • The Rodey Theater

Miami: Fruit and Spice Park

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the first time you bit into a lemon unawares of the consequences and 10 is a a taste of the fruit of the tree of life, the Fruit and Spice Park 35 miles south of Downtown Miami, ranks a solid 8. This park is a beautiful 39-acre park full of more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices. This park was established in 1944 and is essentially an oasis from the crazy city life of Florida.

Entrance to this park is $8 for adults and $2 for children age 6-11 (free under 6). For this reasonable price, you are able to try out any of the fruit in the park and attend the tour on a tram pulled by a tractor for free. Tours run at 11:00am, 1:30pm, and 3:00pm and I would highly recommend going on one!!

We arrived plenty early before our planned tour time, so we ate at the Mango Cafe outside the park and we got to wander around the beginning sections. The Mango Cafe was a cute homestead restaurant with one room for dining and plenty of options of sandwiches, wraps, and other great deli items for lunch. The prices were reasonable and I would recommend this if you stop by and are famished. 

As we wandered around the park before the tour, we came across fruits we've never seen before like the jackfruit shown above. Bananas were also in season and bunches were set up on some stands ready for us to try. These tiny bananas were jam packed with flavor that our typical grocery store definitely lack. 

Eventually the tour started. We learned about a variety of fruits as we drove by and we got to taste the fruits which were in season. There were a few notable fruits. I cannot post this blog without mentioning these. The first is called Miracle Fruit. This is a tiny fruit with a large seed. After you peel back the skin, you let the fruit slide around on your tongue until you coat the entire thing. At this point, our guide gave us a lemon to try and after the coating of Miracle Fruit, the lemon tasted like a delicious sweet candy. Miracle Fruit makes everything taste more sweet and so it can be used in several important ways in medicine. For instance, when undergoing chemotherapy, the tongue tends to take on a metallic taste which makes everything taste awful. This can make many people unable to eat. By coating the tongue in Miracle Fruit, other foods begin to taste much more palatable. Additionally, people with diabetes who aren't supposed to be eating sugar can coat their tongue with miracle fruit to help other foods take on the sweet qualities they may crave immensely. 

Another amazing plant we learned about is the leaf of the Moringa plant. According to Pure Healing Foods online, "Moringa leaf is best known as an excellent source of nutrition and natural energy booster. This energy boost is not based on sugar, and so it is sustained. Moringa is also soothing. It helps lower blood pressure and is a sleep aid. Its detoxifying effect may come from Moringa's ability to purify water. Moringa acts as a coagulant attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria. It is believed that this process is taking place in the body as well." It is a highly recommended healthy food, so that is why you would have caught us all chewing on leaves that tour day!

Finally, I couldn't miss out on mentioning how many mangoes this park has! It has rows with possibly hundreds of types of mangoes. We were told that when it is mango season, there is a festival where people can taste all the different species to determine their own favorites.

This park was beautiful and, for a biologist like me, it was a magical land full of beautiful new treasures of knowledge. Upon returning back to New Mexico, I visited a few international food stores and was thrilled to see some of these fruits which I learned about at this park including Dragon Fruit and Jack Fruit. This park has picturesque areas with lilies and fountains. It also is a park which you can return to month after month to try out the different fruits currently in season. You can easily spend hours wandering and trying out the various fruits. I highly recommend this beautiful park!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Nassau: Stuart Cove's

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is getting mugged in a strange country and 10 is literally living your dream for an afternoon, my experience at Stuart Cove on Nassau, Bahamas was an absolute 10

There was snuba, there was snorkeling, and there was swimming with sharks. I couldn't possibly recommend this excursion more highly, especially for those who want to really experience the corals but who don't yet have scuba diving experience.

Having landed in the Bahamas on a cruise ship, they couldn't have made the process of picking us up any easier. We had called them in advance to let them know that we would be needing a ride to the Cove. They told us the time they would be arriving and to simply look for a pink bus by the water fountain where we enter from the port. They arrived right on time and we got to see so much of the island capital of Nassau on that 30 minute bus ride. The bus driver was quite entertaining and he told us all about different areas we passed on Nassau. Below is a picture of one of the beaches we passed on the bus ride.

When we arrived at Stuart Cove's, we were greeted with the amazing view below. We proceeded to check in and wait until our snuba/snorkeling mixed group gathered all together.

Eventually we piled onto a boat and began our ocean journey. Have I mentioned that this trip was my second time seeing the ocean ever? The ocean here was beautiful, clear, and warm!


Eventually we made it to our first site where we stayed for about 30 minutes. It is a site where many Hollywood films have been shot. The snorkelers in the group got to jump right in and the snuba people worked on getting all the equipment set up. Upon dismounting the boat, we were instructed to exhale to allow ourselves to sink. I did this perfectly. And then I had a mini freak-out moment when I realized that I now needed to breathe in. Not having ever breathed out of a tube previously, I quickly struggled to the top of the water to breathe some surface air. This was made more difficult by the fact that I had weights bucked around my waist purposely so that I could sink. I got a delightful mouthful or two of salt water and I held onto the boat for a little while to calm down before I trusted myself to go down.

The first difference between snuba and scuba diving is that in snuba diving, you don't have to know what to do with the tanks at all. All equipment is handled and hooked up for you. The air tanks you're using sit on a little raft which the instructor pulls along. After then figuring out how to equalize your ears every few minutes to avoid pain, we were ready go go. We got to go right along the coral, about 20 feet deep. I loved having my GoPro to be able to capture footage!.

