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Arts in the News: Jedi Musicians, New Blue for Crayola, When Kids’ Opinions Mean More than Critics’, Touring Logistics for a Ballet Company

Jedi Musicians with Lightsaber Bows

In honor of “Star Wars Day,” as May 4th has come to be known (as fans make a pun on the famous Jedi blessing “May the force be with you” by saying “May the fourth be with you”), a video has been making its rounds on social media showing a rather unusual school music concert. Last year, students at the École de l’Harmonie St Édouard and École Secondaire de La Seigneurie in Quebec put on a Star Wars-themed concert in which they performed excerpts from John Williams famous score dressed as Jedis. The final touch? Their violin bows were equipped with LEDs, thanks to their inventive teacher Philippe Amyot, giving the appearance that the students were playing with lightsabers. The young musicians entertained guests at a local cinema, performing only a week after a fire forced their school to close. What a delightful way to create a unique performance and get kids excited about music!

New Blue for Crayola

Months after announcing it would be retiring the yellow “Dandelion” crayon, Crayola has announced that a new blue crayon, inspired by the YInMn blue pigment, will replace it. The YInMn blue color was discovered by accident in 2009 in a chemistry lab run by Mas Subramanian at Oregon State University; its name comes from the three elements that compose the pigment: yttrium, indium, an dmanganese oxides. Mas and the other chemists in his lab had been mixing and heating these chemicals in order to find a new material for electronics, when one of the samples came out bright blue after being headed to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Crayola’s YInMn crayon won’t actually contain the pigment–it is simply inspired by it, since YInMn cannot yet be added to paints and materials until more experimentation is done. Subramanian hopes that the new blue crayon will inspire children to see the creative potential in scientific experimentation. Yet another example of the science and art worlds working together!

When Kids’ Opinions Mean More than Critics’

Ever since the stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast in 1994, family musicals have been a big business on Broadway. Often, these musicals, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Anastasia, are hugely successful despite harsh words from critics. David Rooney, chief theater critic for The Hollywood Reporter, said of Anastasia: “It’s kind of clunky. It’s kind of old fashioned. It’s a little bit kitsch.” Still, the stage adaptation of the 1997 Fox animated movie continues to sell out. Rooney himself admits that when he saw Anastasia, the young girls in the audience were incredibly enthusiastic. As NPR’s Jeff Lunden explains, “It’s the kids–and the parents who pay for the tickets–who will ultimately decide if Anastasia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have long healthy runs.” After all, kids don’t care what critics have to say. Rooney believes that the upcoming Broadway production of the megahit movie Frozen will likely follow in the footsteps of other family musicals, emphasizing spectacle and energy in order to dazzle kids, not necessarily critics. These family musicals are certainly a reminder that Broadway entertains and inspires a variety of audiences in many different ways!

Mind-Boggling Touring Logistics for a Ballet Company

The Birmingham Royal Ballet is used to touring, traveling across the UK and abroad. But how much is actually involved in organizing a tour for such a sizeable ballet company? For a company of 60 dancers, there are 25 technical staff and as many as 45 musicians, along with all of the equipment and costume paraphernalia. The company must transport the entire set, with lighting and props. They travel with 1000 hair pins, 250 hair rollers, 78 wigs, 44 tutus, 8 baskets of shoes, and two washing machines. They also take two physiotherapists in tow. All costume and set equipment must be handled very carefully, as many are designed by world-class artists and have elaborate details. The artists travel by coach, while the technical teams go first via train. Company manager Will Mauchline is in charge of making sure all of these logistics are taken care of for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and that any injuries or issues are handled: “I was once told there’s a fine line between company manager and mother. A company manager works with everyone to make sure it all happens, from the company coach to performers to guests watching rehearsals and so on. When it doesn’t go to plan, I deal with it and hopefully overcome the problem, ideally with minimal upset.” Next time you see a touring performance, just think about all of the logistics that went into making it all come together!

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