‘A lot of people don’t realize it’s a full-time job’: How Richmond ballerinas prep for the physically-demanding ballet: ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

Were this a different life, she might lie abed another hour, and sleep the sleep of death, and even dream until a time of gentle waking. But there’s no time to waste for this sleeping beauty who rises now to begin another day as a professional ballerina devoted to a sensible diet, perpetual body maintenance and, above all, the full-tilt daily classes and rehearsals necessary to prepare for her role in one of the most famous ballets of all time. “A lot of people don’t realize it’s a full-time job,” says Maggie Small of her ballerina life and especially the constant training and focus necessary to play Aurora, the ill-fated princess at the center of “The Sleeping Beauty,” Tchaikovsky’s hypnotic and timeless ballet masterpiece that runs Feb. 9-11 at the Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Energy Center . “When you think about it,” Small says, “it’s a lifestyle.” And not a lifestyle for the timid or undisciplined. First thing each morning, Small jumps right in the bathtub. “I always take a bath for my muscles,” she says. “I feel really guilty about the amount of water I waste!” Next comes a warmup exercise regimen of home pilates designed to strengthen her core, the abdominal power center that governs her stability, posture and extra-flexible extremities. Now it’s time to grab some start-the-day food. “It’s usually a pretty sturdy breakfast,” Small says. “A whole-wheat English muffin with cheese, scrambled egg and avocado on it, plus a small protein shake.” A native Richmonder now in her 12th season performing with the Richmond Ballet, Small usually arrives at the company’s high-energy, busy-bee facility on Canal Street by 9 a.m. to begin a full day of work. Like the company’s other professional dancers, Small observes a regular, five-day workweek and typically spends her first hour at the studio “rolling Continue Reading

Physics gets physical: Eddie Redmayne, who plays Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything,’ found the role grueling

Rising British actor Eddie Redmayne crossed paths with Stephen Hawking long before he got a job playing the world’s most famous theoretical physicist. Back then, Redmayne didn’t know much about the man he’d portray in the dramatic biopic “The Theory of Everything,” opening Friday. “I had been at Cambridge” — where the London-born actor studied art — “and I had seen Hawking on campus, though from a distance,” Redmayne tells The News. “I knew the iconic image of Stephen in his wheelchair, of course, and the iconic computerized voice, and I knew he had done stuff to do with black-hole theory, but that was pretty much the limit of my knowledge,” he admits. But when it came time to capture the essence of the much-lauded author of “A Brief History of Time” (1988), vague familiarity didn’t cut it. So Redmayne binged on biographies and footage of Hawking, from his early days at Oxford to his diagnosis with an ailment similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease to his life with his first wife, Jane Wilde. Wilde’s memoir, “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” provides the basis for the movie, which details their courtship, marriage and life with their three kids. “It’s interesting when you’re playing someone who is real and who is alive, but you also have the privilege of having so much documentary material,” the actor says. Redmayne finally met Hawking just five days before shooting began last year, a visit the actor remembers as being especially nerve-racking. “I was like, ‘What if I meet him, and [my preparation for the role] is totally wrong — what do I do?’ ” Redmayne recalled at the Toronto Film Festival. “I was nervous and going on that I was born in January and so was he, so we’re both Capricorns, and going on and on, and Stephen took a moment and said, Continue Reading

Brick and mortar stores finding way through online challenge

TUPELO - Neilson’s Department Store, which opened in 1839 and is the oldest store in the South, has survived wars and economic downturns during its 178-year history.But the store may be facing its greatest challenge to date — the online shopper.“Online shopping is easily the most significant competition we have encountered in my experience,” said Will Lewis Jr., whose family owns the Oxford store.But the Lewises aren’t wringing their hands hoping something will happen. Like many store owners, they’ve made adjustments to their business model to stay competitive.“The younger generation in our family-owned business made me realize that this era had arrived, so about three years ago, we embarked on a new business plan, rented 3,500 square feet to a restaurant, remodeled and downsized the lines we carried to attempt to avoid what could be found in abundance on the internet,” Lewis said. “At the same time, we hired a general manager who had been in the market and knew how to better deal with vendors who could help us try to be unique.”With the lucrative Christmas holidays around the corner, retailers are doing all they can to capture every dollar they can, whether it’s the customer walking through the door or the customer clicking on their website.“We hope to be in a niche in the market where the customer wants to see what they are buying, and we have to think that market will be there in some form,” Lewis said. “I am glad I have the young generation to deal with the future. I don’t know what technology will bring to small business.”A hint of the future happened just last year. More: Tupelo's ReDesigns a small business with a big heart For the first time, shoppers made more purchases online in 2016 than at a traditional brick-and-mortar store.But that shouldn’t be a big surprise, as retailers have seen the train coming, with whistle blowing. In 2015, Continue Reading

