The Ballet Master.

The Ballet Master.

A look into the Tour de Force Life of Pyotr Andreyevich Gusev.

Pyotr Gusev as “Asak” and Olga Mungalova as “Solveig” as the original performers in the ballet “Ice Maiden” choreographed by Fyodor Lopukhov to music by Edvard Grieg (c. 1927)

It seems an overwhelming task to write about the unique individual whom I have studied for almost a month, a personage who is revered as a supreme authority in the high art of classical dance.

So maybe I should start out by writing about how his students and colleagues felt about him.

Pyotr Gusev as “Boris”and Tatiana Vecheslova as “Olga” in Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Bolt (1931) with choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov

Contact with him would leave a mark in the soul, in the brain.

— Celebrated Mariinsky Theatre Principal Nonna Yastrebova

Ninel Aleksandrovna Petrova (born 1924)

Our generation was very lucky, because in the very beginning of our creative journey we met such a person.  It is to him we owe our accomplishment… we worked with spirit, if only to earn his approval.

— Distinguished Mariinsky Theatre Principal Ninel Petrova

Askold Anatolievich Makarov (1925–2000)

His critique was always targeted, precise. No extensive lectures.  He had the ability to draw out of a person that, which was inherent within…

Nona Borisovna Yastrebova (1923-2012)

… This entire group (of famous dancers):  Ninel Petrova, Askold Makarov, Inna Zubkovskaya, Olga Moiseeva, Alla Osipenko – Pyotr Andreyevich made us all…

— Nonna Yastrebova

Yes, my research project into this exceptionally accomplished dancer, teacher, choreographer, artistic director and writer has taken me awhile… not only because of my translation process from Russian to English… but just to wrap my head around the sheer number of accolades garnered by this individual… to metabolize that this person has literally molded the greats of the greats, among his students the famous choreographer Leonid Yakobson and outstanding dancer Aleksey Yermolayev… and that his school buddy and close friend was none other than George Balanchine.

George Balanchine born Georgiy Melitonovich Balanchivadze (1904 –1983)
Ninel Petrova

But unless you really seep into the depth of this person’s being, unless you really look into “the man behind the mask”, so to speak, he’s just a great, faraway star, someone you can never reach.

In fact, you find out it’s quite the contrary when you begin to explore the life of Pyotr Andreyevich.

Ballet great Ninel Petrova recounts a tender experience with her beloved mentor:

“Not long before the departure (of Gusev) we were at his apartment on Rossi Street. There were blini (Russian style crepes), a wonderful meal, and it was very simple and easy for us.  He possessed an incredible talent – he was able to be as an equal.”

So let’s take a closer look at the portrait of Pyotr Andreyevich Gusev, a surprisingly approachable man who lived an extraordinary life and left us an extraordinary legacy.

Pyotr Andreyevich Gusev really does have a remarkable fate in terms of his education and life trajectory from early on — it’s as if he was made for his great role.

It is a rare bird who gets to study from the get-go at a private school with a famous ballerina of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, who then brings him into the St. Petersburg ballet school, where he clearly emerges as not only a talented dancer, but a gifted teacher, conducting practice classes with the younger students during his senior years at the school.

Gusev’s famous teacher, Mariinsky Theatre ballerina Olga Preobrajenska (1871–1962)

SIDEBAR

As an older student at the St. Petersburg ballet school, Gusev coached his junior peers including future choreographers Leonid Yakobson and Rostislav Zakharov as well as the future outstanding dancer Aleksey Yermolayev, who even upon becoming the premiere of the Bolshoi Theatre, continued to study with Gusev.

Galina Ulanova

He goes on to become the principal dancer with two of the world’s top-ranking theatres, dancing with partners Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya, legends in their own right, and later becomes a teacher, choreographer and artistic director of the biggest world-known ballet institutions in his country.  If that isn’t enough, he travels to China to organize a ballet company in Peking and choreographic schools in Shanghai and Canton, pioneering the integration of classical ballet with Chinese classical dance.

Maya Plisetskaya

Here I must interject, because it is impossible to go on talking about Gusev without the inclusion of the historical figure Fyodor Vasilievich Lopukhov.

