Tag Archives: tragedrama

More on Manon

19 Jul

It’s been almost a month since I saw the Royal Ballet do Manon in DC, but I’m still kind of basking in the afterglow.  This is encouraged by the fact that the RB just wrapped up a historic stint in Cuba, as that was their maiden voyage to Cuba and they are the first major ballet company to perform there since the Bolshoi, which was 30ish years ago.  Oh and there is that guy…Carlos whatshisface who’s only making his debut in his home country where ballet is somewhat respected.  And what I really mean by that is according to theballetbag on twitter, the Cubans are crazier than the Japanese fans.  And trust me when I say the Japanese put the fan in fanatic.  They love their girly-girl princess stuff like ballet and figure skating, and I actually went to the figure skating world championships when they were in Tokyo in 2007 (I was living in Tokyo at the time) and can confirm that the fans were certifiably nuts.  But mainstream popularity is good (NHK, one of their major networks regularly shows ballet competitions and documentaries…can you imagine if NBC did the same?) so long as the stars are safe.  In fact, Marcelo Gomes of ABT fame has a Japanese stalker who travels to see him perform, but he seems to appreciate that he was able to touch her with his dancing.  Meanwhile, I read about Marcelo in “The Advocate” and if I know Japan like I do, stalker lady has a blissful relationship with that river in Egypt if you know what I’m sayin.

Anyway, RB did Manon in Havana, of course starring Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta (by the way, what is it with the weird nicknames fans give him?  The ‘Flying Cuban’, the ‘Beast of Ballet’ and my personal favorite the ‘Cuban Sex Missile’), and I reflect fondly upon my experiences as an audience member.  I didn’t realize at the time how much I loved the score, and now that I do, I can’t get over how exquisite it is.  I was kind of biased when I saw it because I was confusing Jules Massenet with Jules Mouquet; both composers with the latter having written a piece I once played entitled “La Flute de Pan,” which quite frankly is kind of sheety.  This is why I so often second guess myself though, because half the time I have no idea what I’m talking about.  Jules Massenet on the other hand, does happen to be the composer of one of my favorite pieces of music, Meditation from his opera Thais.  This is a part of my “relaxing music” playlist that soothes the inner beast.  It’s also known in the ballet world for a pas de deux choreographed to it by Roland Petit, as well as track 16 on the CD “Ballet Technique.”  Have I digressed?  Anyway, Massenet is massively fabulous and I am now dying to get my hands on a CD of the score.

In other news, does anyone even know how “Manon” is actually pronounced?  Is it MA-non or ma-NON?  Every time I talk about it with people it seems like they say the opposite of what I say, and I end up feeing stupid, but even Tamara and Carlos don’t seem to agree, as seen in this studio footage and interview released by Royal Opera House:

I really loved hearing what Tamara had to say about Manon…I find her insightful in such a way that tells me this kind of ballet is right for her, as opposed to the flashy classics.  A lot of youtube commenters complain about her being a little stone-faced as a Kitri, and maybe Don Q isn’t the best role for her, but every dancer has their niche (although if you watch her do Don Q, there’s one video where she does triple fouettes while manipulating a fan.  MAD skills people…MAD skills).  The following was broadcasted on NHK (told you the Japanese love their ballet!) and she tells us more with an oh so subtle dig at the Soviets. (the brief statement in Japanese in the middle I can translate for you…the narrator just says “Act I: The Bedroom Pas de Deux.  Des Grieux and Manon express their deep, burning love for each other)

So I’ve been on this youtube kick to find as much footage 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 about in addition to the pas de deux they’re rehearsing from the footage I posted above.  I think that one might be my favorite, and certainly the music is choice as that’s probably my favorite melody in the ballet.  Meanwhile, if you read my review, you may also recall that Tamara has the most freakishly flexible feet, and if you would like to see for yourself, pause the following video at 3:52 and take a moment…and consider what it is you’re really looking at.  Take another moment if you must…it’s a lot to process.  But she sure knows how to use them.

And now…a video of the SWAMP pas de deux.  The climactic, tragedrama ending, which still gives me goose bumps, unlike the person who left a comment on this youtube video.  (By the way, why is it that people who comment on ballet videos are some of the most toxic, vicious and overly critical people out there?  To call Tamara boring is just nasty.  Not even my dad, who knows zilch about ballet was bored, and tell the woman 2 seats down from me who was sobbing hysterically that Tamara was boring.  Mm hmm!)

There’s also a part 2 to the above clip, but it’s just the curtain call.

