EPS Review #98 - Highland Fling

banana slug I went with Patricia to the ballet last night. Often she used to go to Sadler's Wells when I was working at Goldman, and I would walk over to pick her up when the show finished -- never to watch the show myself. I had not lived down the time in New York when I walked out of a ballet to wait it out in a bar. It was that or die of boredom. But Patricia kept saying how clever the ballets here were, and how sexy the dancers. Finally I said I would see a production by Matthew Bourne (famous for his all-male Swan Lake): Highland Fling.

I wasn't much in the mood on the evening. I spent the day in grey and drizzly London, and though the hours that I spent in the Japan Society Library were fun (even if the library is about as big as a bedroom), I was pretty tired by evening. Even the sight of happy women dressed up for a night out, and guzzling white wine did not perk me up. Luckily we had seats in row A (£38 each), with a great view. The first act starts in the male and female urinals of some pub, and I was somewhat annoyed that the ladies room was on the other side of the stage, because the ballerinas did reward close inspection after all. But I found a weird thing happening -- there was not time to ogle, because I would miss funny parts and yes, even interesting dancing. The scene develops into the next morning at the lads' apartment, where they lie around in their underwear and plaids and wash down aspirin with stale beer. The male lead, James, is supposed to marry one woman, to the jealousy of another (a pretty Chinese with bare midriff). But some sort of sprite keeps appearing and distracting the man. She is wearing a dirty white dress, and scary face makeup. I could not decide if she was supposed to be the ghost of some earlier love that he had wronged, or just an evil sprite. At intermission, which came quickly, I asked the chatty ladies behind us, and they said: evil sprite.

I got up to stretch, and saw that the music in the orchestra pit was titled La Sylphide. I remarked as much to Patricia, who said "Duh! It is La Sylphide, silly!" I was watching classical ballet! (Well, romantic, if you follow and read that link).

The second half was more like classical ballet. It was in the land of the Sylphs and everyone was dressed in white, though not quite in the uniform tutus that so badly make you want to machine-gun down the dancers. But close. And it was harder to get a good look at them. But it was still funny: there were hand-puppets (huh?), and the sylphs get a bit grabby and James complains. I guess he wants Sylphie, whom he loves, to be more like a human, and she agrees, packing up a funny white travel valise. He exits with some pruning shears, and cuts off her wings offstage. I surprised myself by emitting a loud dry sob (I am such a wuss) when she comes back onstage with a very bloody back, dancing and slowly dying. James then gets ensylphulated and hovers hopelessly outside the window of his former fiancée, now married to someone else.

I have to admit it was fantastic, even though at times I wished they were singing as well. So now I guess I have to say that I like ballet, or at least some of it. It will be our secret.

Brian wrote: Funniest dance review I ever read. Dance is dying for the reasons which have previously kept you away.

Sean wrote: Hehe. This is most apposite. Just yesterday I bought tickets to this ...starting cuban ballet superstar Carlos Acosta. I've always wanted to go see Rite of Spring too.

My mother wrote: Sounds like a great evening.......but I had no idea that you could not stand classical ballet. And I had no idea that tutus had that effect on you.....you do not take after your mother in that regard! I had a passion for the ballet ever since I was a little girl.......did a major paper at school on Robert Helpman and Tales of Hoffman when I was about 16. He was the choreographer....But, in truth, I love all dance..... Well, if I ever come to visit you in the winter, I will try to give enough advance notice so that I could join you at one of these events.

Madeleine wrote: Wish I could of been there. Sounds divine, too bad I missed the all-male Swan Lake!

Ryan wrote: "Ensylphylated" is a word I shall endeavor to use at some point in some context...

Jan wrote: I like your excursion into performance reviews!

Michael wrote: I once said to Fischer Black that I thought Ballet was boring. He just grinned and said that I was wrong. It just has to do with what meta-level you are watching it...