Spanning the majority of his career, Pyotr Gusev sustains a rare collaborative partnership with the famous Soviet-era choreographer Lopukhov, initially dancing break-out roles in his concept-themed experimental productions, and eventually joining forces with his visionary friend to head up the Mikhailovsky (Maly Theatre) where the two continue to up their game by staging societally risqué productions, taking their creative alliance to the next level.

Fyodor Vasilievich Lopukhov
Pyotr Gusev as head ballet master at Novosibirsk Theater (circa late 1960's)

Down the road, Gusev is invited to stage productions as chief ballet-master at the premiere ballet companies of Stanislavski and Novosibirsk Theatres as well as the aforementioned Mikhailovsky. He also becomes head of the unique Leonid Yakobson Ballet Theater.

Next in his repertoire, Gusev is appointed head of the ballet-master department at the Leningrad Conservatory eventually becoming a professor there.

Along the way he pens a number of poignant scholarly articles dedicated to questions about ballet and preserving the legacy of classical dance.

Believe it or not, this is the short version of the man’s resume.

But in all his achievements, three things
really stand out revealing the secret behind his ultimate value and contribution, making this article worthy of writing… and reading 🙂

An astonishing level of organization.

“He had everything remarkably organized.  Everyone always came prepared to the rehearsals – he was a great authority for us…”

— Ninel Petrova

Perhaps Gusev’s organizational talent had its first visible debut in 1923 via the Young Ballet project which he created with his school friend Georgi Balanchivadze, better known as Balanchine, and several other academy peers who would become future notables. The Young Ballet project was a series of evenings mostly showcasing performances staged by Balanchine, and attracted enthusiasts and young dancers including the acrobatically inclined Olga Mungalova, who would become Pyotr’s irreplaceable partner for many years to come.

Olga Mungalova with Pyotr Gusev in George Balanchine’s choreographic samples at Petrograd Training Ballet Theatre Academy (Petrograd, 1923)

To organize such a project is no ordinary endeavor. It takes a sharp, focused mind with an unobstructed vision of what you want and the ability to harness it.

It equally demands the kind of broad-mindedness that is driven to create beauty on a grander than personal scale.  Because it is about bringing talents together and seeing them shine as a group.

But that’s not all.  This skill-set must be accompanied by the ability to draw out the best in people, which means to see the best in people.

And this brings us to the next discernible trait of Pyotr Gusev.

A gift to see and draw out talent.

To see the best in people means to see the often less noticeable traits and latent potentials tucked beneath our outermost layers.  And in this respect, Gusev went above and beyond.

“He was able to see talents, with an exceptional ability to grow them,”  as prominent writer D. Truskinovskaya puts it.

Former head of Novosibirsk Ballet and Philharmonic, Alexander Savin recalls:

“Gusev had a god-given talent, to see the potentials of a ballet master in a dancer.”

Savin goes on to say that this is in fact, how world famous ballet figures Oleg Vinogradov and Nikita Dolgushin got their start:

“… he [Gusev] initiated Oleg Vinogradov into producing “Swan Lake” and practically convinced Nikita Dolgushin to start staging his first big works: “Cinderella” and “Romeo and Juliet”.

Oleg Vinogradov
Nikita Dolgushin

From the composite of sources describing his life and career – the two being literally fused – it becomes apparent that Pyotr Gusev’s creative drive was fueled through his work with young dance professionals.

“He always helped young people…” an article quotes ballerina Ninel Petrova’s recollection of Gusev.

“Gusev’s style of work was in his work with the dancers… He encouraged artists to try out for different roles, secured a ballet coach… [and] send them out onto the stage,” contributes Alexander Savin.

“Pyotr Andreyevich Gusev had a principle, from which he even suffered – he promoted the young…” remembers his student and colleague, ballerina Nonna Yastrebova.

Yastrebova further reveals:

His life was not at all easy… Pyotr Andreyevich had very big problems.  He was in fact removed… he left Petersburg. And because of what? Because, he put us, the youth, into productions.  We suffered for him very much. But it was impossible to shove us back.

A part of an earlier quote by ballet principal Ninel Petrova bears repeating in appreciation of his gift:

Our generation was very lucky, because, in the very beginning of our creative journey we met such a person.  It is to him we owe our accomplishment. Pyotr Andreyevich – an incredible leader, dance coach, teacher…

Nonna Yastrebova as the Autumn Fairy in Cinderella (Kirov Ballet, 1940′s)

If Pyotr Gusev was the sculptor of human talent, then these young dancers were the perfect medium for the molding and shaping of its expression.