So, my little chicken pot pies, Manon was truly an epiphanous revelatory “eureka!” moment for me, because it completely changed the way I look at ballet.  I’m actually kind of mad at myself for having initially been more excited to see the Bolshoi do Le Corsaire, but aren’t the best moments in life the unexpected ones?  I mean hello, I still can’t stop thinking about the whole experience, and am dying for it to be released on DVD soon.  So to close, I give you a trailerish clip, where you can see more of the RB’s fabulous corps, lots of comedic moments (including a lot of slapping), and a bit from the “drunken variation.”  Not to mention the third act when Manon is sold into prostitution…reminds me of the little girl in the audience who after reading the program asked her parents “what’s a prostitute?” (or “prostie” for short, for anyone who happens to be a trendy Australian)  And there goes the prize for the most awkward question ever…bet they wished they were at the Nutcracker instead.  Oh the scandalosity! 

The Soviets win at ballet…cartoons

16 Jul

So I needed to fix my KHM’s.  They’re still the best shoes I’ve found, but when I originally tied the elastics and cut them off as I normally do, I didn’t realize until after a few classes that I tied them too tight and it made the shoes dig into my Achilles tendons.  Determined to rectify the situation, I bought some elastic cord to replace them, cutting out the old ones.  It should have been a simple surgical procedure to thread them through, however the elastic was too thick for the needle I had, and despite the fact that I figured that might happen and preemptively bought some larger needles just in case, the larger needles ended up being too big.  Not to mention the fact I’m trying to do this before class yesterday morning, and forgot to bring scissors with me so I had to buy a pair of mini-scissors too.  Of course I ran out of time and went with my leather shoes anyway (the ones as you may recall, I bled all over, again trying to fix them before class) and so the repairing of the shoes would have to wait until I got home.  When I did get home, I somehow forgot that I was still without a usable needle, and resorted to taping the elastic cord to a smaller needle and threading my makeshift needle contraption through the shoe.  Finally, a method for success!  So now you know how to fix your shoes in case your elastic cords snap or you do something stupid like me.

Oh, and I need to stop trying to fix or sew my shoes right before class!!! *facepalm*

In other news, Karen’s class is going great.  She’s helping me fix my port de bras, because I have a bad habit of breaking the line at my elbows and wrists, and not moving from underneath my arms.  It’s a matter of really connecting through the back and keeping an open chest I think…which may or may not be the case but when it comes to correcting yourself in ballet, if it’s working and the teacher tells you it’s looking better, keep it up.  This is good for me, because I have gangly limbs (small torso…think spidery) and if they’re not placed well it’s really noticeable.  Besides, my legs are all kinds of messed up, so SOMETHING has to look good and it may as well be me arms.  We’ve also been working a little on Italian fouettes, which I think is one of the most difficult, beastliest moves to do well.  Trying to find good placement while getting a good brush of the foot through the plié and into the fouette is a recipe for disaster because there are about a million things that can go wrong.  But it’s a true test that separates the whites and the yolks, folks.  In other words, it’s messy and it’s hard.

I also have a Karen quote for you too…in center people were kind of herding together and she told us to spread out because she was “noticing some intimacy here…and not the good kind.”

Anyway, I mentioned in my last entry “trippy Russian cartoons,” and I tried to find an example of what I was talking about on youtube, but failed.  But I did come across an interesting little cartoon from way back, when Russia was the Soviet Union.  A little Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale known as “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” which if you will recall features a ballerina as the one legged soldier’s love interest.  Curiously enough, I remembered that Disney did a version as well for Fantasia 2000 and what do we have here?  Why an opportunity to compare classical Russian technique with contemporary American style!

Predictably, the Russians win this round, for a number of reasons.  Although both versions take some various “artistic liberties” with the story, the American version is drastically altered for one, ginormously heinous reason.  The completely incorrect ending!  The soldier and ballerina are supposed to perish in the fire, with the soldier melting into the shape of a heart, to show that even through suffering and difficulty love is eternal.  Diverging from the original story, the American version ends with the villain being cast into the flames instead, and the happy couple living on.  The Russians on the other hand, do it in style by having the ballerina do the most dramatic leap of death into the flames (nobody does tragedrama like the Russians, duh!), to be with her melting soldier.  Now the Russians did ignore the fact that the ballerina is supposed to be standing on one leg, which is why the one legged soldier falls in love with her in the first place, but the ending more than makes up for that little logistical snafu.

As for the dancing itself, the Russian ballerina of course takes the prize…she is this lengthy, ethereal thing with flawless technique and plentiful amplitude in her jumps, while the American ballerina has loose foot form at times and a terrible habit of turning in her foot in her arabesque.  Curiously enough, they do both perform a grand fouette into arabesque en pointe, however the Russian ballerina ups the virtuosity by starting from a relevé developpé a la seconde, fouette to arabesque, penchée, dropping the torso forward and lifting back up to arabesque and placing her foot in a lunge, all en pointe, sans partner.  My, my, my, aren’t we ambitious!

But you can judge for yourself, which version you like better…


*I do give the Americans props for using Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no.2 in F major though!  And note to self: during sword fight, pique into corner…