Ballet Des Moines, Parenting in a Pandemic, Fall Squash Salad
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September 15, 2020  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
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Des Moines Ballet hopes these costumes will inspire the community to mask up themselves. Jami Milne, the company's creative director, designed and photographed the masks, here shown on dancers Bobbie Lynn Kandravi and Logan Hillman.


Writer: Allaire Nuss

Ballet companies across the country have canceled their upcoming seasons because of the pandemic, but Ballet Des Moines has decided to move forward in an unconventional way.

The 2020-2021 season, aptly titled “Resilience,” will feature three full-length productions produced and distributed through a partnership between Ballet Des Moines and Iowa PBS. The performances will be recorded and distributed online without a paywall; the broadcast dates have not been set yet.

Perhaps most notable is the incorporation of beautiful, intricate masks worn by dancers during performances. “The masks were developed with that resiliency in mind, creating beauty and inspiration during a pandemic and keeping the arts and artists alive,” says Jami Milne, the company's creative director.

Milne designed the masks herself, with the goal of keeping dancers safe while adding a visually stunning feature. “We as artists want to convey the importance of putting that mask on,” Milne says. “The sooner people mask up, the sooner we can imagine being able to perform on a stage again.”

Six dancers will take the (virtual) stage this year: three returning artists and three new performers. The works featured in the season's programs will include, among others, a world premiere by guest choreographer Ryan Nye, ballet master with the Oklahoma City Ballet; "Fly Me to the Moon," a collaboration with Max Wellman and the Des Moines Big Band highlighting the music of Frank Sinatra;  "Padam Padam," with choreography by Serkan Usta, Ballet Des Moines' artistic director; and a world premiere production of "Peter and the Wolf" in collaboration with the Belin Quartet.

The dancers have taken precautions to ensure their involvement in the upcoming season; the ballet company's safety measures include closed-door rehearsals and no outside visitors. “This is their profession and their livelihood, so the dancers take this very seriously,” Milne says. “[The dancers are] always masking up when they’re not in the studio, limiting exposure in every way possible.

“Art feels like a sense of survival,” Milne adds. “It’s a way that we escape, it’s a way that we cope, it’s a way we come together and celebrate. I think it’s been so easy to take things like that for granted when there’s never a threat that they will disappear.”

Learn more about Ballet Des Moines' 2020-2021 season here.
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    Deidre DeJear, who has appeared on past dsm Lifting the Veil panels, will lead upcoming discussions about how the pandemic has affected the mental health of Iowans and tips for coping. Photo: Deidre DeJear


    Last May, dsm magazine hosted a series of six panel discussions called "Lifting the Veil: Life Interrupted by COVID-19," highlighting how the pandemic has affected the mental health of various populations. As life continues to be disrupted, we decided to bring these conversations back this fall, beginning with "Parenting in a Pandemic" Oct. 15 at noon. The other two topics are employers (Oct. 29) and diversity (Nov. 19).

    Local business leader Deidre DeJear will lead the discussion about how parents can cope during the pandemic while children are learning virtually or in person with masks. Find more information, including how to register, here.

    Also for your calendar: Next week, dsm will host our annual Sages Over 70 virtually. The event starts at noon on Sept. 23, and registration is free. More information is on our website.
    Jenny Quiner, a local gardener who supplies local restaurants, recommends cranking up the heat when cooking squash, enhancing the flavor and sweetness.


    Writer: Karla Walsh

    The idea of feeding her community has been growing on Jenny Quiner since the spring of 2016, when she planted her first seed at Dogpatch Urban Gardens (DUG).

    “The ability to watch a seed develop into something you harvest after weeks to months of nurturing the land is such an amazing experience,” she says. “I also love being able to provide my community with food that’s grown using agricultural practices that sustain and also regenerate the land.”

    In addition to tending to her prolific gardens, supplying local restaurants, managing an on-premises farm stand and helping with family duties, Quiner enjoys cooking and feeding family and friends—especially during late fall.

    “This is the time when greens are abundant and beautiful. Summer crops like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are on their last leg yet still delicious, and roots like carrots, beets and radishes are also abundant,” she says.

    Whether she’s hosting or attending a group meal, “you can place money on me including a salad,” Qunier says, such as this one that includes one of her new favorite crops: honeynut squash. This sturdy squash is like a petite butternut with more concentrated flavor and natural sweetness.

    Find the recipe from our September issue here.
    Max Wellman has helped Noce adjust to both in-person and online shows during the pandemic.


    Musicians can acclimate to almost any performance situation. That's how Max Wellman, co-owner and general manager of Noce, described the feeling of playing to no in-person audience early in the pandemic, when he hosted weekly shows on Facebook. That change-on-the-fly mindset has also come in handy these past several months, as adapting quickly has become the norm for local music venues since mid-March.

    "Things were moving very, very quickly," Wellman said about March on the latest dsm CultureCast podcast. "We had full houses the whole last week of operations. ... It was not lost on me or anyone on staff that weekend that we might be seeing something very different even in the next week. It was half a business strategy and halfway finding something to do with idle hands in the emergency to switch the venue over to a studio model."

    Just a few weeks ago, Noce almost had to pivot again. Gov. Kim Reynolds closed down bars in several Iowa counties, including Polk, because of rising COVID-19 cases. But that didn't affect Noce, which has always operated as a "venue that has a bar, not the other way around," Wellman said. Because of that, the jazz club is still hosting live shows, albeit in a safe and socially distant fashion, in person and online.

    "We were able to live a little bit in this gray space ... since most of our revenue comes from ticket sales and rentals," Wellman said. "It's definitely a relief that we are able to continue our reopening plan because we have been on this ramp-up since the beginning of July."

    Wellman added the pandemic has allowed Noce to solidify its position on a nationwide scale, which likely wouldn't be possible if the club didn't switch to a virtual model as quickly as it did.

    "A lot of people have been able to tune in to these digital shows, and they weren't able to see Noce or really experience the programming prior to this," Wellman said. "It is neat to have that kind of digital exposure we didn't have before."

    You can listen to the full episode here. You can subscribe to find more interviews like this at Apple Podcast, Google Play Music, Spotify and more.
    Penguins at Blank Park Zoo are one of the many animals that will benefit from the organization's fundraising event this weekend. Photo: Blank Park Zoo.


    Two local organizations are holding events to raise money in support of caring for and protecting animals.

    Blank Park Zoo is hosting its first-ever Walk to Save Animals at 10 a.m. Saturday (check-in is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.). The event features a walking loop around the zoo to raise money for the nonprofit organization's mission, which is "to inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, research and recreation." Registration, which is $15 for adults and $10 for children and members, includes a T-shirt, a light breakfast and complimentary admission into the zoo until 5 p.m.

    You can also help domestic animals at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa's Dog Jog, which extends throughout the weekend. The event is virtual this year, which means participants can walk, run or bike with their pets on their favorite trails throughout Greater Des Moines. On Sunday, you can tune in on Facebook live for a pet parade celebrating the top fundraising teams. Register as a group and set a fundraising goal, or register as an individual for $30.

      The exterior of Des Moines Art Center's Richard Meier Building will be lit up with images at 8 p.m. on Sept. 24. Photo: Des Moines Art Center.


      You might have to stop and stare—safely, of course—when driving by the Des Moines Art Center on Sept. 24. From 8 to 10 p.m., the exterior of the building will be lit up with images of works from the Art Center's permanent collection and creations from previous art access programs.

      The free event is in advance of the organization's annual fundraising gala, "Invest, Illuminate, Impact," which we covered in a recent dsmWeekly.
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