So last night on the way home from seeing the Scottish Ballet at Sadlers Wells, I had a bit of an epiphany on the Northern Line. If you’ve ever tried to get a moment of blinding clarity on London’s public transport you’ll understand why this is a relatively big deal – it’s like that moment in Sister Act where Whoopi Goldberg’s being asked about getting her ‘nun call’ and she says it was in Reno and ‘you have no idea how hard it is to get a call in Reno’*. This was a proper moment of hit you right between the eyes zen calm realisation. I’ll get to the Scottish Ballet in a moment.
I’ve not been to pointe class in a few weeks (life keeps getting in the way) and, in reality, the next chance I’ll have to go is in the New Year. Then it occurred to me: it probably wouldn’t actually bother me if I never took pointe class again.
Yeah. I know, right?
It turns out I wasn’t all that fussed about the getting to do it, what counted was the fact that someone believed enough in me that I could do it. I guess that was what I really wanted.
Crazy, huh? After all the soul searching and emo woe and seething envy of other people taking pointe… even when I was there, up on my toes, letting go of the barre it never felt quite real, as though it should be happening to me. Pointe is for other people**? Not necessarily. I’ll go back to it but it won’t be the be all and end all. The first time I bourré-d my way across the studio it was like flying (although vastly less elegant and graceful) and I think I just needed to experience that once, an ‘I can’ kind of moment.
Back to the actual ballet though… the Scottish Ballet’s mixed bill presented two pieces: Jorma Elo’s ‘Kings 2 Ends’ and Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Song of Earth’. It was awfully stuffy in the theatre last night and at times it was a fight to keep my eyes open against the eyeball burning exhaustion…
Elo’s ‘Kings 2 Ends’ is set to Stephen Reichs’ ‘Double Sextet’ and a Mozart violin concerto. As an aside, I’d like bonus points for identifying the Mozart piece as Mozart because of the ‘twiddly bits’ (I’d’ve known if I’d read the programme notes properly, but I didn’t). There are periods of silence, dancing without music and that’s great. I don’t think you could choreograph an entirely unaccompanied ballet, but this works for the brief periods giving a chance to focus on the dancing and not accidentally get distracted by the music. It’s a good piece overall, great contrast between the two pieces of music and danced with fantastic energy by the company. And the costumes are brilliant. My only vague complaint is that it was probably about ten minutes too long, but maybe that’s just me…
MacMillan’s Song of Earth set to Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ is a complete contrast. After the bouncy joy of ‘Kings 2 Ends’ this is a much darker piece concerned with our own mortality. Its pretext is kind of… well, wanky, for want of a better word. Sorry. The whole ‘death is always around us, don’t be happy you’re only going to die anyway’ kind of thing. But that doesn’t detract from the choreography which is astounding. It’s very MacMillan, if you get me. There are steps and motifs and things that make you go ‘yeah, definitely MacMillan’. It was subtle in the way that Requiem is, you know what the meaning of it is but it doesn’t overwhelm the piece even with the ever present death lurking around on stage in a mask that makes him look a tiny fraction like he sidestepped out of ‘Phantom’… Unfortunately, like the first piece, about fifteen minutes before the end I stopped engaging with the piece and just kind of switched off. Maybe it was tired, maybe it was because I was sore and achey and couldn’t fidget, maybe it was the stuffiness of the theatre, maybe it was just too much Mahler… I don’t know. Up until that point I loved it.
This was my first ‘run in’ with the Scottish Ballet and it was fabulous. Loved it. More, more , more. Maybe that’ll be the thing to entice me back north of the border for the first time in five years… who knows? Scottish Ballet, keep being awesome!
*I know she was only pretending to be a nun so she didn’t get killed by her mobster boyfriend but it’s the comparison that counts. Sister Act = possibly all time favourite film EVAH.
**That’s the line Sartre meant to write and you know it 😉