If you want to get me out of my sweats and flannel shirt and away from the porn and Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls for an evening, it better be something good. Looking back over the last several months, that something good has usually been a rock and roll show (The Duke Spirit, Cheap Trick, Pretenders, Buddy Guy, The Von Ehrics, Rhett Miller, Supersuckers, Monte Montgomery, Ruthie Foster, Toadies). I’ve also ventured out for comedy or improv or the occasional play (Too Much Light, iO, Fake Lake, Hourglass and the Poisoned Pen).
But everyone once in a while I get a wild cultural hair up my ass and decide to invade the snooty inner circle of the local glitterati. I attended the symphony in Dallas once and got away with it. I accepted some tickets to Alvin Ailey another time and made it in and out of Bass Hall before they knew the tickets had been in my possession. And after reading a glowing review of a show on another blog (thanks, PaperGirl), I recently purchased tickets to the ballet. The Joffrey, no less. If ballet were rock and roll, the Joffrey might be Elvis, but not the bloated Elvis that died on the toilet. So maybe that’s not the best analogy. It doesn’t look like the company is chowing on any fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, either.
The Mrs. has recently gotten interested in dance again and even considered a ballet class. And I was intrigued with this particular ballet – in particular the fact that it caused a riot in the theater when it premiered back in 1913. Needless to say, but I’m going to say it anyway because I like to pretend I get paid by the word and also enjoy run-on sentences, this is a very non-traditional ballet and seemed to be a good way to check out a show and score some points with my low-maintenance wife who enthusiastically accepted a couple petit fours and chocolate covered strawberries as my Valentine’s Day offering.
The plot of this ballet isn’t any sappy love story and doesn’t include any fairies, sugar plum or otherwise. From what I understand it’s just the story of some wacky tribe that believes they have to sacrifice a maiden so that the sun continues to shine. Because we all know that the god of Spring is a nasty pedophile and needs his annual virgin or he’ll turn off the lights. Spoiler alert – the tribe accomplishes this sacrifice by making The Chosen One dance herself to death. Because this is set in a period well before the founding of the Joffrey Ballet, The Chosen One does not have any ballet skills and can’t even get a pair of decent ballet slippers in her village. All of this is what apparently led to the riots and caused patrons to stab each other with hatpins. Right on. I ordered my tickets, sharpened my hatpins and prepared for the show.
The Auditorium Theatre has been around for 120 years, but somehow I’ve been too busy to check it out before this show. It’s very gold. It’s as if a Cash4Gold center had been blown up by an angry customer and their entire inventory had been splattered across the walls and ceilings. But a very cool place – if you ever get a chance to see a show there don’t miss the opportunity.
We found our seats and I perused the program. Apparently I would have to sit through a few more traditional pieces before I shanked someone. First up was a ballet called Kettentanz, which loosely translates to “whale’s vagina”. I gathered from the notes that the choreographer visited Vienna, went out partying, and was inspired by all the music and dancing going on in the bars. This ballet featured six couples who performed ten dances in more combinations than you’d find in a very ambitious porno flick - guy/girl, two guys, two girls, two guys/one girl, two girls/one guy. Here’s the breakdown… when the girls were out there I could actually see the appeal of the ballet. At times their look and their spins seemed as if they were just plucked from a music box. Graceful and athletic and able to land on the toes of an outstretched foot on command. Sometimes a guy would join in and it was still pretty good as long as he stayed in the background. This allowed the girl to go limp and rest as he dragged her to her next move. Or sometimes she would demand to be lifted and carried to another part of the stage to continue her dance. But then every once in while the guys would insist on interrupting and jump around the stage. Okay, so I’ll admit some of those jumps were impressive, but mostly it looked to me as if the choreographer had just told them to get out there and prance around as gaily as possible. For 30 minutes I struggled to reconcile my newfound appreciation for the ladies of the company with the perceived absurdity of what the guys with the frog legs in tights were doing. I’m really not trying to be mean here, as I’m sure I’ve provoked the same reaction from some of my old redneck buddies in Texas when I took off on my shiny road bike in spandex shorts and a tight jersey with pockets on the back, so I just pretended to understand it as best I could and not let it interfere with my appreciation of the overall show.
After what the program called a “pause”, the show resumed with a short piece called Mobile. Picture a slow motion Cirque du Soleil stunt performed by one guy and two girls, or as the program states, “slowly evolving parallelograms that depend on balance and equilibrium.” It was pretty cool looking, and impressive given that I would surely have suffered a spontaneous herniation of every vertebrae and every other body part that could suffer a hernia if I would have attempted the same parallelograms. I think it’s best if I stick to the simple 135-degree angle I’ve perfected in concert with my recliner.
Then we “paused” again before the third piece called Hand of Fate, which of course is one of the premiere dances in the ballet Cotillon. The ballet seems to be set within a haunted ballroom where we join the late 18th century version of today’s dance club Ed Hardy wearin’ douchebag as he is preparing to select his dance partner from four wholesome hotties who disappear behind a sheet. He selects one by choosing one of their hands, however when the sheet is dropped it is not one of the brightly colored lasses he has chosen but is instead Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, or at least her flat-chested counterpart from the 18th century. Rather than make a beeline back to the Mystery Machine and get the heck out of there, he dances with this dark hand of Fate, and had we been presented the entire ballet, he probably dies or ends up being some sort of ghost himself, only to be discovered by those meddling kids in a Scooby Doo episode 200 years later.
After all that we had not just a pause, but also a full-blown intermission, during which the Mrs. assured me that they were extremely badass dancers. I sought her opinion since if you asked me the difference between first and second position I’d probably go consult the Kama Sutra.
The second half started with a video explaining the history of the feature ballet – Le Sacre Du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). You can watch an abbreviated version here.
Now, I’m sorry I’m going to disappoint you here. I’ve been trying to finish this post for a couple days now and I can’t find a humorous twist on the performance. It was horrible – I was surrounded by guys in tights, borderline anorexic women, and pretentious patrons, at a ballet with music by a crazy Russian and choreographed by a Polish dancer; and all I can come up with is that it was pretty damn cool. I don’t know much about classical music but this piece has been described as dissonant, and I liked it enough that I might have to check out the dissonance section on iTunes. I’m pretty much a dolt when it comes to themes and literature, but the story line was pretty easy to follow. Finally, the dancing didn’t bore me to tears or make me feel like I had to crimp the hose on the testosterone pump to enjoy it. It was like when the Brady Bunch went on vacation out to the Grand Canyon and Bobby and Cindy got lost in the woods while they were camping, but then they get saved by that Indian kid Jimmy and they all get invited to back to the Indian camp where they get to see an Indian show and Chief Dan Eagle Cloud gives them all Indian names. I went into the Auditorium Theatre a little lost that day, but emerged with my ballet name – Right Said Sid. I’m not sure how that relates to the ballet, but I’ve been called worse.