We gathered together again on the boat and went to our second area. This area was right next to the island with the lone palm tree on the film Pirates of the Caribbean. We got to snorkel here. I was mesmerized by the schools of fish I got to see here of all sizes. 

In the 3rd and final location, we went to an area where sharks are trained to come. They hung a box with chunks of fish 30 feet under the boat. The sharks could smell this and they began swarming. We were allowed to snorkel in the water with very strict rules for safety. At times, some sharks came within about 10 feet of us! It was intense. We only got to stay in the water for about 5-10 minutes. We then got back onto the boat, they pulled up the fish food box, and then began throwing out chunks of fish to the sharks. The sharks' behavior changed dramatically as they went into a feeding frenzy. 

With this, we finished the excursion and were brought back to the Cove. If you plan on doing this event, it will take up most of your day (we were picked up at 11am and dropped off at about 5 or 6pm. The cost is $117, which was absolutely worth every penny in my book! 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Grants: Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is unexpectedly being greeted by a mountain lion at a bend of the trail and 10 is discovering a new, unexplored cave full of precious gems, the visit to the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano near Grants, NM ranks a 6 in our book.

This adventure was very enjoyable with three main areas to explore. The road signs to arrive couldn't be more easy to follow as billboards seem to be placed every few miles advertising this attraction for 50 or more miles away. This is a privately owned area featuring an ice cave, a self guided tour of a volcano, and a gift shop a water tour outside in which to sift gems out of a sand bag you can purchase. This was definitely a unique stop with about 1-2 hours worth of entertainment. The one thing we didn't like about this area was the price, with each adult being $12 and children 6-12 years old being $6 per day.

After making the 28 mile drive west of Grants, the first place to stop at would be the gift shop where you can pay the admission fee and thus get the paper to read during the self guided tour. You then have the option to walk to the volcano or to the ice cave first.

For those wishing to begin with the volcano, the trail starts behind the gift shop building. From beginning to end (at a nice lookout area) is about one half of a mile long in one direction with a climb of about 150 feet. We didn't realize it until about halfway up the hike, but along the trail are numbered trail markers. At each of these stops you can match up the number to a paragraph on the self guided trail guide paper. Here we learned much about the history of the volcanoes of El Malpais. We learned how they were formed, how far away the lava flowed away from the Bandera Volcano, and other details such as about the local flora and fauna. I would consider this hike easy if traveled at a reasonable pace. I wouldn't call it handicap accessible, but I'm sure several have successfully made the climb. The trail is well maintained and the views are terrific.

Upon traveling back down to the store, head left of the store (if you are facing the store) to enter the trail head for the ice caves.This path is mostly level and is only about 400 yards before you get to a staircase which you must descend to see the ice cave. At one point in the descent, you will feel an almost immediate temperature decrease. At the platform at the bottom of the stairs, the ambient temperature in the cave is about 31 degrees F. Tempting as it may be, you are not allowed to climb past the platform to stand on the ice. The ice is currently about 20 feet thick and it has been forming for at least 3,400 years consistently. As the temperature is low inside the cave, it may be wise to bring a light jacket or, alternatively, go down after having completed the volcano hike on a hot New Mexico summer day.

The final noteworthy detail of this stop was the water tour constantly pouring water through the day. You can purchase a sand bag with gems in the store then come outside and act like a miner sifting through dirt near a river. A case allows you to compare your gems to a sample so you can know exactly which stones you found. This may create a memorable experience for children!

Overall, we had a great hour at the ice cave and volcano. I loved reading about the sink holes, twisted tree formation, and other special features of the geography and biology of the area. Their website, has other details about the family history of the owners and a detailed FAQ section. As it is only about 90 miles away from Albuquerque, it is a great day trip for just about anyone! If you've made this stop and have great stories or details you'd love to share, please post them in the comments below!!

Monday, July 11, 2016

El Malpais National Monument

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is finding a bear in your cave and 10 is getting to visit the world Pandora (from 2009 film Avatar), visiting El Malpais National Monument in Grants, NM ranks 7 in our book.

There is so much to see and do at this National Monument that you'd definitely want to stay for more than a full day if you want to experience it all. From the beautiful hikes to the high quality visitor's centers to the awesome lava tubes, El Malpais provided a unique experience for our family.

An obvious first stop upon arriving in Grants is to go to the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center. If you are coming from I-40, just take Exit 85 and the Visitor Center is conveniently located on the southwest side of the highway. This Visitor's Center has an absolutely stunning view out the large windows. Several informative room and booths are available including a video room where you can get a ranger to start a documentary-type movie. Depending on which you pick, this will give you information about culture of the area and about the geologic history of how the lava tubes and volcanoes formed. There are also plenty of fun items to purchase at the gift shop. Mostly, though, I would recommend talking to the Ranger at the desk about your trip and what interests you. They have maps and plenty of handouts to give you with hiking and caving information. If you plan on doing any sort of caving during the trip, it is absolutely required to get a caving permit with one of the Rangers. He will discuss safety requirements for both you and the bats (they can help you clean your equipment to help prevent white nose syndrome of the bats). If you wish to go camping in the National Monument lands, you may discuss this with the Ranger as well. Finally, all this information and the permits are available at two other areas if you want to skip over the Visitor Center. These locations are the El Malpais Information Center and the El Malpais Rnager Station (click on the "maps" option at the top of this page to view these areas).

