Thursday, May 15, 2014

Out with the Girls

Just another matinee at the ballet.

That's a joke because I haven't been to the ballet since December 2012 and there was a time when I missed nothing that the Richmond Ballet performed.

Today was Studio Three, the final production of the ballet's 30th anniversary season. That alone is testament to how long this has been a real dance town.

Walking over, I knew instinctively that the audience would be predominantly female and I was spot on. There were a few older men scattered around, but it was basically an estrogen blowout.

I was eager to see "Lines Squared" which was inspired by the artwork of Piet Mondrian with a backdrop that resembled one of the painter's geometric works.

What I didn't anticipate was how the groups of dancers would extend the lines of the set by unfurling swaths of fabric on the floor to make it three dimensional as they danced with machine-like precision to music that evoked the sounds of industry.

The piece was broken down into sections of color with the dancers dressed in black, red, yellow and blue successively while the lighting matched, as did the music -it was exuberant for the yellow dancers and melancholy for the blue ones.

Mondrian would have loved its precision and primary colors.

During intermission, the girl next to me turned and asked what I'd thought of the piece and I raved about its art connection and how much I'd enjoyed the marriage with ballet.

Turns out she had no idea who Mondrian was or that the set resembled one of his paintings. She'd come to see her friend dance because they'd been too busy all semester to get together.

We each take something different from culture.

The second half of the program began with a short film of choreographer Ma Cong talking about how his mother's death a couple years ago had been the focus of the piece,  "Lift the Fallen," as he began dealing with the loss and eventually learning how to move on.

While I'm fortunate enough to still have my Mom, I have lost someone equally as close to me and I remember well the journey from heartbreak to acceptance and regaining the desire to look forward and not back.

Using far more traditional ballet movements, the five-part piece was heartbreaking in parts, no doubt reflecting Cong's devastation.

Beginning with a long piece of fabric coming down from the ceiling on either side of a male dancer who had it attached to his back, the dancers worked with the fabric, incorporating it into their steps.

Wickedly impressive were some of the male dancers who at times were so fluid you wondered if they had bones.

The elegiac second movement, "In Love," was achingly sad and movingly beautiful, but really, every movement tugged at the heartstrings in some way or another.

When it ended triumphantly with the entire cast, you could feel Cong's hopefulness had returned.

As had my determination not to let so long pass without another afternoon or evening at the ballet.

In a marriage, the traditional 30th anniversary gift is pearls, but it seems unlikely I'll ever have one of those to celebrate. But that's okay because apparently in ballet, it's the audience who gets a pearl of a show for the 30th.

I suppose I'd have known that if I went to the ballet more often.

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