Archive for October, 2010

Is it Harassment?

Ken Metzner is executive director of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, a lawyer and minister who advocates for his beleaguered community and the entire City of Philadelphia for reform of the Board of Real Estate Taxes (BRT.) It’s a Sisysphian battle but we’ve won a few rounds thanks to active citizens like Metzner. Now this unqualified board is calling homeowners to inspect the interior of their homes, an unprecedented move. Even the office of Licenses and Inspection can’t be moved to inspect a home’s interior unless they receive many complaints from neighbors of a valid problem. Please take a moment to read Metzner’s letter below and let him know what you know about interior inspections.

I, for one, would not allow anyone from the BRT into my home until I learn if it is

a. lawful and until

b. I am certain the inspectors are qualified and

c. know what it is exactly they are looking to find and d. how that would influence my tax assessment.

Hi Folks — A few people who have appeals pending before the BRT for the proposed 2011 taxes have contacted me recently to say that the “Office of Property Assessment” [new name, same assessors] has been calling to schedule an inspection of the INTERIOR of their homes.

Has anyone else received such a request?  If so, please let me know.  Some are viewing this latest development as further intimidation of those who file appeals given that the homes of folks who are not appealing do not appear to be subject to this kind of inspection.  I’d therefore like to look into it a bit more and would appreciate your stories…

I’d also like to hear from any long-time Philly residents regarding their experience, if any, with interior inspections being requested by an assessor.  Our feeling is that this is something very new.

Thanks for keeping the information flowing.


Ken Metzner

[email protected]

French Dance Company – “Cie Herve-Gil” to perform in Philadelphia at The Drake Theatre.
“Fleurs De Cimetiere et autres sornettes”.
Performed by Parisian women 50-65 years old.
October 28, 29, 30 at 7:30 p.m in English
…October 30 at 2 pm in French
Drake Theatre -1512 Spruce St.-Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.

“So that old age won’t become a parody of our former life, there’s only one solution, to keep on chasing ends that give a meaning to one’s life.”
Simone de Beauvoir

Under different skies, old age is synonymous of wisdom. In the western world – a land that denies death – it means decrepitude. Especially for woman. But what becomes of a dancer, an even keener subject to others’ glance, when she reaches those shady shores? Who better than her, just like Winnie in Happy Days, could suffer from having always been just as she still is, and so different from what she once was? After all, yes, fifty is a fine age to ask those questions, to listen a little more carefully to that body which indeed has new needs that, let’s admit it, lead to some kind of creative idleness. Idleness? When respect and attention to that living memory in constant evolution has even more to say? These fifty years, even though going unnoticed, better be noteworthy. Because if not, what would be the point of aging? MHG

“Fleurs de Cimetière” performed at the Avignon Festival, July 2009, and have since toured in France with performances scheduled to May 2011, as well as the Edinburgh Festival August 2011.
A tour in Taïwan is scheduled for spring 2012.

Cie Herve-Gil has performed numerous times in the US.
Between 1989 and 1993 at the American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
This year the company is celebrating their love of Philadelphia!
– the anniversary of Cie Herve-Gil: 25 years old!
– the anniversary of Choreographer Myriam Herve-Gil – working in Philadelphia for 20 years!
-20 years ago, Susan Glazer & Uarts invited the company (at this time the name was “La P’tite Cie”) to perform at The Drake Theater.
-Myriam was invited numerous times as a guest choreographer and teacher at Uarts, and created numerous pieces for the students.
-Last time Cie Herve-Gil performed was in Philadelphia in January 2007, invited by Melanie Stewart to present a duo in her New FEstival.

Contact: Susan Gish for more information: [email protected] – 215-592-7575.
Myriam Herve-Gil: – [email protected]

There is no phone number for reservations as the company is in France.
Walk-ins before each performance are encouraged.
Tickets are $15.00.
If you have a group you may email the company in France: [email protected]
Reviewers may contact Susan Gish at the above email for comp arrangements.

“They’re wonderful, the seven of them, the body might be a little tired but the gesture is precise, generous and derisive. Myriam Herve-Gil, the choreographer and director presents delicate solos, duets and trios, the dancers dance in the present tense, never in the past. They are alive, radiant. Suzanne Schmidt, the actress suggests life sparkling, love fidgeting. It is all joyful and genuine. With the pleasure to be here, to make do, with
dance, with life” L’HUMANITE, M-JS

“An author, an actress, a choreographer and her dancers who have managed to create emotion. Tears spring up. There’s nothing tragic though. Only time passing by. On stage there’s no acting, only people being true. This
show was (without the shadow of a doubt) the most surprising because of its freshness, its grace and its richness”. LA DEPECHE DE L’AUBE, Jean Lefévre

“This show, Fleurs de Cimetière, is moving from the start. To gather seven dancers, beautiful but no spring chicken either, is a significant act. The question of aging women’s suffering and wounds is asked with force and lightness. Nothing is spared to us, and yet we keep smiling, to the end. A show for women and women loving men”
AVIGNON NEWS, Anne-Marie GoulaySee

Posted on Tue, Oct. 26, 2010

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

What do five 60-plus black women share that has brought them together in a single show?Answer: All five have been making dance against heavy headwinds for as long as half a century. Each has received honors and accolades, and is still flying high. Yet none is as well known outside dance circles as, say, Judith Jamison or Debbie Allen.

