“So You Think You Can Dance”-Top 20 Dance

jasmineLove is patient and kind but is love really blind?

High Point: Yesterday’s episode of “So You Think You Can Dance” featured a contemporary dance number showcasing dancers Jasmine Mason and Alan with Travis Wall choreography.  The dancers were blindfolded adding another layer of intimacy where raw touch was the vehicle that let each dancer see into each other.  The lifts with the rise and fall drew upon a foundation of trusting each other and themselves.  I liked how Jasmine fearlessly dove backwards into Alan’s arm illustrating the idea of “leap and the net will appear.”  It appeared that each dancer’s hearts were open to reality in accepting each others flaws and moving onwards as a unit.  We shall if both dancers move onwards in the show when voting results are given next week.

fictionSurprise moment: Fik-Shun (name pronounced fiction) dancing contemporary with dancer Amy and Sonya Tayeh’s choreography.  It was nice to see a male dancer outside his dance genre inhabit the spirit of the dance.  Fik Shun’s commitment to movement and partnering elevated Amy’s performance making for a mesmerizing routine and partnership closing the night out.

Looking Forward: It will be interesting to see how America votes and I hope to see dancer Nico in another dance genre other than hip-hop because he has great potential. Tune in next week on Fox Tuesday 8/7c.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” -Helen Keller

 

First Day of Summer-Descanso Gardens

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SUMMER!

Descanso Gardens located in La Canada Flintridge is “an urban retreat of year-round natural beauty, internationally renowned botanical collections and spectacular seasonal horticultural displays.”  The 160 acre garden property piqued the interest of Walt Disney in search for a place to put Disneyland and lures in visitors to take awe in nature’s beauty.

Take the 20-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles to see the flourishing summer roses in the 5-acre rose garden, Japanese garden, Oak Forest, lilac and camellia collection.   Enjoy the garden tour, café, Boddy House and the numerous places to sit down, relax or walk around.

descanso1Yesterday was the beginning of live music Thursdays highlighting the talents of jazz artists.  It is a great opportunity for picnics and fun under the oaks at no additional cost (6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.).  To see the schedule of performers click here.

Beginning July 2nd, for ten weeks Descanso Gardens will extend their hours to 9 a.m-8 p.m.  The extended summer hours mark the return of the Camellia Lounge to the Full Moon Tea House (3 p.m.-7:45 p.m.) and evenings of live music.

For more information about Descanso Gardens click here.  Admission is $8/Students $6.   Enjoy summer and time with family and friends!

descanso2Children may enjoy “A Faery Hunt Theater” part of family Tuesdays, the Enchanted Railroad or Little Owls Reading Nest.  Check out the Descanso Gardens calendar for more dates.

1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge 91011

“So You Think You Can Dance”-Top 20 Dancers Revealed

sytycd-season-10-all-starsThe auditions and Vegas week are over and the live performance shows are just around the corner!  However, last night Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” revealed their top 20 dancers!  It was nice to see choreographer Mia Michaels back and the more diversified dance genres represented this year.  The judging panel included executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman.

High Point: The Top 10 guys perform a routine choreographed by Christopher Scott.  I always enjoy the use of music by Nathan Lanier used in SYTYCD routines such as “Ra,” Velocity,” or “Resolve” because it has an intensity that sets the stage for impactful movement.  The use of the sand served as an extension of the dance’s story and was handled with ferocity and delicacy.

sytycd1Surprise Moment: Hip-Hop dancer Mariah Spears performing a Luther Brown routine.  We did not get to see much of her in Vegas this year and I was delightfully surprised by her fierceness and personality.

Looking Forward: I am excited to see the new dance pairings and the new performances next Tuesday. Amy Yakima and Jenna Johnson already won me over and it will be nice to get to know the other dancers better when they dance outside their comfort zone.

What was the high point for you during the show and what are you looking forward to? Tune in next week to see the Top 20 perform live for your votes on Fox at 8/7c.

 


Tuesday Tunes-“The Voice” Finale

NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” will declare the season four winner tonight at the end of the live show 9/8 Central.  Last night,  The Swon Brothers and Danielle Bradbery from team Blake and Michelle Chamuel  from team Usher sang three songs in hopes of winning over America one last time.  The show not only has a unique format but factors in the amount of iTunes downloads of a singer’s performance with other forms of voting.

