Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna at the National Harbor - Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: Thanks to TAA PR and  Cirque du Soleil, I received four complimentary tickets to Amaluna to facilitate this review as well as four complimentary tickets to giveaway. As always, opinions stated are mine and are never influenced by free or comp products, tickets and/or services.

Please note: Although this review of Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna was carefully written to avoid revealing any major spoilers, if you wish to enter the giveaway for 4 tickets to the August 28 performance at 8pm at the National Harbor without seeing this review, simply scroll to the bottom of this post. Ticket information can be found at the bottom as well. 

I am a big believer in teaching my daughters and stepdaughters that femininity can be both powerful and graceful. I believe that all too often our society tries to separate femininity from power, creating the stereotype that one must be "manly" to be strong.

Thanks to the fabulous minds behind Cirque du Soleil's newest big top show Amaluna that stereotype is put to rest as a 70% female cast (a first in Cirque's 30-year history), along with an all-female band, come together to showcase the strength and beauty that femininity has to offer.

I was invited to a performance of Amaluna at The National Harbor in Maryland and was given tickets for three guests. In the spirit of celebrating women, I chose to bring my stepdaughter, daughter-in-law, and a dear female friend, all of whom were just as enthralled and empowered by the show as I was.

#CirqueSelfie with my powerfully female guests!

Amaluna is a tribute to the work and voice of women”, explains Director of Creation Fernand Rainville. “The show is a reflection on balance from a women’s perspective."

Director Diane Paulus, winner of a 2013 Tony Award (Pippin) says, “I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show. I wanted to create a show with women at the center of it, something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.”

Paulus drew from a series of classical influences when creating the concept of the show; including tales from Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Here is the show's official description:

Amaluna invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next. 
In the wake of a storm caused by Prospera, a group of young men lands on the island, triggering an epic, emotional story of love between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor. But theirs is a love that will be put to the test. The couple must face numerous demanding trials and overcome daunting setbacks before they can achieve mutual trust, faith and harmony. 
Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, which refers to “mother” in many languages, and luna, which means “moon”; a symbol of femininity that evokes both the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of goddess and protector of the planet. Amaluna is also the name of the mysterious island where this magical story unfolds.

Prospera and Miranda are the main female characters, along with The Moon Goddess who proves that confidence and strength can be alluringly feminine.

Prospera delivers a commanding, confident performance while Miranda is curious, energetic and mischievous.

Miranda's life-long friend, half-lizard, half-human Cali, opens the show by coyly interacting with the audience, immediately inviting them to enter the world of Amaluna. Spectacular peacocks and fanciful fairies are just a few of the other wondrous creatures that inhabit the island.

Cali is in love with Miranda while she views him as merely a pet. This unrequited love triggers Cali's jealousy, especially when Miranda becomes enthralled with the dashing Prince Romeo.

Romeo's manservant Jeeves and Miranda's childhood nurse Deeds, both clowns, provide comic relief in between acts and their adorable romance becomes a sweet story in and of itself.

The music performed live by the all-female band during the show has an edgy, hard rock feel as opposed to Cirque's usual soft and ethereal soundtrack. The bands' spiked hair and electric guitars blended perfectly with the theme of female power.

The acts were as mesmerizing as I had heard they would be (this was my first Cirque show ever), with my favorite being "Cerceau and Waterbowl" in which Miranda performs a challenging hand-balancing routine and dives in and out of the Waterbowl, all while Prince Romeo watches and eventually joins her to frolic and kiss for the first time in the water.

"Chinese Pole" and "Manipulation" were also my favorites as I joined the crowd in disbelieving stares and jaw-dropping awe over the mind-blowing feats pulled off by the artists.

The costumes worn by the band and artists were just as captivating and also added to the wonder of feminine empowerment and beauty.

The costume and the artist are inseparable in costume designer Mérédith Caron's mind. "One calls out to the other," she says. "It's a communion, a symbiotic relationship. But above all, it is the artist that I dress."

For example, Miranda wears linen, cambric and distressed velvet that is highly reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance and conveys Miranda's enthusiasm and thirst for discovery.

Take a look at the detail that goes into the peacock costumes alone for an understanding of how magnificent and intricate Amaluna's wardrobe really is:

The peacock costumes are made up of 14 layers of heat- pleated materials trimmed in leather and stretch metallic fabric. The tails open out to a “fan” of eight feet with hydraulic pistons that compensate for their weight. Made in the same proportion to the performers’ bodies as the bird’s fans have to theirs, the tails are attached to the artists with belts that hide the mechanisms under embroidered feathers. The skeleton and leaves of the fans are made of the same Fiberglass material used in the manufacture of fishing rods, and screen-printed metallic paper is glued to the leaves to recreate the iridescent look of peacock plumage.

We were able to stay after the show for a question and answer session with Amaluna's publicist Rowenna Dunn and Head of Wardrobe Larry Edwards where we learned fun and interesting behind the scenes facts about #CirqueLife.

I was mostly interested in hearing about the costumes so I was thrilled that Edwards was part of the Q&A session! I was fascinated to learn that more than 180 costumes are used in Amaluna and are made up of nearly 1,000 different items. 120 hours per week are spent on laundry alone!

