Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ballets Russes

Friends invited us, including Erin, to the ballet this evening. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. I should go to bed but I have to find out how I liked it by writing about it. I know I liked it, but getting the impressions down asap is de rigueur. Words make it real.

I lack the vocabulary of dance, and have not seen a lot, but dance is visceral, thus offers an immediacy that does not require expertise to enjoy. Plus there's music, Prokofieff, von Weber, Stravinsky, and Debussy. I see that I am going to be turgid here, tired as I am, so this report will be quick.

I seem never to have heard of The Prodigal Son, neither music or dance. The backdrop was a lovely thick-lined painting. This might be my favourite of the 4 dances, despite overdone dramatics. A gang of dancers, referred to in the notes as Goons and by Erin as Zombies, made terrific visual effect. They came onstage in train, walking in a squatty, apish way. They landed heavily when they leaped, and were antic, vivid, and hilarious. The Siren was exquisitely en pointe. I do not really like seeing dancers do that, it seems so physically harsh, but she did it so blithely and for so long, and I even got a sense of line, postured down to the detail of her ankle. The music was melodic yet bombastic.

the 2nd act began with The Rose Whatsis (I do not have the scorecard handy). The set was stunning, a bedroom with hugely tall windows. The lighting was lovely. The music was pretty and the dance tasteful. It did not resound but pleased. This may be the ballet in which Nijinsky leaped thru a 7' high window, which I read somewhere. Maybe not 7' in reality. Here it was about 3', tho it was a neat maneuver.

Next came L'Apres-Midi d'Un Faun. I translated the poem years ago, heaven help me, tho Mallarme is a very difficult poet for the likes of me. And I like the moody moment that Debussy creates. The piece is sexual, yes, but there's a nympholeptic quality over all that seems to be the real intersection of poem, music, and dance. The audience reacted as if this was a tour de force. I did not catch it quite like that but it was great.

Finally, The Rites of Spring. Years and years ago I wrote a thing that consisted of stupid vignettes involving the Brooklyn Dodgers (I had just read Boys of Summer), written in a blend of English and rudimentary French. Title: The Rites of Spring Training. The vignettes were of the order of: Jackie Robinson said to Clem Labine, "Qui est. l'homme avec les cheveux gris. And Clem Labine replied, "Il s'appelle Duke Snider." Which I mention only because I was reminded. The curtain rises and along the back of the stage is a line of fire (gas jets, of course). Wow, rock on! Yes, this was raucous stuff in the day. My father got season tickets to the Boston Pops because a neighbour was confronted by Bolero and refused to have anything more to do with an orchestra that would play such music, and so gave my father the tickets. Music and dance, Rites was muscular and vivid. I should write more, but I am tired.
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