I decided recently that with my advancing years it was time to embrace some culture before it’s too late.
Photo courtesy of the Opera House and Australian Ballet
For someone who believes herself to be creative in so many ways, I have always struggled with the level of intellectualism required to interpret the different art forms. Abstract art confounds me, there’s a voice in my head that tells me to fart loudly during serious classical music renditions and the theatre sends me to sleep.
Musical theatre, pantomime, or a good old-fashioned comedian are more up my alley -choices, I assume, that herald back to my working class roots where we cheered ourselves up with ribald humour, ostentation and revelry.
But I have tried to like the ballet, which is why when some girlfriends suggested a group outing to the Opera House, I jumped at the chance – even though getting tickets to the event was almost as difficult as securing tickets to Adele.
I didn’t ask too many questions about the performance beforehand, nor did I read the synopsis – a mistake in hindsight. I’ve seen Swan Lake a couple of times and assumed that ballet is ballet and that it would be similar in theme – you know, chocolate box scenery, skinny ballerinas with the immense discipline to resist muffins so they can contort their bodies into ridiculous poses, and men prancing around in tights.
But I was wrong.
Albeit that there were lots of men prancing around in tights, “Nijinsky” was a contemporary ballet rather than “classical’, and so stylised that it made me feel like I’d unknowingly taken some of Kurt’s illicit substances within the first ten minutes. Devoid of the comfort of coloful, schmalzy scenery, the troupe of “Australian Ballet” dancers proceeded to enact the “rise and tragic fall” of the ballet legend. Even I was able to interpret that the man had a pretty fucked-up life, which the company interpreted with lots of foot stomping, flesh slapping and rolling around – which I can fully identify with – but there were also scenes of homo-erotica, (if I’m not mistaken), and even the odd three-some.
At one point a group of male dancers strutted across the stage in army jackets and underpants, to be joined by Mrs Santa en pointe and I may have whispered a WTF?…so you get my drift.
I like to think I have an open mind and it was an interesting experience, if not completely intelligible or compelling for me personally, but the main feeling the performance invoked in me was relief that I hadn’t invited the old man, who frankly would never have forgiven me.
However, this is from the perspective of a self-confessed philistine whose idea of the perfect Saturday night is at the pub with a meat raffle on offer. The dancing was, judging by the enamoured audience (ie. the people who should have been there), mesmerising; the orchestra was outstanding and even I sat back in awe at the talent and passion on display. With forty or so talented members of the company and a full pit of equally talented musicians, it was better value for money than the Crowded House concert out front of the Opera House with a few prima donna band members and some stoned roadies.
And it opened my eyes, which is always wonderful at this stage of life, even though they were desperate to close most of the way through the show. Do I feel a better person for it? Not necessarily. But it did confirm two things: 1) to keeping trying new things and not let my age stop me, and 2) to accept it graciously when something turns out to not be my thing and put it down to experience.