“Three Muses” by Martha Anne Toll | Book Review

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“World War II has come and gone, and John Curtin is still grappling with his guilt over singing for the Nazi kommandant who murdered his family. He wants to set up his own psychiatry practice but can’t keep his own demons at bay, haunted by his past and a fear of music.

After the sudden loss of her mother, Katya Symanova found solace in dance lessons and worked her way into the New York State Ballet. Blinded by infatuation, she finds herself in a toxic relationship with her mentor, choreographer Boris Yanakov, who must be in control at all times.

On a trip to Paris, John receives a ticket to a brand new ballet called Three Muses, and the featured ballerina Katya enraptures him. After a brief meeting at the stage door, they cross paths again back home in New York City and immediately connect over the childhood trauma they’ve both experienced. As they open up to one another, they establish a trust that neither have experienced before. Their relationship is rapidly progressing, but, perhaps, too good to be true because Katya has a secret that could derail the budding romance. Are they destined to last or just two ships passing in the night?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Regal House Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

The prologue introduces readers to psychiatry resident John Curtin and ballerina Katya Symanova, and we see their first meeting in Paris in 1963. The following chapters go back in time to flesh out their respective childhood trauma and young adulthood struggles, starting with eleven-year-old Janko Stein in a concentration camp and seven-year-old Katherine Sillman mourning the sudden loss of her mother. When the first few pages felt longer than they actually were, I was prepared to struggle through forty-two chapters at a snail’s pace. To my surprise, I flew through the first half in less than two days. I like the parallels between the struggles John and Katya experienced such as grief, growing up, and dating. The insights into life as a ballerina had me geeking out as a former dancer, and despite the jarring Holocaust imagery, the pieces of Jewish culture felt like a warm, familiar hug. 

The characters and character development are intriguing, but Katya’s decision-making infuriated me. Her relationship with Boris is a blindspot on purpose so I’m trying to let it go. Just know, I have many thought and many feelings. The writing is fine, but some of the transitions from scene to scene are so abrupt that it took me a moment to recalibrate as I was reading. The romance is what truly derails the story. Both John and Katya desired an emotional connection coming into their relationship, but they only connect up to a certain point. The dialogue and interactions are awkward, and beyond understanding one another over shared grief, there’s no chemistry.

The ending being what it is, my indifference towards the romance is unfortunate because it detracted from the underlying message. I understand what happened and why, but I’m not on board with the vehicle that got us there. Though John and Katya help each other find some peace, it still feels like a puzzle piece is misplaced. I can appreciate authors who take the road less traveled, but confusion is not a good feeling as a reader, especially at the end of a book that deals with such heavy subject matter. If something flew over my head, I accept that; perhaps I’m not compatible with Martha Anne Toll’s writing. The redeeming qualities earned a three-star rating, but I consider “Three Muses” a low three stars and something I don’t envision myself picking up again. I think it lacks re-readability, but it’s not a long read so give it a chance if a historical fiction romance set in post-WWII New York City with a heavy sprinkling of ballet piques your interest. Maybe you’ll glean more from it than I did.

*NOTE: The expected publication date is September 20th, 2022.

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might be different in the final copy.

*Disclaimer 2: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Abandonment Issues: John’s mother told a Nazi soldier he could sing & begged for him to be taken somewhere where he could entertain. He didn’t understand why his mother pushed him away to be alone in the care of Nazis while she stayed with his little brother Max.

Katya didn’t find out about her mother’s alcoholism until she was older. She struggled with the revelation because it felt like her mother left on purpose, choosing alcohol over family which ultimately got her killed.

Abuse & Grooming: As a choreographer and teacher, Boris Yanakov is more hands-on than necessary, touching his dancers as much as he sees fit. While molding Katya into a prima ballerina, he touched her in inappropriate places under the guise of class corrections while she was a minor. She developed a girlhood crush and dreamed about his touch, wanting him to desire her despite an age gap of 20+ years. As an adult, she entered into a relationship with Boris, adapting to his sexually-charged creative process even though it made him behave in a frenzied manner at work and behind closed doors. He is self-centered & controlling, showing very little consideration for Katya’s feelings; he also has a reputation for sleeping with numerous women wherever he travels. He never gets violent, but there are times when he physically hurts Katya.

Example 1: When Boris wanted to leave a conversation, he squeezed Katya’s arm hard enough to make her wince despite her asking him to leave her be for a moment or two (“New York” chapter 16).

