Ballet Squid Chronicles: A Case of the Wilis*
*You know it’s gonna be bad when I lead off with the bad puns.
This morning, we just did Ballet Essentials. We didn’t have time to do both classes and still eat before today’s ballet (this was a shame, because Margie was teaching the Beginner class, and it’s a rare treat to get to do Beginner class with Margie).
Margie gave us some long and interesting combinations at the barre, which I enjoyed, and we did grand battement and beats while lying on the floor (we also did grand battement at the barre). I had forgotten about things like doing beats while lying on the floor — we used to do that as a conditioning exercise when I was a kid. I might add that into my daily conditioning rotation, because I’d like to get beaten jumps nailed down again (beyond the cabriole, which I seem to have down). We also did piqué turns, which I enjoy immensely.
After, we grabbed lunch, then headed over to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to see Giselle.
I enjoyed the production, which I feel was quite well done, especially considering that we’re a small company in a part of the country that doesn’t really know from ballet, so we’re always working with limited resources.
The copious Ballet Mime was handled well and seemed less silly than it often does (I am forever reminded of Adult Beginner’s hilarious Giselle review and find myself giggling about “eggbeater above the head” — though now I can’t find the original post o_O). The ensemble and corps numbers in the first act were a particular treat (but, frankly, I’m a sucker for good ensemble or corps action), as were some of Albrecht’s 2nd-act solos.
Update: I was confused about which of AB’s posts had the “eggbeater-above-the-head” reference. You can find it here
Giselle’s infamous hops-en-pointe — which can either be pretty impressive or pretty much “WTF?” — came off quite nicely. Denis was inspired to ask questions about pointe technique (he noticed that nobody else en pointe ever seemed to “move around on one foot,” and after a while I figured out what he meant).
I’m not sure whether or not it was intentional, but in this production, Albrecht came across less as a roving Count Jackwagon than as a nobleman torn between love and duty. Likewise, his fiancée didn’t come across as a jealous biznatch or appear to blame Giselle for Albrecht’s waywardness (thank you, Louisville Ballet!). It’s a shame there wasn’t more opportunity to develop that particular angle, which seemed a little more nuanced than the usual “Smarmy McDickface & Wig-Snatching Harpy” angle.
Giselle, meanwhile, came across as … well, Giselle — a sparkling young girl who just wants to dance, even though her Mom doesn’t want her to because she doesn’t want her daughter to keel over dead from a heart attack (this, by the way, is the only bit of Ballet Mime that really fails to work — I don’t know about you, but when I picture miming, “No, you’ll die of a heart attack!” I don’t really picture a karate chop to the torso).
In the second act, the Wilis did a lot of Graceful Zombie Arms, which made both Denis and me comment on how someone needs to do an updated version of Giselle that cashes in on the current zombie craze, because that would frankly be awesome (Mr. Bourne? Are you out there? We have a ballet for you…). Hilarion (danced by Eduard Forehand, who did not get to dance nearly enough) did an excellent job looking frightened, tired, and finally exhausted when the Wilis were dancing him to death, and our Myrtha was gracefully imperious in a way that worked pretty darned well.
Speaking of Myrtha, some unintentional mirth occurred when Something From Above broke loose and floated to the stage in the midst of one of the big first act scenes with Everybody Including Half The Opera Company (comments on the wandering noblemen from Denis and Kelly went like this — Denis: “See? Fat guys can do ballet!” Kelly: “Look, they borrowed half the Opera company!”**)
The dancers handled it with grace and professionalism (by, of course, ignoring it completely and continuing as if it wasn’t totally in the middle of the floor and in everyone’s way). Eventually a guy with a big robe managed to spirit said Unintentional Prop off the stage. Fortunately, whatever it was didn’t appear to be heavy or sharp and nobody was injured. This makes two out of two recent dance productions that involved Stuff Raining Down From Above (at U of L’s Dance Theater performance in Iroquois Park, a light in the rigging exploded and dropped what appeared to be a very large filament).
Likewise, there was a brief issue with the music (unfortunately, recorded music is the order of the day in Loutown, at the moment) — a spot where the speed of playback wavered briefly. Fortunately, this happened while no one was dancing, but it grated on my musical ear a bit. I’m not sure it was widely noticed.
The lighting design was the production’s most significant weakness. The set-pieces and backdrops were quite nice, but a great deal more could have been done with lighting both to enhance the spookiness of the Wilis and also to drive home the whole point that it’s the arrival of the dawn that breaks their power. Denis suggested that the lighting issues, however, may have derived form the failure of whatever failed up in the rafters.
One last bit! Apparently, there was some confusion getting my subscription set up, but the folks at Will Call handled it very gracefully and gave us really great seats for this show. This is one of the perks of subscribing to a small company — the subscriber base isn’t huge, so every subscriber is treated really well.
Next on the roster for the season is The Nutcracker. I believe PDG is dancing in that (along with ever other professional- and semi-professional dancer in the Greater Louisville Area, from what I’ve seen :D), so I’m particularly looking forward to that. Claire is in Giselle, but I don’t know if she was in this cast (if she was, I couldn’t pick her out) and/or if she’s still sick. Likewise, I’m hoping to see PDG2 and Brienne in some shows.
While it’s unfortunate that our company can’t really support too many professional performers on a full-time basis, it’s also kind of cool to take classes from (and sometimes with!) dancers who we get to see on the stage.
Anyway, I need to go do my math homework, so that’s it for now. More to come (if nothing else, Monday class notes).
**They couldn’t hear each-other, so I had to convey comments from one to the other. Also, I am very much of the opinion that fat guys (and gals) can indeed do ballet!