On ballet and frocks

Having coffee with a friend one Friday morning, I found that her family wouldn’t go to the ballet with her, and my family wouldn’t come to the opera with me (Mr Strange Land would, but he’s going to be away when the opera I want to see is on). So we formed a ballet and opera pact. I would go to the ballet with her, and she would come to the opera with me. This turns out to be no great hardship at all: we both love ballet, and she is very knowledgeable about it, and we both love opera, in my case, for entirely shallow reasons.

We fulfilled the first part of the pact last Friday night, and went to see The Silver Rose, performed by the Australian Ballet. I loved it, mostly.

Some good bits first. The sets were stunning, and the costumes magnificent. This was ballet as spectacle, and I was totally engaged by the performance. There was some exquisite dancing. Robyn Hendricks danced the part of Sophie, and there were times when she seemed to rest on the air, which was dense beneath her. The opening sequence of an older woman confronted by mirrors was compelling, and the pas de deux at the end of the first act, danced by Kirsty Martin and Rudy Hawkes was very, very beautiful, as was the final dance by all three at the very end of the ballet. Martin as the Marschallin was wonderful: she conveyed the elegance and wisdom and sadness of an older woman having the courage to send her much younger lover away with every move. Somehow she managed to make herself look tense, and strained, and brittle, all in fabulous, flowing dance. The very last image of the ballet with the Marschallin walking very very slowly away had me holding my breath with the tension, and the beauty.

But there were some bits that jarred. Not so much with the dancing, ‘though I felt as though Hawkes didn’t quite have the microsecond of pause at the top of his leaps that make a dancer seem to float. He may have been saving energy for the fight scene, which was magnificent. One set of costumes was a little odd: my friend remarked that the greatcoats worn by the Baron’s henchmen made her think of Nazis, rather than just bully boys. Perhaps ordinary old henchmen suits would have been better, ‘though they wouldn’t have had the same fabulous flow.

There was some interesting staging in the love scene: some of it was danced on a huge bed. The dancers lay down on the bed, which was then tilted up to about a 60o angle with some whirring machinery, so that they could move back and forth on the bed, with the aid of what I suppose was a small hidden ledge somewhere towards the base of the bed. Once was interesting, but when it happened a second time, I couldn’t help but think of the sex education scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

At the end of the first sequence, danced in front of a gauzy curtain, instead of the curtain being pulled aside, it dropped to the floor, creating a billowing mass for the dancers to walk over. But it couldn’t stay there, so by some means, it was attached to something under the bed, and then the bed went schlurpy schlurpy schlurpy and sucked it all up. Most distracting, and odd. I think it would have been better to have some dancers in white act as stage hands for a moment, and simply gather it up and take it up. Sometimes obvious stage hands are a better solution than clever devices.

In the final act, three gorgeous wee children were on stage, intially playing, but then, hidden in a chest. For a long time. In the dark. I know my children would have hated it. I wanted to stand up and say, “Won’t someone think of the children!” I was quite worried about them. Yes, it was all very dramatic, but worrying.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful ballet and a very enjoyable night out. And I saw a dress that I want.

I can’t find an image on-line to link to: this is a shot of the programme that I took myself.

The dress seemed to be made of velvet that shimmered gold along the edges under the stage lights, with a silk lining. The skirt was a full circle, and it draped beautifully. Actually, I’m sure that I need this dress. Perhaps not in orange for me, but a purple would do.

Megan, this post is for you.


2 responses to “On ballet and frocks

  1. Two weeks ago I had a backstage tour of the Dowse Art Gallery which is providing a home for many of the retired costumes of the New Zealand Ballet. Some of the fabrics they used were authentic and very expensive, and I imagine the Australian Ballet is no less lush with their purchasing so that that is possibly a real panne silk velvet you are admiring there. (It is gorgeous, I agree).
    Incidentally the NZ Ballet has a backstage open day once a year or so and you can admire their wardrobe up close and personal, they told us. Something to look forward to when you return.

  2. Pingback: Friday Frock: Deborah « Craft is the New Black