The Royal Ballet kicks Royal Boo-tay

26 Jun

The conclusion of Balletfest 2009 has come down to my attendance of the Royal Ballet production of Manon, at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  The principal characters Manon and Des Grieux were danced by Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta (respectively).  I purposely chose this night to see Carlos instead of Alina Cojocaru on Friday night, as ever since I became a fan of ballet and saw videos of him performing it became one of my life goals to see him live.  Definitely one of the best of his generation (maybe the best) and those familiar with his story know it’s one for the ages, so I feel incredibly fortunate to have witnessed a performance by him.  One life goal down, approximately 87 left to go…(most of which, I haven’t even decided what they are yet, but I figure 87 is a good number).

Starting with the lead character Manon, Tamara Rojo has the most amazing feet (actually, dancers with the Royal Ballet do a much better job of using their feet than the Bolshoi ballerinas overall).  I was very impressed, and occasionally freaked out by how mobile her feet were.  There were a couple times when she’d sit on her shins and her feet were so lengthened her toes were like 3 inches off the floor.  I noticed that she didn’t have the huge extensions and massive turnout that the Russians often do, but she was so much more square in her hips and she used the turnout she had so effectively I found her very pleasing to watch.  Looking back, it’s almost as if the Bolshoi dancers would force their feet open, but then moments en pointe where they weren’t 180 turned out became more obvious and made them seem turned in as a result.  Let that be a lesson to those crazies who care not for their knees…smoke and mirrors turnout doesn’t do you any good on relevé/en pointe!  Tamara is a pint sized ballerina, but awfully playful and exquisite regardless.  Sign me up as a fan!

Obviously, I was already a fan of Carlos, and he too has amazing feet. They are just incredibly strong, and allow him to do pirouettes with such ease, and aplenty he did.  I noticed that Manon has a lot of slower almost adagge work for Des Grieux…a “mandagge” if you will, and they were crazy hard!  There were all kinds of pirouettes that would open to arabesque or developpé a la seconde and they just had to stop.  I’m not even sure most professional male ballet dancers could even do these mandagges without a little hopping around.  But Carlos is just so clean with his technique that it was like buttah.  I’ve seen clips of him doing the usual Basilio from Don Q, the Le Corsaire pas de deux, etc. but I think he shines in these narrative ballets where his generosity in his technique, maturity and expression really come through, instead of “cheap” tricks like a la seconde turns that will make any audience happy (although he is no slouch there…HUGE jumps and wheeled off 6 pirouetter for tonight’s performance, finishing in a perfect sous-sous before closing to fifth).  I’m seriously in love with his dancing and Billy Elliot I wish I had his quads.

Together, they had really good chemistry (and I should hope so, considering some of the death-defying lifts they did…EGADS!) and lucky for you here’s a little taste of what I got to see tonight:

Just lovely.

I forgot to mention that I brought my dad to this performance, and let me tell you I was worried about it.  He’s the kind of guy who always falls asleep during movies, and I was prepared to be embarrassed, but he actually stayed awake!  Unfortunately, the fact that he was CHEWING GUM during Act I somehow went unnoticed by my radar, and someone in the row in front of us turned around during intermission and asked him to stop.  Utter humiliation.  Lucky for me, there are always other weird audience members to make one incident less noticeable.  Like the people in the row in front of me who were cheering like it was a baseball game (one lady of which was showing way too much cleavage and the other who said “Kenneth McMillan choreographed his ass off!”), or the people who despite the fact that their seats were closest to an aisle went the long way to get to their seats, making us all stand up in the process.  There was also a couple who brought seat cushions…SEAT CUSHIONS…to a ballet!  Which of course annoyed the people behind them, and so they were told to stop using them.  Also the guy directly in front of me who I’m pretty sure was planning on stalking Carlos after the show (even I’m not that crazy), and the people in front of him who were leaning on the edge of the balcony, making it difficult for him to see, and he kept doing this side to side shifty game to see what was going on.  There was also some family that brought a little girl, approximately 5-6 years in age, which given Manon’s…debaucheristic (is that a word?) and risqué content, comes as a bit of a surprise.  And at the end, during the swamp pas de deux, some woman two seats over was crying hysterically, which is understandable because it’s quite a tragic scene for suresies, but she kept crying through the applause, the reverence, and even after the show was over.  Is it just me, or are audiences REALLY distracting sometimes?  There are days though, that I despise having a detail oriented mind.

So back to the dancing…I can’t think of more to comment on right now (plus my brain is exhausted), and Manon is a difficult ballet to really qualify.  Other then the aforementioned swamp pas de deux, it doesn’t have variations and such that you see in competitions with moves that you expect.  But that’s also the beauty of it…there were so many intricacies it’s a constant visual feast.  Even my dad, who knows nothing about ballet (as we were walking towards the shuttle after the show, he stretched his hand like a pointed foot and said to me “they walk like this!”) appreciated the seamlessness of it all, hence the glorious occasion in which he did not fall asleep (And on an unrelated note, he also said that ballet is definitely something you have to see live to appreciate…I’m actually proud of him for coming to that conclusion!).

As for everything else?  Set design?  Loved.  Costumes?  Loved.  Music?  Gorgeous.  And by the way, I love that it’s called the “swamp pas de deux”…it just sounds funny (and during that scene the fog machines were producing so much fog was rolling into the orchestra and some of the orchestra members were swatting at it so they could see their music.  Teehee)

Oh, and beautiful venue that Kennedy Center Opera House…for inspiration I’ll leave you with an image of its Austrian crystal ceiling (which according to the postcard I bought is comprised of over 130 crystal elements and 2000 light bulbs, and was made by Lobmeyr as a gift from Austria) and pictures of some of Suzanne Farrell’s costumes that are on display just outside the theater (costumes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “La Sonnambula” and the tutu from the Diamonds pas de deux of “Jewels” fame)

Austrian Crystal Chandelier in the Opera House

Austrian Crystal Chandelier in the Opera House

Costumes from A Midsummer Night's Dream and La Sonnambula

Costumes from A Midsummer Night's Dream and La Sonnambula

Tutu from Diamonds Pas de Deux

Tutu from Diamonds Pas de Deux

Hope that inspired you for the day! (or life)

2 Responses to “The Royal Ballet kicks Royal Boo-tay”


  1. More on Manon « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - July 19, 2009

    […] from Manon as I can, and I already posted the bedroom pas de deux in my initial review (in “The Royal Ballet kicks royal Boo-tay“), and have now found a video of Carlos performing one of the “mandagges” I was talking […]

  2. Time for 2010 « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - December 31, 2009

    […] It all began when at the beginning of the summer, I went to see the Bolshoi perform Le Corsaire and The Royal Ballet perform Manon in Washington DC.  Two major ballet companies within one week…it was a sweet deal.  Personally, […]

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