Thursday, 18 June 2009
Fairies, Dying Swans, and Dancing to the Death
Last night my sister and I had a very cultured evening and went to see The English National Ballet perform at Sadler's Wells in London. I was quite looking forward to it, but a little unsure if it would be the type of thing I would enjoy. As it turned out, it was absolutely amazing.
We sat in the stalls, fairly near the back, but we could see everything fine. I was slightly worried that the dancers would just be dots flying around to us, but if I squinted I could almost make out their facial expressions, so the seats weren't too bad.
The red curtain lifted to reveal what I had expected of a ballet. A swarm of white-tutued ballerinas, and one man wearing a very, very skintight costume. This was Les Sylphides, and from what I could understand, it was about a man stringing along two fairy lovers, though he most definitely preferred the blond. The dancing was impressive, but so much shuffling around on tip-toes looked very painful. The set was very beautiful, all dark-leafed trees.
After the interval, we saw Le Spectre de la Rose. This was quite a short dance about a woman who falls asleep holding a rose, then dreams that the rose comes to life as a man and they dance together. The interaction between the two characters was very entertaining.
Then was The Dying Swan, which I recognised instantly. It was so beautiful and tragic it made me want to burst into tears. I still cannot get over how fluid the dancer makes her arms move at the beginning of the piece.
After that short performance was something much more contemporary. The first dancer started before the music, which looked very strange. Faun(e) seemed to be about two stags fighting for dominance (I have no idea if that is right, but that's what it looked like to me). The dancing was much more interesting and experimentational. On the stage were two grand pianos, and the set was very sparse, as were the costumes, which added to the sense of modernism.
Another interval, and last but not least, we saw The Rite of Spring. From the moment it started it blew me away. It couldn't be any more different to the first ballet, and nothing like I expected it to be. It was so colourful, but the movements and music and strange beats (a different time signature in every bar, my sister tells me!) made it very strange and sinister. It was very tribal, in a way. Half way through the dance, three skeletal looking Elders selected a sacrifice to the gods in thanks of Spring, and she had to dance herself to death. Although these photos don't capture the movement, they give you an impression of the performance: Patrick Baldwin Photography. It was absolutely amazing.