Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ballet Rodeo

One of the best deals in all of San Francisco is weeknights at the Opera House during the San Francisco Ballet season.

A balcony seat will only set you back $8, which is cheaper than a movie, where there's no great live orchestra playing.

Since it's not very crowded, you can use your ticket to stand behind the rails of the orchestra section if you want to get closer. This is where most of the ballet students hang out cheering on their colleagues in between gossiping sessions.

The ballet audience is younger than the opera crowd...

...with lots of gay pairs...

...and old girlfriends.

My friend Thad Trela was manning one of the entrances as a "hospitality" person who is allowed to grab a free seat after his greeting duties are over.

I went to "Mixed Program #3" on Wednesday the 22nd with my neighbor A. who had never been to the ballet before.

She was astonished at what more experienced balletomanes look upon as a convention: the ass-crack tights on the male dancers which allows you to see, well, everything. The first ballet was by the old Martha Graham dancer/choreographer, Paul Taylor, to one of my favorite pieces of music by Richard Strauss, a sweet-sounding ballet suite written in 1943 consisting of orchestrations of Couperin harpsichord pieces. The ballet was fine, though I have to confess here that most ballets give me the giggles, and the lack of appreciation is entirely my fault.

My laughter was sincerely derisive during the second ballet, "Magrittomania," choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, one of the principal dancers at the company. The choreography was emotional, tormented and Russian, which was fine, but the music was an ungodly horror. It was an amalgamation of a dozen of Beethoven's Greatest Hits, from "Fur Elise" to themes from the Third and Seventh Symphonies, and one Yuri Krasavin (perfect name!) had reorchestrated them into something more moderne. Instead of being a perfect meeting of two great composers, a la Strauss and Couperin, it was more like the weird bastardizations of classical music used during "Ice Skating" at the Olympics.

The last ballet was the best, Agnes de Mille's 1942 "Rodeo" with the impossibly beautiful Aaron Copland score. I've heard the thing thousands of times on classical radio stations over the decades and never had a clue what scenario it was supposed to be illustrating, which is basically "tomboy wants a man and can't get one until she puts on an ugly dress and dances with the two cutest guys."

My neighbor A., who is a bit of a tomboy herself, was disappointed only in that the piece hadn't been updated Lesbian "Brokeback Mountain" style, where the heroine would get to dance off with the woman, rather than the man, of her dreams. I could see her point.


Professor Zero said...

This photo is really beautiful!

Anonymous said...

PLEASE get that machine fixed fast. Your blog remains one of my favorite things on the internet... that blue blob in the picture bothers me. Thanks for a great site.

Civic Center said...

Whoops! The technical genius here (me) just erased the last post with the "beautiful photo" but the comments remained. Oh well, it's been replaced by pretty opera house pictures.

And thanks professor zero and Mr/Ms anonymous. It's an enormous amount of work doing this site, but I enjoy it tremendously.

Professor Zero said...

Ballet pictures are good too. I especially liked the ethereal first two...and the story is fun!

Paul G. McCurdy said...

Just found your blog -- and just began exploring ballet, too. Last weekend I went to SF Ballet to see Apollo, which was beautiful.

AlbGlinka said...

I could kick myself for missing Rodeo. I'm planning to make it to the "Jewish Ballet" Dybbuk, by Jerome Robbins in Program 4.

So Mike: are you going to be miming it on March 6th??? Dare we put ourselves through the humiliation?