“King of Partnering”.

Pyotr Gusev with Olga Mungalova in George Balanchine’s choreographic samples at Petrograd Training Ballet Theatre Academy (Petrograd, 1923).

Gusev had a remarkable quality that garnered him the famous title “king of partnering.”

“This artist… contributed a huge amount to the development of partner dance,” writes D. Truskinovskaya, “…and even today not many artists can repeat his almost acrobatic stunts.”

Nonna Yastrebova contributes excitedly:

The way Pyotr Andreyevich lifted you, no one could lift a partner.  No one!

What Lepeshinskaya (renowned Bolshoi ballerina) did in the famous “Moszkowski Waltz”?  She ran to him for the ‘fish dive lift’, holding her arms in back of her and… jumped!  And he caught her. He could catch from any position…

Freeze frame from the famous Moszkowski Waltz performed by Pyotr Gusev and Olga Lepeshinskaya for Bolshoi Ballet (circa 1940)
Pavel Andreyevich Gerdt was the Premier Danseur Noble of the Imperial Ballet, the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, and the Mariinsky Theatre with a 56-year tenure (debuting in 1860, and retiring in 1916)

Yastrebova goes on to gives an almost humorous, historical context to the significance of Pyotr Gusev’s partnering know-how:

Earlier, such a thing didn’t exist. Pavel Andreyevich Gerdt (the best dance partner of the imperial theatre era – “News” source) walked next to, some held by the hand, and if he circled around – this was already very good. But to push one up (high), double ‘fish’ lift down – this only Gusev could do.

Frankly, the real value lies not in his “stunts”, but what enabled Pyotr Gusev to impeccably perform the never-before seen feats. We can certainly get a clue as to what it is from exalted Mariinsky Theatre prima Tatyana M. Vecheslova’s quote:

Gusev was glorified as an outstanding partner, “king of partnering”… the  real virtuosity was that Gusev never clung to his partner. Performing the most difficult combinations, he barely touched her.  This created a feeling of lightness, ease. His technique, developed to the level of excellence, giving the dance an [exceptional] mood.

 

Pyotr Gusev and Olga Mungalova in Alexander Serov’s Opera “Judith” Dance of the Egyptian acrobats with choreography by Fyodor Lopukhov (1925)

What does this clue to Gusev’s rare aptitude imply?

Apart from the caliber of preparation required from a professional on this level – a given – this picture clearly denotes Gusev’s ability to genuinely CONNECT with his partner, to feel and gauge the mood, energy and character with whom he was dancing.

In fact, you can see the element of CONNECTION running through all the facets of Pyotr Andreyevich:

Pyotr Andreyevich Gusev with influential ballet educator Alisa Vasilevna Nikiforov at Novosibirsk Theatre (circa late 1960's)

… through the impressive synergy in the wiring of his brain allowing for genius in organization

… through his uncanny insight into the ability of others

… through his flair to bring talents together into a collaborative unit

… through his power to sear knowledge into the mind and heart of those he worked with

… through his piecing together of prior works with meticulous attention and methodical re-staging technique

… through his versatility in staging numerous and multifaceted ballets ranging from classic revivals to avant-garde abstractions

… through his capacity to bring the elite world of ballet to a greater audience, giving us insider access to privileged information through his earnest, concise and encompassing writing on the subject.

All these things – the ability to envision, construct, order, relay, transform – are based on CONNECTION…  a connection of qualities that Pyotr Gusev possessed within himself.

Ultimately, Pyotr Gusev was able to inspire the formation of personality in others.  He had the gift to grow Identity. Really, he was just passing onto others what he himself already had.

And in all likelihood the framework of classical ballet is what fostered this phenomenon.

“Seven Beauties” to music of Gara Garayev, staged by Pyotr Gusev at the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1952, and in Leningrad’s Kirov Theatre in 1953
Gusev teaching in Peking (circa 1960)

Ballet is a uniquely powerful instrument proven to develop the integrity of the mind-body unit as one, promoting the functions of focus, orderliness and adaptability, bolstering mental acuity, confidence and very importantly the ability to connect with others.

Connection with others comes through connection with yourself… which in turns comes through connection with your own innate qualities.

