Generally you won’t see me at a football or basketball game, unless someone gives me free tickets. I know I’m dating myself, but I lost interest back when the New York Jets won the Super Bowl and when the St. Louis Hawks moved toAtlanta. I gradually found myself growing in agreement with President Harry Truman, who once said that sports are a bunch of “damned nonsense”.
Last weekend, however, I attended something even less probable than a sporting event– the ballet. I am not as bad as Dave Barry, who wrote that he would rather watch a dog catch a frisbee than go to a ballet, although I do agree that about eight minutes is generally enough to fulfill most men’s ballet quota for the next decade. The prancing does appear to get a bit redundant to rank amateurs such as myself .
The great choreographer George Ballenchine once said “Ballet is a woman”. In any dance school, girls always outnumber boys by at least ten to one. Many men feel bored and self-conscious and put attending the ballet in the same category as going to a “bridal shower or tupperwear party”, at least according to Rocky Mountain News dance writer Marc Shulgold.
Despite this innate gender-based bias, I actually found myself excited about attending a real ballet, since my only prior experience was seeing our four-year-old daughter, with her high classical bun and yellow tutu, performing in a recital 30 years ago. Oh, I also remember watching a scene from the Nutcracker at Sea World or CypressGardens, although I think the dancers might’ve been dolphins.
Several months ago my wife Diane and I were at a silent auction for a charity event and by chance we ended up with a basket containing a gift certificate to a nice Louisville restaurant and tickets to both the theater and the ballet. Whenever we got to these things Diane is determined to be the high bidder on something. She is still harboring a major grudge about being outbid for a boat excursion to Rose Island a few years ago. Often the things we buy, just languish in our house until they expire– like our house plants. I still have some old passes to Squire Boone Caverns and a gift certificate good for a ride on a small private airplane, that we could never convince any of our cowardly children to take.
Even if something looks like a great bargain, I still manage to lose money on it. For example, when we used our restaurant coupon, our tab was over 40 bucks more than the certificate’s value and I had to spring for an extra ticket for our son when we went to Actor’s Studio.
I have to say the ballet ended up being very reasonable, although with two granddaughters we were almost hooked by the Angelina Ballerina ballet sets for little girls they were selling. For the uninitiated, Angelina is an very perky dancing rodent.
The ballet we saw was based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a book some of us remember and detest from high school English. Although many people believe it is the greatest American novel of all time, I could never get into it. All I could remember was the book’s cover with a picture of creepy haunting eyes. In the movie version the plot eluded me, but Robert Redford looked terrific in his white suit. Personally, I thought the story was too complex to be portrayed through dance. It was like trying to act out War and Peace with finger puppets. Although I am certainly no judge, the dancing, seemed extremely impressive and professional and the costumes were exceptional. I especially like the stagecraft and how they used a semi-transparent screen to give some scenes a hazy dreamy quality.
The theater itself could have used a few more aisles, since I had to squeeze in front of 30 or 40 people to get to my seat. After watching all that dancing you tend to pirouette and take quick tiny mincing steps, when returning from the intermission.
There were a lot of people attending dressed in artistic looking black outfits, many with little girls in tow. I didn’t see any little boys being brought to the ballet, demonstrating excellent audience judgment in my opinion. I did wonder if the story was appropriate for young children, since it involved two extramarital affairs, someone getting run down by a car, and a shooting. However, in the ballet’s defense I have to say the affairs were discreetly portrayed, the shooting took place with the victim offstage, and the car was essentially a fancy golf cart.
Addressing the question “Does ballet really matter? Los Angelestimes dance critic, Lewis Segal once wrote that hatred of ballet is “reasonable, even necessary”. Writer Marc Shulgold takes issue with these inflammatory words and comes to ballet’s defense, touting such admirable features as the beauty of dance, the power of movement, the glorious music, and the spectacle, not to mention the magnificence of the human body, that ballet so vividly discloses.
Not being connoisseurs of the arts, we felt sort of like imposters at the ballet, to the extent that Diane felt a need to explain our presence to some of her acquaintances, whom we saw at the performance. Of course, no one I knew was there or would be likely to attend. Maybe you can remember the old Patty Duke Show. In the mental health field, we are more like Patty, than her identical cousin Cathy. You might recall Cathy adored a minuet, crepe suzettes, and the Ballet Russes, whereas Patty loved to rock and roll and a hot dog made her lose control— that’s us.
For my next foray into high culture I am considering gracing the opera, or possibly the corn hole championships, whichever one I can get for the lowest bid
Based on a colum in the News-Tribune of Southern Indiana.