Unfortunately, we arrived in Grants right as a summer afternoon lightning and rainstorm began. We were kindly told at the Visitor's Center to avoid being outside if lightning begins as the rocks contain iron which may be more likely to conduct lightning. This storm subsided eventually, giving us enough time to get in a hike at the El Calderon Area before sunset (sunrise to sunset are the Park hours and you cannot park at the Park overnight). This was a beautiful 2-3 mile hike which passed by many areas including the Double Sinks Caves (very spacious sink holes surrounding either side of the path), the Bat and Xenolith Caves, and El Calderon Cinder Cone.

These are the Double Sinks Caves

During this summer the Park has a special "Bat OutFlight Program" where you can meet with a Park Ranger at the El Calderon Trailhead at 7:30pm on Saturdays. Sadly, we didn't get to do this program this time, but we plan on returning in the future to do it and to do some more caving (we will update when we do)! With this program, the ranger will tell information about bats and you may be lucky enough to see thousands of bats leave this cave to feed for the night. Some information we learned about bats are that they are Earth's only flying mammals and a nursing mother can eat more than her body weight in insects every night. Even just the fact that bats use echolocation makes them quite cool, so my husband bought a pretty awesome t-shirt at the gift shop to commemorate them.

This is cool, right?!

We came back the next day and went caving in Junction Cave. This is the cave with the most moderate difficulty of all the caves at El Malpais. When you are caving, it is recommended to have the following gear:

  • Helmets
  • Knee Pads
  • Gloves
  • Water
  • At least 3 working flashlights per person 
  • Spare batteries
We texted a person who cares to let her know that we were about to enter a cave and weWe told her that we would text again when we exited. Upon entering the cave, we came across a metal gate which we think is present to keep out bears. This gate appears to have been installed in 2015. There is one small area where you are able to crawl through. After this point, it begins to be extremely dark. 

Lava tubes are created when lava rushes underground. The edges of the tunnel cool faster than the middle, which forms the outside of a tube. As subsequent flows come, other layers are added to the tunnel shell kind of like forming an onion from the outside in. This geology is very apparent in the Junction Cave. We very shortly reached the end of the cave. Looking at the cave map now, it appears that this cave is less than 1000 feet long. 

We shut off all of our lights and we sat in complete darkness for several minutes. The weirdest phenomenon occurred for me. It was as if my mind couldn't believe I was sitting in absolute darkness. In my peripheral vision, my eyes tried to create light where there was none. As I turned my head, that area would be completely dark. But then my peripheral vision would create a new lighted rock to the side again. As long as we kept it dark, these lighted rocks just outside my view never ceased to exist. It seems like there is some sort of metaphor that can be drawn from this instance. Like how the light inside us never ceases. Comment below if you can think of something better!

We exited the cave about 1 hour after entering it and returned back to the heat of the day. We very much enjoyed this free stop in our trip. There are many more caves which we didn't have time to explore this time and so we look forward to visiting again in the future!!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Kirtland Air Force Base Air Show

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is being subjected to Chinese Water Torture and 10 is that dream where you grow wings and fly, the 2016 Kirtland Air Force Base Air Show was a 5.

The 2016 Air Show was the first show hosted at Kirtland in five years and they spent months practicing and preparing every little detail. 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Kirtland Air Force Base. The free show took place on June 4th and 5th and featured planes from the Cold War, World War II, and also modern planes. In addition to being able to stand inside some of the monstrous planes, pilots would perform various tricks to show off their talent throughout the day. All in all, this made for an amazing and rare event that may be once-in-a-lifetime for many people.

First things first, I don't know why I thought I could just drive straight on to base. I even worked on base for a summer, so I know exactly how stringent they are with needing proper credentialing to enter. For some reason, though, I thought the base was open to everyone for these days. That is most definitely not the case! I drove to one gate and was quickly turned in the other direction and sent driving away. SO.... if anyone is planning on going to a future event like this, it is important to know that Kirtland did provide a shuttling system for participants to park at various locations. They then had their own military personnel drive school bus shuttles to the location of the event. To enter the area, bags were checked and people were passed through metal detectors. We shouldn't expect anything less with thousands of people present for the events!

At the event, there were many volunteer-run vendors selling food and souvenirs with proceeds going to worthy causes. The first line I stood in was to get a mini-tour by an air force plane shooter. I was in this line for at least 1 hour and was grateful I had worn a hat and sunscreen as the clouds were providing very little protection. As I was in this line, I was so lucky to get the chance to see talented pilots performing tricks in the planes for us. Below are several videos of the events. I did not end up catching it on film, but the craziest thing I saw was when one pilot flew straight up into the sky to achieve quite the altitude. He would then shut off the engines and let the plane free fall for several seconds before starting it again and taking off. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that! That dare devil pilot wins my award for the most amazing part of the show!

When I finally made it to the front of the line for the mini tour, his stories made the whole wait worthwhile. Here are a few pictures from inside and also around the event:

These are parachutes only to be used in case of an emergency

This is the gunner-guru-story telling-tour leader-person

Here is the station he sits at... or stands on

The damage caused by what the air guns

The planes can shoot off 500 rounds

This is how huge the casings are!!!

Me in the cockpit

Pilot's place

This is the plane I got the tour of.

In the words of a friend Rod Etmer, "Osprey. One of the coolest aircraft EVER!"

