Saturday, November 18, 2006

At The Ballet

First of all, the Carte Culture (a card available from the university that allows students to buy cultural event tickets for usually 5.50 euro) has been my friend since I’ve arrived in Strasbourg. I’ve had the opportunity to go to an opera, a symphony, a jazz concert, and the museum of modern and contemporary art, and now a ballet, Le Prince des Pagodes, basically for free. Now, we all know that ballets are always a little melodramatic. Let’s just say, there’s something to be said about only having paid 5.50 euro.
Opening: A young ruler, obviously of some nondescript Asian dynasty, is dethroned (but not killed) by an evil older man with a crazy curly ponytail. Apparently some years later, (explanations were kidnapped from this show) the emperor is visited by 4 young rulers from all different corners of the globe; the “European,” the “Mongolian/Native American” (dressed in leather fringe and long black hair), the “Arabian” and the “African” (a white guy with a dark colored body suit and corn rows, even though there was one black dancer in the company) perform racially offensive solos and seem to offer their hands in marriage to the two daughters of the ruler. The first daughter is a ruthless, power-hungry woman who ends up stealing the kingdom from her own father, while the second beautiful, good-hearted daughter is praised and desired by all of the suitors. So who gets her? A large paper frog/monster that appears, for no reason, in the background and out of whose mouth emerges a cloaked stranger with what looks like a glowing, new apple macbook. The good daughter opens the white object that looks like the reason I envy my sister, to find a golden rose that casts a spell over her and compels her to follow the stranger into the mouth of the frog/demon. End first act.
Second Act: Beauty and the Beast meets Nutcracker with some Lion King thrown in for extra punch. The good daughter finds herself in dreamland inside the stomach of the monster, complete with a styx-worthy gondola. She encounters creatures that wear nothing but sequins. She is surrounded by doctors in surgical gowns with long white bandages flowing from their arms. She is entangled in a mass of fish and sea cucumber people who actually make swimming motions on stage. She finally ends in a forest of sorts; a clearing of multi-tired cone trees that come to life before her eyes. She then performs a 10 minute solo, that could have been edited to 5, with an amazing mono-colored nightmare coat, during which she scrubs her face like an obsessive complusive. Enter the Chinese dragon, with toothbrush bristle teeth, maneuvered by at least 25 people. This was basically like watching an oversized game of snake. After the beast had made at least three tedious circles around the stage it vomited out the larvae of a man: the grown rightful prince, of course. A pretty pas de deux ensues, they kiss, he jumps back into the dragon, and we’re done with the second act.
Third Act: You might think resolution, and you would be mistaken. The daughter makes her way out of the dreamland, again apparently a lot of time has passed because the first daughter has gained maniacal rule over the kingdom and the father has gone crazy, but this is not actually made clear. The good daughter returns to set the world straight, and brings with her the dragon to teach her sister and father a lesson, but not without a fight. The father and the rightful prince duke it out in the most boring wooden samurai sword fight I have ever witnessed in my existence. So boring in fact, that a ladder (a prop that the director probably found laying around and decided to throw in because even he knew the 10 minute fight scene was so bad) is added to the brawl so that the audience wouldn’t get up and leave. In the end, the prince wins back the kingdom, makes the good daughter his queen, but doesn’t kill the sister or the father, and the creatures from dreamland are freed from their cumbersome costumes and become human beings again and dance around happily (I think the people at Disney deserve a big round of applause for contributing so much to this work).
This ballet really wouldn’t have been so bad if the dancing was enthralling and the technical aspects of the show were seamless. Unfortunately this was not the case; the dancing was mediocre and there was a moment when the curtains actually opened behind the characters during a scene. It turned out the only redeeming qualities of the show were the very last pas de deux and the ridiculous story I would be able to tell about it.


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