Thursday, 26 June 2008

Enabling Part Two

My second example of enabling in the arts is my fondness for ballet. Sometimes I wonder if it's the moral thing to encourage malnourished women with malformed feet to dance upon their bludgeoned toes for my pleasure. Ballet, it seems to me, is a brief career of self-torture. Mind you, this could be a definition for most careers in the arts, but I still think George Balanchine has a lot to answer for. Furthermore, we're raising another enabler in our household. After the success of the outing to see the HD film of Tales of Beatrix Potter a little over a fortnight ago, we decided to tackle an HD offering of the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty at one of our local cinemas.

I was a bit hesitant about subjecting second daughter to Sleeping Beauty, remembering it as a very long ballet with (how do I put this?) rather a lot of dancing in it. Every time someone finishes their bit, some other character makes a rolling motion above their head which is classic ballet mime for "Please dance!" (or "Were you the last person to use the bathroom?"), to which there should be the classic ballet mime equivalent for: "This is a *&%!# ballet; what do you think we've just been doing here?"

Actually, that's a neat advantage of watching a ballet in a cinema rather than live; you can see the details of the facial expressions, the costumes, and classic ballet mime. (You could see these live as well, but only if you sat close enough to be sprayed by sweat during the pirouettes.) This was a particular pleasure in seeing Genesia Rosato who played Carabosse the wicked fairy.
Oooh, I love a good character dancer. She had fiendish fun parodying the gifts the good fairies had brought, then going into loving detail about the fate awaiting Princess Aurora: "She's going to grow up and be all these lovely things, then she's going to prick her finger and DIE!" For good measure, she arrives in a kind of Harley-Davidson black coach with a bunch of black rats and wears a low cut costume not quite made decent by purple pasties.

Of course, this left stuff for the Lilac Fairy (top picture) to mop up, including a lot of mime explaining that Aurora would not die, made more difficult by the fact that the classic ballet mime gestures for "not" and "die" are rather similar, and furthermore she had to re-explain this in each act: "Okay, remember what Carabosse told you? Now watch carefully: the princess is not going to die. Get it? Not. Die. Not...." All with this rather fixed grin on her face.

Other dancers got to have a little more fun with the mime. The prince got to perform something along the lines of: "Yes, you're the one who has to play Blind Man's Buff with the Countess. That's why I'm the Prince, and you're a nobody." And the Major Domo character (named Cattalabutte, poor fella) demonstrated the difference between "king and queen" (three fingers pointing at forehead) and "princess" (two fingers pointing at forehead) as in: "Gad! Here come the King and Queen!" and "Oh, look! Here comes the jailbait princess..."

Princess Aurora, as I have intimated, is extremely young. And tiny. The dancer who plays her mother looks like a woman of typical height, until Aurora shows up with the other female dancers in tutus (granted, quite a few of them are supposed to be fairies). As a result, when the grieving queen goes to her unconscious daughter, she looks a bit like that Amazonian Madonna in Michaelangelo's Pieta. Alina Cojocaru, the Aurora in this production, is actually 27, but looks about 12. She doesn't dance like a twelve-year-old; she is undeniably a crackerjack dancer, as were all the other principals and soloists, including her dark and brooding prince Federico Bonelli.

And younger daughter? Entranced, even more so than at the Beatrix Potter ballet of two weeks before. We've bought season tickets for one of The National Arts Centre's ballet series. It includes a production of Peter Pan from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Romeo and Juliet from the National Ballet of Canada, and Giselle with lots more adventures in classical ballet mime. I fear we will be enabling throughout the coming winter...

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