Though there were long lines and it was quite hot out, the fact that the airshow had a free entrance fee made this event accessible to everyone. I'm sure it was also memorable to anyone who went. It is else-wise very rare to be able to stand where we stood and see what we saw. Again, the flying planes were the best part for me! I highly recommend going to this event in the future or if/when an airbase near you hosts such a show! Comment below on your favorite part!!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Masque Aspect: AirDance New Mexico

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is a show by Cirque du Soleil  and 1 is walking across a bed of nails, the show Masque Aspect by AirDance New Mexico is a definite 8. It was a show full of beauty and surprise. This was a show that will be enjoyed by dance lovers and non dance lovers alike. We highly recommend it!

The AirDance group is a company of dancers that works on the ground and in the air with aerial silks, low-flying trapeze, aerial hoops, aerial cube, and more. The show has live music with original works by the band Chicharra specially made for this show. They have been around for 5 years and they have a large production each spring and fall always featuring original choreography. This inspiration for this show was masques. Some masks were face paint, others were partial and even full masks. I can just imagine how difficult it must have been to barely be able to see what you are doing. As the program reads:
"As we began working in earnest on our anticipated mask-themed show, we found ourselves posing questions about aspects of our individual characters and debating wants and needs. Who am I? How do I want to live my life? ...Our search for identity and direction took us inward to examinations of our motivations, aspirations, and self-imposed obstacles... Now the question is, what mask do you choose to wear now?"

I had been to one show by this company a few years ago and they have grown so much since then. The previous show was good, but it had the feel of amateurs performing. My biggest complaint of the previous show was that the transitions in between pieces felt awkward. There was complete silence and we watched the tech group lift away some of the apparatuses and lower others. This show was entirely different in that the artistic director herself, Debra Landau, acted as the show's clown on the steroid Prednisone. Each time there was a transition period of a set change, we got to view her gradual progression from being on Prednisone for 2 weeks all the way through 12 weeks. Her jokes were hilarious and made me wonder if she has recently had a knee surgery and had to be on Prednisone for such a long period of time, as was the story of her character. The best part was how each of the costumes of her skits featured the creative use of hospital face masks.

Featured works included pieces with the whole company, solo works, and everything in between. Though I won't write about each and every one of the eight pieces featured in the show, I will write about 3 pieces which really stood out to my husband and I.

Firstly, Tasha Books' performance in "Accommodation: I am I" was outstanding. After hearing Stella Young's TED talk "I'm not your inspiration, thank you very much," I am very careful about looking to disabled people for the wrong type of inspiration (as an example: "you have no excuse because life is much harder for her"). However, I was literally shocked as Books began to climb the aerial silks and perform beautiful spins. I suppose there is something to say about the masks the disabled put on themselves and the masks the able-bodied put on the disabled in their minds. Perhaps one such mask may be pity because of ignorance. Yet Books teaches gymnastic vaulting when she's not dancing. I love that Books shared the gift of such a beautiful performance with us to help us expand our vision of what is possible when living with passion.

Next, "Arrogance: The Red Death," inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death" was a piece worth sharing. This performance featured two aerial silk teams of two. The pair on stage left performed first followed by the pair on stage right. In turn, they each make remarkable shapes in the silks and would perform partner work which didn't seem possible. The stage became sufficiently creepy in a way only Poe could inspire as a dancer in stilts eventually circled the stage. In her twitchy red ways, she caused the death of all aerialists on stage and reined victorious as she reached her hands up to the sky. The shocking and creepy mood created was made possible by the lighting crew and brilliant choreography.

Finally, Christina Cavaleri's outstanding solo performance on trapeze while wearing a welding mask made "Burden: With A Heavy Head" my favorite piece of the night. She constantly shocked me by accomplishing feats that didn't seem possible. Like when she completed a back-to-back series of somersault-like spins over the bar. I know there were at least 3 spins here, but to be honest, I was so shocked that she just kept on going that I lost track and there may have been 1-2 more! Likewise, when she finally brought her body above the level of the bar, the way she mounted didn't seem like it should have been possible. She gripped her hands in a certain way and then it was like her body just popped up! The beauty and grace of her movements was one that I forever try to seek when I go to performances. I applaud the work she put to choreograph and perform such an inspiring piece. And don't forget that she did it all in a welding helmet!!!

The night ended with a well deserved standing ovation. This is a must-see show of the highest quality. They still have two more performances tonight (April 23, 2016) at 8:00 pm and tomorrow (April 24, 2016) at 2:00 pm at the AirDance ArtSpace at 3030 Isleta Blvd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105.

Tickets can be purchased at the door. Prices are as follows:
$15 regular price/adults
$10 discounted tickets for military, students, disabled, and seniors (62+)
$5 children (6-12 years old)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Oklahoma!: Rio Rancho High School

 On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is a performance where you literally fall asleep and 10 is a show that makes you laugh out loud the entire time, the performance of Oklahoma! by Rio Rancho High School ranks a high 7.

Historically, Oklahoma! was Rogers and Hammerstein's first musical. It opened on Broadway in 1943 and was later made into a film starring the choreography of Agnes de Mille in 1955. It is set in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906 and it is a comic filled love story between the cowboy Curley McLain and the farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance occurs as well between Will Parker and his overly flirtatious fiance Ado Annie. The story follows the youth in the town of Claremore as they prepare for a dance including an auction to raise money for the school. It ends in three marriages and a death.

