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A ballet

The Rover, 31.3.2012

Ding! Ding! Was not a sound that I expected to ever hear, but it happened last week when we reached the bottom of the caviar bucket. Without any opera business on the horizon, daddy was forced to improvise, and so we went to the ballet.

Thêatre Maisonneuve is the only hall on Place des Arts that faces Sainte Catherine’s pedestrians. Probably this is because the ballet crowd is livelier to watch than opera or concert people. Our intermission walkabout was not greeted with the traditional whispers of “cool it,” and walkers, crutches, or mechanized transport were rare.

Friday’s subject was Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, in thirds, with choreography by Stijn Celis. First, Anima, set to Chopin’s Nocturne No. 13 in c minor and Scarlatti’s Sonata 87 in B minor, then Sacre and Noces to Stravinsky’s Rite and Noces.

Anima was a spare and thoughtful trio, an interesting play between the male dancers and soloist Émilie Durville; from acrobatic support-devices, they became embellishments, wing-like, and ended ambiguously as rivals or threats. She was not particularly sensual, which suited the restrained, clockwork Scarlatti better than the peacock Pole.

Sacre was a joy, but you could wash dishes to Stravinsky’s score and it would still feel meaningful and wild. A balance of ecstasy and menace was potently maintained throughout, and the individual tragedy, the sacrifice, forcefully tied to the fate of the group. The hyperactive and intrusive lighting was the only fault of the evening, but it was limited, like the nudity, to this number. And the nudity was effective; soloist Bryna Catherine Pascoe belongs like that.

Noces was the most difficult. I don’t think sensitive people should listen to it without a pillow to scream into or a handle of mescaline to glug; this agonizing stuff maintains its violence for an astonishing length of time. As disappointing as the three channel recorded music was, it was still preferable to watching dehydrated violinists stagger out of the pit, as usually happens with Noces. How the dancers do it is beyond me, especially when partnered with benches. The costumes and stage set, the night’s only figurative design, suggested a yakuza wedding. This was okay.

We ran out gasping and overwhelmed after the final yell, but after sitting on the curb and breathing into paper bags, we agreed that it was worth it, and other people should be allowed to go.

My reunion with Les Grands Ballets was overdue. They remain wonderful.