Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Persephone versus the twenty-first century

We're nearly ten years into the new century (yes, nearly - the century began January 1st, 2001 for those of you who can't count), and somehow, I feel I'm failing to get the hang of it.

Take last weekend. On Saturday, we went to see the Boston Ballet on its very first trip to Ottawa. This was a mixed shorts evening, unusual for Ottawa which, being The Nation's Capital, usually gets full-length ballets. This is a pity, because an evening of shorter pieces usually gives you a much better idea of the range of the company. The range of this company was considerable, featuring the usual Balanchine offering (a stage full of ballerinas with one lone male to carry them about), two modern pieces, a Fokine and a Nijinsky.

The Nijinsky was, of course, L'après-midi d'un faune with the costumes pretty well exactly the same as when Nijinsky and his lot scandalized Paris in 1912. Debussy. Dancers dancing like two dimensional figures on a Greek vase. Win.

We got another taste of post-Victorian eroticism in Le Spectre de la Rose, Michael Fokine's romantic mini-ballet of a girl returning from a ball and having a rather hot dream about the rose she's brought home. Win.

My favourite was ein von viel, actually a Canadian piece choreographed by Toronto's Sabrina Matthews, set to Bach with two male dancers “fugue-ing” along with the magnificent pianist on the stage, echoing each other’s movements, then freezing as the pianist turned the page for the next movement. The audience wanted to clap after each movement, but I sat on my hands and applauded hard at the end. I don't know if that was right, but it was how I felt. Big win.

The other modern piece was Brake the Eyes by Boston Ballet's resident choreographer Jorma Elo, really odd and rather nightmarish with Mozart and soundscapes, plus the mutterings and giggles of the lead ballerina. I couldn’t tell if her voice-track had been pre-recorded or if somehow she was miked, as the light fixtures changed with each movement, highlighting the tension and muscles of the bare legs. I thought it was pretty cool.

Twentieth century: three (even though I'm not that crazy about Balanchine)
Twenty-first century: two.

Then, on Sunday, as if to contrast with what we'd seen Saturday, we were confronted with...The Grammies...

I think I made it through the first four overwrought overproduced extravaganzas before I finally reached for the clicker.
We had Lady Gaga. ('Nuff said.)
We had Green Day with the cast of (wait for it) their Broadway show. (Hunh?)
We had Beyoncé, complete with gladiator garb; trademark cross-over runway strut, belting out one of her songs meshed with, inexplicably, Alanis Morrissette's "You Oughta Know".

Then, most baffling of all, Pink (whose lyrics are usually quite literate) stripped down to a strategically wound bandage, threaded herself in a sling, and while dangling below a circle of three spread-eagled acrobats in gold bikinis and body paint and high above the audience, turned herself into a spinning human sprinkler head in six-inch heels. Oh, for Pete's sake, Pink. Get off my lawn. What I wanna know (aside from "Why???") is how the people below felt about getting their expensive evening wear and leather jackets sploshed with what appeared to be a helluva lot of water. Also, how Pink returned to a no-doubt very wet platform and didn't fall on her butt.

Faced with a prospect of Michael Jackson and Céline Dion in 3D, country singers ripping off the Alex Parsons Project, Taylor Swift, and hip-hop and rappers, I searched for something else to watch, feeling very old.

Twenty-first century: zero.
Persephone: zero.

On the bright side, I'm getting the hang of my new iPod, finally figuring out this week how to download podcasts. It took several more days to learn how to actually get them on to my iPod, but let's just rejoice in the moment, okay? I've been listening to CBC Radio Two on the hour's return bus journey after delivering younger daughter to school. I've been rather startled to discover that I rather like what I've heard of a Somalian-Canadian rapper K'naan. This week, I was listening happily to a song of his called "Fatima" which, during the first verses, sounds like a wry ditty about a lost adolescent love:
What did the Young Man say
Before he stole you away....

As the song continues, a sadder story emerges and my heart sank. Fatima didn't go away willingly:

Persephone: one
Twenty-first century: ?

1 comment:

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

The ballet sounds great and actually far more challenging than we tend to get here in Robin Hood land. rather like your rapper as well, will investigate further!