Danielle has a mature innocence that might translate into endorsements or television work in addition to singing.  Michelle has a loveable quirkiness with a unique relationship with Usher that creates magic.  The Swon Brothers have a likeability factor where trust and believability in who they are emanates from their brotherly bond.

Tune into tonight for “the Voice” finale to find out who America voted for and to celebrate an end of a season that saw Shakira and Usher as two new coaches.

Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera will return with Blake Shelton and Adam Levine as coaches for the fifth season of “The Voice.”

The Jubilee Project-“Doing Good is Contagious”

The Jubilee Project was founded by three self-proclaimed ordinary guys doing the extraordinary coming from backgrounds including graduating from Ivy League schools, making six figures, working closely with President Obama and pursuing medical school.

Oh, and one more thing—Jason Lee, Eddie Lee, and Eric Lu left all of that—the jobs, money, medical school etc. to pursue being ambassadors of good in dedicating their full time to the Jubilee Project.  What makes their work and labor of love extraordinary goes far behind their worldly accomplishments and right into their willing hearts to make a positive difference.

What is the Jubilee Project and who are these guys that took the giant leap of faith in going all in to solidly back the idea that “doing good is contagious?”

I had the pleasure to sit down with Eddie Lee, one of the co-founders to learn more about Jubilee Project in turning a hobby into a passionate full-time endeavor.

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January 12, 2010 was both Jason’s birthday and the day of the Haiti earthquake.  In addition, this date marked the inception of what would develop into a nonprofit that harnesses the power of film, story and media to reach audiences on important issues dominating the world.  According to the website, “Jubilee Project has produced over 60 videos, supported 15 different causes and organizations, and raised over $30,000” maintaining the mission to inspire others into action.

What began out of Jason’s desire to raise $100 for the Haiti Earthquake relief and one YouTube video of an experience has grown into more films evoking responsive actions from followers or the jubileevers.

“We have found that by telling more stories that are effective, inspirational, filled with hope and joy that we can make a bigger impact not only for the needs of the world but for the kingdom and sharing God’ light to the world,” said Eddie.

quotejbEddie grew to love filmmaking through his experience first interning while in college back in 2007 than putting his school on hold to work for the Obama campaign and the White House.  He was able to capture the growth of what was then a small grassroots campaign and utilize the potential of social media to reach an audience.

“It was an amazing journey to follow Barack Obama around to see him in different situations and post YouTube videos for a year and a half.  I got to know him and see him as a man, father and husband.  I got to learn how to make videos by making a lot of documentaries, human interest and recap videos for the campaign.  After he won I went back to Harvard to finish my degree and just stayed in touch with him and his staff.  I was then asked to come on board and help them in the Department of Education and then the White House.”

However, in August 2012 Eddie and Jason left their jobs and Eric left medical school to move out to Irvine upon a conviction and calling to pursue Jubilee Project full time.  Eddie recalls his departure meeting with the president.  Instead of taking his parents who had already met the president and didn’t want to fly out he took Jason, Eric and Eric’s girlfriend as his family.

“I got to thank him for the opportunity to work for him and he gave us his blessing in terms of moving on.  It was daunting because we were leaving our jobs to pursue something that was very unconventional with no salary, stability or infrastructure at the time.  We thought we had an opportunity that we did not want to miss.  There is no better time to take a big leap of faith than when you are young and are able to do it.  It has been a scary process for us, but it is probably the most fulfilling experience.”

Jubilee Project’s presence has certainly grown and the three guys have their fingers in numerous projects including their very first fellowship program inviting 13 filmmakers to live with them in a rented Newport Beach house for ten days.

“Actors, directors, inspirational leaders and coaches are coming in to talk to them and investing into these filmmakers who we see as the future of YouTube and filmmaking.  We are going to start pouring all the stuff we learned into them.  The fellows are going to work on their own films focusing on Hepatitis B, family reconciliation and on LGBT awareness.  It is an incredible blessing to us that we get to inspire the next generation of filmmakers.  We have a couple of documentaries coming up, short films and more powerful films that we are writing.  We are growing our team and hiring staff to become this institution.  To see it go from this small idea to this huge thing is remarkable.”