Example 2: When they slept together for the first time, Katya was a virgin, & Boris was not sensitive to that, leaving her in quite a bit of pain. She excused herself to cry in the bathroom (“Feast and Famine” chapter 13).

Alcohol & Smoking: Alcoholism, Bloody Marys, Bourbon, Cigarettes, Cigars, Drinking, Intoxication, Jack Daniels, Liquor, Smoking, Whiskey, Whiskey Sours, & Wine

Katya’s mother was an alcoholic and died while drunk. Katya tells John that she feels abandoned by her mother, and he reveals that recent science classified alcoholism as an illness, implying that her mother was sick & had little to no control over her actions.

Blood, Death, & Violence: John’s life story is told in detail throughout the book, describing his experience as a German Jew before, during, and after the Holocaust. There are mentions of Jews who died inside gas chambers, trains, & trucks as well as descriptions of dead bodies. John’s father was shot for violating curfew, & while John was the personal prisoner of a Nazi kommandant, his mother & brother Max died inside a gas chamber. When the concentration camp was seized by the Allies, John saw the remaining prisoners, all of them bald, emaciated, and disoriented.

Drunk and desperate for more alcohol, Katya’s mother was hit by a truck while crossing the street, dying instantly.

Katya falls during a performance and bleeds through her tights.

There is one mention of John attending his anatomy class and discussing the cadavers with classmates, one of which is a thirty-year-old woman who died of cancer. He describes her outer appearance and observes that her uterus shows signs of birth, meaning she left behind a child.

Brief mention of knife fights in Katya’s neighborhood

Brief mention of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination

Bullying & Insensitivty: After her mother’s death, a classmate tells Katherine she’s only being favored by Mrs. Slattery because “your mom croaked.”

Selma’s niece Rachel is described as a “short, big-breasted girl” which could be interpreted as a reference to weight or having a mature body at a young age.

When Rachel says she wants to be a teacher, Moe remarks “Nice profession for a woman.”

While learning the English language, John endured jokes about his accent and mistakes as a non-native speaker.

Maya doesn’t revere Boris Yanakov the way Katya does, calling him a variety of names such as “dictator” & “winter warhorse.” He isn’t a good man by a long shot, but these particular names coud be interpreted as culturally insensitive toward a person of Russian heritage.

Cheating: PLOT SPOILER – When Boris Yanakov & John Curtin meet, they realize that Katya has been in a relationship with both of them simultaneously.

Foster Parents: As a young teen rescued from a concentration camp with nowhere to live, John is taken in by Barney and Selma Katz, a Jewish American family.

Gossip: Before she knew the whole story about her mother’s struggles with alcohol which led to her death, Katherine heard people at church talking about it. 

Language: D*mn, G*odd*mn, H*ll, & J*sus

Loss: Barney and Selma’s son Buddy died fighting in Sicily during World War II. John’s parents and brother were killed during the Holocaust, leaving him on his own at the age of eleven. Katya’s mother died when she was seven, leaving her to be raised by a single father. Selma & John lose Barney to a sudden stroke; the gravesite service takes place in “Veiled Road” chapter 2.

Prejudice: Brief mention of a British choreographer who was thrown out of London for being homosexual

Psychiatry: I don’t have the knowledge or experience to critique how this subject was handled so I’ll just lay out what I observed:

The term “headshrinker” is used quite a few times, including by John’s college classmates in jest. 

John refers to his residency patients as “New York’s refuse pile given over to his care.” A few of them are described: Elton Miller is obsessed with the Catholic church & expects the Pope to call him. Former choir director Candida Jackson thinks she’s a singer at the Metropolitan Opera House, constantly talking about her fellow performers who don’t exist & needing to keep time to music that isn’t playing; these detailed fantasies give her headaches. There’s no description of Louisa Matthew’s condition, but after an episode of running down the halls & screaming, she’s restrained by two men while a nurse sedates her; John calls her “a living cadaver, all sinew & bone” & mentions that she has no family.

