This week’s something new is called Ballet – Live! Versus watching it on TV while growing up. In this case it was Don Quixote with the American Ballet Theater at the Kennedy Center. (Of course, the irony is that one is not allowed to take photos during the performance, so you are going to have to imagine the live performance, or go to the website for still photos.)
Up until now I had watched short snippets of ballet on TV before with my mom – The Red Shoes, and Swan Lake are two that come to mind. And I’ve been to a lot of plays and Broadway musicals. But was a full three hours of ballet – in a story from start to finish – live – what I expected? Mostly.
Words to describe the experience: pleasant, mellow, very beautiful, impressive, repetitive, eye candy, and costume envy.
Words that don’t apply: thrilling or mesmerizing, whohoo, transporting.
First, to state the obvious: don’t go to a ballet with less than six hours of sleep. Especially if it was at friend’s suggestion, and this friend danced ballet until she was 15 years old, and really loved ballet. Even though I liked most of it, I would yawn, apologize, yawn, apologize. But I am glad I went with Carmen, not just for the ballet, but because she could explain some of the tradition about it. For instance, how often the music is usually created first, and then the dance, and that’s why often the dance steps repeat (they did – almost always each set of steps was done twice). About how traditional ballet usually starts off with the introductory sequences (and I would say also ‘sets up the romance’), then there’s usually drama in the second act, and then in the third act, things are solved, and celebrations end the ballet. And how different American audiences act during the ballet – applauding after certain dance steps – which is not done in Europe or Russia, and how it takes new ballerinas from foreign countries off guard at first. Very handy information!
So Carmen and I sat in the Orchestra section, as this was my first ballet after all – and I anticipated when I bought my tickets that it would be my last ballet as well, so we wanted good seats. Warning – tickets are not cheaper on Sunday matinees!
So overall, did I like it? Yes – the scenery was absolutely amazingly beautiful, as were the costumes (except Don Quixote’s hair! ugh). And some of the dancing, especially by the dancer Ivan Vasiliev (playing Basilio) was incredible. But I got bored during the introductory or final sections, where the plot was only for key dancers to dance to show their joy, and for the entire cast to stand and watch them dance (except the very acrobatic or synchronized sections were worth watching.) After a while, I realized I preferred dancing that told a story, such as the initial courtship by Basilio of Kitri, or the dryad approaching Don Quixote in the dream sequence. Otherwise, I wasn’t really transported into the plot. (Carmen adds here that Don Quixote, this version anyway, had less of a plot than she expected, and not to judge all ballets on this one. :-). )
It felt like watching ballet dancers in costume standing around to show their skill – which was often wonderful, but not enough to entice me to come back, I’m afraid. Carmen says that I should try modern ballet now for comparison. Maybe this fall? Next week, I have something the total opposite of ballerinas to watch – roller derby.
Man, I can see how one would want to become a ballerina though – those dresses were to die for.