I like dance the way that I imagine cats like swimming, it's not something I can really do, per se, but I admire the effort in others. I appreciate watching dance, I am excited and fairly un-critical, or, at least, less critical then I am of the things I have any talent at all at, like cooking or walking quickly and efficiently down the street without disrupting other people (yes, crazy mumbling homeless man from this morning, I'm talking to you). So it was with great pleasure that I learned that my mother had gotten free tickets to Balletx, a local company whose work has pushed the envelope that is classical ballet, or so I had heard. Alas, when it comes to my life, nothing is free of struggle, because struggle will, despite ones best efforts, abound like hell.
Feeling pleasantly calm after dinner and two glasses of wine, my mother and I took our seats in the Wilma Theater, surrounded by a fully filled audience of wide eyed theater-goers ready to experience the magic. And, frankly, I'm sort of still waiting.
The show, which was really three separate pieces created by the company and divided by two intermissions (which was the first mark against it, I mean, two intermissions? Seriously? Don't these people dance full length ballets? If the outfits for each piece are just various different sweatpants can't we just cut some time and save ourselves the price of a costume designer? Come on, now), began with a dance that showed us all why most dancers never cross into acting (though they SHOULD). The dancers, standing in a line on a blank stage staring seriously into the audience began moving awkwardly yet gracefully (awkward in a way only really graceful people can be) and speaking short lines of text that were repeated over and over again like a round. The next piece featured four "set" pieces that resembled four small barres which the dancers had to awkwardly trundle around the stage as they lept and moved to four very different songs. The last piece, and my personal favorite, was a vicious and stirring dance to Ravel's Bolero, a piece of music I have always enjoyed. I will say this, that what made this piece stand of from the two others was the violence and savagery in the dance, juxtaposed with the song itself. Swan Lake, eat your heart out.
Look, don't get me wrong, these are some amazing dancers. Most of them come from our best ballet company, and their training and precision is impeccable and evident. Their sheer abilities are wonderful, but at the end of the evening I was left with the question of why? Why had they made these pieces? What was the purpose? Each one was too close to ballet to be truly groundbreaking or innovative, but far enough away to feel like modern. The images themselves were interesting, but what did they evoke? What lasted from this encounter other then my continued appreciation for Ravel and my envy of the svelte ballet silhouette? I couldn't really tell you.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.