John’s training psychiatrist Dr. Roth leads him through sessions going over his childhood during the Holocaust. The process is grueling, & John thinks a dentist’s drill would be preferable. The doctor remains professionally emotionless & uses “we” as though he’s also reliving the horrific memories, irking John enough to want to quit several times. John refers to his younger self in third person & tries to show no emotion. Because he was forced to sing for a Nazi kommandant, he has an aversion to music. It’s never stated that he has PTSD, but I would assume he does, music being a major trigger. Eventually Dr. Roth pushes him to “face the music” & sing which is an extremely emotional experience. When their sessions come to an end, John knows he’s made progress, but he credits his relationship with Katya, not the doctor.

Racism & Segregation: John was rescued from the concentration camp by Black soldiers, but on the ship to America, he observes that the mess staff is Black, and the sailors are white. He later mentions that Americans refer to Black people as “n*gro*s.”

Rape: As a live-in prisoner of a Nazi kommandant, John saw female prisoners from the concentration camp enter the house and heard noises after they went upstairs with the soldiers, implying those women were being raped.

Religion: John’s biological and foster parents are Jewish so there are descriptions of Jewish holidays and the corresponding traditions.

Katherine’s mother was Catholic and attended Sunday mass, but she questioned some of Father Paul’s sermons. After her mother’s death, Katherine questioned why Jesus let such a tragedy happen. Her single father continued to take her to mass on Sundays in a small parish church. As an adult, she visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral for some peace & time to reflect.

While telling Katya about his journey to America & being taken in by a loving family, John says “It was as if the gods were looking after me.”

When John opens up to Katya about feeling like he failed his late mother, she says “I wish I could provide absolution like a priest. Jewish don’t do that, do they?” In the Catholic church, “absolution” is a formal release from guilt (obligation or punishment as well).

Sensual/Sexual: In the “Paris” prologue, John daydreams about his coworker Ann, imagining her naked body from head to toe. He observes her physical assets & mentions his attraction a few other times in the book.

After his horrific experience inside a concentration camp, John tried to replace his bad memories with good ones, imagining himself back at school mischieviously trying to look up girls’ skirts.

As a college student, John notices the way classmates and women on the train fill out their clothing, but he doesn’t know how to handle this attraction, too shy to approach one of them and broach the subject of dating. He frequently describes physical assets (breasts, legs, etc.)

After so many years under Boris’ influence, Katya considers her style & movements as a dancer as “sexual” in nature.

During a date, John feels Katya pressing her leg against his.

There are three kisses: “New York” chapters 9, 10, & 11.

There are four sex scenes: “Paris” prologue, “Feast and Famine” chapters 12 & 13, & “New York” chapter 11

There are four more brief sexual moments: “New York” chapters 2, 5, 7, & 12

Suicide: There is a brief mention of Jews who jumped out of windows when Nazis took over.

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🌟 Find author Martha Anne Toll here:





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Support the Irish Arts

As I was writing this blog post, the Gilmore Girls episode currently playing on my iPad, season 3 episode 7, referenced Riverdance. That is the best possible sign that today is a great day to support the Irish arts! Former Riverdance dancer Kincaid Stringer & his mother Shannon Kincaid, a painter, have teamed up for a great cause. They’re selling seven of Shannon’s paintings through Indiegogo for a COVID-19 relief fund; all proceeds will support Irish actors, artists, backstage workers & crews, clubs, concerts, cultural & event spaces, dancers, dance schools, festivals, musicians, performers, singers, theaters, & writers. I grew up dancing & singing so the arts are very important to me. Riverdance is the reason I asked my mom to sign me up for dance classes at the age of four so the Irish arts are also very important to me. Let’s not forget my Irish ancestors! 🇮🇪 The arts have done a lot for us in quarantine so it’s only right that we give back. You can choose to only donate money or receive a painting or two or seven in exchange for your donation. If it’s not already obvious, I’m buying “The Dancer.” Can’t wait to have a gorgeous Irish dancing queen above my bed! 👑 Please consider setting aside $25, or more, to support a great cause & get a piece of Ireland for your home. 💚🤍🧡

*NOTE: The Indiegogo campaign ends on September 17th, & the paintings will ship in November. Because of COVID-19, please consider that shipping could be delayed.

➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️   S U P P O R T   T H E   C A M P A I G N   H E R E   ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️

Irish people’s love of dancing has been well documented throughout their written history. In fact, one of the earliest references to dancing details a visit between the Mayor of Waterford and Mayor of Baltimore in 1413. The modern Irish dancing of today is no longer merely a processional combination of singing and dancing as an act of celebrating, but a sport that produces athletes that are physically strong, as well as creative and artistic. What was once a tradition specific to Ireland (as well as England, Scotland, and some parts of America) caught like wildfire in 1994 with the debut of Riverdance. The theatrical show consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance took the world by storm and has been a global phenomenon ever since. Now, twenty-five years later, the Irish dancing community consists of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world today. Teachers from around the world have committed themselves to spreading their love and passion for Ireland’s traditional form of expression. Regardless of how far a dancer progresses competitively or professionally, being an Irish dancer is something that is inextricably bound to their identity forevermore. In this piece entitled “The Dancer,” you feel the excitement, the confidence, and the artistry that comes from expressing a centuries-old tradition that has touched the hearts of many.  – Kincaid & Shannon

Ireland and Scotland combined have a rich culture within the performing arts, which has resulted in a thriving gig scene. Musicians are constantly pushing the boundaries in order to create new and fresh work that is often steeped in tradition. Many are staunch believers that musical traditions must be preserved as they always have been – the “play it like my father used to” kind of sentimentality. Yet, every generation brings a new wave of talent that feels that this attitude discourages progress and evolution. This debate between tradition and innovation is a tale as old as time. Still, many feel it is possible to honour your origins while also exploring and adapting to the future; they are not mutually exclusive. Irish music legend, Míchéal Ó Súilleabháinn, believed that traditions are never frozen, but rather are fluid. He believed that the idea of authenticity originating from a pure source located in antiquity was bogus! This painting is for the new wave of artists and musicians who are creating some of the most incredible new-age folk / Trad music in the world. Project Smok, Beoga, Talisk, Ímar and the like are leading the way for the future of Irish music. – Kincaid & Shannon

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”  – George Bernard Shaw

Ériu is the goddess of sovereignty and the mythological mother of Ireland. She is often interpreted as the modern-day personification of Ireland. Along with her two sisters, Banba and Fódhla, Ériu was a part of a triumvirate of goddesses. Before their final defeat, each goddess requested that the island be named for her. This was granted to all of them, but Ériu became the chief name in use. The old Irish name Ériu evolved into Éire in modern Irish and depending on the case is spelled Éireann or Éirinn. This is how we finally arrived with the English name for the country, Erin. The painting has been imbued with symbols to depict all that Ériu embodied within pre-Christian Irish culture. Ériu represents the sacred feminine, as illustrated in the column capitals, or the decorative element at the top of a column, that represent the three phases of a woman’s life cycle – the maid, mother and crone. The stars behind her and the lunala around her neck evoke her role as a lunar goddess. Her hair bleeds into the trees, depicting her connection to the earth and its bounty. She holds this bounty in her hand as a glass of mead, which was served at the feast of Goibhniu, and offered immortality to those that drank it. Around her head is a ring of knot work encasing the land, which is topped by the stone of divisions from the hill of Uisneach, the symbolic and sacred centre of the island in Irish mythology. Ériu’s bones are said to have been laid to rest on this hill and serves as a gateway between the Underworld and the world above. – Kincaid & Shannon

There is much more to an Irish pub than just having a drink. In Ireland, pubs are central to the way of life. Similar to a church, they represent a pillar of Irish social life and community. A place where pints, comfort food, live music, and sport can be always be found; somewhere you can meet friends, neighbors, or even complete strangers, in an inviting atmosphere. It’s for these reasons that recreations of Irish pubs can be found in any city around the world. O’Connor’s was opened as a pub in Galway in 1942 by Thomas O’Connor, and is currently operated by third generation O’Connors. Every inch of it decorated in eclectic memorabilia, the pub has become famous for its hospitality and world-class live music. So much so that Ed Sheeran used it as the location of his music video “Galway Girl” in 2017 featuring actress Saoirse Ronan, furthering the pub’s world-wide recognition. – Kincaid & Shannon

Ireland has a rich tradition of various festivals taking place throughout each year. The Rose of Tralee was first held in 1959 and has since been held every August in Tralee, County Kerry, to select a young woman to be crowned the Rose. Cities all over the world host their own selection balls to determine who will represent them in Ireland. The festival bills itself as a celebration of the “aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility, and Irish heritage” of modern young women. Bursting with music and dancing, this festival celebrates the very best of Irish culture and the future of Irish relations worldwide. The winner and their family become a part of a global network, showcasing how Irish culture is thriving amongst the Irish Diaspora. They say, “Once a Rose, always a Rose.” – Kincaid & Shannon