The performance by Rio Rancho High School was extremely enjoyable. The stage was full of energy, the live pit orchestra was spot on, the scenery was beautiful to look at, and the actors gave me everything I would have hoped for from this age group (and sometimes more).

I would not feel right without giving due credit to a few outstanding individuals. Firstly, when I heard Lillian Ridout sing as Laurey, I hoped that her song would never end. Her work and practice in developing such a great voice was very apparent. I hope she continues to sing her whole life! Secondly, Chris Cates' performance as Ali Hakim was quite possibly the best rendition I have ever seen. He played the perfectly pleasant portrayal of all sides of a peddler: looking out for the best deal and for himself. His comic relief was exactly what the show needed. Finally, the dancing of Daniel Blake as Will Parker in the early Kansas City Scene was very noteworthy.

I was really impressed with how deeply uncomfortable I was with the character Jud Fry. Likewise, it is ridiculous characters like Ado Annie that make this show memorable. Coming from a dance background, I was most looking forward to the "Dream Scene" when the indecisive Laurey finally comes to realize who her heart truly desires. The dancing and lighting of this scene did not disappoint in the least.

The scene that I feel this group performed the very best was the scene where Curley was being judged. The actors were so great about performing their lines in such rapid succession following one another that the audience couldn't help but be truly present in the moment. Thus, it was so easy to get caught up in the rapid fire jokes being passed around. Aunt Eller's joke about bending the law rather than breaking it was my favorite of the night!

There were a few issues with the microphones and being able to hear lines clearly over the orchestra, but that was only a small problem. The one thing I would have wanted more of was more choreography in almost all the songs. Regardless, this performance was extremely enjoyable and I wish these actors and actresses the best of luck in their future productions!

Make sure you give some a "Persian Goodbye" or an "Oklahoma Hello" today!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sedona Yoga Festival

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is falling onto your face in an arm balance and 10 is experiencing enlightenment, the 4th Annual Sedona Yoga Festival ranks a 10 in my book.

I come from a background where I took my first yoga class 10 years and am currently less than 2 months away from becoming a yoga teacher, myself. Yoga is a very important part of my life. This festival only added to my love for this beautiful way of life. Over the course of the main Thursday-Sunday festival, participants had the opportunity to go to workshops, lectures, presentations, meditations, and other classes. These varied in theme from physical alignment to psychic/intuitive practice to Ayurvedic health to so much more. At the end of the conference, I honestly drove home with my head swirling with so much new information. As my husband was taught in the marine corps, everyone has a tool for you and it is up to you to decide which are useful for you. At this conference, I was given an abundance of tools from all presenters and participants I met. I am so excited for these next few weeks and months where I will now be able to sort out the tools. I will pick out a few at a time that I want to focus on sharpening and really allowing to integrate into my life.

The festival began on Thursday night with a medley of presenters at the Amplify session around the theme of "Release." We learned of the energy vortex around Sedona, of the story of Ganesh (the patron saint of yoga), received techniques on releasing part of the brain that make you struggle unnecessarily, and the night finished off with some devotional chanting. Each subsequent day included a period of time to gather and explore various topics. Friday was about "Gathering", Saturday was on "Integration", and on Sunday morning, we had a special world peace meditation led by a monk. These were usually held in a panel discussion-like setting and were amazing opportunities to hear wisdom from a variety of experts.

Though this was my first Yoga Festival, one of the reactions I heard from almost all returning yogis was that they were thrilled all the events were at the same hotel property this year. I can definitely understand why this makes such a huge difference. The days were filled with various classes, workshops, and lectures that participants could take. With all these being at the same location, it was easy to transition in between classes in the allotted time.  These classes were absolutely the best part of the festival for me. Participants could register for classes ahead of time. These classes ranged anywhere from a movement class to a psychic development to Ayurveda health. By the end of the weekend, my mind was absolutely swirling with new information and ways of viewing the world.

Now for a a few experiences in various categories:

An Experience that Made the Weekend Memorable

This would definitely be the sunrise yoga classes each morning. I went to 2/3 of these practices at 6:00 am. I came with a jacket, a scarf, and wool socks. Even though it was obviously spring, mornings were so cold that we could see our breath and there was frost on the grass each morning. The first morning (Friday) had over 50 attendees. Each morning thereafter lessened, with there being 12 on Saturday and 6 (plus the instructor) by the end of the practice on Sunday. It was a unique experience to be queued to keep our hands in our pockets during Warrior 1 rather than raising them upwards. Though it was cold, it was worthwhile and memorable! I can't wait to do sunrise yoga practices in the true summer, though!

 An Experience Completely Individual to Me

There were a few times on the weekend that the class I actually signed up for was different than the class I thought I signed up for based on the title of the class. One such class was called "Developing Your Intuitive Gifts." I thought this would be a class about developing talents that are unique to you so that you can fill your dharma, or your life's duty. This class actually taught by a Psychic and was about the spiritual gifts such as clairvoyance. It was my first experience with hearing from this type of subject at all. The most interesting part for me was in hearing about how she first found out that she had these gifts stronger than many people. Well this story continued later that day in a different venue when I was standing by the vendor tables while I was waiting for a class to start. I happened to notice that this one particular table was about another Psychic. It included several stones, books he had written, and advertisement for classes he was planning. Having just heard the story of the presenter, I asked him to tell me his story of how he first began to develop his intuitive gifts. He told me the short story and ended up giving me a copy of his book with the full story entitled Seeing Through Spiritual Eyes: A Memoir of Intuitive  by Tom Jacobs. I hold this experience very dear to my and am excited to read it and learn more about the psychic realms. To learn more about him, visit his website here.

