(Note: this post was started last month, in mid-October)

Just got back from the ballet tonight — Coppélia! It was such a delight. I haven't been to the ballet in way too long, and this was absolutely marvelous.

There were a few interesting things I noticed this time that I don't recall seeing as a child. First and foremost (and I'm not surprised I didn't notice this as a child), the legs and derrieres of the male dancers were quite fine, and whomever designed the costumes should be given a gold star! :) There was one dancer in particular I really admired, and I was a bit surprised he was in the "second row" of dancers, rather than the lead. Then again, perhaps he didn't have the experience… but he definitely had lovely, proud, graceful carriage throughout. He stood out a bit as well — not only was he black, but he was also quite tall. While I don't know the names of the various steps, there's a particular one that consists of a leap where the dancer is basically doing the splits in the air. This dancer not only looked fantastically long legged while doing it — his legs seemed to start at about his shoulders — but he would leap into the air, and then seem almost to float for an instant at the apex before he landed. It was like watching a gazelle, in a way — simply beautiful!

That was another thing I really liked seeing: the diversity of the entire dance troupe. As a child I recall only all white faces dancing, and if I recall the times correctly, a ballet troupe with some Russian ballerinas was considered quite diverse. However, that was not case this time — and the diversity was not just in the "backup" dancers, as often happens. The male lead/principal was asian, and amongst the soloists and corps de ballet were several non-white faces. Also, a quick perusal of the company of dancers listed in the libretto booklet showed they were not just from the United States. I noticed individual dancers from Wales, Russia, Australia, Argentina — even Bosnia-Herzegovina. Further, there were several dancers each from China, Cuba, and Japan! Admittedly, I was so lost in the delightful music and dancing that it took me a bit to register the wonderful diversity, but frankly it's my hope that eventually this sort of diversity will excite no comment whatsoever — due to its being so commonplace.

The wonderful dancing itself included body language that was clear enough that at points it almost felt like pantomime. However, it was invariably graceful and added to the story well. Further, as my companion noted, it was very nice to know precisely what was going on. I know ballet has its own gestural language, so I don't know if all of these are part of it — but there were some very clever and funny uses of gesture to denote fear, being in a huff, being overeager, and so on. However, while talking to my mother later, she assured me ballet has always had that strong component of near-pantomime.

Another thing I don't recall noticing as a child was the amount of noise on stage. As an example, toe shoes make a small but distinct thump or tapping. Was this due to the particular theatre I was in, I wonder? I vaguely recall hearing, years ago, that when the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts was first built it had terrible acoustics, and had to have an expensive re-do to fix that problem. If that rumor was actually true, I can confidently state they've definitely got fantastic acoustics now — at one point one of the dancers smackingly kissed his hand — and we heard it up in the balcony seats!

I must say, the ballet production was very nice, too. There were some clever and funny pyrotechnics use to symbolize magic in the storyline, which really looked marvelous. I was also delighted at how much of the music I recognized — that's always a pleasure, like coming home to old friends. The costumes were colorful and attractive as well, although I found the heroine's pale pink dress slightly less eye-grabbing than the warm autumnal gold another of the dancers was wearing. My personal thought was: aren't the leads supposed to be the center of our visual attention? Shouldn't costuming help that? It certainly did with the male lead — he had some subtle use of red lapels which marked him clearly as the lead, without screaming it out.

The orchestra was quite impressive, and certainly deserves mention. At one point the female principal was twirling in place while up on one toe (there's a lovely French word for this movement which I'm completely ignorant of. If you know the word, here is where you should smugly think it, please ;) — which is an extremely difficult movement to perform while staying with the music and keeping her balance. It's one of those skillful motions which requires near perfection, since if you have a little bobble as you start, it just keeps getting worse with every spiral until you cannot continue without falling over. I could tell the ballerina's balance was slowly going as she continued twirling, and I was mentally wincing in sympathy as I realized she was going to be juuust a squeak off from the music when she finished — and without warning or fanfare, the music smoothly ended precisely when she did! I was quite impressed — that's a darned good orchestra, and a really fantastic conductor, to be able to do that so gracefully!

One of my housemates studied stage lighting in college, and so I know a tiny smattering about it — about enough to get myself into trouble. Consequently, I was rather pleased by the lighting of the ballet. There were some nice "rising sun" effects, and some subtle use of lights to direct the attention of the audience. The theatre itself was very nice; I've always liked its rather personal feel, in that I've never had a rotten seat there in all the performances I've attended.

So all in all, I had a really, really wonderful time at the ballet! My housemate who gave me the tickets as a gift gets my heartfelt thanks and appreciation. I so love ballet! -and I'm so looking forward to getting to see more during the next year. Yay! :)

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