Monday, March 7, 2011

At the Ballet

"But everything was beautiful at the ballet..."
Sheila from "A Chorus Line"

Fin d'Arabesque, with Ballerina Rosita Mauri
Edgar Degas,1877, Oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay
Like everyone else, I have my share of problems. More than some, but far fewer than most. I have the blessings of good health, abundant food, warm shelter, and a loving family. How much richer could I be?

I try to put my troubles into perspective, keeping each one separated from the others. Divide and conquer, you know? Little by little they can be sorted out, taken and looked at logically, worked on and worked out. Usually.

Every so often, though, Troubles decide to gang up together into a big troublesome wad and hurl themselves into your midst without warning to see what havoc they can create. Splat! It hurts.

And so it has been for the last few weeks. Just when one issue seems to be resolved, another one pops up to take its place. Then another. And another. It’s been a big ole’ game of “Whack a Mole” around here lately.

Yesterday, it all went away for a while. All the problems, all the anxiety, and all the difficulties melted away.

I went to the ballet.

I was tempted not to go. I had planned to accompany my four year old Little Beauty to see the performance, but she contracted a nasty tummy bug that I nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” and cancelled (wisely) on me. Poor baby.

I was feeling spent myself, tired of the hustle and bustle and back and forth and sickness and logistics and wondering where I would be needed the most. Maybe I would just stay home after all.

But I knew that a dear friend would be acknowledged at the performance, receiving an award for her artistic contributions as costume designer for the last ten years or so at the ballet company. I’ve held many pins for her through the years, and learned so much about the mix of artistry and engineering that goes into building costumes (yes, costumes are ‘built’ not ‘sewn’ as Jude taught me), and with each pin I’ve handed to Jude Bonnot over the years, my estimation for her has grown. I had to be there to see her receive her well-deserved accolade.

Don’t you love it when you make the right choice?

I went to the ballet and had the most wonderful time. The production was amazing, a tribute to the gifted artistic staff from Alexandra Ballet, the gifted dancers (of course), and the scores of volunteers who contribute to the effort.

The MainStage production this year was a repertory show, which is a grouping of small pieces put into a cohesive unit, rather than the usual story ballet (like Cinderella or Swan Lake). Five beautiful pieces of differing style and mood made up this season’s “Gems of the Ballet” and what a shining gem of a production it was!

Here is a photo of the bows taken after the performance of the first piece, Paquita, in which every single dancer wore a custom creation made by Jude Bonnot. This is what's called a "complete build" and you are only seeing a fraction of the scores of costumes made for this one selection.

It was a lengthy show with two intermissions (everyone certainly got their money’s worth for this one!), and as I visited with the company’s Artistic Director during one of them, she was kind enough to invite me over to the cast party following this final performance.

It took a nanosecond to accept the invitation, though I knew I’d be an unplanned guest of the company, and might cause some difficulty to the planners. If it didn’t feel right, I’d just say a quick hello to a few friends and beat a hasty retreat.

Right decision, again. The gracious chair of the planning committee could not have been kinder. She placed me at a table with old and new friends (which, of course, is the perfect combination), arranged for my dinner, and made me feel like a guest of honor. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Karen!

Ballet people know how to throw a party. I've told you that before, but it bears saying again. If you are ever invited to a party connected with  the ballet world in any way... go. It's a guaranteed great time.

The idea here is transcendence. The production itself took me out of my reality for two hours, long enough to restore my psyche. The music took my mind to a place of order and beauty. As if time traveling, the stories of the ballets transported me to places of intrigue, charm, lovely gardens, and humorous vignettes. The party afterward was a place in which I could reconnect with old friends and enjoy making new ones.

The afternoon and evening was truly a tonic for my soul.

If you find yourself beset with troubles, I hope you are able to find a recipe that works for you like ballet works for me.We sometimes are not even aware how very badly we need the respite from those troubles. Music, dance, reading, do you transcend the everyday?

Today, I hope you transcend all your least for a while.

This little video snippet is of Alexandra Ballet Company dancer, Makensie Howe, who has accepted a contract to dance professionally next season with Houston Ballet II. It has been an honor to see this lovely young lady grow up, and she will be sorely missed next year. As it is with any great training company, we must become accustomed to saying goodbye, and come to the understanding that our loss is the ballet world's gain. Godspeed to you, Makensie, and come back soon to perform as a guest artist!


  1. I was eleven years old when I saw my first professional ballet performance. I was transfixed, just as I was when I saw my first opera.

  2. Thank you so much for you kind words, my mom and I are very excited to be doing this together :) Albeit she is having a bit of difficulty technology wise... I am so happy to see your excursion to the ballet was all that you hoped it to be and more!

  3. What a beautiful and charming post!And how LUCKY are you to be in the company of so many wonderful people. So glad you had a great time and your Makensie is elegant as well as the painting!

    Love and peace to you today and always...

  4. Hi Tess! I've enjoyed opera music since I was little (my older brother studied opera for a while), but had never attended a full production until my daughter danced in "Il Trovatore" for Indianapolis Opera a few years ago...I was blown away. I thought ballet stories were fantastical!

    My daughter told me that at the first complete run through, she ran on stage as a gypsy dancer just as the Anvil Chorus was starting. She said every hair on her body stood on end and she (for the first time in her life) nearly blanked on the choreography.

    Yep, and my friend, Jude, who also build for Opera Theatre St. Louis, tells me that opera people know how to party every bit as well as the ballet folk do!

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. Thanks for the visit, Burkes. Come again soon!

  6. Hi Vicki! Yes, I count my blessing to have found this community of wonderful teachers and role models for young people. They are inspiring, compassionate, caring women (and one male teacher, too!) who raise these kids as much as their own mothers and fathers do.

    Much love your way,

  7. What a wonderful, peacefull post. And such an honor I know you really loved going to the party. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful time.

  8. You're welcome, Patty. I enjoy sharing the wonderful, peaceful parts of my life!

  9. jo i really enjoyed this post although ballet and opera have not occupied a place of prominence in my listening and viewing life. i appreciate the idea of them very much. the grace. the athleticism, the soft edged sense of this world. steven

  10. Thank you so much, Steven. the world could use more soft edges, don't you think?

    So glad you enjoyed the post...

  11. One major regret I carry around is the fact that I once had a chance to actually PLAY whack-a-mole, but I chose instead to go drink a beer at the bar. Oh man how I regret that choice.

    Glad you got to the ballet! Art heals.

  12. Thanks, Reya.

    No, you made the right over whack-a mole, most definitely! We may have to correct that Whack-a Mole deficit in your life at some point, though. It's great for releasing some of that pent-up emotion. ;-)

    Have a great night!

  13. Thank you for sharing your wonderful evening. I've been feeling like that mole lately, waiting for the club to connect with my head again. It was lovely to escape for the two or three minutes of reading, watching and listening.

  14. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Pondside. We all feel the need to escape sometimes, don't we?

    I wonder when spring will break and we'll be able to see more of the beauty of nature? I'm looking forward to some pics from your verdant neighborhood!

    Thanks for stopping to say hello!

  15. I haven't seen you in so long, but if I get this second transplant, you'll have to take me to the ballet. I know April would love to go as well.

  16. It's a date, Josh (, Cooper. there I go, blowing your cover again)!

    Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, would make me happier than to do that with you and April.

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog and adding a comment. You're the BEST (don't tell Greg I said that)! ♥



Your visit makes my heart smile. Thank you.