The Most Unique Style of Yoga I Came Across

This is another instance of my reading the wrong thing into the title of a class. I was interested to take BREAKasana because I thought it would be some sort of exciting break from the rest of the festival. Really, it was break-dance-styled-yoga. Though it was pretty tiring, it was a fun new adventure to try something so different. The exciting part was getting to see two yoga break dance performances that very evening back in the main ballroom. Coming from a dance background, this was absolutely thrilling to see.

My Favorite Class of the Weekend

For me, this would be the "Yoga In Action" class taught by the motivational speaker India Lee and Dr, Melody Moore, the founder of the Embody Love Movement, which is about helping women improve self image. In this class, we made ourselves very vulnerable as we discovered various truths about the participants. We went through various exercises and eventually had a meditation where we were asked what about the world makes you most mad? This was the last class of the weekend for me and it was a perfect finale for me with my mind so swirling with health, peace, and happiness. Knowing I would soon be going straight back to normal life, I wanted to find out a way to make sure I was different from having attended the festival during the weekend. This was the exact question I needed. I can make a difference in the world. I can be a force for good. And having to pinpoint exactly which parts of the world make me most angry is the key to focusing my energy on the thing that matters most to me.

I would highly recommend this event. What you put into it is what you will get out of it. As I came in wanting to receive direction and purpose for my life as I will soon graduate from my yoga teacher training, I received an abundance that can be considered life changing. If you are on a budget and wish to attend this festival in 2017, there are two ways to receive cheaper tickets. Firstly, you can purchase "early-bird" tickets for the cheapest price for the week. If you plan on attending the full 10 day program including Post Traumatic Stress Training, use the keyword "heartstorm" when checking out. Finally, if you sign up to be an Angel and work a total of 15 hours you can get a greatly reduced ticket price ($77 for the main weekend in 2016). Check out the facebook page for Sedona Yoga Festival or the website for more details!

Comment below with your unique experiences from the festival!

Monday, March 7, 2016

West Side Story: Albuquerque Little Theater

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is being a short person in the chair behind the tallest person in the theater and 10 is a production so good it makes you want to drop everything and become an actor, The Albuquerque Little Theater production of West Side Story scores and easy 8

This production was chalk full of pleasant surprises. From the skill of the dancers and singers to the outstanding lighting to the props and acting, everything about this show exceeded my expectations. Though this show may not be appropriate for extremely young children, I would absolutely recommend it to the adult crowd of the area.

West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare's tragic play "Romeo and Juliet" but is set in New York in the 1950s. At that time there were many immigrants coming to New York from Puerto Rico. Thus, it made historical sense that the two gangs in the play were The Jets (the white teenagers who were at least 2nd generation citizens) and the Sharks (first generation US citizens from Puerto Rico). These social issues therein are neatly weaved into the play, especially through witty songs such as "America."

The play began with the audience becoming aware of the feud between these two groups fighting over the same "turf" in the city. The real trouble, though, started after Tony, one of the key members of the Jets, dances with and kisses Maria, the little sister of Bernardo who is a leader of the Sharks. This couple quickly falls in love which leads to terrible contention as gang members find out. Besides Maria and Tony, no one else will even take a second to consider such a mixed relationship, which means the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet became a possibility.

Initially, it didn't make sense to my why Michaela Bateman, an actress of Asian descent, was chosen to play Maria, a Hispanic character. The reason for this thought is that in the highly successful 1961 motion picture adaptation of the play, it was very controversial that only 1 out of all the Sharks was actually of Hispanic descent. All the rest were white actors and actresses who used makeup to darken their skin and who spoke with a practiced Spanish accent. Thus, to me it seemed almost ironic that Bateman was chosen for this part. At least that is what I thought until she opened her mouth and sang for us. At that moment the decision became crystal clear. She had the perfect soprano voice for the part and I could listen to Bateman's operatic voice all day long. When Bateman hit the high notes at the end of the duet "Somewhere," it was some of the most beautiful notes I have heard in my life.

When speaking of the outstanding talent portrayed, one cannot miss the outstanding dancing skills of Courtney and Louis Giannini during the high school dance scene. Their jazz and sing dancing partnership with lifts, kicks, and spins was so intoxicating, it was difficult to take one's eyes off them.

Likewise, the acting of Stevie Nichols in the gang rape scene was unbelievably heart wrenching. She enters the scene at Doc's Drug Store demanding to see Doc so that she can deliver the promised message from Maria. In trying to protect Tony, and also out of hatred for her race, they overwhelmed her and held her down. The simulated gang rape was just about to occur until Doc broke it up. In this moment, the audience truly understood her loyalty to her friend, her fear at being violated, and her broken spirit. We understood exactly why, when she finally got the chance to deliver the message, she lied about Maria's well-being. I applaud her performance.

One of the biggest lessons for me came at the moment when Doc proclaimed to the teenagers that "you make the world lousy!" Their immediate rebuttal was that "we didn't make it, Doc." To all who feel victims to the circumstances they were born into, this scene alone should be sufficient to make you rethink your position. Of course they made their life exactly what became of it! They chose hatred and non-tolerance. They chose the war council and violence. Though they couldn't choose the eventual consequence of three deaths on their hands, they made the choice that led to it.

