Girls’ night out

“Good evening, Madam,” said the usher at door 26 to D, before apologizing. “It must be the beard,” I said, giving D’s stubble a tickle.

In fact it was probably D’s very brightly-coloured shirt, as well as the vast preponderance of women and girls in the audience. You could sense that in the pitch of the conversational hum as you walked in. In our row (F of the stalls) there were, including us, only 6 males out of 30 all up, and I’d say that was about the ratio generally.

It was D’s birthday, and we had gone to see the Australian Ballet’s Firebird and other Legends.

It is an odd little twist of history that an art form that originally had more than a bit to do with providing an opportunity to men to ogle the female form (cue: Degas’s ballerinas) the audience is now overwhelmingly made up of women who must surely identify with or aspire with the ballerina myth. I guess it’s not so different from the reason lots of men go to sport.

Of course, I’m making a big assumption here about my fellow audience members, but it doesn’t seem such a very wild hunch. Naomi Wolf, where are you? It’s also a generalisation, and I don’t for a moment mean to suggest that such aspirations or childhood dreams mean that the audience doesn’t have a more specific appreciation of the relevant forms. Thomasina gives a much more detailed and also well informed account of the occasion than I ever could.

For what it’s worth, though, it took me a while to even begin to relax into what Les Sylphides was about. About the time it really was beginning to mean anything to me, it was finishing. I certainly agree with Thomasina about some of the tempi adopted. In particular, as there was no dancing at all at the beginning, why did it have to be sooooooo slow?

I enjoyed Petrushka, partly because of having seen a filmed version on Youtube last year at Thomasina’s prompting. I was surprised to read on the AB brochure that they haven’t done it for forty years. And the music was certainly a step up from Chopin arrangements.

Lacking Thomasina’s allegiance to the original Firebird, I could warm to Graeme Murphy’s version without her reservations. D, who dreamt in his youth in Shanghai of becoming a dancer, was more in Thomasina’s camp in relation to the missing details of the story. In the second last tableau, when things began to go on a bit, I do wonder if it was those missing details which were the problem (though the opera theatre pit and the malnourished violin sound also took a musical toll). It probably didn’t help our appreciation of that scene that we used to have a beach towel very similar to the slightly Hawaian-looking outfits worn by the men of the corps-de-ballet.

We liked Chengwu Guo‘s slinky outfit as the baddy Kotschei much more. It definitely allowed for a specific appreciation of the relevant forms.

3 Responses to “Girls’ night out”

  1. Thom Says:

    Beach towels – yes, that was it!

    By the way, you don’t seem to have considered the possibility that the girls are interested in ogling the male form. (Cue: “He’s very manly, isn’t he?” – a comment I really did overhear once.)

    But I suspect your theory is closer to the truth: first we’re ballet students, then we’re former ballet students, then we stop admitted we were ever ballet students, at which point we’re hooked on the art form anyway. Dreams aside, an audience of former ballet students is no different from a concert audience of former music students, and in this sense I think the AB might be enjoying a greater luxury of engaged participant-patrons than orchestras do nowadays. You hit the nail on the head with “specific appreciation”.

    • marcellous Says:

      Thom – I did consider that possibility, but I was trying to keep it straightforward – just as I also left out reference to the improved access at the gents, ease of service at the foyer bar, and the ballet company’s strangely paranoid announcements about having your concession entitlement with you to present on inspection (but then, at least they do offer concessions). I’m sure that there is feminine appreciation of the masculine form, but as I think you agree with me, that probably comes later, both in life and in a generalised ranking of motivations.

  2. Viniana or The Silver Rose « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] the ballet to the opera, and his birthday falls in the ballet season. In what could well become an annual event (so long as he and I are spared) we went to the Australian Ballet, in this case to Graeme […]

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