Off to the ballet…. In an attempt to become a little more sophisticated, show Mrs Nick Cook that I am more than the cave dwelling troglodyte that she thinks I am, and to offer a slight gesture of romance, I have booked tickets for Swan Lake ballet, performed by Moscow City Ballet at the Nottingham Theatre Royal. What’s quite clear is that I don’t know the difference between a faux pas and fouetté. One way or another though, I’ll probably put my foot in it.
I should probably point out that my only experience of ballet or interest at this point is watching the scandalous and salacious lesbian toe tapping romp that is Black Swan. Well, that and Taylor Swift in one of her videos in a tutu doing ballerina bum thrusts, probably not an official move. There were two choices for performance, and given the recent history of having to visit hospital for a thorough examination of my nuts, the Nutcracker felt a little too close for comfort, which left Swan Lake. I’ll go with that, I’m man enough to watch Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in passionate embrace if need be.
For ballet virgins, those who are not deeply adept with classical ballet and those who maybe even less sophisticated than me, Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky’ is a grim fairy tale of a doomed love story. Prince Siegfried falls for the cursed Swan Queen, Odette. Swan by day, princess by night. But later Siegfried announces his intentions to marry Odile after being seduced by her, the daughter of the evil sorcerer von Rothbart who has cast a spell on the evil strumpet to make her look like Odette. Big mistake. Realising this, Siegfried runs after Odette who forgives him but they know the only way out from von Rothbart’s evil scheme is death, so they jump into a lake and drown. The same ballerina plays the two parts, Odette in white, Odile in black. Still with me?
After a long romantic stumble to the bar, we start out with a pre ballerina beer and settle into our seats, seats that are so high that I’m surprised oxygen doesn’t have to be bought in, for what the programme guide describes as the signature piece of the entire repertoire with stunning soloists and a sublime corps de ballet with the vitality of a live orchestra. I immediately interpret this as 2 1/2 hours of dancing where I haven’t got clue what’s going off.
Pretty party frocks a plenty, a male dancer enters the stage, dressed in sprayed on tights and clearly chosen for his physique, when I say physique, I mean his unfeasibly large package, although his nutcracker does not compare to mine. What the hell do they feed these Russian men? I’m not even looking through a zoom lens here, this guy is a tripod, has grown a third leg or is really proud to be a ballerina. Maybe he couldn’t find anywhere to put his lunch box. I’m guessing this is Prince Siegfried, no wonder the saucy Odile seduces him, no wonder Mrs Cook applauds enthusiastically.
A stunning sea of swans (errr…I probably mean a swan lake) surround the stage, white lycra clad ballerinas extending their go-go gadget legs in perfect pirouette prose executing a delicate drill of dance with faultless, flexible, fancy footwork and fast fluttering fouettes. These girls have clearly been practicing. It’s a good job really, the audience clap every two minutes which I assume must be some sort feeding mechanism for ballerinas, none of ’em look like they’ve ever eaten a bag of crisps in their life.
It’s graceful and elegant with gentle thuds on the floor and mannequin poses. I can’t sit still for three seconds never mind three minutes in petrified uniformed unison. The nearest I’ve ever come to performing a fouette is when I twisted an ankle at football, proof I really did put my foot in it I suppose. How on earth somebody performs 32 fouettes without falling foul is beyond my comprehension. Talented tip toes for sure.
As the unfathomable plot folds out, I can’t help but think the orchestra has played this record already, I’m getting a little bored and haven’t got a clue what’s going off. Finally, the lovers leap into the lake and it’s over, finishing off with a flourish of applause. So it’s no ugly duckling, but I’d ruffle the feathers to suggest that for my sanity’s sake, Swan Lake should be shortened down by two hours to something more sensible.
You can find out more about Moscow City Ballet here.
You don’t have to go to Moscow to see them, you can see them at the Nottingham Theatre Royal.