John, I’m Only Dancing…

You may recall I wrote about my first visit to the ballet and how I was planning to return. What’s that you say? You don’t recall? Well, I suggest you go catch up, I’ll wait for you.

I found out that Birmingham Royal Ballet were bringing their production of The Sleeping Beauty to London and as luck would have it, I was able to see it on opening night, the day before I was due to fly out to Kiev.  Well, Icelandic volcano ash put paid to the trip to Kiev but my trip to the ENO went ahead :)

I should actually mention that between the November 2009 and April 2010 I did manage get along to the Peacock Theatre to watch Blaze. Sleeping Beauty this was not.  If however you like street dance (what people my generation would probably call break dancing) then you’d have enjoyed it.  There was one really cringe-worthy scene where they try and do some weird rap about how it’s cool to be fat just eat vegetables and meat in sensible doses.  No, it was worse than I’m describing it, it was terrible. But, that was the only low and as lows go it wasn’t that bad.

A few years ago I enquired about the times of the street dance lessons at a local gym which holds classes and getting told in almost hushed tones that I should realise that I’d probably be the only guy in the class and everyone else would be aged 18-25…I think she was trying to discourage me, it worked and in a way I’m glad because after witnessing the mooves that were being busted during Blaze, I could see my creaky old bones would never keep up…

So, Sleeping Beauty. Well, well, well. I was initially a little intimidated.  Sadler’s Well was an airy, relaxed venue but the Coliseum heaves and throbs when full, as it was the night I went. I almost thought my fears were coming true when just as the lights dimmed and some people were heard to chatter for perhaps 5 or 6 seconds before others loudly Shhhhd their disapproval to the chatter until for a second or two the loudest noise was from the cacophony of Shhhs being Shhhhd! When quiet resumed I settled back to watch and listen.

Now, as a complete ignoramus when it comes to ballet and dance in general, I can only gauge something as good if it looks good to my untrained eye.  I do believe that the guy who sat in front of me was one of those devoted die-hards who was either a current or ex dancer or in some way involved in dance because he got so excited by the slightest of things.  A dancer would appear, hop, skip and pirouette and he sat clapping furiously like a small child.  It was quite amusing but I didn’t really catch what it was he was seeing, or if I was, I had no way of understanding what was so exciting…it was all fantastic as far as I was concerned.  Again, as with in Blaze, the physical abilities the dancers have is amazing, even my untrained eye could see some of the moves were feats of endurance combined with grace.

One thing I would say from my limited (2 visits) experience of ballet goers is that they are friendlier than opera goers.  As I looked around the Coliseum I saw a wide age range from perhaps 6 to 80, the same venue for an opera production has an age range of perhaps 25-80 and oh so very stuffy. Whilst sitting I discovered that the 3 generations of a family in the row in front (daughter, mother and grandmother) were there courtesy of grandfather as a birthday present.  The family next to me (American husband, Thai wife and 3 teenage kids) were more than happy to extol the many delights of ballet.  When I looked again at the chiselled calves of most of the dancers I realised she was being very polite when she insisted that even I could be a ballet dancer if I really wanted to be.  All that leaping and bounding? No thank you. But still, in all my years of going to opera, people hardly ever say a word out-with their companions.  I found that interesting.

The production itself was stunning, the sets and the costumes.  I think there was only one slight slip during the whole 3hr+ show and it was a case of blink and you miss it.  I could perhaps see that if you knew what you were watching, dance wise, it would be easy to end up like the guy in front who almost seemed to wet himself with his enthusiasm.  There were a few occasions where even I felt myself starting to applaud just as others were doing the same thing for a split second I started to think there was some subliminal message being transmitted in the dance that was brainwashing the audience.  But then I reminded myself I don’t believe in Big Brother and went back to being mesmerised by the dancing and the music and the costumes and sets.

If I’m honest I barely remembered the story and quickly had to search for it in my cobweb filled head as it turned out that what I thought was Sleeping Beauty was actually Snow White minus the dwarves.  However my fears were put to rest when I found I could follow the story from the action on stage although it may be that because I was watching for the story I was missing some of the dance but what I didn’t miss was amazing enough. Have I told you how good the production was? It really was.

I went along to see the ballet with a nothing to lose attitude.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a ballet liker but I was willing to give it a go and I’m glad I did.  I found it very entertaining and quite stimulating, energising and relaxing too.  Yes, it really was good.  Of course I’ve only ever seen Birmingham Royal Ballet productions, what if it’s them I like and not ballet at all?!  I guess I’ll just have to go to another production and find out!

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