March 23 2006
On March 26th I am headed to Baltimore again to participate, for the third time, in the Greek Independence Mid-Atlantic Parade. It is always held on or around March 25, because it was on this day in 1821 that Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Turks.
When I was preparing to be in this parade for the first time, and received the above information, I almost screamed. Mention of the Ottoman Turks made me remember that Dracula had had great deal of trouble with them, too! The majority of his skewered-alive victims were Turks.
Of course, I knew right away that Dracula was not appropriate character to do in this parade. He was not Greek, and he lived in 15th not 19th century. I never told any of the townspeople about my Dracula involvement or that he too had repelled the Turks.
Since my first time was in 2004, it was an Olympic year - the year the Games returned to Athens, their birthplace! I participated as the Olympic Spirit. The committee had to OK an entry dressed in the ancient style, even though the majority of entries dressed in modern costume.
When I saw the folk costumes, I noticed that the men’s costume looked remarkably similar to the Romanian male costume. But I did not mention that to any of the participants. Those dressed in folk costumes were almost all children, not adults.
When I returned to the parade in ‘05, I still did the Olympic Spirit even though it was not an Olympic year. Now the organizers have accepted me as always doing that character for this event.
For the two weeks preceding Easter, I’ll be making chocolate crème-center candies. I learned how to make them almost 20 years ago, using different flavors of crème centers. These candies I decorate with contrasting colors of candy molded into definitive shapes, which vary according to the occasion. For Easter I use upright rabbits, with each color representing a different flavor of crème center.
If you’ve ever seen boxes of commercial chocolates, you’ve probably seen the funny squiggles, curves, swirls, etc, on top of the individual pieces. Unless there’s a diagram inside the box lid, you can’t guess the candies’ inside unless you’ve learned the swirls’ code language! My use of different colors to identify fillings is useful and decorative at the same time.
March always means the resumption of parades, after winter’s hiatus, for me. I have three St. Patrick’s parade on March 5,11 and 12th in Belmar, NJ; Wilmington, DE; and Baltimore MD respectively. For all three, I do Irish Cinderella, who I created 15 years ago when I expanded into St. Patrick’s parades.
Sometimes when people ask about different parades I’m in, they think I do Irish folk dancing for
Irish-moded parades. There are groups and schools of dancers which do do that; but when you think of Cinderella, you have to remember that she attended a high-society ball, for which attendees dance quite differently. I do not do Irish folk dancing; even if I did, my long costume skirt would hide my feet so that onlookers could not see the flashy leg and footwork. I gesture and wave with my arms: and I curtsy
Before grandstand and VIP’s and cameras.
I have purchased the cloth and have started work on the golden equivalent of the Snowflake Star Fairy
I created for last years Christmas parades. I have nine months to finish the new costume so that it’s ready in time for this December’s parades. It’ll take a lot of hand sewing to attach all the decorations; hence my having to start as early as possible. Next is to get hold of several rolls of sequins, but they’re very expensive and may not be in my hands for a while yet!
If any Blog readers have young children who enjoy Dr. Seuss story Green Eggs and Ham, those children
Can be served green eggs on St. Patrick’s Day for breakfast! Mothers need just to mix green food color into scrambled eggs before cooking.
I always have a green milkshake as my St. Patrick’s Day dinner beverage. There is a fast food chain that offers shamrock shakes, which are green in color, but mint in flavor. I do not care for mint. Instead I buy vanilla shake from any food chain I feel like and then mix green food color into it.
I was commissioned to bake for the Super Bowl party held at the home of my singles’ club president. But the committee, to save the money had me make only the sheet cake, decorated to look like a football field. I used red icing, since it was the fortieth game; the symbol was rubies, which are red. To acknowledge the teams involved, I melted and molded candy in letters which spelled the teams’ names, and stood the candies upright at opposite goal ends of the cake. Sorry, I did not watch the game; I follow football only when the Super Bowl teams are determined.
On Saturday the 4th, the Food cable-TV network showed a wedding-cake competition. I’ve always found wedding cake to be most ostentatious in terms of embellishments; sometimes I reproduce cake-decorating features in the decorations for my costumes. I saw how the competitors struggled to transport their cakes to the site, how some competitors had to finish the decorating in the last couple of hours before judging, how some entries suffered mishaps in transit, and how competitors fretted over the slightest errors they made when doing last-minute decorating. As a costume maker, I go through many of the same ordeals. I’m always worried that when I’m being judged for attire as well as performance, the attire isn’t absolutely adherent to very unwritten rule about assembly techniques, decorating style, appropriateness of raw materials, placement of motifs, completeness of job, etc. The cake judges moved in very close to the cakes, and researched for faults, imperfections, rather than for appreciation of the artistry. I’ve been in Halloween and Christmas parades in which my costumes were incomplete in the ornamentation, and I feared the judges might peer really closely to check for flaws.
On Monday the 6th, I finally did something I haven’t done since ‘99 – a Dracula dance performance! I had to negotiate with the local TV show “Top of the Morning” in Baltimore to make sure the episode would be aired for Valentine’s Day. This Valentine’s Day is the 75th anniversary of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula movie! I danced The Dracula Archives, which showed Dracula’s real story followed by his metamorphosis into the obvious vampire.