Challenger hits Detroit’s clerk on election mishaps

Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey is touting an overhauled voting system in her bid for re-election as challenger Garlin Gilchrist says the incumbent’s November 2016 election mishaps are a sign that someone else should take over the reins.Political observers said this year’s face-off is the most competitive city clerk race since Winfrey defeated longtime clerk Jackie Currie in 2005. Like Gilchrist now, Winfrey then was a political novice. She defeated Currie following allegations about irregularities in absentee ballots, legal challenges and an announced FBI investigation into possible voter fraud.Gilchrist criticized Winfrey by calling the November 2016 election a “complete catastrophe” and saying the clerk’s office has failed at record keeping. A state audit released in February revealed that an “abundance of human errors” caused mismatched vote totals that resulted in 216 questionable votes, a development that put Detroit in the national spotlight.Winfrey maintains that her accomplishments speak volumes after nearly 12 years in office and that Detroiters should “vote for trusted experience.”Incumbent clerks usually are favored to win, but Gilchrist has increased his competitiveness by out raising Winfrey between August and October. He collected $115,000 to Winfrey’s $13,500, according to campaign finance reports. That was in addition to the nearly $102,000 Gilchrist raised before the primary, when the incumbent logged in $12,000.Gilchrist’s aggressive fundraising and grassroots campaign with television and radio appearances have increased his popularity, said Ed Sarpolus, a Target Insyght pollster. If he keeps the momentum, there’s a chance Gilchrist could win, Sarpolus said.“Typically the undecided tend to lean toward the challenger,” he said.Winfrey won the August primary with 51 percent of the vote, trailed by Gilchrist at 19 percent and former Detroit NAACP executive director Continue Reading

New matchmaking website reveals ‘ugly truth’ about dating: Site targets ‘aesthetically challenged’

A new website is out to reveal the ugly truth about dating. British site TheUglyBugBall.co.uk advertises itself under the slogan "dating for the aesthetically challenged," and claims to be the first of its kind: a matchmaking website for "ugly people." "It's a sad fact that up to half of the UK is made up of ugly people yet amazingly nobody has ever thought of providing a dating service for them," Howard James, the site's founder, told London's Sun. "Just because they don't look like Kate Moss or Cheryl Cole doesn't mean they don't have a lot of love to give," James said. "We're scooping up these people and offering them a glimmer of hope - in many cases their first and only opportunity of meeting a member of the opposite sex." James, reportedly a multimillionaire, has launched a series of "niche dating websites" since the mid-nineties, including sites aimed specifically at people who like dogs and daters over 40. TheUglyBugBall.com boasts a tongue-in-cheek style that attracted over 1500 members in its first five days. "Instead of fishing in a small pool of prettiness and getting nowhere," the site reads, "Dive into an ocean of uglies and have more choice." The website is a stark contrast to BeautifulPeople.com, a dating database that only grants membership to those deemed physically attractive. Last fall, BeautifulPeople.com reported that Britain was home to some of the ugliest singles in the world. Less than one in eight British men and just three in 20 women who applied to the site had been accepted. Those rejected by BeautifulPeople.com may want to check out TheUglyBugBall.com, which is designed for individuals with low self esteem. "If you are one of the millions of people that don't like what they see in the mirror, then this is the place for you!" the site screams. Despite its gimmicky attitude, James believes the website is really doing a public service. "Our site allows people who aren't attractive to engage in the Continue Reading

