When I was young and anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, without hesitation and without fail I answered “A Primadonna Ballerina.” Not any old ballerina for me, oh no, I wanted to be the primadonna. [I know I was saying it wrong and it’s technically a prima ballerina, but what did my 7 year old self know? In fact, I still say primadonna] Here’s the thing though, I have never, in my entire life, taken a ballet lesson! I wasn’t even particularly much of a girlie girl either. But there you go…
Obviously then, a few months ago when I saw tickets for Swan Lake and the event happened to be 20 minutes from my house, I jumped at the chance. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t know Swan Lake and the fabulous dying scene at the end (although some people have told me they don’t, which I totally do not believe) Surprisingly (or maybe not), I wasn’t able to get anyone to say they would come with me so, obviously, I roped in my daughter. [*smile*]
So this weekend we had a very sophisticated night on the town, dressing up and going to the ballet. Very posh it was. Until we realized we had absolutely no idea what was going on… About five minutes into the first Act Hannah whispered to me “What’s happening?” and I had to admit I had no clue. Oopsie. But the dancing was pretty.
There was a short intermission and the lights came on which is when we realized that the little brochure they had given us as we entered was, in fact, a short synopsis of the story. Ahh…problem solved. That made it much easier to follow, I must say. It’s quite hard to understand that when the hero holds up a crossbow, he’s actually supposed to be shooting swans, for goodness sake. [We are so uncultured].
To add to our uncouthness I decided to take a few sneaky photographs (as you do).
All went well until it got to the end and they lived happily ever after. What?? Yes, that’s right, they lived happily ever after!! What happened to the dying swan dance, probably the most famous bit of ballet in the world??? I was gutted! What the flippin’ heck? As I grumpily walked down the stairs I heard someone a little more knowledgeable than I telling her friend that “there are two endings and the Russians always use the happy ending.” Well, I don’t care – it wasn’t a happy ending for me. [*sob*]
Let’s go to the ballet, I said, it will be fun, I said, Swan Lake is a lovely story, I said, but a bit sad at the end.
So what did I learn from my first trip to the ballet:
- You can actually hear the pointes tapping the floor as the ballerinas walk and dance, which is kind of cool;
- There's a lot of hopping in ballet (which made me think I wouldn’t be so bad at it, but it was just a quick thought);
- You cannot get drunk, or even tipsy, at the theatre. Drinks were $12 for a tiny little cup, although to be honest, that’s not technically sophisticated, is it?;
- When there’s an intermission every single person in the theatre takes out their phone and checks it!
- I think I was the only person there who hummed along to the Swan Lake theme and expected Madness to come onto the stage and perform it. [They are not well known in America for anything except Our House, which in my opinion is not one of their best]
In 1950, Konstantin Sergeyev staged a new Swan Lake for the Mariinsky Ballet (then the Kirov) after Petipa and Ivanov, but included some bits of Vaganova and Gorsky. Under the Soviet regime, the tragic ending was substituted with a happy one, so that in the Mariinsky and Bolshoi versions, Odette and Siegfried lived happily ever after.
So now you know. My sophistication level has just gone up a notch because next time I can be the knowledgeable one. Or at least try to.....
In case you now have that Madness tune in your head here's this. And if not, you will have by the time you finish listening.