Thursday, 9 June 2011

How not to grow old...

You all know what a balletomane I am, with my raving enthusiasms and cries of delight - "She was wonderful, they were terrific, he's brilliant!" and so on. It must get rather monotonous...

Anyway, last night I was at Covent Garden for my last ballet outing until ENB’s summer season in July (sob). But I had two of the other kind of balletomane in the seats behind me – the “Fings ain’t wot they used to be” kind; real griping grannies.

I quote:
“No-one knows how to dance Ashton properly these days, that girl’s port de bras is awful, they should send that Ukrainian boy back where he came from, it’s a disgrace that chap was allowed on stage without having a chest wax… "

And so forth.

They weren’t just criticising the performances, either; they were being downright mean, making sniping personal remarks about dancers’ abilities, technique, looks, morals, age, you name it... They bitched about two of my favourite female dancers; then, they thought everyone was over-rated, Nehemiah Kish needed a nose job, Leanne Benjamin should have been let go years ago – “she’s well past her sell-by date” – Madam would never have allowed a shocking performance of “Scenes de ballet” like that to go ahead, Madam would never have promoted “that dismal smirking Cuthbertson girl” to principal, or hired “that ugly Japanese boy, and that American with the awful feet”… (“Madam”, in case you don’t know, was Ninette De Valois, who founded the RB).

When the “Rite of Spring” ended, as soon as the applause finished one of them started up again - “Well! Wasn’t that a mess? I suppose with all the foreigners in the company these days…” – and I just leapt up and fled. I don’t think I’ve ever exited the auditorium so fast!

It made me wonder if the Royal Opera House has a department handling complaints, like Kew, and if so, how on earth do they answer such horrible personal comments about individual performers?

For the record: “Scenes de ballet” is not my favourite piece, but was very well-danced; “Voluntaries” was gorgeous, heartfelt and lyrical (& Leanne Benjamin is SO not past her sell by date! - & Ryoichi Hirano is SO not ugly! - and Nehemiah Kish SO doesn’t need a nose job – or a chest wax for that matter!); and the “Rite” was absolutely stunning (Steven McRae’s dance of death was chilling – he is brilliant, this ginger Aussie dynamo, and I love him to bits).

But these carping crones cast a nasty shadow over the whole evening for me. Why they had bothered to come in the first place I don’t know, but heaven preserve me from growing like that. I'm more likely, on current evidence, to be a dirty old woman than a griping one, but it was still a salutary reminder of how not to grow old.

There, just had to get that off my chest.

That picture, incidentally, is Leanne Benjamin, photographed somewhere in the Australian Outback a couple of years back, in a jeté so zingy she's practically in flight... Past her sell-by date, my eye!

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