I’m going to start my response to your post about the ballet with this paragraph:
Basically, there are two kinds of dance: classical ballet and weird modern shit. The weird modern shit could be anything from Lucinda Child dancing in a square over and over and over again to a Philip Glass recording (yes, I saw her perform it, and no, I don't want to talk about it); to Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, which is a bunch of fat guys dressed in tutus (really); to the breathtaking agile magic of Pilobolus.
Most of the time, I am partial to the
An aside: The Trock? Hilarious fun – just don’t make it the first foray into the ballet world. It might scare one off. Must see companies? Pilobolus, Alvin Ailey, Mark Morris,
The women are really really skinny. But even if the female dancers you see are blimps compared to the way they used to be, they will still look really thin to you. Some of this has to do with simple physics: your gay male pas de deux partner (see below) can't lift you and hold you in the air with one arm if you weigh 180 pounds.
Our director used to have a saying, “Gentlemen, push-ups! Ladies? Lettuce…” I was always mistaken for an anorexic dancer, but I never was. It’s just really hard to get the fuel to energy output right. We never had enough time to get the food in – we were always working so hard. Oakland Ballet was a great place because the director liked his men to look like men and his women to look like women. Curves and muscles were totally acceptable, preferred in fact. I was the anomaly there – I had a tiny pinhead and was very thin – more like the Balanchine outline.
p.s. Hulles – not all the men are gay. Point of fact, most men go into ballet so they can be up close and personal with all the half naked, sweaty, and for the most part, liberal (meaning sexually loose) chicks. Whoo-ah! It’s basically a straight man’s heaven.
But it is very unlikely that you will attend a performance where it is all classical ballet, at least in the
I have to think that most companies don’t do all classical repertory in an evening because it is RFBCC (emphasis on the RFB). From the performing stance, classical ballet is actually easier, in my estimation, to do because it is reserved, there is a lot of restraint and it follows a certain pace, a certain breath.
In the second segment I'll talk about some of the dance terminology you should know, what to watch for in a performance, how female dancers smell, what kind of shit the dancers are wearing when you see them, and what it's like to be a little girl growing up and wanting to be a ballet dancer.
Actually, the proper term is balletomane, but that sounds even more gay than "ballet aficionado" plus I don't know how to pronounce it, so let's just stick with the former appellation.
When I left you you were just sitting down in your decent seats in the auditorium about to see American Ballet Theater perform Miscellaneous Weird Modern Shit, Intermission, then the classical ballet Giselle. You're in for a treat. This is a fantasy performance, so Martine van Hamel is dancing Giselle as well as a pas-de-deux or two in the first part's MWMS.
Toe shoes are the funny pink shoes the female dancers wear in classical ballet. They cost $14,000 a piece at your local Capezio store and most people need two of them, so as you can see ballet is not a poor woman's avocation. Toe shoes have wooden plugs in the toe to allow the dancer to spin like a top as she's dancing, hence the name.
Hulles and I have already addressed this, but for those of you not in the know, there is no wood in pointe shoes – sometimes I wished there was because it would last longer than the burlap, canvas, satin and glue that really makes up a toe shoe. Various materials + glue + sweaty feet + two hour performance + a little blood = soggy tissue paper. You can dry out the shoe, stuff it with newspaper, pray to the capezio fairy and hope for a useable shoe in the morning, but it almost never happens. Recently, various shoe companies have been experimenting/utilizing plastic in shoe tips, but really it diminished the ability to “roll-through and in my opinion, leaves the dancer looking clunky and a bit uncoordinated. I’m a Freed snob (Freed is the largest, and oldest I think, pointe shoe company).
The corps (pronounced "core," this is important, write it on the back of your hand before you go) is short for the "corps de ballet." These are the dancers that flutter and swarm here and there during the course of the ballet, always in groups. After all, that's why she gets the big bucks, somewhere around $700 a week for a major company for a 36-week season. It works out to about $25000 a year, to save you the math. And bear in mind that this is in the Major Leagues of the dance world; these are the top pros in their field.
This is true if they are in a union company – for those poor sots (me and plenty like me) that were in non-union companies, not so much...starting salary was 350 – 400 a week. I never made 700 a week, even when I was a principal dancer and by the time I retired, we were down to a 12 week contract. This is a year y’all…12 weeks at 6 fiddy. Do the math because it depresses me too much to do it for you. When I first came to the company, we had a 42 week contract and lots of touring (extra per diem money to save!!) Whopeee!). 13 years later, attention to the arts had diminished so much that even the Principals had to hustle with extra teaching, guesting and summer jobs. I became extremely proficient at house painting. My specialty was the five-story outdoor scaffolding. Almost fell off once, but that’s another story (no pun intended…)
The last terminology you will learn is two French words, "jeté" and "plié." I can no longer recall what these words mean but they are ballet terms used to describe various stylized dance movements that occur during the course of the performance.
Jeté – to leap
Plié – to bend
I can go on and on Hulles – let me know if you remember more terms and need an interpreter.
Male dancers suck. They are never well choreographed, they have totally lame moves and don't go en pointe, and they seem to exist solely as foils for the female dancers. Fine. Who gives a shit? The female dancers are cracking good and they more than make up for the sorry-ass male dancers.
Hey, hey, hey. We couldn’t do it without them – those boys were a necessary fixture. We liked our forklifts and bike stands. They did a fine job most of the time…unless they had been out drinking the night before and were sweating Absolut all over you. Or smoking pot that day just to round out the week/month/year. Or were just plain stupid and could never remember the steps. It was like being pregnant with those types…you were definitely dancing for two! On the whole though, my guys were outstanding. I was never dropped and the sacrifices were always on their part.
If you would be lucky enough to find yourself in the dressing room after the performance, you would quickly notice that God's own deodorant and antiperspirant couldn't begin to make a dent in the, shall we say, closeness of the atmosphere. What did you expect? Dancers sweat. Men and women perspire, horses and ballet dancers sweat. Look at what they were doing out there, for crying out loud. Of course they sweat. And they don't smell like smoked chipped beef either, no matter what some would have you believe. They smell like victory.
Well then, I smelled like victorious smoked chipped beef.
I welcome specific questions and will be happy to answer them if we care to continue the ballet convo. If not, I will join you shortly with my life’s ramblings. I should really promise an account of our time in Wine Country, but I am so sick of grape juice at this point that it would probably make me feel ill.