Another fun fact: The Water-bowl which plays such a vital role in the story is 5’5” tall, 7’3” in diameter, and weighs 5,500 lbs when filled with water.

Take a look at this sneak peek of Amaluna to see for yourself how the costumes, actsstoryline, characters, set design and more, all come together to tell a mesmerizing tale:

Trust me when I say that no photographs or videos can come close to the wonder of experiencing the show live. As cliche as it sounds, I seriously had chills during many of the performances and I expressed my feelings about wanting to be just like the enchanting and alluring artists in this tweet:

Would you like a chance to see the beauty of Amaluna in person for free? And would you like to bring THREE guests with you at no cost as well?
Cirque was kind enough to offer readers of So a Blonde Walks Into a Review a chance to win FOUR tickets to the August 28 Amaluna show at The National Harbor at 8 pm! One lucky winner will be selected at random to win all four tickets!

Please only enter this giveaway if you are able to attend the August 28 performance at 8pm! 

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling us why you'd love to win, then follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below to complete your entry (If you are having trouble commenting, go ahead and mark that entry method as complete on Rafflecopter. It was brought to my attention that Blogger's comment section is acting up, thus that step is no longer mandatory. Thank you for your understanding!) Bonus entry methods are available as shown on Rafflecopter.

This giveaway ends at 12 am EST on August 26, 2014. Winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If no response is received, the prize will be forfeited and offered to another randomly selected winner to ensure that the tickets will be used due to the short turnaround of this giveaway.

By entering, you automatically agree to all of the rules and disclaimers listed here. Please also see my disclosure policy here. Good luck!

If you can't wait to see if you are a winner or if you're unable to make the August 28 performance, click here to purchase tickets for a date and time of your choosing. (Don't miss the Family Four Pack deal before it's gone!) Check out upcoming cities that Amaluna will be touring at here.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Behind the Seam Designer Jeans Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary pair of Behind the Seam Designer Jeans to facilitate this review. As always, opinions stated are mine and are never influenced by comp products, tickets or services.

How many of my readers remember the fabulous movie, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? It's one of my favorite movies of all time! How fabulous would it be to share a pair of jeans with your best girlfriends as well as the memories created while wearing them?

That is the concept behind a super cool new company I discovered on Twitter called Behind the Seam Designer Jeans. Owner and creator Natalie Alberti Salamone collects gently used designer jeans and resells them at an affordable price. The bonus is that each pair comes with a story of a special memory that happened to the previous owner while wearing the jeans.

"Ever since I was a young girl, I have loved fashion and, in particular, the look, feel and quality of good designer jeans," Natalie says. "But high-end jeans are far too expensive for most of our budgets. As I began to do some online research, I found I could locate lightly worn jeans from various sources and offer them for resale."

The stories that come with the jeans have added a fun dimension to the new venture and helps connect women to a common sisterhood.

"Each story is a creative narrative based on true facts (told to me by the original owner) about something interesting or exciting that happened to them while wearing the jeans," says Natalie. "Our jeans have traveled all over the country and come with cool stories, so if you believe in karma, our jeans are for you!"

The brands, which include 7 For All Mankind, Vigoss, Antik Denim, Citizens of Humanity, and Lucky Brand among others, range in price from $40 to $65, about 70% less than original retail prices.

Natalie was kind enough to send me a pair of jeans to review for this article and I have to say, the story behind my new 575's was definitely meant for me!

As someone who has been dealing with chronic pain and illness, being encouraged to believe in my dreams and to realize that anything is possible is something I desperately needed to be reminded of. I don't believe it was a coincidence that these jeans and the story behind them ended up in my hands.

I love the look and feel of the jeans just as much as I love the story, too! Distressed, dark denim is my favorite style...perfect for dressing up or down!

You can check out all of the  current jeans in stock, as well as their stories, here (click photos to display more selections in each style shown). Be sure to check back often as inventory changes frequently.

Natalie also hosts "Trunk Shows for a Cause" to benefit charity and is starting a new program called "The Great Jean Makeover- Inspiring and Empowering Teenage Girls."

Once a month, the program will allow a teenage girl to receive a pair of designer jeans as well as a makeover that teaches appropriate make-up application, and a headshot from a professional photographer. The program is part of Natalie's goal to empower young women.

Behind the Seam Designer Jeans' mission statement is: empower and inspire women of all ages, religions, socioeconomic background, and races by allowing them to make connections with other women across the country through their shared stories of their beloved jeans.

In addition to purchasing online or via trunk show, Behind the Seam Designer Jeans can also be found at these retail stores.

Want a chance to win a pair of your own Behind the Seam Designer Jeans? Post a comment in the comment section below telling us your favorite style of jeans (skinny, boot cut, etc.), then follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below to complete your entry. Other bonus entry actions can be found in the Rafflecopter widget.

Entry deadline is 12:00 am EST on Sunday, August 24, 2014. By entering, you automatically agree to all of the rules and disclaimers listed here. Please also see my disclosure policy here. Good luck!

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