At the Ballet

2010 August 15
tags: ,
by Ryan

Today marks one week in Moscow for Katie (who’s writing this). Last
night I had my first taste of Russian high culture at the ballet and
then with my first stroll through Red Square. As soon as Ryan arrived
here about 6 weeks ago, I started getting newsletters from the AECA
(The American Embassy Community Association), which, among other
things, often gets groups tickets to various events and offers them to
us for a good rate. So, I let Ryan know almost a month ago that I
wanted to see Sleeping Beauty—Tchaikovsky’s rarely performed ballet
(though the music has remained quite popular). Way back in July, I
assumed this silly Russian heat wave would have passed, and at the
time the forest fires and toxic smog were not yet an issue. At any
rate, yesterday (Saturday) was actually the clearest and coolest day
I’ve seen here—we could actually see patches of blue sky, and the
temp. only reached the high 80’s: a dramatic improvement from the high
90’s or low 100’s. Still, it had not occurred to me until we received
warnings from the Embassy that the theatre itself would not be air
conditioned. They advised taking bottled water and purchasing one of
the reasonably priced lady’s fans sold at the theatre. We did both,
and we also felt we needed some ice cream during intermission. (While
nearly everything in Moscow is exorbitantly priced, cultural events,
plastic hand fans, and ice cream sold at intermission is a DEAL).
While the heat wasn’t very pleasant, after a week of acclamation to
generally unpleasantness whenever I am outside of our apt (and
sometimes when in it), it wasn’t so bad. Especially when they turned
off the lights. The theatre itself was small with hard wood floors.
Most of the seats were on the floor level—there were several
balconies, but not much seating available in them. The crowd was on
the younger side—many folks our age…a few young mothers with their
very young daughters who were dressed in pink leotards with skirts
(yes, I was slightly jealous and wished I had such an outfit). I
believe the performing company was the Moscow Youth Ballet (or
something like that), and the dancers all looked fairly young—probably
late teens and early twenties. I’m not really sure at what age ballet
dancers typically “peak,” but I think it’s generally older than most
gymnasts or figure skaters (so long as they continue to maintain like
3% body fat). But, snob that I am, I could also tell they were not
the most skilled dancers in the world (though maybe they will be in a
few years). ( Back in college, I actually saw the real adult Moscow
Ballet Company perform Swan Lake at the Peace Center in Greenville,
SC—now that was exquisite. This was not quite that caliber.) Still,
for performing under hot lights in 88 degrees (probably 95 degrees for
them), they were pretty outstanding. The orchestra was live,
carefully hidden in a completely inconspicuous orchestra pit, and the
music was quite good. The story was—well….not as intriguing as the
Disney version (the only other one I knew to compare). I’ve found the
“plot” of a ballet becomes fairly secondary to opportunities to show
off skillz…probably 75% of the “action” involved all the various
fairies and courtiers showing off their arabesques for the king and
queen—the Prince never battled the evil Wizard (a man in this
version—not that badass Maleficent evil fairy in the Disney
version)…and Rose (or Aurora?? There was no program—not like we could
have read it anyway…) was only a sleeping beauty for about 60 seconds
of stage time before the Prince managed to find her. Whatever. It
was all very lovely, and if you go to the ballet for good story,
you’ll always be disappointed. Read a book or watch a movie for that.
Go to the ballet for lovely music, lovely dancing, and pretty sparkly
costumes. And men in ridiculous tights and other apparatus. Ryan
expressed discomfort with their “immodesty.”
I’d really like to take some ballet lessons. I’m on the lookout for
some around here. I think it would make me a better figure skater and
a generally less clumsy person. I never took dance lessons as a kid
(seeing as clogging was about the only option in our neck of the
woods), but it’s not too late, right? Ballet slippers are only $12.50
(online, anyway), and a wood floor is much easier to find than ice.
And less expensive. In fact, there is much unoccupied wooden floor
space in our apartment. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’ll get
a job one of these days—I promise. 

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