Thursday, October 18, 2007

BRB's Strictly Dancing

I arrived at Heathrow airport in the early morning...really early...jet-lagged, tired, and with only the computer print-outs Steve provided. Honestly, in another life Steve was both a travel agent and an accountant. Thus, I embark upon a trip without any preparation because Steve has printed out itineraries, maps, and confirmation numbers and put them into a nice folder with "money". It is lovely and strange...all at the same time.

I found the airport "tube" stop and purchased a ticket (Steve provided at least seven pages of explanations for various one-day, three-day, and "oyster" fare cards). Somehow, I found the hotel...okay, the TOTAL DIVE...I've stayed in cleaner, nicer, and better kept youth hostels in the 1970s...but the location was FIRST RATE. Mathias had booked a triple room with discounts offered to members of Birmingham Royal Ballet. He had already left for "work". I thought I'd sleep a bit....but, housekeeping checked in, reception requested payment, and finally my sister Wanda arrived from Frankfurt. Soon, it was time to go to Sadler's Wells Theater for the matinee.

Strictly Dancing was the title given to the three act performance. I was a bit nervous, having read that the program didn't quite "gel" as did last season's Stravinsky triple bill (according to the forum). Of course, I hadn't really LOVED the Stravinsky triple bill. Agon left me yawning, feeling the affects of jet lag. I'm not a Balanchine fanatic. I can't quite embrace "ballet for ballet's sake"...all movement and no reason, story, or implied connection whatsoever. So, I was a bit worried. Were these seasoned ballet goers really blessed with superior knowledge and correctly assigned levels of quality? I just didn't know.

I'd recently seen Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, as done by North Carolina Dance Theater. I was anxious. Mathias would be performing in the segment called "Forget Domani". As a member of the corps de ballet, he would also be performing in Chloe and Daphnis.

My sister Wanda flew in from her home outside Frankfurt. We went to the theater to see the matinée. It began with Paquita. Mathias wasn't cast in this piece; but, I've seem so many Paquita variations in competition that all the music was oddly familiar. Then, I read the program notes. Paquita started out as a short French ballet. The Russians later adopted it and added the finale. Over time, everything but the finale was, what remains is some strange ending to a lost ballet that hardly has a story and barely a hint of the original Spanish styling. It is a collection of short solo moments...not unlike the many graduation productions I've seen or the competition selections that I've watched. There were the customary tutus and regal attitudes. Fortunately, it was first on the program...otherwise, I could have lapsed into the arms of jet lag. That isn't to say it wasn't well was quite nice. The lead was a new member of BRB, originally from London...helping fill the house with fans and presented a lovely bouquet of flowers at the end for a London debut. Yawn.

This was followed by Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs. I saw this recently done by Charlotte's North Carolina Dance Theater. I was eager for the work. Mathias was cast. I know all the music. I was expecting something more wonderful, bigger than life, alive with action, and breath=taking. For the most part, I was rewarded. Of course, I was thrilled beyond words at how Mathias took command of the stage. He has energtic and happy, all good attributes. He also looked to be about age fifteen in the tuxedo...which wasn't totally a problem in this segment.

I couldn't help myself but to compare the work to what I'd seen earlier. In almost every instances, BRB was superior...except in my favorite part. In "One For My Baby (and One More for the Road)", the dancing was forced and emotionally lacking. I was surprised. BRB cast leads in these parts. They didn't know how to act, to dance, to relate to the story line, to fulfill the parts required...there was NO FLOW. Everything was "forced" and "mechanical" and void of all emotion. It was lack-luster. Traci Gilchrest and Ian Grosh danced amazingly for NCDT. BRB couldn't even stand in their wings.

The finale piece was Daphnis and Chloe. It was an unusual number, quite an interesting mix of time, style, and presentation. Everything about it seemed dated; yet, it was enjoyable. In fact, the scenary, costuming, and fresh dancing seemed to perfectly blend "old and new". Mathias danced in the corps de ballet.

In the end, I can honestly say that the program might not have "gelled" because it showcased the many facets that are ballet...old, new, emotional, youthful, retro, traditional, multi-cultural, international, and ever changing.

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