Last but not least, I wouldn't feel right in ending this review without mentioning the amazing lighting and props onstage. As the audience entered initially, it was impossible to ignore the chain link fence at the front of the stage. This did a phenomenal job of setting the tone for the play. When the show began, as much as we wanted to watch the great jazz choreography in the style of Jerome Robbins, this task was made difficult by the breathtaking beauty of the backdrop. I don't know how they did it, but the lighting and scenic directors (and possibly others) made a fantastic backdrop. It simulated the look of the sky during all times of the day. Lights in the windows of buildings created the feel of actually being in New York City. Because of this type of beauty, those hard at work backstage deserve obvious credit!

Thank you Albuquerque Little Theater for such a great performance!!

 224 San Pasquale Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87104

March 4 – 26, 2016
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm;
Sundays at 2:00 pm

 Adults, $24
Seniors (65+), $22
Students (13 – University), $20
Children (12 and under), $14

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Knowhere: UNM Faculty Dance Concert

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is stepping on a tack and 10 is a performance worthy of a 5 minute long standing ovation, the UNM Faculty Dance Concert rates a high 8.

In the world we live in today, it is so easy to live a numb life where you never take time to think about what we truly feel and why we do what we do. The Knowhere Faculty Dance concert was so thrilling to attend because it made me feel wonder at seeing beauty, it made me feel uncomfortable at times, it made me believe in the power of numbers, and it made me want to trust others better. You know it is a great performance when you leave with a desire find a way in which you too can add beauty to this world.

As UNM is the one university in the United States to offer a full bachelor's degree in the dance Flamenco, it was delightful to see that three out of the six performances were of the flamenco style. The first, "Talegoneando" was the most traditional of the flamenco pieces. It featured live music with a Spanish guitar, a singer, and a person clapping out beats (palmas). The dancers were very precise and the use of space kept the piece lively.

(The pieces described below are not in the order of the program)

Flamenco was originally created by gypsies as a way to artistically express the frustration of an unfair life. Gypsies have constantly been rejected by society because of their nomadic lifestyle and different traditions. Their history includes many violent acts toward their people.

The piece "Omega" was perfectly reminiscent of this history, but with modern music by "thrash metal musician" Lagartija Nick from Spain. This piece featured dancers in individualized long, shredded skirts reminiscent, perhaps, of what the gypsies may have worn. Besides the powerful music (sounding at times if a voice was echoing in the canyons and developing into more of a beat with electric guitar), costumes, and dancing, the lighting is what made this piece phenomenal. In the beginning, the purple and green hues gave the stage a sickening feeling as if they were in a toxic environment, which was true of the gypsies almost wherever they turned. The dance included gestures as if they were choking and the music cried out, "Dios!" as if they were praying for help from a distant God. Eventually, the lights turned to red as if they had enough repression and violence. The dancers repeated many times a 1-2-triplet foot pattern back and forth as if it was building up into a war cry. These dancers became not the Spanish matador, but rather the bull. Finally, the lights turned to purple, the color of power. The dance finished with all but one leaving on stage right. The last made a powerful pose and then the lights dimmed.

The third Flamenco piece, "Fandango", was just as intense of an experience as "Omega" for me because of the number of dancers and the masterful use of space. It began with a line of dancers and their footwork upstage. Eventually the group gathered together in one bunch as they simultaneously spun, leaned back, and would look directly into the audience at the same time as if willing us to look and understand. This group expanded outward and lines would rotate between lines. At times dancers would be accomplishing same footwork with some facing forward and others backward. Jumps and arms spinning like a windmill portrayed such power. As the music stopped, all dancers looked intently toward the audience. Person by person began to continuously click their heels until all had joined in and the stage was rumbling with the power of the group. Then with snapping, the group began to leave to stage left.

Though flamenco was the opening and the grand finale of the show, the modern dance pieces by Vladimir Conde Reche, Donna Jewell, and Fall 2015 Artist in Residence Tomaz Simatovic certainly brought a variety of emotions to ponder over.

"if i could only reach you" was definitely a piece that, in making me uncomfortable at times, allowed me to think more deeply about the experience of being in love. It begins with dancers slowly wandering the very foggy stage. Eventually one dancer drops to the ground and all hell breaks loose as dancers writhe uncontrollable all around the stage. This eventually comes to a halt. As these six original dancers do nothing but stand still and stare at the audience for minutes, they are eventually joined by many other female dancers. Queen's song "Breakthru" begins to play and the new additions to the stage find themselves dancing in a playful, quirky way. One by one, they break the trance of the original six, though the last (the woman who dropped to the stage previously) regains movement by screaming as she falls to her position on the ground once more. This piece was intended to embody the many "awesome" and strange emotions that are love.

Here is a YouTube video with some rehearsal clips from this piece:

Conde Reche's "Search for the silver lining" brought dark, eeriness to the stage as if the dancers were currently passing through a very difficult struggle. Their black leather uniforms with cage like lines around the belly brought a repression to the stage. The choreography was full of jumps, spins, unnatural curling of the back, extensions, and gestures of all height levels. At one point, it appeared as if the dancers were worms on the ground. As silence pervades at the end, the dancers make gestures as if they were cleaning their hands thoroughly. This begs the question that if all of your pain and suffering could be taken away from you, would you choose that options to wash your hands of the experience? Or is the washing more of a healing process in the end?

