Last night, I went to see the State Ballet of Georgia (the country) perform 'Don Quixote'. Normally I shy away from the full-evening classical ballets, but the main draw last night was Nina Ananiashvili, one of the most prominent ballerinas of my time. I remember seeing her on posters and the covers of Dance Magazine when I was younger, and was excited to see such a legend. However, in my excitement (the ticket was also free... ah, the perks of PR) I forgot to do the math. She was already a very well known 'veteran' ballerina when I was getting serious in to this stuff in middle school...
So she's 43. She also has had an incredibly busy, brutal, physically taxing career. Granted, she also has a body well suited to the form (I'm sure she has a faster metabolism and less arthritis and cartilage damage than I do at my tender, ex-dancer age). But something was clearly wrong with her. Clearly, clearly, seriously wrong. We couldn't tell if it was her back, or a hip, but one leg seemed to not function so well. Furthermore, the corps de ballet was messy and soloists were falling left and right. I wanted to leave at the first intermission.
It all made me think, as I watched 18-year-old men in tights fumble with tamborines, that most people don't know when they've passed their prime. Or do they? It's like seeing people show up to interviews in suits that are 10 years old in both style and size, or the boss who refuses to realize he/she has lost control of his/her employees, or how Elvis thinks he can still jump up on my bed despite failing knees and ends up wiping out on the floor. And Nina Ananiashvili, bringing a huge ballet company and orchestra on a world tour for a gratuitous show of pantomime and pirouettes. Are they just oblivious, or do they know perfectly well what's going on?
I think Nina knows. Those legs don't go up as high as they used to, but gosh darn it she's going to do that Grand Pas de Deux in the third act with the faaaabulous music. While still impossibly thin, she's gone a bit doughy around the middle, but you bet your bottom she owns that incredibly sparkly scarlet velvet tutu. And despite shaky landings and marked jumps, she killed in the finale fouette`s, whipping off 'single single single double' for the first sixteen of the thirty-two. What's most important here is that the crowd ate it up. Standing ovation, applause every time the music paused, hoots and hollers, and plenty of people there just for her.
Was I impressed with the company? Not really. Have I changed my mind about story ballets? Certainly not (whoever thought villagers, tutus, bad pantomime, and erroneous characters made a good entertainment mix was crazy). Do I love going to the Auditorium Theatre to people-and-fur watch? Of course! But what I'm not decided on is whether or not old legends should give it up when they're not at their peak anymore. Any thoughts?
(side note, I remember now that Brett Favre has retired this week. We saw him through some incredible years, and a truly bad year, and then this last year was pretty darn good. Should he have retired sooner? Or kept going until he looked like a geriatric Brian Griese?)