Blood cancers pose challenges in detection, but treatments have greatly improved

The specialist: Dr. Steven Gruenstein on hematologic malignancies. An associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Steven Gruenstein splits his practice treating hematology and oncology problems. Over the past 20 years, Gruenstein has seen thousands of patients with hematologic malignancies like myeloma, chronic myeloid leukemias and lymphomas. Who’s at risk Hematology is the field of medicine that studies blood and blood diseases. Hematologic malignancies are cancers of the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes. "Normally all our blood is produced in a broadly similar way, in which progenitor cells produce many types of cells," says Gruenstein. "A malignancy, or cancer, is when a cell mutates and develops clones that are not under normal controls." A common result of hematologic malignancies is too much or too little blood. Individual hematologic malignancies are not very common in the general population, though some disorders appear more frequently than others. "For instance, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is fairly common, but Hodgkin’s disease is not," says Gruenstein. "As yet, we’re not sure if some groups are more at risk than others." The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reports that hematologic malignancies account for 9% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the country. Environmental exposure to toxins like benzene also can cause hematologic malignancies. Signs and symptoms Patients often go undiagnosed for years because hematologic malignancies can be chronic diseases that progress slowly. "Usually, the symptoms are noticed by the internist at the annual physical," says Gruenstein. "After speaking to the patient and performing a physical exam, the doctor makes the diagnosis with a blood test, which is sometimes followed by a radiographic exam or a biopsy of the bone marrow or lymph node." When bone marrow cells are the ones altered, the symptoms are usually related to too much or too little of certain Continue Reading

Wife’s breast cancer diagnosis jolts husband into challenging new role

John W. Anderson's wife, Sharon Rapoport, was 41 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. The following year, his sister, Mary, was told that she, too, had the disease. Happily, both women survived. His mother, though, died in 1998 after a decade of living with breast cancer. In "Stand by Her," Anderson shares a wealth of insight as he guides men to an understanding of the meaningful role they can and must play in a woman's treatment and, if prayers are answered, recovery. What is she feeling as a wife? When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sharon's first thought wasn't about death, her career, or even her own children. It was about me, her husband, sitting next to her with a face frozen in sheer panic. She reached over, grabbed my hand, squeezed hard, and looked into my eyes. The first words out of her mouth, after the doctor had told her she had breast cancer, were to me: "I am so sorry." She was sorry for getting cancer! She was sorry because my mom had fought breast cancer for 10 years before dying from it. So Sharon wanted to make sure that I was going to be okay before she thought anything about herself. This was followed by a much stronger, scarier feeling: Would I still find her attractive? A wife's worst fear is that her husband is going to leave her, unable to deal with what one woman refers to as "damaged goods." Nobody knows how many men leave a marriage after their wives have been diagnosed with breast cancer. What is known is that every patient reception area in the country has at least two or more juicy "bad husband leaving" stories circulating in it at any given time. Does a breast cancer diagnosis make a man go bad? No. What it does do is exaggerate everything that's already been happening in a marriage - the good, the bad and the ugly. If you are a husband, the time has arrived for you to be on your best behavior since you walked down the aisle with her. What your wife wants from you most is for you to show up Continue Reading

