Thursday, 4 November 2010

An Ottawan October full moon

Another full moon in Taurus in Ottawa. This October evening found us scurrying down the dark street toward the bus stop, the impossibly round orb peering at us between the houses.

The National Ballet of Canada was performing a rarity in Ottawa: a mixed programme which, to tell the truth, I prefer to the full-length ballets that usually visit The Nation's Capital, having grown up with the smaller stages of Victoria. My short attention span could be a factor as well.

I had decided to dress up a little for once, donning a long black linen jumper and by the time I'd worked out the accessories --- I looked exactly like a dour church lady. The Resident Fan Boy was amused to note I'd tried to offset the effect with a pewter Unitarian pendant, but a church lady is a church lady, regardless of denomination. (Unitarian church ladies look marginally more hippyish.) Ah well. I'm too fond of my bodily comfort to attempt something flashier.

We have the three front seats of a six-seat loge for this particular subscription. This evening, there was a couple and a single lady seated behind us. The couple decided to make a break for the empty loge ahead of us as the lights went down, a risky move, as we know Torontonian balletomanes never make a move for the better seats until after the second intermission. Why became clear when a family of six showed up to claim their loge. Sneaky couple apologetically slipped back into our loge where single lady had to slide back to her less desirable seat.

This little dance was going on during the opening moments of Serenade. The National Ballet of Canada started sort of specializing in Balanchine in the eighties, carefully preserving every nuance of the choreography. I think I've said this before, but I always feel a bit aggrieved when watching a Balanchine ballet because I can't help but hold him personally responsible for the prevalence of anorexia in the dance world. This may be massively unfair, but it seems from film footage that short plump ballerinas were the norm pre-Balanchine, who preferred an idealized long leggy uniform look in his women dancers, making the New York City Ballet the classy equivalent of the Rockettes. Serenade, one of his best known works, is glorious, abstract precision with only a hint of a story. It's a series of beautiful tableaux that depend heavily on the dancers having the same proportions. I have a feeling old George would have complained about the bouncing boobs of a couple of the better endowed dancers which was quite evident in those linked bourrées of which GB was so fond.

Still, it was difficult stuff impeccably performed. The only bobble (aside from the breasts) occurred when one of the leads sprawls gracefully, loosening her hair with a deft movement. This poor lass spent several seconds trying to unobtrusively free her very thick and springy hair from its bun while lying on her side as two others danced and posed around her.

I've seen this ballet many times, but was struck this time by how modern Tchaikovsky sounds in this piece, premonitions of Copland.

During the ballet, younger daughter was stimming somewhat, taking her hairband on and off, leaning into the railing of the loge. Normally we have a four-person loge, so if this happens, I don't worry so much, but I was very aware of the people behind us, especially after their break for freedom. Meanwhile, the four young preteens-to-teenagers in the loge ahead were providing a distraction for the Resident Fan Boy, who reported that the youngest boy, who might have been eleven, was working hard at blocking his brothers' view and, as it happened, the RFB's line of vision as well.

The RFB observed that the boys' interest was piqued considerably during the next ballet, a very modern piece set to Chopin's 24 Preludes by Marie Chouinard, a Québecoise with an Order of Canada. (That's Canada's equivalent of an Order of the British Empire, for you non-Canucks.) I, for one, would like to see the National Ballet's waxing bill. The costumes consisted of black see-through body stockings (for the girls) and dance belts (for the boys) with duct tape strategically set over the naughty bits. Among other things, it made the dancers appear to have enormous cracks.

The piece was sort of Degrassi High meets Mad Max. Towards the end, younger daughter gave audible groans as each new prelude began. I don't blame her, really. It was beautifully danced and the choreography was intriguing, especially juxtaposed to the civilized sounds of Chopin, but still, it was forty-five long minutes.

The evening ended with Crystal Pite's Emergence. I happen to know two of her cousins (Victoria's like that), and I've always rather enjoyed her stuff. The Resident Fan Boy watched as the body language of young boys ahead got extremely agitated. Two of the lead female dancers wore diaphanous tops with no duct tape.

As with the previous ballet, I'd purposefully not read the synopsis, just to see what I'd pick up.
"So," said the Resident Fan Boy as we applauded. "What was that about?"
"Insects," I responded promptly. I was right. Bees, apparently. According to the programme, Pite thinks bee colonies and dance companies are similar as they seem to operate in a egalitarian fashion, but are strictly based on hierarchy. Personally, I wonder how anyone could possibly mistake a ballet company for an equal opportunity enterprise. It's all about hierarchy.

Off into the special Hades that is Ottawa on a Saturday night. Younger daughter hesitated a fraction of a second before boarding a crowded bus at 11 pm and a young blond teetering in a miniskirt and stilettos shrieked at her: "Come on, come on! Make it snappy!" The bus driver (whose ear she was teetering beside) looked up at her in appalled wonder.
"She really needs to pee," explained her equally blond, mini-skirted and high-heeled companion, semi-apologetically. They and the horde of tipsy students in their company alighted (okay, descended heavily) at the Rideau Centre, and the driver, as if fearful he'd pick up more, lead-footed the bus through Lowertown past the cruising paddy wagons.

Full moons. Gotta love 'em...

1 comment:

SOL's view said...

Now that does indeed sounds like a very entertaining evening. Ballet. Followed by crazed students. Wonderful. :D