This is what it means to have Identity… to “Know Thyself” as the famous aphorism goes.

And this is what ballet can help to bring out in us… the innate capacities already living within.

To know thyself is to have everything and Pyotr Gusev’s life is an exemplary portrait of this.  Through this point of view, he’s not just a dusty old figure in the annals of ballet history, but he comes to life as the ignitor of the great potential in all of us.

The creative offspring of Pyotr Andreyevich Gusev.

Perhaps one of Gusev’s most devoted students, Aleksey Yermolayev went on to pass the torch of his knowledge to the next generation of greats including the supreme Bolshoi principal and ballet master Mikhail Lavrovsky and famed Bolshoi dancer Vladimir Vasiliev, named “God of the dance” by Fyodor Lopukhov.

But don’t take my word for it!  Here’s an excerpt describing the rehearsal image from its contributor, The Reborn Art Foundation in Moscow:

In the 1960s, stars of world ballet and the best dancers of the Bolshoi, such as Mikhail Lavrovsky, Yuri Vladimirov, Maris Liepa, Boris Akimov, Alexander Godunov, and Vyacheslav Gordeev, all worked with Yermolaev. 

Vladimir Vasiliev was Yermolaev’s first student and his successor as a dancer.

Alexei Yermolaev rehearsing with his student Vladimir Vasiliev; photo by Leonid Zhdanov (1971)
Vladimir Vasiliev
Mikhail Lavrovsky
Mikhail Lavrovsky and Natalia Bessmertnova in “The Legend of Love” at the Bolshoi Theatre
Lali Kandelaki rehearsing “Romeo and Juliet” with Mikhail Lavrovsky at State Ballet of Georgia (2011)

Pyotr Gusev’s mentee Leonid Yacobson was instrumental in influencing and helping to shape the creative force of Boris Eifman, a pioneer of ballet exploration in his own right.

Boris Eifman, photo by Sasha Onyshchenko
Tableau of the “Gates of Hell” from Boris Eifman ballet “Rodin”; photo by Gene Schiavone

A good note to end on….  is that all this circles back to ‘lil ole me’ through my dear ballet friend Anna Korotysheva, a student of Inna Zubkovskaya, one of the members of Pyotr Gusev’s famous group of proteges.

til next time... be inspired to explore, expand and share your find!

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The Charm Diaries

The Charm Diaries

As far as we know, the chronicles of the Charm Bracelet go all the way back to the prehistoric Neolithic Era of the Stone Age in the earlier BC years, when a man would carry a stone or piece of wood to protect himself from his enemies.

Egyptian Wedjat Eye Amulet made of gold (664–380 B.C.) *

The first recognizable charm bracelets appeared during the Egyptian Dynasty Era which started at about 3100 BCE ending in 30 BCE with the death of ancient Egypt’s famous last ruler, Queen Cleopatra VII.

The charms of the day were called amulets and highly regarded by the culture in having the power to invoke divine forces of protection and regeneration, a power activated by instructions or spells spoken over the amulet to infuse it with the metaphysical energy.

Scarab shaped amulet with image of Amenhotep III, promising its owner 'life' in this world (represented by an Ankh), 14th century BCE

Additionally, the relatively short life span of citizens in ancient civilizations such as Egypt prompted them to obsessively prepare for the afterlife, in which the Charm Bracelet played an essential role. Seen as protective shields and signs of status, charms were used as “ID tags” to help the Gods guide the wearer to the proper place in the afterlife.

Overlapping with the Egyptian Era, the Roman Empire which roughly started in 750 BC, records the “ichthus” fish symbol fashioned on the body of early Christians to identify themselves as followers of Christ.

At that same time, Jewish scholars wore pendants that held tiny scrolls of parchment inscribed with sections of Jewish Law, an act signifying that the law was close to their hearts and its teachings easily accessible.

Pictured on the right is an ancient scroll amulet discovered in the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem’s Old City around 600 BCE. The scroll contains a blessing for the people of Israel on two small, silver amulets.

During the Middle Ages, the great fear of witchcraft and wizardry, drove high English Royalty including Kings, Queens and Knights to wear charms as protective amulets.