A session is a casual gathering of musicians playing traditional Irish music, usually taking place in a pub, but has also been known to take place on street corners or even in someone’s kitchen. Irish “trad” music has garnered a deep appreciation, not just in Ireland, but also around the world. It’s important to note that a session is more than just a casual jam between musicians – the focus is on the instrumental tunes found within the Irish tradition – reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slip jigs, and the like. Whether it be in a pub or someone’s home, sessions are times of brilliant music and ever-flowing drink that have a certain habit of continuing late into the night, if not into the wee hours of the morning! – Kincaid & Shannon

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.

These are just two quotes from one of the biggest literary personalities in Ireland’s history, Oscar Wilde. A literary treasure, Wilde was a hugely popular playwright and poet in the late 1800s. Besides well-known works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and Lady Windermere’s Fan, his biting wit and flamboyant style gained him notoriety as well. As a people, the Irish are known for their good sense of humour, which has bolstered them during periods of great hardship throughout history. Wilde embodied this intrinsically Irish trait to the very end. Even as he faced death, he was cracking jokes and reportedly said, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.” A collection of art in support of Irish culture would be incomplete without paying homage to Oscar Wilde. – Kincaid & Shannon

➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️   S U P P O R T   T H E   C A M P A I G N   H E R E   ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHAx8IE3PTk&feature=youtu.be

➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️   S U P P O R T   T H E   C A M P A I G N   H E R E   ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️ ⬅️

Riverdance Turns 25

I couldn’t let today pass without acknowledging the 25th anniversary of a show that changed my life: Riverdance. The stage show began as a 7-minute act performed during an intermission at the Eurovision Song Contest on April 30, 1994. The performance was a smash hit with the audience, causing a chain reaction that breathed new life into Irish dancing around the world. The great minds behind this phenomenon are composer Bill Whelan, director John McColgan, featured dancers Jean Butler and Michael Flatley who also contributed choreography, producer Moya Doherty, and, of course, the rest of the hardworking crew & talented company of dancers.

Four years after Riverdance made its grand debut, I received a VHS from a family friend, a tape of the show during its 1995 debut run in Dublin. Four-year-old me had no idea my life was about to change. I can’t even tell you how many times that tape played while I leaped & twirled across the living room floor. It wasn’t long before I was taking my first tap class. Did I become an Irish dancer? No. Did I bring every ounce of passion I possessed as a proud Irish girl into ballet, jazz, modern, & tap classes for 12 1/2 years? YES I DID!!! 🔥

It’s hard to explain how much this show means to me, but believe me when I say it holds a very VERY special place in my heart. It was not only my introduction to the dance culture in both Ireland & Spain but also my introduction to dance. I lost my passion & did not pursue a career as a dancer, but I never lost my love for all things dance. To this day, I drag my dad to the theater if Riverdance visits our neck of the woods (he knows he loves it!). I’ve seen it five times, & I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

To the Riverdance companies & crews: From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you have done. Happy Anniversary! I am looking forward to 25 more years of this special show!

Do yourself a favor & watch the moment when it all began:

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAtkcHpSHCw

P.S. Shout out to María Pagés, the original flamenco dancer in Riverdance & my Spanish queen since the age of 4. 🇪🇸

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk6LYFwP8lE

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Dance Until The Music Stops

This is a difficult subject for me to discuss, but this blog is like my diary so I need to be honest.  I recently took on the project of turning my dance recital DVDs into digital files so I could put all of my routines into one video.  Doing so brought up a lot of good memories but also an equal amount of bad memories.  I am my own worst critique.  It is a rare occasion for me to watch myself dance and think that I did a good job.  Watching old routines makes me realize how hard a time I had as a dancer.  Was I a good dancer?  Yes.  Was I a great dancer?  No.  What made the difference?  Fear.  The biggest problem I see when I dance is my tentativeness.  I was never able to to dance without flooding my mind with doubts and fears:  “Do I look fat in this costume?”  “No one will watch me if I look fat!”  “Suck in your stomach!”  “Do I remember all the steps?”  “What if I forget the routine?”  “I’m going to forget something!”  “That was a terrible performance!”  “I never want to dance again!”  That’s the basic idea of my dancer’s brain.  Never stopping, never quiet.  Unfortunately, I fall into the category of dancers who’ve fallen prey to distorted body image and eating disorders.  I went to extreme lengths to lose weight.  I thought that if I looked more like a ballerina, I would improve at dancing.  At the time I thought my body was an eyesore, but now I realize I was indeed skinny.  I looked the part, but it wasn’t by healthy measures.  I loved to dance, but I could never overcome the obstacle of fear.  When I first watched “Riverdance” on VHS and saw Michael Flatley and Jean Butler dance, I had no reservations.  I just wanted to dance!  Somewhere along the way, I allowed fear to beat me down and destroy my passion.

