Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sunday Afternoon With Balanchine

I took Zesty to the ballet on Sunday afternoon for her birthday. More of the year of the accidental tourist and the commitment to do more things out in the city. We saw the National Ballet of Canada perform three short George Balanchine pieces: The Four Temperaments, Apollo and Theme and Variations.

The first was the most modern of the three, and therefore my favourite. The lines were crisp and clean, there was lots of introverted footwork and the dancers wore very scaled back costumes. The second piece, the story of Apollo's birth and subsequent relationship with his three muses, was also good. The final piece, the showstopper, Theme and Variation, was the most classical of the three, lots of tutus and plenty of dancers on stage.

So much of what I like in ballet is sort of what I like in literature too. Clean, crisp formations, smart positions, interesting movements, and the language of bodies used to tell a story. The most classical, and I'd hate to say, Victorian, elements of Theme and Variation, the bold statements made with grande battements and overwhelming set pieces, are the aspects that I resisted the most. There are things that I love about the history of the ballet, how every pointe and position harkens back to the court of Louis XIV, but I also like how now in my later life, I can see how the same history remains constrictive too.

I started asking myself how relevant ballet is anymore to anyone who might not be that into the idea of dance. They are the same problems the world of books faces every day too. How do we keep literature relevant in a world where Paris Hilton is 'news' and people are reading less and less? How will the National Ballet of Canada reinvent itself in its new venue for a new century? How do you balance the idea of tradition with the inevitable fact that culture is changing so quickly?

All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. And then, I charged over to a friend's house to watch the Oscars and laughed my ass off in the company of some of the funniest people I know. Talk about a cultural shift...from Apollo to pimps, almost too much for a 24-hour period.

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