For most of us, ballet brings to mind a youthful fantasy world: tutus, satin pointe shoes, fairy tales. For the five middle-aged women in Ed Lippman's documentary, DIVERTISSEMENT: EVERYDAY DANCERS' STORIES, ballet means all that and more. These spirited amateur dancers, ranging from ages 40 to 61, have either returned to dancing after decades-long hiatuses or are embracing it for the first time after having dreamed about it most of their lives — lives that include families and careers. They confront individual physical and emotional obstacles and reap the benefits of their efforts. The film follows their footsteps on the way to attending an intensive weeklong adult ballet camp primarily filled with aspiring young dancers.
At any age, walking into a dance studio can be intimidating: You're surrounded by mirrors to remind you of exactly how you look. You're participating in a body-centered and youth-oriented art form.
The women discuss how maturity has enabled them to experience the rigors of ballet training differently from their youth. Tessa, an elementary school art teacher on the brink of retirement who is also a pilot and a painter says, "Sometimes I feel like I'm coming back to dance with a 17-year-old mind in a 60-year-old body. There's a conflict there.
... When I was younger, it was like 'do or die,' how high, how many, how much. ... Today it's more about quality.' "
She doesn't dwell on her age; she dances for her own enjoyment.
"Look at Mick Jagger!" she exclaims. "He can still jump around and dance onstage!"
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Lippman, a Cincinnati native and University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music grad in electronic media, took initial inspiration from attending the Adult Dance Camps in Richmond, Va., in 2001 at the age of 35. Like the dancers he later filmed, it changed his life. The aptly titled Divertissement marks his first feature film. It's a French term for a pleasurable diversion; it also refers to a suite of short dances within the main action of a classical ballet, the way the dancers' fulfillment fits into their broader lives.
Like the courageous yet down-to-earth women it features, the 84-minute documentary lacks pretense and frills, but through extensive personal interviews — shot all over the country over three years — it nobly captures the rewarding spirit of taking a risk, of giving oneself a second chance.
One of the dancers says, "I want the tutus, the shiny pointe shoes, the whole deal."
She's living her dream at last. (See Events.) — JULIE MULLINS
DIVERTISSEMENT: EVERYDAY DANCERS' STORIES screens 3 p.m. Saturday as part of the Big Damn Film Festival at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blue Ash, and at 1 p.m. Sunday at Cincinnati Art Museum.
WEDNESDAY 18 — TUESDAY 24
When it comes to Cincinnati's beloved traditions, the Opera is right up there with Skyline Chili, the Reds and the Flying Pig Marathon. As the second oldest opera company in the United States, the Cincinnati Opera has hosted dozens of productions since its debut in 1920 at the Cincinnati Zoo Pavilion. A number of legendary opera singers including Placido Domingo, James Morris and Beverly Sills have filled the rafters with song and dazzled audiences. Relive the rich history and development of the Cincinnati Opera as the Main Branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County presents HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CINCINNATI OPERA ARCHIVES. The exhibit features Opera archives of programs, scrapbooks, posters and photographs of the opera stars that have graced the Pavilion and Music Hall stages over the decades. These commemorative memorabilia date back to 1883, and the Library will continue to add to the collection as items become available. The exhibit is on view through Oct. 2. Free. 513-369-6900. (See Art.) — ELIZABETH MILLER
If Salsa means more to you than merely something you put on corn chips, then grab your dance shoes and head over to Devou Park in Covington. Tropicoso, Greater Cincinnati's premier Latin band, will perform at the park's BEHRINGER-CRAWFORD MUSEUM as part of its summer COFFEE CUP CONCERT SERIES. The nine-member group specializes in Salsa and Merengue classics, and they record original material. Their energetic live shows have attracted a devoted following and helped Tropicoso win the "Best World Beat Band" trophy at last fall's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for adult museum members, $15 for adult non-members and $5 per child. The cost includes complimentary refreshments from local sponsors. 859-491-4003. (See Attractions or Onstage.) — KEVIN OSBORNE
Given the wildly invasive, often irrational nature of contemporary political campaigns, it's a wonder anyone in their right mind would run for office. CONNIE SCHULTZ delves into the trials and tribulations of just such an endeavor in her new book, ...and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man. Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the The Cleveland Plain-Dealer and the wife of recently elected Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, candidly writes about everything from the ways in which her relationships with friends in the press changed to our rapidly evolving political process to the ways in which the experience affected her family life and job. She also looks at those pesky, ruthless bloggers, a recent phenomenon that continues have more and more of an impact on the political landscape. Schultz discusses her book 7 p.m. Thursday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. 513-396-8960. (See Literary.) — JASON GARGANO
THURSDAY 19 — SUNDAY 22