“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”  – Merce Cunningham

• On a happier note, I will forever be grateful for my dance mates.  No one understands the bond between dancers until you have navigated the ups and downs of dance with the same group for years.

I want to encourage boys, girls, men & women dealing with these or similar struggles.  Please don’t let fear run your life!  Take one step at a time and give your all to whatever you are doing.  Failure wont harm you so don’t be afraid to try.  If it doesn’t work out, don’t blame yourself.  When dance turned out to be a stepping stone in my life, I blamed myself for being fat and lacking talent.  The truth is God had always intended for me to turn my attention to something else.  Each and every one of us is dealing with obstacles.  You are not alone!

• It is time to start dancing with abandon & have some fun! :D

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcWPiHjIExA

• I leave you with wise words from a special group of vegetables. ;)

Source: https://twitter.com/veggietales/status/421387397167722496

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Dream Come True

Words cannot describe the experience I had last night.  I waited 17 long years to see my favorite dancer and dance inspiration Michael Flatley perform in person.  FINALLY, my dream came true.  If you don’t know much about Michael, his decades-long career has produced a long list of injuries, some that are irreversible.  Despite living with pain, Michael is giving his fans one last chance to see him dance.  Even though he appeared in “Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games” for a short period of time, those few minutes were leaps and bounds above the rest of the show.  How can I not be content knowing that he is suffering to say thank you to his fans in person?  No one else but Michael could dance a few steps and get away with it.  When he stepped onstage, I had the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face.  I don’t even care what I looked like because I felt five years old and free as a bird in that moment.

Mr. Flatley has earned quite the reputation.  He had a bumpy start due to a creative dispute with “Riverdance” colleagues.  Even though the eventual split led to the creation of “Lord of the Dance”, success brought with it rockstar behavior.  I don’t care about all of that now because Michael has overcome problems of the past and grown into the role model I always believed him to be.  When I was 5 years old, I received a gift: a VHS tape of “Riverdance” with Michael Flatley & Jean Butler.  The number of times I watched that tape and mimicked the dancers is incalculable.  I didn’t know how or where; all I knew was I had to dance.  I didn’t go on to dance professionally, but some of my most treasured memories come from dancing for eleven 1/2 years.  Michael Flatley revived Irish dancing and made it a worldwide phenomenon.  On a personal level, he sparked a desire within me to dance and see how far I could go.  For that, I will forever be grateful.

* * * Special thank you to my dad for buying the tickets and taking me to the show.  Rain, Italian food, Starbucks, & Michael Flatley.  That is one heck of a daddy-daughter date! :D

• The Birth of Riverdance

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0v_pu6miJ8

• “Feet of Flames”, my favorite incarnation of “Lord of the Dance”

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0WfSm6-vQU

• Michael Flatley: A Night to Remember

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h1bn4C4Wo0

“Whenever I hear, ‘It can’t be done,’ I know I’m close to success.”  – Michael Flatley

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– Lauren Michele <3

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Lord of the Dance | Blogmas 2015

Okay readers.  Time to cheer up and put some life back into Blogmas 2015.  Prepare for a freak out in 3…2…1…

YEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!  THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER!!!!!!!!!!  Michael Flatley, my dance hero and the reason I started dancing.  He is FINALLY coming to California.  I am crying tears of joy!!!!!!!!!!  This is the best thing that has happened in my life in a loooooooooooooooooooooooooong time.