Facing a decline in popularity within the higher echelons of society during the European Renaissance, marked by scholastic progress where science and books replaced mere superstition, the charm re-emerged once again during the reign of Queen Victoria, which last from 1837 until her death in 1901.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) ruler of Great Britain’s UK and Ireland & Empress of India

Queen Victoria (seated) with Empress Frederick, both in black mourning garb for the death of Emperor Frederick III (June 1888)

The comeback of the charm during the Victorian Era was sparked by her majesty’s own personal interest in this type of jewelry.  This time, the charms were used to denote connection with family and loved ones, whose photos or locks of hair were often encased by the charm.

You can see Queen Victoria wearing her charm bracelets in this photo.

The late 1800’s were also the time when the charm bracelet crossed over into the fashion world.  Case in point, Tiffany & Co. introduced their first charm bracelet at the Paris Exposition in 1889, the famous chain link charm bracelet with a single dangling heart pendant, which proved a great success at its inception… and still remains so today.

Exhibit of Tiffany and Co. at the Paris Exhibition, 1889

The post-war 1920’s & 30’s gave way to the emergence of a new, more simplistic, geometric style influenced by the artwork of abstraction masters such as Piet Mondrian, concurrent with the Art Deco movement.  This modernist approach to design was reflected in everything from visual arts to architecture, interior design and of course, charm jewelry!

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor with cross charm bracelet, photo by Cecil Beaton (1937)

In the 1940’s soldiers returning from World War II, brought back locally-crafted wooden and metal mementos commemorating their emotions and memories to families and loved ones.  The trend was swiftly picked up by jewelers in America and Europe offering charms for all of life’s moments.

The fashion spread further to include plastic charms in candy boxes and cereal packages, depicting an array of subjects including commercial and pop culture figures such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse, enjoying a large customer base of young collectors.

Bette Davis with charm bracelet
Elizabeth Taylor with charm bracelet

From the 1950’s to 1970’s, the Charm culture infiltrated the upper circles of American and European society becoming a must-have for girls and young women of that class.  The Charms were now icons marking occasions, interests, hobbies, as well as a display of birthstones, astrological signs, and even moods.

Once again, Charms took a dive in the 1970’s and 80’s when gold chains and bold jewelry became the statement, fueled by music industry fads of the day.  Charms now took a backseat to 80’s glamour, being mostly designated to antique markets and collector forums.

Though the idea of the Charm Bracelet never went out of style, it visibly reemerged in the 1990’s with the sought-after quality-craftsmanship of vintage jewelry and collectibles, including a special demand for the valuable MECHANICAL “moving” charms.

In the 21st century, the Charm Bracelet was brought back to the market – big time, by fashion giants Louis Vuitton and Chanel as well as newcomers like Pandora Jewelry which scored fortuitously with its charm bracelets all over Europe and North America in the early 2000’s.

Louis Vuitton (1821 – 1892) French fashion designer, businessman and founder of the Louis Vuitton brand

Louis Vuitton Carousel Charm featuring LV luggage set under a movable tent (2012 collection)

Louis Vuitton’s signature contribution was the creation of a game-changing trunk design which facilitated shipping in the late 1850’s, in line with the post-industrial revolution modes of transportation like railroad and steamship.

This charm depicts the legacy of Louis Vuitton fashion empire founder, the one-time personal box-maker and packer to wife of Emperor Napoleon III (circa 1853), hired by Empress Eugénie to “pack the most beautiful clothes in an exquisite way.” 

Bottom line.  We LOVE wearing beautiful things with a story.  They give us a sense of meaning, continuity, longevity, and above all… timelessness.

CHANEL Matryoshka Russian Doll Charm Bracelet (2010)

Coco Chanel (1883-1971): milliner, fashion designer, businesswoman, founder of Chanel brand

Pictured here is the couturier empress who came from a penniless background, starting her career out in an orphanage where she learned the skill that would become her life’s work, and which combined with her force of a character, took her to fashion legend status.

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* The Egyptian Wedjat Eye represents a human eye with its brow, the two lines below the eye are often identified as the facial markings of a falcon. This was supposedly the eye that Seth tore from Horus during a battle over who would lead the gods. Thoth healed the injured eye, returning it to Horus as the “sound one.”
Wedjat-eye amulets were used from the Old Kingdom through the Roman Period worn as a bracelet for everyday wear or tucked among mummy wrappings, as a source of protection, strength and perfection.