Sean Penn’s ‘Into the Wild’ forages for meaning in fatal quest

Fifteen years after Chris McCandless starved to death in the Alaskan wilderness, the story of his quest to escape from society back to nature still inspires controversy: Was he a hapless amateur who threw himself into harm's way - or a genuinely idealistic seeker with a run of bad luck that cost him his life? "Into the Wild," writer-director Sean Penn's film adaptation of Jon Krakauer's 1996 nonfiction book about McCandless' ultimately fatal search for himself, may only fan the flames when it opens Friday. "Alaskans have every reason to be outraged by the way Chris went into the wild - but Chris wasn't an Alaskan," says actor Emile Hirsch, who plays McCandless in the film. "When you talk about a tale of survival, you can't really glorify the survival lifestyle if you don't survive." Yet Hirsch, 22, understands completely what drove McCandless. "Now [I get it], more than ever," he says. "I know a whole generation of young men like myself who are so immersed in technology, with the cushions and comforts of life, that they need things to help them define when they become a man." "Some people thought he was a nut," says actor Hal Holbrook, who plays a retiree who befriended McCandless in the California desert before McCandless, who renamed himself "Alexander Supertramp," lit out for Alaska. "But the other side is kind of fascinated by what the young man was searching for. I'm for him; I think we need an examination of this kind of seeking, daring individualism in the world we live in, which is crushing out the individualistic spark at every turn." Penn's impressionistic film follows McCandless' journey to reconnect with and test himself against nature. As Krakauer chronicled - first in Outside magazine, then in his best-selling book - after McCandless graduated from college, he gave away the remainder of his college fund - $24,000 - to charity and hitchhiked around the American Southwest and Midwest, trying to escape the materialism of society. He worked as Continue Reading

Review: Google Pixel 2 phone challenges iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy

It’s impossible to predict whether Google’s brand-new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones will fare better than last year’s well-reviewed but poor selling first-generation models. Among other reasons, the smartphone crowd loves their iPhones and Galaxys, and Apple and Samsung obviously remain formidable competitors.What I can say is that the new phones prove how good Google has gotten at hardware,  bolstered by artificial intelligence and software. And if you’re in the market for a premium handset, Pixels belong in the conversation. For starters, the AI-infused Google Assistant that was a banner feature on the first Pixels is only getting smarter. And the already strong cameras are also getting better.I’ve focused my testing on the Pixel 2 XL, the larger and, at $849 on up, more expensive of the two new Android Oreo-based Pixels. But those of you who prefer a smaller phone should certainly consider the more compact, though less stylish, Pixel 2, which costs $200 less to start. The phones are still cheaper than the four-digit busting price of the upcoming iPhone X. More: iPhone X first look: Intriguing, fancy and pricey More: Google Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 2: Google unveils its iPhone rival Though you can buy the Pixel unlocked from Google or Best Buy and use it with any wireless carrier, Verizon is the exclusive seller among U.S. carriers.I can recommend either Pixel phone, though there are some shortcomings worth noting.A closer look:The XL starts up quick and is snappy to use, with a fingerprint sensor on the back for unlocking the screen that is equally fast. It does not have the kind of gee-whizzy facial unlocking feature that Apple will be delivering on the iPhone X, though how well Apple’s Face ID will work is a big question mark.The 6-inch display on Pixel XL is beautiful, though lovely displays have become the norm, at least for phones in this price range. I’m less wild about the physical design Continue Reading


Pope Benedict, after meeting congenially with Muslim envoys and representatives, may now have said about Islam all that he's going to say for the time being. Will someone else pick up the dialogue that the pontiff is so clearly inviting? At the fore since Benedict referred to Islam in an address on faith and reason has been whether the Pope would or should apologize. In the face of outrage and some violence, the Pope went to extraordinary lengths to explain himself and to express regret at the upset without backing away from his words. Yesterday, he assured his guests and a television audience to which the session was beamed in Arabic that he and the Catholic Church have "profound respect" for the Muslim faith. To reinforce this self-evident truth, Benedict pointed out that it has been stated frequently, by the Second Vatican Council and by his predecessor, John Paul II, as well as by himself. "At this time when for Muslims the spiritual journey of the month of Ramadan is beginning, I address to all of them my cordial good wishes, praying that the Almighty may grant them serene and peaceful lives," the Pope said, concluding his remarks. The heart of the matter was skillfully glossed, that being the religiously inspired fanaticism of some believers in Islam. Treading delicately, Benedict said Christians and Muslims must guide their followers to "work together . . . to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence." It went politely without saying that such a proscription would include suicide bombings. Benedict also cited John Paul, for whom many feel goodwill, as calling for "reciprocity in all spheres." Fine word, that. Meaning, in this circumstance, that Benedict asks the Muslim world, again politely, to respect the rights of Christians to worship as they choose. "We are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures," said the Pope. And all present agreed that dialogue is good. But who Continue Reading