I have NEVER seen Michael Flatley live, only on “Riverdance” and “Feet of Flames” VHS tapes over and over and over and over and over again.  My Christmas has suddenly taken  a turn for the better.  Click the links & witness the majesty:

• Michael Flatley Youtube Channel

• Michael Flatley Website

For those of you wanting to purchase tickets to the “Lord of the Dance United States Tour 2016,” click this link – USA

I am beyond excited and already have a countdown on my phone.  God help the person, place, or thing that tries to get in the way of me seeing Michael Flatley live.  There will be hellfire and brimstone if that happens!!!!!  On a lighter, sweeter note, I am watching Christmas movies and waiting to go to work.  I hope you are having a lovely, relaxing Saturday. :)

Vlogmas – Lauren Michele

10 days until Artmas – Lauren Michele Photography – WordPress.com

20 days until Christmas…

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Congratulations Bindi!

I don’t usually do this, but I felt the need to write a post congratulating Bindi Irwin on her “Dancing With the Stars” victory.  Over the course of the season, I saw nasty comments on social media saying “Bindi is a fake person” and “She gets special treatment because her partner is Derek Hough.”  I could rant and fight on her behalf, but I don’t think that would do any good.  This is all I will say: There was no way of knowing she would be so amazing because she has never had formal training, and from a dancer’s perspective, Bindi had natural ability from the very first episode.  Despite what people may say from their television, computer, or cellphone, people on the DWTS set interacted with Bindi for three months, and no one has one bad thing to say about her; that speaks volumes about her as a person, more than online comments ever could.  I grew up watching Steve Irwin on TV.  He gave me so much joy as a child, and I am so glad to see Bindi carrying on his legacy with grace.

If you didn’t watch DWTS this season, here are links to videos of Derek and Bindi’s dances:

Week 1 | Jive | “Crocodile Rock”

Week 2 | Tango | “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Week 2 | Waltz | “Only a Man”

Week 3 | Quickstep | “Movin’ on Up”

Week 4 | Contemporary | “Every Breath You Take”

Week 5 | Cha-Cha-Cha |  “Hold My Hand”

Week 6 | Rumba | “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”

Week 7 | Argentine Tango | “Cry Little Sister”

Week 7 | Team Freestyle | “Ghostbusters”

Week 8 | Foxtrot | “Grace Kelly”

Week 8 | Jive Dance-Off | “Travelin’ Band”

Week 9 | Viennese Waltz | “Roses And Violets”

Week 9 | Team-Up Dance/Charleston | “All That Jazz” & “Hot Honey Rag”

Week 10 | Salsa | “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”

Week 10 | Samba Dance-Off | “Lean On”

Week 10 | Jazz Trio | “Resolve”

Week 11 | Quickstep | “Dr. Bones”

Week 11 | Freestyle | “Footprints in the Sand”

Week 11 | Argentine Tango & Cha-Cha-Cha Fusion | “All The Way”

Bindi Irwins Wins “Dancing With the Stars”

* * *     Congratulations Bindi & Derek!  :)     * * *

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Musical Tag

Musical Tag Thumbnail

This is the musical tag.  If you are not interested in musicals, I would suggest that you stop reading and stay tuned for my next blog post.  If you would like to watch the Youtube version, click the following link: https://youtu.be/jla9o38LHxE

If you are prepared to read, proceed.  :)

Q: What is your favorite stage musical?

A: I have never seen a musical performed by a professional group.  However, I saw a homeschool group from my childhood city perform plays and musicals, and they did an excellent job.  The productions were so well done, they might as well have been professional.  Brava!

Q: What is your favorite musical film?

A: “Fiddler on the Roof”

“Fiddler on the Roof” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QegNUOg2ajE

***Note: I added the following question.

Q: What is your favorite animated musical film?

A: “Prince of Egypt”

“Prince of Egypt” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmBDY-fSlIs

Q: What is your favorite musical performance?

A: I think this question refers to live productions, but that does not apply to me.  I am changing the context to my favorite singular performance within a musical film: “Singing in the Rain” performed by Gene Kelly.

“Singing in the Rain” Movie Scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ZYhVpdXbQ

Q: What is your favorite genre of musicals?

A: Every era has at least one good musical, but most of my favorites come from the Post-Classical Era (Post 50s).

Q: Who is your favorite composer and/or lyricist?

A: Alan Menken, Hans Zimmer, and Phil Collins.

Alan Menken Medley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-WhOZZstiU

Samples of Hans Zimmer’s Work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdgUhz2F0Mg

“Two Worlds” by Phil Collins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGn4zSfw6K4

“On My Way” by Phil Collins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDtBnTMpltM

Q: What is your favorite underappreciated musical?

