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POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Childhood dreams can come true. Just ask Alexa Maxwell. While growing up in Minnetonka she wore out a VHS tape of New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” determined that someday she would dance with the world-class troupe. Last week the 19-year-old signed a contract to join the NYCB corps de ballet.
But dreams do differ from reality. Maxwell wasn’t just handed this big gig. It’s the result of years filled with body-busting effort and personal sacrifice. After studying locally at small dance schools as well as Minnesota Dance Theatre she left home at age 14 to join the prestigious Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet where she worked on her skills intensively and graduated from high school through online courses.
In June 2012 Maxwell traveled to Manhattan for the summer program at The School of American Ballet, NYCB’s official training program founded by the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. She was asked to stay on and by December earned a coveted apprenticeship plus an opportunity to prove herself worthy of a spot with the company. “They see how you perform, your work ethic,” Maxwell said by phone. “You have one year to try out and then [Ballet Master in Chief] Peter Martins either decides to take you on or you find another job.”
So now the newest member of NYCB will be performing in the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” and the “Waltz of the Flowers” sections of Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” with other exceptionally talented young dancers throughout this month at Lincoln Center. “It’s really exciting, almost all of the shows are sold out,” she said, adding some awe at the large audience she sees when sneaking a peek from backstage.
After “The Nutcracker” Maxwell will prepare for NYCB’s 2014 winter season by learning the “Diamonds” section of Balanchine’s “Jewels” among other signature repertory works. And while Maxwell is thrilled with her new role in the corps she still has goals, including one day ascending to the level of soloist or even principal dancer. But in the meantime, she said, “I’m just going to keep working hard. I’m so happy to be here and I’m feeling very grateful.”
“Coming back here is no small thing for me,” Joe Henry noted a few songs into his nearly two-hour performance Tuesday at the Dakota Jazz Club. On a very rare, four-city solo-acoustic tour, the veteran songwriter and Grammy-winning producer frequently waxed nostalgic about his early-‘90s stay overs in Minneapolis, where his manager Dave Ayers lived, as did his frequent studio and road backers, the Jayhawks.
“They weren’t making any money then, and neither was I, so the thought was we could make money together,” Henry quipped.
Jayhawks co-leader Gary Louris joined Henry for two songs in the encore. The pair sang and played into the same vocal and guitar microphones (think: Everly Brothers when Phil and Don could stand each other), an intimate approach that matched the story Henry told about them sleeping in the same bed together on tour. And with that, the old cohorts launched into the perfect old-flame cover, the Righteous Brothers’ “That Loving Feeling,” before tenderly rendering Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.”
Brandishing just an acoustic guitar for most of the show, Henry paid homage to a few other local acquaintances in attendance. He shared a humorous memory about staying at music scribe Jim Walsh’s house and even cutting his grass the day Walsh’s story on Henry appeared on the cover of City Pages. “Pretty soon you’re going to have Soul Asylum coming over to clean out the gutters to get on the cover,” Henry quipped, dedicating the golden oldie “Short Man’s Room” to Walsh.
Henry also played “One Shoe On” from the “Short Man’s Room” album in tribute to his sister, who drove in from Wisconsin for the show. He figured he hadn’t played either song in over a decade. The most touching dedication, though, was to Chrissie Dunlap, wife of stroke-sidelined local music great Bob “Slim” Dunlap. Slim’s “Taken on the Chin” was saved for the finale, a song Henry covered for the “Songs for Slim” benefit series now compiled on an endearing new two-disc set.
The show was hardly just a Memory Lane excursion. Henry mostly ignored his other ‘90s albums and played a lot of new tunes and recent collaborations, the latter songs accentuated with stories. He talked about collaborating with Loudon Wainwright III on “You Can’t Fail Me Now” for the movie “Knocked Up” (a movie his wife disliked, he noted), and on “Your Name on My Tongue” with Billy Bragg (whom his wife and whole family loved). He took to the grand piano to play the Willie Mays-fantasized 2007 gem “Our Song” and 1999’s “Monkey,” noting his son’s disappointment at that time that he only sings “monkey” once in the song.
Henry also played a handful of new songs from a just-finished album that proved to be among the night’s most stirring and evocative, including a darkly melodic beauty called “Sway” and a moving ode to marriage, “Grave Angels.” The new tunes hewed closer to the rootsy Americana sounds of Henry’s early-‘90s albums. Too bad he has his own fancy studio in Los Angeles nowadays, or else maybe he’d have come back and recorded them here in Minneapolis. Here's hoping he finds another excuse to return soon.