They say that life in Hollywood is like swimming with the sharks, but in the case of comic CASH LEVY, you can take that literally. The former theater major and star college baseball player is also an advanced scuba diver. He has performed in over 25 countries and is also lead singer for Cash and the Bad Checks. Audience interactive comedy is clean, but that doesn't mean it's not hilarious. "This total stranger walked up to me and said, 'Hey, man, got a light, got a smoke?' I said, 'No, I'm not a smoker. But apparently you are. Maybe you should invest in a whole pack of cigarettes.' How come smokers never have smokes? You know you're a smoker. Buy the necessary accoutrements." The 15-year club veteran is a regular guest on the The Bob and Tom Radio Show, and has also been seen on Comedy Central and The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Levy performs at Go Bananas Montgomery. Tickets are $7-$12. $4 Thursday with college ID, $4 Sunday for ladies. 513-984-9288. (See Onstage.) — P.F. WILSON
Here's a piece of theater trivia to stump your friends the next time you're out for a drink together: What's the most frequently produced show in the United States in the last few years? You might guess something by Shakespeare or Neil Simon, but it is actually the two-person laugh-fest GREATER TUNA. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC) add another staging to that growing list starting Friday, when it kicks off a three-week run of the amusing piece about Texas's third-smallest town. Actors Josh Neth and Jeff Sanders play 20 quirky citizens of the town of Tuna — with the aid of three wigs and more quick costume changes than you'll be able to count. This isn't the classical fare we're used to seeing at 719 Race St., but I can guarantee you'll like it when CSC's well-trained actors turn their skills to this cleverly written script. $20-$26. 513-381-2273. (See Onstage.) — RICK PENDER
The SAUL STEINBERG 75-foot long "Mural of Cincinnati" has been back on view at the CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM since late June. On Saturday, finally, the Steinberg exhibition ILLUMINATIONS, which has traveled to Cincinnati from Vassar College via the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, opens. The work collected in Illuminations spans Steinberg's entire career, from the 1930s to the 1990s. The work itself consists largely of drawings and collages, all in that certain Steinberg style that gave the artist substantial fame as a New Yorker cartoonist, among other things. Steinberg had a keen eye for recognizing idiosyncrasies, which allowed him to create acute and sometimes incisive remarks about the human condition, especially that city-bred human who takes him- or herself a little too seriously. Exhibition runs through Sept. 23. 513-721-ARTS. (See Art.) — LAURA JAMES
The CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM brings back One World Weekend for 2007 on Saturday with A VIEW OF THE WORLD. Be one of the 1,000 to party at the museum with music and art from each corner of the world. The four-hour event will have entertainment and food to represent the four hemispheres of the earth, with appetizers changing origin each hour and music from Mohenjo Daro, Jorge Wojtas and DJ SplottyKaeco. The highlight of the night's musical performances will be the Chicago Afrobeat Project's first concert in Cincinnati. Also enjoy strolls through the art galleries, an Asian-inspired fashion show and copious food and drinks. Tickets are $35 and very limited, so call to make sure you'll be partying as if you were traveling all over the world. 513-721-ARTS. (See Art or Events.) — KEVIN MICHELL
Last weekend I was at my favorite used record store when I overheard a couple of Blues fans from lower Kentucky quizzing the clerk about the upcoming Cincy Blues Fest. They were looking for some good used Blues CDs, so after filling them in about who to check out in town and exchanging pleasantries, I handed them my extra copy of Every Hour Is A Dollar Gone — the latest album from Akron Blues (and beyond) musician PATRICK SWEANY (pictured) as a "welcome to Cincinnati" gift. They were clearly die-hards of the "purist" variety, so I'm not sure they'll enjoy Every Hour on first listen; their tastes tended more toward harp players, neo-Chicago Blues and guitar shredders like Walter Trout. For those who love the Blues but are bored with the tight-assed "white guys in blazers" style and prefer something more adventurous, Sweany is a slam-dunk. The new album is a start-to-finish thrill, partly due to the singer/songwriter/guitarist's lack of "stick to the script" Blues theory. Sweany dips into the more folksy side of Blues, slinky R&B, early Rock & Roll, '70s Blues Rock and dirty Garage Blues (to name a few stylistic tangents). Props to producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys for going with the flow of Sweany's genre swings and presenting them crisp and natural. That's not to say that Sweany is for White Stripes fans only; the man has mad-crazy skills in whatever style he's exploring and redecorating, something even the staunchest "back in my day" curmudgeon is sure to appreciate if they give it an open-minded listen. If it's purity and honesty you're looking for, look no further. I hope my new Blues friends gave Every Hour more than a cursory listen; if so, they might just come back up to Greater Cincy for Sweany's show this Sunday at Newport's Southgate House, opening for Roger Clyne. $13-$15. 859-431-2201. (See Music.) — MIKE BREEN
Green is more than just a color; it's a new political and social movement that encourages recycling in new and innovative ways. With a little bit of creativity, that old desk sitting in your attic could be turned into a new modern coffee table. More than that, though, old appliances and furniture could be transformed into lovely pieces of art. Sculptors all around the world are taking the "green" movement to new heights by creating museum-worthy pieces from old found objects. These artists believe their creations will help spread concern for environmental issues. This week at the CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER (CAC), local artist and teacher Victor Strunk will lead an activity focused on making sculptures out of junk. The event, JUNK SCULPTURE, goes on from 1-4 p.m. in the CAC's UnMuseum and is inspired by the Beyond Green exhibition that closed last weekend. Open to children and adults. Free with price of admission. (See Art.) 513-345-8400. — MAXWELL REDDER