Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dance Little Moo-Cow, Dance

Some people have a sweets addiction, meaning they'll never make it in the ballet world.

After a good-sized meal in service of my hired mouth, the two of us went off in search of just the right thing to finish off our palates, landing at Zosaro's Bakery over on Northside and walking in at an opportune moment.

The baker had been there for over eleven hours at that point, so she was tired and ready to close down shop within the hour. My companion immediately ordered two hazelnut-filled beignets while I dithered over my selection.

What exactly was Australian mud cake?

Assuring me that it was the silkiest chocolate cake I'd ever put in my mouth topped by rich chocolate ganache, she pulled the remaining square out of the case while I was still ogling the chocolate eclairs. "I'll throw in the eclair," she said generously. "Otherwise I'll take it home and eat it."

Better my hips than hers, she seemed to be saying.

In our defense, we didn't finish all the mud cake, but the other three were soon history.

And while our plan had been to park the car at my house and walk to the Ballet, we'd lingered so long over our sweets that we ran out of time to walk in the rain. Neither of us was willing to risk missing even a minute of tonight's Studio Two performance.

Up first was Stoner Winslet's "Echoing Past," made bittersweet by the fact that it's dancer Lauren Fagone's farewell performance after 14 years. I've seen her dance so many roles as such an integral part of this company that it'll be tough to imagine it without her.

As if that wasn't enough reason to tug on our heartstrings, pianist Joanna Kong accompanied the piece in a beautifully poetic way as the dance traced the stages of a woman's life. Dancers moved in and out as sort of visual memories as she looked back on it all.

I have a feeling a dance tracing my life stages would have looked a bit more chaotic.

During an intermission that involved some decidedly older people climbing over us and trying to crack wise about it ("Don't mind my big feet" from a woman the size of a sparrow), we talked about how incredibly muscular and slender the dancers were.

I mean, you could count ribs. It was obvious they didn't gorge at bakeries before shows like some of us did.

Next came visiting choreographer Edgar Zendejas' "Realms of Amber," a very different kind of work.

I knew from seeing a rehearsal as the piece was being worked up that it was about the strength of female energy set to Russian monks chanting - now there's a contrast - and we both agreed that the instrument-less music was out of this world, utterly enchanting.

But given the bare-chested male dancers glistening with sweat, the dance came across as very masculine despite the females involved. But it was beautifully choreographed and given what a talented bunch the Richmond Ballet dancers are, it was a thrill to watch the visceral and balletic movements executed so finely.

Unlike "Echos," there was little sense of a narrative, but who cares when admiring fine male forms?

Afterwards, we talked about why we like dance so much, attributing it in part to both of us taking lessons as a child. But we're not talking the kind of lessons offered by the School of the Richmond Ballet, let  me assure you.

I did three years of ballet and tap at Miss Rita's School of Dance, which was located in Miss Rita's cinder block basement painted blue with mirrors on one wall. Shuffle, hop, step.

Miss Rita was known to conduct class with a cigarette hanging out of one side of her mouth, not always, but often enough that that's my main memory of her after the one of my light blue tutu worn at the final recital.

Life-changing as all that sounds, my friend trumped me in spades.

Seems she'd gone to the only dance studio in Gordonsville, conveniently located in a room in the town livestock building. "That's right, during class we could hear the cows lowing in the next room," she tells me of her many years of ballet, tap and jazz instruction.

There was the year she danced to that classic, Three Dog Night's "One (is the loneliest number)" for her final recital. Tap was her favorite and one year, her Mom was helping out taking tickets at a recital and even joined the kick line.

I got nothing to compare to that.

Our dancing backgrounds matter not, because as she put it while we downed half the bakery's offerings, "If I had to give up sweets or alcohol, I'd have to lose the booze."

Go ahead and throw in another eclair. No one's ever going to be able to count our ribs.

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