Xcel Energy Center GM Jack Larson, Jimmy Buffett & his Mpls-bred wardrobe stylist Helen Hiatt -- she wasn't responsible for the custom-made Wild jersey/ Xcel photo
Was Tuesday’s Xcel Energy Center audience the most sober crowd in the long history of Jimmy Buffett’s touring? Or at least in Buffett’s history in the Twin Cities?
Was it because it was Tuesday? The economy? The fact that tickets already cost as much as $136? Holiday budget stress?
At least the two women on either side of my seats were pregnant so we know why they weren’t drinking. And I surprisingly didn’t smell any reefer – a stark contrast to the Jay Z crowd on Saturday at the X.
Not that you can’t have a good time at the Old Tropical Buffett if you’re sober. It was a fun time, as my review indicated.
Maybe there were too many covers – from Crowded House to Crosby, Stills & Nash -- for some fans at the expense of such faves as “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” (which has long been absent from his sets) and “Livingston Saturday Night.”
Maybe Buffett is catering too much to the country crowd by tossing in Zac Brown’s “Knee Deep” and Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” both of which hit records feature Buffett cameos. Whatever.
Twice on Tuesday, Buffett acknowledged Minnesota’s own Bob Dylan for having performed Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty” (most famously in a 1982 live duet with Joan Baez in Pasadena, Calif.). So Buffett said he was returning the favor by doing two Dylan tunes.
Here’s Buffett’s set list from Tuesday:
St. Somewhere/ Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)/ Boat Drinks/ Pencil Thin Moustache/ Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitudes/ Havana Daydreamin’/ It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (Alan Jackson)/ Come Monday/ Son of a Son of a Sailor/Jamaica Mistaica/ Too Drunk to Karaoke/ Cheeseburger in Paradise/ Cultural Infidel (featuring Nadirah Shakoor) acoustic set Piece of Work/ Volcano/ Southern Cross (Crosby Stills & Nash) full band Weather with You (Crowded House)/ Knee Deep (Zac Brown Band)/ Pirate Looks at 40/ One Particular Harbour/ Back Where I Come From (Kenny Chesney, written by Buffett sideman Mac McAnally)/ Fins ENCORE All Night Long (Lionel Richie)/ Margaritaville ENCORE 2 Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)/ Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
Michael Jackson and Madonna already got theirs. So have Beyonce, Drake and Adele. Cher and 50 Cent, too.
Now Prince is going to be profiled in a comic-book biography. It’s called “Fame: Prince,” published by Bluewater Productions. The 32-page comic, offered in both digital (at iTunes) and print formats (at Comic Flea Market), is available with two different covers.
Bluewater has collaborated with William Shatner, Ray Harryhausen and Vincent Price on comic projects. Next up in its biography series are Johnny Depp and Sharon Osbourne.
“Fame: Prince” author Michael Frizell admits to preferring Prince over Jackson. "Writing [it] was like reliving my teenage years,” he said in a statement. “For me, the music scene wasn’t defined by Michael Jackson, despite his success with Thriller. The 80’s, and music in general for me, were defined by Prince. He takes chances in his music, doesn’t sell out as an artist in order to make money, and still ends up on top.”
In a decadent and grandiose fashion befitting the artist, Rhymesayers announced tonight its rather no-duh signing of Prof, the devilishly tongued south Minneapolis rapper who has brandished a mini-kingdom all on his own but has also already been in cahoots with his new label.
“I’m just trying to do what Macklemore would do,” Prof joked in a mock press conference featured in a promo video to announce the signing. The video – which starts with Rhymesayers co-founder Slug taking Prof to town on his private plane – is too vulgar to post here. So is Prof’s new single “The Reply,” which Rhymesayers also dropped tonight to accompany the announcement. Prof also hosted a live Q&A via Ustream tonight, which isn’t archived but probably was also too profane for our purposes.
The news caps off what was already a breakout year for the real-life Jacob Anderson, 29, who (in order): made in-roads nationally on the Road to Paid Dues Tour in the spring; sold out a two-nighter at First Avenue and made the cover of both the Star Tribune A&E sections and City Pages in April; marveled the crowd from one of the big stages at Rhymesayers’ Soundset festival in May on literally an hour’s notice (filling in for no-show Busta Rhymes); and then packed the Cabooze Plaza in September.
Some of Prof’s earlier successes were also under the Rhymesayers umbrella, starting with the first Welcome to Minnesota Tour in 2000 and a subsequent national trek on Atmosphere’s Family Values Tour.
Look for a new Prof record next year, which looks to be something of a reboot year for Rhymesayers. Slug’s Atmosphere also has a new disc on deck, and the label also recently signed a fresh newcomer to its roster, St. Paul wiz kid Dem Atlas.
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