Thursday, April 10, 2008

Holy ballet, batman!

Last night my good friend Tony and I visited the art-deco perfection that is the Civic Opera House, to see American Ballet Theater perform 'Sleeping Beauty'. In all honesty, I hate story ballets, Tony had never seen a ballet, and it seemed like a good excuse to take advantage of incredible free tickets and go out for a few drinks.

The production, in all of its over-the-top glory, is quite easily the most lavish and beautiful show I have ever seen (I love the works of Paul Taylor or Mark Morris for their simplicity, and thus they are like apples to ABT's oranges). Usually, when I see dance, I am crying because I miss it so much and wish I was on stage. Last night I cried because I was able to see some of the greatest moments of ballet performed incredibly by some of the greatest athletes/artists in the world. The corps de ballet was a divine collection of individuals (not clones), the charactere roles were perfectly done, and the principal dancers absolutely took my breath away.

When I was in middle school, my ballet teacher Sergey asked us "how do you define grace?". The room of pre-teens gave verbose, dreamy descriptions having to do with beauty, style, poise, etc. Sergey replied, "Grace is to have no extra movements; grace is purity of movement and line; grace is to be without style or affectation." At that tender age, I didn't completely buy it. The most graceful people I noticed were generally in ball gowns or tutus, with as many extras and as much style piled on as possible.

Since then, I've 'gotten it'. But the idea never hit home so much as it did watching the suave (oh so sexy) Jose Manuel Carreno run through the paces as the Prince last night: it was the cleanest, most effortless, most graceful (in every sense of Sergey's definition) dancing I have ever witnessed. The dancers who wow-ed last night were the same: knife sharp, clean, effortless grace.

Tony, I believe, is now a ballet convert. He loved it, he 'got' it, he'll certainly be back. As an art history major who dabbled in design (but works in construction management... go figure), he is incredibly insightful and has a wealth of knowledge that can be tied into his analysis of the form, and it was refreshing to speak with someone who isn't so jaded with the form as I am. All in all, the evening was a splendid success and a sign that one, I'm coming out of mourning for my lost dance career, and two, ballet is coming back in a big way.

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