So Georgiana Pickett, executive director of Brooklyn’s 651 Arts, in 2009 conceived a show that would give audiences a glimpse of the rich span of dance contributed by these dancer/choreographers for three generations and 50 years. This weekend that show, “Fly: Five First Ladies of Dance,” comes to the Painted Bride Art Center.

Read more:

Posted on Sat, Oct. 23, 2010
By Merilyn Jackson
For The Inquirer
This season’s Dance Celebration opened at the Annenberg Center on Thursday with two Paul Taylor Dance Company favorites and a Philadelphia premiere made this year. Choreographies by Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, George Balanchine, or Lucinda Childs, to name but a few, will always be instantly recognizable. But Taylor, who worked with Cunningham and Graham early on, did not develop such a distinctive new dance vocabulary.
Instead, he hewed to a mid-to-late-20th-century modern dance idiom and took on social, religious, and sexual issues, skewering at will. For me, Taylor’s best is Company B, in which he expertly juxtaposes the jauntiness of warmongering, the songs that feed it, and its primary product: death.

From: The Dance Journal @

Oct 11th, 2010 | By Merilyn Jackson

The martial arts and martial arts training are practiced internationally and in recent decades they have played a role in reshaping dance and choreography in the United States and Europe. By studying and training in any of the martial arts, a dancer’s body absorbs movement and takes on a different look in motion. For example, when modern dancers, and even some ballet dancers, see the elongated limbs and fluidity of Asian-trained dancers’ bodies they often take advantage of some kind of Asian martial arts cross-training. They may take Tai Chi for its slow-movement that stretches and strengthens the joints safely.

The Afro-Brazilian discipline of capoeira, called the “Dance of War,” is also popular. It evolved when slaves disguised their movement as dance for the entertainment of the slave-masters  – who would otherwise have banned it. Taking capoeira classes greatly enhances athleticism, timing, bounce and rebound for contact-improv, release-technique, hip hop and dancers of many other forms.

The tradition of martial-arts training and other non-Western approaches reaches into theater, dance, and performance art. Brooklyn-based choreographer Peggy Choy (The Ki Project) says she “squeezes the pulp from Asian Dance, martial arts and contemporary dance.” Choy often uses the jazz-based music of composer/saxophonist Fred Ho who has also created a number of works based on martial arts and dance. (

Anyone who has seen Kun-Yang dance is aware that he embodies discipline and movement resulting from martial arts training. In the second layer of his five-month training intensive, Lin invited Sifu (means master, tutor or teacher) Chik Qadir Mason to introduce martial arts disciplines to his company, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, and others who enrolled in a class for the training. Mason began on September 12 with Chi Kung, the original art as it was practiced in old China, and by the project’s end Mason plans to have them practicing the more modern Tai Chi.

An Armenian American, Chik Qadir Mason calls himself an Internal Arts Instructor. He operates Spirit Wind Internal Arts ( in Buffalo, Toronto and now is back in Philadelphia where he began 4 decades ago. The Chi Kung specialist’s hawkish profile belies his gentle, graceful way of moving and speaking. You may have seen him perform The Dance of the Dragon at the Museum of Natural History in 1999.

Externalizing the Internal

As the first master teacher in the project, Hsu-Hui Huang from Taiwan’s famed Cloud Gate Dance Theater said, “We want to help them externalize their internal energy.” Among other practices, breathing exercises help the dancers go deeper into concentration which allows them to bring more organic nuances to their dancing.

Breath did not enter into Mason’s first two sessions, but I it will as he progresses. I’m involved in the project as its chronicler. But instead of merely observing and reporting, I decided to internalize the external and took part in the first two sessions. For someone who isn’t sufficiently physically active, the first slow and gentle session was just enough to get me feeling stretched and energized. I liked it. The second week was a little more rigorous and I (mostly) completed that one as well.

I know how dance feels. But I didn’t know how performing a martial art would feel. Now I get that it trains a different kind of muscle memory than dance. For one thing, the feet are more firmly planted on the floor, not poised for jumping or relévè. But the knees are almost always in slight plié which would give you the spring for jumping.

The 61-year-old Mason is spryer than men half his age and moves rapidly between exercises. In one exercise, Swimming Dragon, he says “The body wants to move like a dragon and the arms like a snake.” The dancers pair up, with one taking an active role and the other inactive, or reactive.

I later mention to Mason that I saw the seeds of contact-improv.  “Yes,” he says, “contact improv and release technique dancers often borrow from these exercises.”

Mason says his teachers in Hong Kong, where he studied from 1982 to 1987, had been bodyguards of Chiang Kai Shek, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) until his death in 1975. He also studied with author and teacher Lao Shi Adam Hsu in California where he achieved Wu Tang Kung Fu Black Belt Status.