Some of the documentaries and films he is referring to cover sex trafficking, ending AIDS in 2015, the story of the “Prodigal Son” coming out in August, epilepsy coming out in July and a narrative story on political activism focusing on the first Asian American presidential candidate.

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How do you choose the topics of your projects?

“A lot of it happens very organically where stories have been inspired by our own past stories. Now, nonprofits are reaching out to us to make films.  It is both us coming to a place where we feel very passionate about certain issues so we want to push the envelope on that and nonprofits coming to us.  It is only three of us right now so there is a limited capacity but the more we grow the more we will be able to take on.  We want to be able to touch almost every issue out there.”

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What are your favorite type of stories to tell?

“You will find that all three of us has own stories we like to tell.  Jason is interested in love stories.  He wrote “Love Language,” “Fireflies, ”and “Picture Perfect.”  Eric is really into real stories so he is behind the “50 people 1 Question” or “Master Chef” based on a true story.  I am really into gritty or darker films such as the “Back to Innocence” or this prodigal son story showing the son’s evolution of experience going into homelessness, prostitution and all that.  We all are different but balance each other out.”

What is your overall vision moving into the future?

“We want to become a production company that makes films that change the world and spark a revolution to change people’s lives.  When you think about films like “Blood Diamond” and “Slumdog Millionaire” and what they did for conflict diamonds and the slums that is what we want to do.  If you look at the trajectory in how we are growing you will start to see not only are we getting better at our skills but our dreams are getting bigger.  We think that there is no any real limit on how much we can grow and there is no reason why we cannot aspire to have a Hollywood film or a documentary that will break through and have millions of people watching.  We want to create content that will touch people at their deepest levels and inspire them to action.”

 

jbprojectEddie was able to share with me golden nuggets of wisdom when asked what he would like JP’s audience to know.  I gleaned from his message that you cannot sacrifice the potential for a life filled with happiness for a comfortable compliance with the status quo and a world’s definition of success.

“It was only when we dropped everything and surrendered it all by coming out here and living on someone’s couch with no salary or health insurance despite thinking that it doesn’t feel secure that we have been the most happy.  I know it sounds cliché, but we found that when you are finally willing to surrender pride including your grasp on what the future holds and what people tell you need to have—success, reputation, money, stability, status, relationships and instead be secure with who you are— what God made you to be—there is nothing more satisfying than being in that place.  That is what we are striving to move towards.  Obviously no one is there, but the closer that we get to that point we are no longer enslaved and are free to be what we were meant to be.  We try to convey freedom in our stories.  Don’t feel like your life has to be dictated because if you do you are fooling yourself.  Freedom and joy can only be found in God alone.”

For more information on how to support and get connected with the Jubilee Project visit, subscribe and follow them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and their blog.  Ordinary people can do extraordinary things where doing good is contagious.

Monday Moments-Hugs

Hugs are the universal medicine.  ~Author Unknown

A hug is a great gift – one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange.  ~Author Unknown

hugs

Do you know the power of a rescuing hug and touch?

Kyrie and Brielle Jackson were prematurely born on October 17th 1995 at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester, MA. Each of the twins weighted all of two pounds at birth. Though Kyrie was putting on a bit of weight in the days following her arrival, Brielle was not doing well. She cried a great deal, leaving her gasping and blue-faced.

Brielle was having a particularly bad day. Nurse Gayle in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit tried everything to calm her.

She held her.  She had her dad hold her.  She wrapped her in a blanket.  She suctioned her nose.

Nothing worked.

Then, she remembered hearing about a procedure done in Europe. She put Brielle in the incubator with her sister Kyrie. Almost immediately, Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie.

Her blood-oxygen levels, which had been frightenly low, soared.

She began to breathe more easily.

The frantic crying stopped and her normal pinkish color quickly returned.

It was a historic moment showing the medical community the power of touch.  Over the next weeks, her health improved steadily in her new, less lonely quarters. The children survived their rocky beginning and in time went home with their parents.   The twins are now 17 years old.

Happy Monday! Give someone a hug!