Holiday Visit to Nobu

Holiday Visit to Nobu

What's all the fuss about! ... last weekend we decided to try out the stylin Nobu in Malibu first hand.

sampling the goods... sea weed salad is a staple for me and this one hit the spot!

veggie roll was super fresh & yummy - and went well with a side of roasted brussels sprouts 🙂

--here's to a fantastic 2018 everyone !!!

Nobu's oceanside view

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An Unexpected Gift

An Unexpected Gift

Today came our much anticipated, hand-crafted, Indian-made, Armoire, and along with it another unexpected surprise...

India has always had a special place in our heart. The warmth and exquisite richness of this culture is a world of its own. In fact, this has been a world in which we have sought solace for much of our journey, and a world where we have found it.

A little over a week ago, we had a pleasant Indian-American couple stay for several days with us as they traveled through southern CA.

Indian hand-crafted Armoire

During one of these days, an unwelcome incident put a damper in their vacation experience. Lana and I were both saddened when we found out what happened.

Last night, several hours after the delivery of our enchanting Armoire, we received what these days is becoming a rarity: an actual handwritten letter.

Letter from Neha & Binit

Momentarily puzzled by the piece of mail that stood out from the pile of the usual, Lana looked at the return address and saw that it was from Binit and Neha.

Inside of it was a lovely gift. Our guest, Neha, who it turns out is an artist, sent us a heartfelt thank you note (handwritten, of course) for Lana’s understanding and kindness during the couples’ ordeal.

Note from Neha & Binit
Hand painted bookmark (front)

Inside the handwritten note, was the next precious gift: a delicately hand-painted piece of art in the form of a bookmark. Neha had remembered when Lana shared about her love of Indian craftsmanship and the furniture piece we were excitedly awaiting.

The energy was tangible, it was a piece of LOVE, sent to us via USPS.

We immediately knew its role and place: to bless our magical new arrival.

Hand painted bookmark (back)

Why write about it?

Because in the midst of a world facing extreme turmoil, connection through HEART is a force that always reigns supreme and has the power to conquer all.

As coined in the literary masterpiece “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky: "Beauty will save the world." And isn't connection the ultimate form of beauty?

"Beauty will save the world."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Kandinsky

Softened Construction, 1927

Kandinsky

With colors, shapes, images and memories swirling around in my mind, I started out looking for a visual representation of the mood, the flavor of the world, I wanted to project through my designs inspired by the vintage ring collection at FifilleJolie.com.

I found Wassily Kandinsky.

Abstract art, is said to be used by the artist to describe the world underlying the visible world with the availability of extraordinary freedom beyond the boundaries and constraints of the concrete physical as we experience it with our two eyes.

But abstract art, especially when used by the likes of a mind like Kandinsky goes far beyond this purpose.

The artist is said to have believed that reproducing nature only interfered with the process of conveying profound and limitless universal expression derived from our inner experience.

Soft Hard, 1927
Blue, 1922

So, only loosely relating to the world of realism, Kandinsky explored the connection between color and form speaking through universal symbolism including geometric shapes, as well as free-form images with just a slight nod in their depiction to living things.

Through precise and elaborate use of these elements, Kandinsky's aesthetically poignant compositions are widely known to engage the sight, sound and emotions of the viewer, creating within us an experience of transcendence.

Black And Violet, 1923
Several Circles, 1926

Beyond the legacy of his artwork which continues to spark, fascinate and puzzle our imagination, lies something more.

Using an abstract visual mode of conveying universally understood principles with the power to access the depth of human emotion and surpass cultural and physical boundaries, Kandinsky opened a window in our collective mind revealing a world of possibility and creation beyond the boundaries of what we see as ‘real’ and ‘possible’, and in so doing provided us an instrument to elevate our very existence.

This is the contribution and genius of Kandinsky.

Kandinsky working in his studio

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Bon Bon Spoon

The BonBon Spoon

"Je veux un bonbon!" children say in France, a phrase familiar to any parent as: "Can I have some candy!”

Stemming from 17th century French royal courts, the small, chocolate-covered candy called a “bonbon” comes from the French word “bon” meaning “good”.

Enjoying such delights in haute society undoubtedly went along with social etiquette and certain manners. In the case of bonbon’s, this meant using a bonbon spoon with a flat, perforated bowl to neatly scoop up your candy (or nuts) instead of digging right in with your sticky fingers to pick at the favors in the dish.

