Finding Leonardo’s Muses

leoOn a trip to Milan, I visited The Last Supper, which can only be seen by appointment and in small groups. After everyone had left the room, I remained, strangely drawn to the mural on the opposite wall, the Crucifixion scene by Giovanni Montorfano. In the lower right corner, witnessing the Crucifixion, are several Dominican nuns. This caught my eye, having been educated by the Dominicans in New Orleans. Who, I wondered, was the ghostly figure kneeling in prayer, virtually nestled in the skirts of the nuns? ... Read more.

Carlos Acosta, a Gothic fantasy, and the Swans

Friends and readers, you know how I like my swan themes. Readers often ask why I chose “Leonardo’s Swans” as the title to that book. I’ve always thought it was self-explanatory. Swans, like the heroines of the book, are creatures of immense grace, dignity, and power. In certain mythologies, swans represent the soul and one’s inner radiance. Swans are also associated with transformation. Zeus turned himself into a swan to seduce the mortal queen Leda. The misfit duckling of the fairy tale transformed into a beautiful swan. In “Swan Lake,” a princess and her retinue are condemned by an evil spirit to spend their days as swans until the pure love of a prince for the princess sets them free. Even though I’m now writing a Gothic novel, I am no less enamored with the myth and meaning of swans.

The other night at a dinner party, I had the pleasure of being seated next to ballet wonder and “Swan Lake” starCarlos Acosta. I had never seen him dance, though I’d heard all the comparisons to Nureyev and Baryshnikov, and that he was by far the dancer of his generation. Genial, down-to-earth, and hilariously funny, Carlos had us in hysterics as he told us behind the scene stories and acted out trying to catch a certain ballerina who had refused to rehearse. But my jaw dropped when he told me his personal story. No coddled prodigy, he was a break-dancer from Havana whose elderly father forced him to go to ballet lessons to get him off the streets. ... Read more.