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Monday, July 19, 2010

An electrifying experience at the ballet


A group of 8 of us from Toronto have just come back from a fabulous weekend seeing New York City Ballet at Saratoga Springs, New York. I'm sure Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15 has often been described as electrifying, with the brilliance of the unendingly inventive choreography and the speed and attack of NYCB's dancers. In this case, though, it was literally electrifying, as lightning apparently hit the light board halfway through the piece. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is an outdoor theatre, and we had been hearing the wind pick up since the beginning of the ballet. Then an enormous bang was followed by half the stage lights going out (the famous Blue Ballet Backdrop so common in Balanchine ballets suddenly lost its colour). It was a corps section and amazingly, the dancers didn't miss a beat (and neither did the orchestra) and just kept on dancing. Three cheers to the stage management, too, who must have been working miracles backstage to get the blue lighting back in a very short time. Kudos to Ashley Bouder with her amazingly high hovering grand jetes.
It wasn't the last bizarre incident of the night, as in the middle of the next ballet on the program, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, a wayward rodent (chipmunk? gopher? squirrel?) scuttled up the downstage right "leg" (those big black drapes that hide the wings), causing the audience to burst out laughing. The dancers must have been perplexed, but again you couldn't have told. I love Walpurgisnacht Ballet, with its beautiful costumes in shades of pink against a muted magenta backdrop, its classic Balanchine arrangement of the corps in beautiful poses, brilliant diagonal variation for the principal ballerina, and the constant buildup of excitement till all the dancers are whirling around like wild women with their long hair flailing around them.
Other highlights of our weekend:
Christopher Wheeldon's mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful After the Rain, exquisitely danced by Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall.
Here are San Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith performing it at the Fire Island Festival:



An "All-Robbins" program featuring the exuberant NY Export: Opus Jazz, the gorgeous In the Night (the upside-down lift was perfectly executed: one second Jonathan Stafford reached out his arm to Maria Kowroski and the next she was completely straight up-and-down upside down), and the ever hilarious The Concert with the delightful Sterling Hyltin.
Here's San Francisco Ballet performing the famous "Mistake Waltz", which always cracks me up and makes me think that's what I look like in my ballet classes (except not that good).
Saratoga is a lovely town, the surroundings for the theatre in the park are gorgeous, and the magnificent Hall of Springs next door, with its classic spa architecture, is a fabulous venue for a wonderful pre-performance buffet dinner.

For info on our upcoming 2013 Saratoga trip, please click here. Booking deadline is March 8! Either join us on the coach from Toronto, or meet up with us in Saratoga.

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