Mason laid out a very clear program for his workshops which include teachings by Hsu in the last two October sessions, the 24th and 31st. In November he moves into fundamental stance-punch-kicking drills that end in fighting duets.

On Sept. 18 Hua Hua Zhang, a master puppet artist, began her workshops for actors and dancers which last through the end of October. Mason’s sessions continue weekly through December 5.

You need not be a dancer to take any of the workshops, but participants pay a small fee. An Open Dialogue on Dec. 5 is free. Funded through a Dance Advance grant, all workshops take place at the Chi Movement Arts Center, Lin’s studio at 1316 South Ninth Street.


When I crave a cheese steak in Philly I always order a cheese steak hoagie with mayo, fried onions, provolone, lettuce, and tomato. The ketchup goes on last, by me. Lee’s, which started out at 19th & Cheltenham when I was a kid and grew to a huge franchise, still makes the best Philly cheese steaks. It has since downsized, with one location in West Philly.

In South Philly, Franco & Luigi’s is my go to. Sure there’s Pat’s and Geno’s, but having been born in 19130, I’m no tourist. Besides, I want to see my steak sizzled in front of me, not glopped on a roll from a mound of graying meat sitting on the grill. And I want the steak to be hot enough to MELT the cheese on the sandwich. You don’t get that at Pat’s or Geno’s.

That’s why Whiz came into play. They figured out that the warm goop of oil product would seem as if it had melted onto the sandwich and it wouldn’t matter if the meat wasn’t hot from the grill. You are always taking a chance on a food-born illness when you go to a place that doesn’t cook the meat to order.

Moreover, Joey Vento, Geno’s owner, is a rampant racist who thinks freedom of speech allows him to decree that his product be ordered in “English Only.” These signs on his establishment are in direct response to the influx of Mexican kitchen workers who fled New York’s crackdown on illegal workers in its kitchens. They came to Philadelphia over the last ten years in droves, filling necessary jobs in Philadelphia’s always brilliantly bustling restaurant scene and opened wonderful Mexican restaurants of their own.

The Washington Avenue corridor that used to be dominated by Vietnamese restaurants, now shares the neighborhood with great Mexican foods. So Vento was feeling the competition and annoyed by his Mexican and Asian customers who could not always order in English. It didn’t matter that Vento’s own mother barely spoke English. Wonder if he ever said, “Yo Ma, This is America. Speak English. Cabish?”

Still the corner is a scene in any season, especially after 2 am, when the bars close. White and black stretches belly up to SUVs, VWs, whatever, and the fluorescent and neon-lit line of shit-faced people looking for some sobering protein, stretches around Passyunk and down Wharton in this micro Steak Square.

My favorite steaks come from a place with no scene at all and which has recently borne scandal as racially-colored as Geno’s due to its name: Chink’s. Chink’s has been up on Torresdale an easy off from I-95 for about half a century but the name was never objected to until a few years ago.

Somehow they held onto the name, but the scandal didn’t increase their fame as much as it did Joey Vento’s. What they do have over Vento is the best steak in Philly. I zip up the highway to Chink’s with visitors so they can try the best, and then test all the rest. Chink’s always wins.

Back here in Phoenix there is no choice. As far as I’m concerned Corleone’s is the ONLY steak shop in town. It’s a “Family” run biz with three locations in the Valley. Fortunately the “Family” is from Philly, owner Joe Bobbie’s family ran Denofio’s at Castor and Hunting Park, not too far from Chink’s until they sold out seven years ago to come out to Phoenix.

The steak is cooked right there before your very eyes. It is deeply authentic. The meat never has any gristle, the rolls fresh with a good bite to them. They are not like having a steak on a hotdog bun as Seth Chadwick (in his 2006 Feasting in Phoenix piece) seemed to think they should be served. He kept raving about the “soft roll.” But his barometer was Jim’s Steaks at 4th and South Streets in Philly, much better than Pat’s and Geno’s but yet just another tourist haven. Corleone’s rolls are almost as they ought to be: hefty enough to absorb the meat juices, yet crusty enough to provide a nice contrasting crunch to the squishy meat and cheeses. Since I get them as take out, I ask them to toast them a bit so they hold the ten minutes to my house. They always smilingly oblige.

The only thing I would want to change is perhaps a sharper provolone. Because despite the menu’s description of a sandwich called the “Philly Original Whiz, Wit,” sharp provolone gives a better counterpoint to the sweet meat and fried onions. And Philly natives who aren’t knuckle-draggers don’t actually ask for a cheese steak “Whiz, Wit.” If you want a steak with Whiz, you just say “Steak, wit.” If you don’t like Whiz, you supply your own wit.

Many years ago I pitched the Arizona Republic’s food editor a pre-Thanksgiving story. She said “Oh you’re from Philly. What do you know beyond cheese steaks?”

I said “Well, in Philly we only put Cheese Whiz on our steaks, not on our Thanksgiving tables like you do here.”


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