A: All of the musicals I like are well-known and liked therefore I do not have an answer.

Q: What musical are you dying to see?

A: “Wicked”, “Phantom of the Opera”, and “Aladdin.”  Anything else would be icing on the cake.  :)

“Wicked” 2012 Broadway Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrpLayS57cY

“Phantom of the Opera” 2013 Broadway Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNWUdSxxnHM

“Aladdin” 2014 Broadway Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4sl3sQPzgc&list=PL0kqHD3g0haHgDgqMW-5tX2k6U5rOiMMQ&index=14

Q: What musical did you not like?

A: I apologize to anybody who likes these two musicals.  I did not enjoy “Gigi” or “Cry-Baby.”  The character Gigi annoyed me , and I could not connect to the characters or storyline in “Cry-Baby.”

“Gigi” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH8aVaeHqq4

“Cry-Baby” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB1bLlguZVY

Q: What is the best musical adaptation?

A: “Fiddler on the Roof”

Q: What is the best original musical?

A: “Once”

“Once” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWJIylZ8VyM

Who is your favorite character from a musical?

A: Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof”

“Tradition” Performed by Tevye/Chaim Topol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw

Q: What is your favorite song from a musical?

A: “Falling Slowly” and “I See the Light.”

“Falling Slowly” Performed Live by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koPjCqb3igw

“I See the Light” Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYbHzzWmKUs

Q: What is your favorite soundtrack?

A: “Fiddler on the Roof”, “Into the Woods ” (2014 film), “Prince of Egypt”, and “Tarzan.”

“Fiddler on the Roof” Soundtrack Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLTxj-kXhg0&list=PL6vJR5WPUWn_-zubC0hU4BuQVqmi_tJbM

“Into the Woods” Soundtrack Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KId_A5H-BXw&list=PLuovSEX8xEHes6AJxPnrTcxShMEc9XOBi

“Prince of Egypt” Soundtrack Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WKN0XF8-3Q&list=PLrjhOUTfRro7ro9MjrNV_W5gwFCMbSxEu

“Tarzan” Soundtrack Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4hVVn5OlnI&list=PL7FE43190CD86C300

Q: What musical would you love to see happen?

A: A musical based on the ABC TV show “Once Upon a Time”, a story about Disney characters set in modern times.

“Once Upon a Time” Season One Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QjaxiuIa7A

Q: Why do you like musicals?

A: Musicals were a normal part of my life growing up as a dancer, and they still hold a special place in my heart.

Q: Describe yourself using one lyric from a musical?

A: Defying.  Fear is one of the biggest obstacles in my life, but I constantly find myself taking on challenges and completing what I thought was beyond my limits.

“Defying Gravity” Performed Live by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g4ekwTd6Ig

Q: Who is your favorite actress from a musical?

A: Julie Andrews.  QUEEN!!

“The Hills Are Alive” Movie Scene, “Sound of Music”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R462Ro5fqU

“Feed The Birds” Movie Scene, “Mary Poppins”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHrRxQVUFN4

Q: Who is your favorite actor from a musical?

A: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

“I Got Rhythm” Performed by Gene Kelly, “An American in Paris”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvglHa_P9BA

“Funny Face” Performed by Fred Astaire, “Funny Face”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xo1onGh3us

Here is a list of all my favorite musical films:


“Aladdin” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWLa6y7Z2TE

“An American in Paris”

“An American in Paris ” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2WAMZRCbpU


“Chicago” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EpaMmF9WVU

“Fiddler on the Roof”

“Funny Face”

“Funny Face” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6VLdVrVQGQ


“Grease” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzWmxjYNfz4


“Hercules” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ds88gvnEVo

“Into the Woods”

“Into the Woods” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Byk9Is3TjY

“Music Man”

“Music Man” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIPL8Yb25T4

“Phantom of the Opera”

“Phantom of the Opera” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44w6elsJr_I

“Prince of Egypt”

“Singing in the Rain”

“Singing in the Rain” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36QiuRc_3I8

“Sound of Music”

“Sound of Music” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY6uw3WpPzY


“Tarzan” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfciC33t3M0

“Thoroughly Modern Millie”

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCug0golA6c

If you would like to know more details surrounding my answers, watch the Youtube video (https://youtu.be/jla9o38LHxE).  If you love musicals, I highly recommend you do this tag.  It is so much fun!

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