Romeo and Juliet

As promised, a post on my very exciting foray into the classy and cultural world of ballet! Ballet is very cool these days. No longer a pastime for old people with monocles, ballet is an art form that can be enjoyed by anyone, as well as a graceful and beautiful display of athleticism! Wow! When I was younger, I would dance around my cousin’s living room while watching videos of her ballet recitals, and I would knock things over in my clumsiness. I rediscovered the joy of ballet once again because Misty Copeland made headlines for becoming the first African-American principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, plus she wrote a very good memoir that made me want to dance!

So amidst all of this talk of ballet in my life, I promptly booked the cheapest tickets possible ($37) for the National Ballet of Canada‘s production of Romeo and Juliet! I did this in October, and the show was in March. Just so you know, there is no need to be so eager. The ticket prices don’t change based on the date.

After Dangerous Dan and I had our scrumptious Italian dinner, we headed across the street to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The show started at 7:30 pm, but we arrived at 6:45 to attend a ballet talk.

I think these ballet talks take place before every show; someone who is part of the company comes to share some behind the scenes tidbits with the audience! The person who spoke to us was Peter Ottmann. He spoke about his history with the company and with the ballet (he played a little boy in Romeo and Juliet when he was a little boy, and then later on in life he played the part of Romeo!) and he also talked about the music and the story of Romeo and Juliet. It was very helpful to get some background on the ballet, especially since I’ve never read the play and I also didn’t bother reading the scene summaries in the program (I was busy reading up on the ballet dancers!).

After the ballet talk, we headed into the auditorium to get ready for the show! (One benefit to the Four Seasons which is worth mentioning – there were no lines for the girls’ washroom! I don’t know how this was possible (either there was a surplus of washrooms or a deficit of ladies) but it was just glorious and not having to wait to use the toilet made the experience so much better.) Even though our tickets were the cheapest, our seats weren’t bad! The Four Seasons is more vertical than slanted, so everyone gets a great view of the stage. There were even funny chairs to the left of us which were positioned so that people sat sideways, beside the balcony, so they could have a more direct viewing angle.

The ballet was quite long; almost three hours, with two intermissions. It was very new for me to watch a story being told through dance. Being a musical-lover, I half expected the dancers to break out into song at certain points. The music helped a lot with the storytelling. As you can see in the picture above, the orchestra pit is open for the world to see, and I really enjoyed watching the musicians! The National Ballet Orchestra is the only ballet company that has its own dedicated orchestra (most other places just borrow musicians), which I thought was pretty interesting.

The dancing was really beautiful and I just can’t believe people are that flexible and strong. One of the principal character artists (former ballet dancers whose bodies just aren’t up for it anymore, but still perform professionally) joined the ballet company in 1959! NINETEEN FIFTY NINE. That’s 57 years ago! Her name is Lorna Geddes and I think she should win a Lifetime Achievement Award or a Guinness World Record or something. I can’t even do the splits and here she is dancing into her 70s.

I had a really fantastic time watching the ballet! In terms of the actual storyline, Shakespeare was nuts and watching Romeo kill himself and then Juliet kill herself was so frustrating. I knew the story to begin with, but seeing it played out in front of me was just so aggravating! If Romeo had just waited 5 minutes before drinking his poison, he and Juliet could have lived happily ever after. Where did he get the poison from anyway? The play should be renamed “Why You Should Think With Your Head and Not With Your Heart.” Or, “The Flaw in the Plan,” because Friar Laurence really dropped the ball on this one.


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