Going to the Ballet – Coppelia


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My mom and I went to the ballet Friday night.  We saw the Moscow Festival Ballet performing Coppelia.  I haven’t seen many ballets (Nutcracker and Swan Lake, mostly, in various incarnations), and I don’t think I’ve attended any before.

It was great fun.  The main female character got to dance and look pretty, of course, but she also got to be seriously annoyed at the male lead, and stomp around being angry.  Because they don’t talk, everything has to be explained through body language, very exaggerated so that the people in the back can see it, too.  I was impressed by the way that most of them kept smiling throughout the whole performance.  Don’t their faces start hurting?  Do you think they smile like that in their sleep, because their faces have frozen that way?

We were sitting in the third row, which meant that we could see them all very clearly, so it was easy to get lost in the details.  Like, noticing the lines drawn under their eyes so they would be visible from far away.  Or the braces on one woman’s teeth.  And the earring in one guy’s ear.  And dude, those men wear *tight* pants.  So I spent quite a bit more time than was really necessary wondering about underwear.  The women’s costumes were far less distracting.  We were also close enough to readily identify each of the ballerinas and danseurs, and notice when they switched places or did different things.  Like one of Swanhilde’s friends (that was her official description) also played the Doll, and we thought she was very good.

If we’d been sitting further back, it would’ve been easier to watch the ensemble instead of the individual dancers.

The music was canned, which probably shouldn’t be surprising.  But, if the audience clapped for too long, sometimes the next piece of music would start while we were still clapping.  And the ballerinas would have to start dancing, even though we were still clapping.  And then there’s a thing where the lead ballerina spins around in circles on one leg without putting the other down and without stopping, called fouetté en tournant.  It’s a show of skill, the more times you can spin the better you are.  With an orchestra, the orchestra will just keep playing that bit until she is finishes, but with canned music she can only spin as many times as the music allows.  (My mom counted: she spun 30 times.  Apparently to snobs 60 is note-worthy, and some ballerinas have spun as many as 130 times [wow!], though Wikipedia doesn’t say anything about more than 32.)

The story was really thin.  There was a two-page description of the story in the program which almost-kinda made sense, but the ballet itself only followed the description in the vaguest of ways.  My mom liked the third act best, which was the wedding scene, which was all dancing without really trying to tell a story.  I liked the second act, because some of the ballerinas and danseurs were meant to be automata, life-sized wind-up dolls that do a particular thing.  One was a Spanish fan dancer, who was very pretty, another was a medieval soldier with a pike, and there were a few more.  It was fun.

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