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” Musical +Tony Awards

Laura Osnes, nominated for Best Performance by an actress in a leading musical role for the 67th Tony Awards, plays the title role of Cinderella on Broadway.  However, the iconic character has been played by some other lovely ladies and has a history with the music and lyric team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  The fantasy based fairy-tale of Cinderella fits perfectly with the bigger than life musical that pulls off songs such as “Impossible” and “Ten Minutes Ago.”

1957: Rodgers and Hammerstein cast Julie Andrews to play the lead role in the made for television adaptation– five years before “Mary Poppins” was released.  Watch Julie sing “In My Own Little Corner” here.

1965: Rodgers and Hammerstein create television magic again with Leslie Ann Warren as Cinderella.

 cinderella21997: My favorite televised “Cinderella” adaptation by Rodgers and Hammerstein is released with a multi-ethnic cast.  The cast included Brandy as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, Bernadette Peters as the Stepmother, Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen with Jason Alexander, Victor Garber and Paolo Montalban in other important roles.  Want to watch the whole film?  Click here.

Fun fact: Rob Marshall was the 1997 film’s choreographer known for his work on the film of “Chicago” who is now working on the film adaptation of “Into the Woods” that incorporates Cinderella’s story.  So far Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine and Jake Gyllenhaal have signed on.  The “Into the Woods” screenplay reading included Laura Osnes as Rapunzel and Anna Kendrick as Cinderella.

2013: Cinderella’s first production on Broadway with a book by Douglas Carter Beane and songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein starring Laura Osnes (nominated) , Santino Fontana as Prince Topher (nominated) and Victoria Clark as fairy godmother Marie (nominated).  To see Broadway.com and Laura’s backstage videos click here.  It is a version where characters have flaws and are more humanized.  The production has been nominated for nine Tony awards.

2014-2015: The newest musical version of “Cinderella” is slated for a national tour.

The Tony Awards will air this Sunday June 9 on CBS at 8 p.m.-11 p.m. live ET/delayed PT from the Radio City Music Hall.  Watch on Sunday for special appearances by the casts of “Chicago,” “Newsies,”The Lion King” etc. and for performances from the nominated musicals including “Cinderella.”


Relay For Life and Alex’s Lemonade Stand

One Day-One Night- One Community-One Fight

American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life mobilizes volunteers to organize teams and local events that project the passionate fight for cancer onto global and community platforms.  The events give those dearest affected by cancer and anyone who wants to get involved a chance to funnel their love and support into action.  The concept of relay teams and local relay events extends the vision of communities honoring, remembering, celebrating and caring for those affected by cancer together.  The relay events are for everyone to come together in the fight to knock cancer out of business.  Cancer can be everyone’s fight.

According to the website “Relay teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground. Relay events are up to 24 hours in length and, because cancer never sleeps, each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times.”

Relay For Life events incorporate special moments such as cancer survivors taking the first lap, a luminaria ceremony and a fight back ceremony.

Today, I had the pleasure to purchase and decorate a luminaria bag in memory of someone I love affected by cancer.  Each personalized bag represents a life, a person or a memory that is filled with a candle and lit at night to glow amongst the dark.  It is amazing to look out and see the luminaria bags in mass lining the track.

Join a team, assemble a team, support a team participant, walk a lap or more, dedicate a luminaria, fundraise, volunteer or donate to a Relay For Life nearest you.  There is even a convenient app to help get involved!  Look out for an event near you.  Click here to explore locations and event specifics to your area.  $10 to register and for survivors it is free!

 

The Irvine Spectrum in Irvine, CA is partnering with Alex’s Lemonade Stand which is a foundation for childhood cancer to host a “Grand Stand” event this Sunday, June 9 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. outside Carousel Court.

Participate in donations and enjoy “lemonade, fresh baked goods, and a complimentary Carousel ride. Also enjoy balloon making and face painting by Magic Fredy Events and other family activities.”

Alex’s Lemonade Stand is a non-profit founded by kids with kids in mind to bring national attention to childhood cancer.  In addition, the foundation raises money to support research and treatment on the way to finding cures.  Join the one and only Orange County annual “Grand Stand” this Sunday.  For more information about the Taggart Family’s “Grand Stand” click here.

Join the fight against cancer by supporting Relay for Life and Alex’s Lemonade Stand.