Monday, June 16, 2008

A trip to the ballet

I have a lot to write about! My last real post was about our trip to Oxford, but that was almost two months ago at this point. I'll start from there, though, and work my way forward. The first weekend in May was a bank holiday, as was the last weekend. On the first bank holiday, we had planned to go camping but the weather didn't cooperate. I realize the rain didn't keep us from camping last summer, but now that we can afford to be picky, we don't really want to camp in the cold and wet! So we stayed at home instead and relaxed. We've been doing that a lot lately. Work is so stressful that sometimes all we can manage to do on the weekends is a little lazy cooking and a few board games. So that's what we did on the bank holiday weekend, but on the Monday evening we got to enjoy one of my birthday presents from my parentses (both the genetic and the marital varieties). We went to see Sleeping Beauty performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and it was fabulous. The evening started out as a rather dodgy affair, as the charming French bistro where we made reservations turned out to be a not-very-classy tourist trap, as so many things are in Covent Garden. But then, we are worldly travelers used to the very finest in food and drink, so maybe we were just being snobby expecting the salad to be dressed and the steak to be chewable. We skipped dessert. Don't go to Chez Gerard.

But then we left the restaurant and walked over to the opera house, a mere 100 yards or so, which was good because I was breaking in my new high heels, and they didn't like the cobblestones! The opera house is a beautiful venue. You enter through a vast glassed-in atrium with a champagne bar downstairs. We went upstairs to find our seats, then spent some time watching the people in the atrium below. We were both a little disappointed that more people weren't dressed up, but we looked posh enough for the lot of them. After a quick glass of wine we headed to our seats for the performance. The inside of the opera house is over-the-top gorgeous, with red velvet and gilded trimmings everywhere. Our seats were up pretty high but near the center of the auditorium, and we were in the front row of our section,
so we had a really good view not only of the stage but also of the audience below us. It was a packed house, and no wonder; it was a lovely production. The costumes and choreography were vintage, from a Royal Ballet performance in the 1950s. The orchestra played beautifully. I especially liked the trilling flutes. And, of course, the dancers were amazing, especially the ones doing the character pas de deux: the bluebirds, little red riding hood and the wolf, the princes and princesses, and the fairy godmothers. Andrew and I had a good time trying to piece together the story; apparently the Disney version is a bit different from the Tchaikovsky version.

I've been to two ballets with Andrew now, and I really enjoy it because I get to explain things to him, from intricate steps to stylistic subtleties to historical context, but it's also fun to hear the things he notices. He's an insightful audience member. I really like attending ballets, too, because I don't just see and hear the dancing; I can feel it in my muscles, imagining the movements of the dancers and translating the graceful, fluid motions into individual, named steps. It's a little like being able to pick out individual words from a conversation in a foreign language. It was inspiring, and I've felt the difference in my ballet classes ever since.

On that note, I've really been enjoying my weekly ballet classes, and I finally feel like I'm making some progress again, instead of just trying to catch up after the long period of not dancing while we were traveling, moving, and settling in. I love my teacher, and she is leaving soon, but I also love the teacher who is replacing her. There are several other girls in the class who are about my age and skill level, and I have a great time rolling my eyes and laughing with them and getting a good workout at the same time. Plus, every Wednesday when I emerge from the studio and walk to Farringdon Station I see the dome of St. Paul's rising up from the surrounding rooftops in the calm moonlight, and I know I'm in London and I wouldn't really wish to be anywhere else.

Next time on There and Back Again, an invasion by the Eatons!

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