In fact, the delectable confection not only inspired the creation of its own special spoon, but also but also a waltz called Wiener Bonbons by the famous composer Johann Strauss.

So, for your next get together, elevate your ambiance by pairing your party treats with some culture and chic history!

Happy Holidays!

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References & Image Sources.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonbon

https://southnfrance.com/pages/what-is-a-bon-bon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_types_of_spoons

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-daily-meal/youll-never-guess-what-yo_b_5397923.html

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/446278644306767732

https://www.pinterest.com/source/food52.com/

The Princess & the Pearl

The Princess & the Pearl

A SYMBOL of innocence, purity and new beginnings, this gem is the only precious jewel to form inside of a living creature and one of the oldest natural treasures known to man.

Although it’s not much to look at from the outside, on the inside, a mollusk with a shell has the ability to produce one of the most sought-after valuables on earth.

BIRTH OF A PEARL.

The formation of a pearl is the result of a defense response to a foreign substance entering the body of an oyster or clam. Whether it be some sand, a parasite or marine predator that makes its way inside the mantle layer of the shell which protects the mollusk’s internal organs, the invading object does not belong.

In response to the threat, the inner part of the shell, or mantle, secretes a lustrous crystalline substance called nacre, or mother-of-pearl, composed of proteins and calcium carbonate.  Layers of this strong as silicon mixture are secreted into a pearl sac, or cyst, which forms as part of the healing process, resulting in the formation of a pearl.

Ama divers of Japan by Yoshiyuki Iwase (1935)

HISTORY.

The sought after product of this natural occurrence was originally obtained through pearl-hunting, where divers would retrieve the shell-bearing animals from ocean and river floors inspecting each one individually.  But this arduous, painstaking process was not matched in its effort by the prize.  It is documented that in a haul of three tons, only three or four oysters produce perfect pearls.

The process of culturing pearls was introduced by British Biologist William Saville-Kent in Australia, and brought over by two young Japanese men to their homeland.  One a carpenter and the other a fishery investigation technician, the two agreed to combine their patents in 1916.

The latter, Tokichi Nishikawa, married the daughter of Mikimoto, owner of a successful pearl shop in the fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo.  Mikimoto bought into the Mise-Nishikawa patent enabling him to use the methodology.  The entire pearl industry is indebted to Mikimoto, who is recognized for his extraordinary global-scale work in promoting the quality pearl.

CULTURED PEARLS.

The cultivation of pearls involves a surgically precise implantation process which mimics the factors that catalyze the pearl’s natural occurrence and has evolved into a worldwide industry, reportedly sourcing of 99% of pearls in today’s market.

Cherry Blossom Festival Crown, Mikimoto 1957

The secret to beauty.

If there is a secret to this fascinating biological phenomenon, it may be hidden in the story of “The Princess and the Pea”.

Written by Hans Christian Andersen more than a century ago, this is a fairytale of a young woman whose royal identity is established by a test of her sensitivity to a tiny pea hidden below a mountain of mattresses upon which she is to sleep.  In case you’re wondering, she passes the test – as only a true Princess can.

Have you ever wondered what the underlying meaning of this timeless fable may be?  Here’s my take on it.

Imagine that this scenario is all playing out within you.

The pea, placed onto the mattress, represents something wrong, something out of place in your system.

The 20 mattresses laid on top of the pea, and the 20 quilts laid on top of those mattresses are all the layers covering up or disguising the flaw.

While the rest of you sleeps, letting things slip by, the Princess in you is your immune system, always watching over you, always awake to imposters.  In fact, your Princess does more than protect your physical body, she is like your third eye, detecting and warning you – usually in the form of intuition – of anything that is out of order in your life.

Whether it be several grains of sand that make their way inside an oyster, or something ever so small out sorts in your life, its consequence can have a disastrously rippling effect.  The Princess does all she can to guard you from allowing such harm to enter.

HIDDEN TREASURE.

Appearances can be deceiving, as with the princess who appears poor and bedraggled when she first arrives at the palace.  But a Princess is a Princess, and the truth is always revealed.

And so with the deceptive appearance of an oyster or clam, which is far from attractive in its outer appearance, but within itself has the ability to form something so beautiful, as can only be produced by the extraordinary process of a functioning immune system which serves a most valuable role in that of protecting the life of its master.