Tag Archives: Scott Fitzgerald

Keeping on Your Toes

5 Dec


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.