We find ourselves sitting in the front of the upper circle of The London Coliseum. This is an unusual event - something we have never done before. All four of us are here. Both children have been granted a special licence to stay up way beyond their bedtime. Money has been spent on this; we are - for once - in proper seats. We can see the whole of the stage; there are no pillars in the way, and we are neither standing nor squatting on benches tucked in the furthest corner of the auditorium. We are doing it properly.
In my head this is a test: Let's see what this is all about. I am spending so much of my life invested in this that I need some clarification. Is it worth it?
The children are both trembling with anticipation. Their excitement is thrilling. They are among the only children in the audience, and their enthusiasm is only just contained. I am in denial. These people filling every seat are not my tribe. But, in reality, there is little difference between us; we have ventured out on a Saturday night to watch ballet; for the next few hours nothing else is important.
It would be easy to scoff. The costumes in the court scenes appear a little dusty, the backdrops twee, and the whole event might belong to another age - not that of CGI, lasers and LEDs. But there is something else. While we are here, our lives are transformed. I am absorbed in the spectacle: its scale and extravagance. My intellect seems somehow short-circuited; the pleasure is visceral. My body expands and my breathing slows. We can just see into the orchestra pit, a reminder that the accompanying music is not incidental: an assortment of skills have come together with one goal in mind - our enjoyment.
I am not prepared for the impact of the swans. The sight of so many in perfect synchronisation evoke awe. Reality and imagination merge: I see swans, dancers, women and swans again. The sound of so many pointe shoes on the stage as shapes evolve and revolve echoes through the auditorium. The moments of stillness affect me most. For brief seconds they stand motionless. This is not like a painting; paintings of ballet often show movement. These dancers are still and silent illuminated against a backdrop of darkness. Three dimensions blend into two. Like everyone, we are there to see Tamara Rojo. When she dances, we are unable to focus anywhere else. Her performance is wholly embodied and all consuming. She moves in a way that is beyond human: graceful, determined, exact and complex. The epitome of Yeats: "How do we know the dancer from the dance?"
I am absorbed in the story, but is was not the raison d'être. Are there different interpretations of this bizarre folk tale: a story of metamorphosis, abandonment and fascist control? The pleasure is in the pageantry. A display of folk dances and ballet virtuosity: leaps that almost hover, and pirouettes that threaten never to end.
But really, sharing this with the people I love most is the point. Watching them as they are engrossed and amazed is its value. The conversation has its own dance on the way home. The ballet has created a shared memory. The following day, the world seems a little different - as if we have experienced an alternative to the banal. I am calmer and happier, aware of a more courtly and opulent reality. This is what our son wishes to be part of. It is not something I fully understand, but if this is what fuels his passion and makes him happy, so be it. We are aware of what it takes.
1/19/2015 09:30:32 pm
It is truly magical when all the pieces fall into place isn't it. Ballet was my first love and the basis of my passion for the theatre.
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