In 1981, to mark the 50th anniversary of the movie, I danced Dracula in the central libraries of Philadelphia and Las Vegas on February 14th and 15th respectively. They also marked the historical Dracula’s 550th birthday. This time I had contacted Philadelphia about the 75th, but they did nothing! This Baltimore TV show was the only opportunity I could wangle this time. I have less money now than I did in 1981 so that I could not contact, let alone perform in, far-distant sites.
If I get to do Dracula other times this year, the emphasis would be more on the real side rather than the fictional one. The real Dracula was born in 1431; this year is his 575th!
Previously I may have mentioned that on February 6th I went to Baltimore to make another appearance on the “Top of the Morning” local TV show. The arrangement was that the episode air on Valentine’s Day.
In making the appearance, I did something I haven’t done since 1999 – I danced Dracula! Why Dracula on Valentine’s Day? Because this Valentine’s Day marked 75 years to the day that Bella Lugosi’s vampire movie premiered!
I did well with my performance, but I was also sad that I did not receive another opportunity, anywhere else, to do a live appearance on the 14th itself. All last week I’ve been in Dracula mood since in 1981, the 50th anniversary of the movie, I made Dracula appearances on the 14th and 15th in the main headquarters of the city libraries of Philadelphia and Las Vegas, respectively. I also made two appearances on Las Vegas TV, but with another topic.
I made sure to contact Philadelphia in plenty of time for them to utilize the 75th anniversary, but they did nothing! I did not contact Las Vegas since it’s been 25 years; I have far less money now than I did then and might not have been invited to come back.
Besides being the75th anniversary of Lugosi’s movie, this year is also the 575th birthday of Dracula himself, Vlad the Impaler! It remains to be seen if I get other Dracula opportunities this year to mark the occasion.
Having performed Dracula for over 30 years, I am deeply concerned, its having been that long and my now being much older, about the public being aware that I dance this topic and accepting my numbers as much as they accept any other standard performance works.
I started in 1973 by creating a 3-act modern dance version of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel. But when I submitted it to a Philadelphia dance company with whom I was taking lessons at the time, they refused to perform it.
They said that Dracula was too morbid a topic for dance.
Having been rebuffed by this group, all I could do to make people see my work was to dance a solo number meant for Dracula himself. I also created additional solo dances depicting the life of Prince Vlad. I was obviously the only person to do Dracula through dance when I did my first performances in 1976 – the 500th anniversary of the real Dracula’s death.
Before my first performances, I sent information about myself and my works to publication such as TIME and especially Dance Magazine whose jobs were always to be on alert for, and give attention to, apparent “firsts.” Not one publication I contacted gave me any publicity. I received no attention after my debuts. Even though Dracula, due to the rediscovery of his real story, was a big fad now, I was still ignored.
In October 1976 I danced one of my Dracula numbers to audition for a prominent dance show to take place before the end of the year. The committee knifed me! Ironically, they and the critics did not say anything positive about any of the performers they accepted for this show.
I started doing my Dracula dances on local TV shows in different parts of the country in October 1977. But still I received no official recognition, sanction or approval of sorts by the performing world, even though Dracula was now the target of a Broadway revival and more movies.
In the next few years, I suffered a nervous collapse and lost my (irrelevant) job; another job I got in 1984 was still irrelevant and paid less money. I could no longer go to far-distant places to perform, my financial resources were much lesser, the Dracula fad had faded, and I was still ignored for having been the first to portray him in dance.
Since my costumes were historically authenticated and re-created, witnesses to my appearances asked about the costumes’ backgrounds. Science-fiction conventions, especially, stressed that attendees were more interested in costume workmanship/background than serious theater. In 1982 I created another format, the Dracula Fashion Show, in which I modeled several costumes showing both sides of the man. But no fashion or history buffs invited me to model in formal fashion shows or exhibitions.
I was greatly alarmed in 1986 to find out that someone else had created a dance version of Dracula the vampire which the dancers under his wing agreed to perform, so that this other creator was made a big hero whereas I had not been.
I had been told Dracula was too morbid a topic for dance. Professional dancers I had interacted with had been selective and had discriminated against the topic. I had been told never to be selective. My dance version of Dracula had been spurned whereas someone else’s version had been accepted!
I despaired at ever being acknowledged again as a dancing Dracula, when over the next several years, several companies performed this rival version and were idolized for deploying Dracula the way I had done it first.
It was a desperate move on my part when I danced Dracula in Los Angeles in 1997 at a convention marking the 100th anniversary of the vampire. Besides vampire buffs, there were also history buffs, including many Romanians. I had to make sure they understood my plight and would spread the word in the homeland.
Because I was always shortchanged in attention, people had forgotten or never known me. When this rival vampire dance work came out I no longer had the money I once had. I had agents off and on over the years, but they all let me down. I am much older now and have no idea how much longer I’ll be able to dance.
When I heard of a company scheduled to perform the rival version, I wrote the head people about myself and my having done Dracula in dance long before. The people I contacted never replied and the rivalry and plight continued. I greatly fear that performance authorities will allow only the rival version to exist and force me to give up dancing Dracula.
Unlike other performing media, which may use topic a number of times, as is the case with movies, a topic apparently can be used for dance only once and only by that one specific work!
I have always been a one-woman show and am now seriously threatened by rival works, their creators being lauded, and limited time left me.