Tuesday, October 4, 2022

ballet review

And we're home. My previous post was written from the hotel where we broke our journey overnight.

The cats, though they got along pretty well with the sitter, are desperate for attention. Tybalt crawls up on my chest or shoulders almost every time I sit down.

And I learned on the way that two days of driving seven hours a day is now at least one too many days for me. Lots of breaks and all the caffeine in the world won't keep me from getting loggy on the second afternoon. Good thing we didn't drive to Mythcon, a 20% longer trip.

But now I'm home and find - as expected - that the last thing I did before leaving, writing a performance review, saw publication while I was gone.

Normally I don't cover ballet - I'm just a music guy - but when two choruses that are within my coverage sing Carmina Burana while a local dance company performs to it, that seemed like a good opportunity to trap several birds at once.

And I had something of a revelation. A few years ago I wrote of my disillusion with ballet. I'd attended the San Francisco Ballet fairly often in the 1980s and enjoyed it. But my recent experiences at their recitals had been disappointing: I found the work crude and ugly, athletic rather than artistic in aesthetic, and just not appealing. The final straw came when I read an article naming what the author claimed were the three greatest ballet choreographers now working. I realized I'd seen work by all three at the SF Ballet and thought them all terrible.

Was it them - had ballet entered a trough of ugliness, the way modern music did in the 1950s? - or was it me - had I just lost my taste for ballet?

It was them. The Peninsula Ballet Theatre, a small local company without the pretensions of the SF Ballet, delighted me wholly. Their work had beauty and grace, and when it wasn't either of those things it was funny, and sometimes it was all of them at once. This is exactly what I got out of the ballet in the 80s. True, work by George Balanchine that I saw back then was orders of magnitude more sublime than that of the local choreographers I saw last week, but at least they're all working towards the same admirable goal.

I wrote: This was a fine evening with a company that still maintains that grace, beauty, nobility and a little humor are the essence of ballet. And I hold by that. I will go back here some time. I've described the neglected composers of the 1950s who aimed at beauty instead of ugliness as the Hidden City. Well, I've found the Hidden City of ballet.

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