Finally, Donna Jewell's "Superior Temporal (higher up and off to the side)" contained a fascinating excerpt in the program describing the following excerpt from The Aesthetic Brain by Anjan Chatterjea:

"Visual processing starts in the retina of our eyes... Visual information is sorted in different regions (of the brain)... the shapes of things, their movement or color, are processed in different regions. ... off to the side... and higher up is an area that processes moving bodies or biological motion. So, we have a visual cortex that has specialized modules to process places, faces, bodies and different objects. Is it a coincidence that much of visual art is about landscapes, portraits, nudes, and still lifes? Is it also a coincidence that we have an area specialized for biological motion and that dance is such a popular form of art?"
This piece is performed by MFA student Kelsey Paschich and UNM Assistant Professor Vladimir Conde Reche. The dancing of this piece was of the highest quality. The story that seemed to be told was of a girl who is noticed by a boy. He literally lifts her put in various powerful and high lifts. But she always seems to be trying to getting away, and at one point even limps away from him. He tries to hug her, but she escapes again. Eventually, the piece ends with Paschich allowing herself to be supported on him. The lights go out as they make walking finger gestures on each other. To me, this piece is about developing trust and how that is a process. One may need to pass through many personal encounters and even quirky times (like the quirky gestures they made at times). But in the end, the vulnerability that comes with trust is beauty.

I highly recommend this show before it is over forever!

Tickets are various prices depending on if you are UNM faculty or a student, but general adult admission is $15 per person.

Friday, March 4, 2016

PostSecret Live Event

On a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is finding yourself locked in the bathroom on a bus and 10 is the feeling after a first kiss, going to the PostSecret Live event at the University of New Mexico was a strong 10.

If you have ever kept a secret; if you have ever felt like no one understands you; if you need more compassion in life; if you feel the need to hear the deep and dark secrets of others (be them hilarious, heart breaking, or anywhere in between), then PostSecret Live is a perfect event for you. I truly believe this project can change the world for the better, making it a more peaceful, compassionate, and understanding place to live. It already has helped the world strive for this in many ways.

This event is an hour and a half long presentation by Frank Warren, the founder of the world's largest advertisement free blog in the world, His PostSecret journey began in 2004 when he decided to print out 3000 postcards which were blank on one side and had these simple instructions on the back:

Warren tells of going to the "darkest streets" of Washington DC (because that's where the really good secrets can be found) and passing out these cards. Not everyone supported him or really even understood why he was doing this. But the postcards started coming. In some of the first weeks, he barely had enough new post cards sent to him to post the 10 new cards every week on his blog. And there were only a few visitors. The idea soon went viral and he began receiving cards from outside of Washington DC and outside of the US. His blog visitors soared from 100 one week to 1000 the next to over 4 million weekly viewers now, 12 years later. Warren explains this process as having "accidentally" tapped into a a stream of mystery and wonder.

PostSecret has made a huge difference in the world as they have raised over $1,000,000 for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. It also has sparked the idea for other websites such as

Through the night, Frank Warren used a multiplex of post cards he has received, audio recordings, stories, and even a secret of his own to help explain what this process has been like for him and what he has learned along the way. I loved that he took the time to hand selected a few extra posts about the Albuquerque and New Mexico area from the PostSecret App (which lasted for 3 months in 2011-2012) to share with us. The process has been extremely enlightening to him. Here are some points he has learned which really stuck out to me:

  • There are two kinds of secrets: those we hide from others and those we keep from ourselves. 
  • Secrets inside of you are like a wall. As we share them with others, we realize they were really a bridge the whole time connecting us to others and to our deepest self. 
  • In Hebrew, the word for secret means "to come closer."
  • It is an illusion that we are alone in our secrets. 
  • You earn your soul through your suffering. Through them you begin to discover talents and gifts. We have gifts that the world is waiting for us to discover. The world needs these talents and gifts.

At the end of the night, Warren allowed individuals in the audience to share a secret over the microphone with others. One person shared her story of transferring schools in high school because everyone told her to kill herself. Another person said that he hasn't made it through a love song in months without crying. Another shared his story of growing up in the system and feeling unburdened by the need others feel to seek out lost family relationships. One man told a hilarious story of how his brother used to tell him that cob webs belonged to cob spiders, the deadliest spider on earth. If a web touches you, the cob spiders will find you no matter where you are on earth. A few hours later, this man walked through one and thought for sure that he was going to die. He couldn't sleep for weeks. My favorite secret shared was of a man who always used to pass a stranger on campus who would vibrantly say, "hello." They both knew that they didn't know one another, but they began creating a secret handshake and and stories about how they met to share with the friends nearby. He hasn't seen that guy in quite some time and he misses him.

Warren left us with his memorable testimony about how his life has been changed so much since PostSecret began. If he could go back in time to the worst memories of his life and erase all the pain and anguish, he wouldn't. Every part of his past was vital to leading him to exactly where he is today. He repeated several times his belief that there are a thousand other ideas just as good as PostSecret which are just waiting for one of us to discover and give a life to. I left the event feeling very contemplative about what my true purpose is. What is it that only I can give to the world? This is an event I would recommend everyone go to at least once in their life!

Visit to learn about upcoming PostSecret Live Events! Also, comment below about your experience with PostSecret or PostSecret Live!

Also, if you want to learn more about how keeping secrets can physically change your body and your perception of the world, read this research article: