Archive for December, 2010

Jewels: Joyaux

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve gone on a bit of a ballet bender.  I’ve watched several documentaries off their Instant Watching. “The Dancer” (or “Dansaren”) was about a Royal Swedish ballerina and her training from ballet school up through performing with the company. “Etoiles” showed behind the scenes at the Paris Opera Ballet. “Ballerina” showcases five ballerinas from the Mariinsky’s Kirov Ballet.

Alas most of my notes on the first two are lost to the twitter archives in the sky. I do remember liking “Dancer” a lot more than “Etoiles”. (Alas Dancer has been taken off Instant Watching, so I’d have to get the dvd to rewatch it.)

“Ballerina” was fascinating because of my reactions to the various dancers.  In figure skating, I notice the technicians with the jumps and spins. I don’t hate the ultra artistic skaters, but I sometimes feel like they’re over reliant on that aspect of their skating. With ballet, I was really noticing the actresses, the ones that became their roles. They had an immediate presence on the screen. I wanted to watch them. From the minute Diana Vishneva covered her face in “Cinderella” rehearsals, I was captivated. Evgenia Obraztsova reminded me of a slimmer dancing Christina Hendricks a little with her red hair and bubbly personality. With her age and experience, Ulyana Lopatkina was more interesting to me than Alina Somova, the young star the documentary focused so heavily on. I don’t know how much the competitive aspect of skating plays into this, especially for Olympic eligible skating.

The one side effect of watching all these ballet documentaries is I wind up wanting to watch full length ballets. Netflix has them available, but not instantly. One that intrigued me was George Balanchine’s “Jewels”.

It’s actually three ballets combined under one larger theme. It’s an abstract ballet, so there’s no strict storyline per se, but you can still see characters and interactions.  I’d recommend listening to the behind the scenes documentary – it’s a little long, but useful to understanding the different pieces. I do wish they’d included more, like rehearsals or interviews with original dancers.

Each ballet, each gem, represents a different school of ballet – French, American, and Russian. Each ballet has a different style of dress, of choreography, and music. Christian Lacroix designed the costumes and they do give the sense of opulent gorgeous style.

So Emerald is the French school of ballet, very romantic and lyrical. The costumes have flowy green skirts with lots and movements and the music is Gabriel Fauré. The focus is on two couples, one young and one maybe a little further along in their lives together. Also an odd threesome thrown in to confuse me further; fandom could have a field day figuring out shipping from ballet choreography, I’m just saying. Balanchine loved tall ballerinas with long limbs and you really notice the long arms in this choreography. There’s actually a “tall girl” soloist role in Rubies; again I’m used to petite little balletic pairs skaters.

Rubies represent the American school of ballet, very modern and sexy. The music is Igor Stravinsky and the choreography is very quirky with lots of hip action. Listening to the documentary that accompanies the dvd, I can see where the influences come from. If you know “Slaughterhouse on Tenth Avenue” or more musical comedy ballets, this may work for you. In the documentary, they kept repeating how sexy and erotic this piece was, but I didn’t get that from this performance. I don’t know if it’s the dancers or if I’m just a traditionalist.

And then finally there’s Diamonds, the Russian school of ballet in all her traditional and glittering glory. The music is Piotr Tchaikovsky and the costumes are these stiff tulle ballet dresses. It’s equally as romantic as the Emerald piece in places. I admit I love the bit where the male lead drops to one knee and kisses his partner’s hand. But Diamonds is really an ensemble piece. Think of the big scenes in Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty with the whole cast dancing onstage. And if you’ve watched enough ballet, you can see hints of Petipa’s choreography in there.


What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

Apparently I’m starting a new blog. And I can hear a heavy sigh from friends asking “Don’t you have others already?” And I do, but I tend to compartmentalize a bit in those blogs. And I wanted freedom to blog. I wanted a catch-all blog where I was free to discuss all the other stuff that interests me. If you know me in other places, you’ve seen this. One minute I’m chatting about comics and next minute I’m geeking out over ballet and then I’m muttering dire things about the Redskins.  I assure you this is all quite normal. But since twitter is 140 characters long and tumblr has more ups and downs than a rollercoaster, I opted to turn my old backup needlework blog into my meanderings. We need to find a better title, stat.

I hope I don’t bore you too much. Comments are welcome, especially if they give me more to watch/read/etc.