It was a hectic weekend, and Monday was pretty heavy too. Good hectic, in the main, but it has still left me feeling a little wambly-legged with tiredness. Never mind – I can get early nights for the rest of the week now, and I’ve had a bloody good time in the meantime. Of course, trying to have a rest during the week isn’t always feasible, but I'm doing my best, round the edges of the busy "start of the school hols" patch at work.
Saturday I met my mum for lunch and the terrific new English National ballet programme of ballets by the late Roland Petit. Sunday I went to the Ealing Global Music Festival in Walpole Park (a sort of one day mini-WOMAD) and danced my feet off all afternoon and evening. Monday was unpleasantly frantic at work, a classic “we’re short-staffed and the ‘phones won’t stop ringing” day, but in the evening I met my stepmum Jane for supper and the last Harry Potter movie – oof. At the London IMAX, so double oof.
I am now reeling slightly from the amount of activity; a lot of talking, a lot of eating out, three late nights, lots of dancing and a sort of cultural information-overload.
Mum and I found a new place to eat near Covent Garden, which is always good news; a small but pleasant bistro with the unimaginative name of “Bistro”. Mixed meze, pancakes stuffed with creamed spinach and goats cheese, salad, ice cream, a glass of wine; all very straightforward stuff, fresh and healthy (well, apart from the ice cream) and a bill of under £15 each.
ENB can be very happy with their Petit triple bill. Some of the newspaper reviews have tended towards the sniffy, but to me as a common-or-garden ballet-goer this was a cracking programme, full of energy and drama; the only thing that really looked dated was the copious amount of onstage smoking…
It was hard to believe, watching Erina Takahashi’s shy tenderness in “L’Arlesienne”, that the last time I saw her in action was as a practically fire-breathingly evil Odile in the Black Swan pas de deux. Her partner was the febrile, sexy Esteban Berlanga, doing a good line in wild-eyed distraction and frenetic leaps. Around and behind their doomed-love-story, a small corps de ballet dances lovely, folk-dance inflected rounds and chains that somehow convey both the contentment and the blinkeredness inherent in a tight-knit community.
“Le Jeune Homme et la Mort” brought another terrific young bloke on stage; Anton Lukovkin, a handsome young man with an unusually pointy chin, hurling himself with abandon around the stage in a pair of off-the-shoulder dungarees. It was short but very exciting stuff, and a tour-de-force for the two leads.
I’m not very familiar with Petit’s work. I’ve never seen either of these first pieces before, though I saw “Carmen” (the final piece in this bill) once on television when I was about twelve. I could remember being impressed then, but no particular details of what I was impressed by. Part of what grabbed me, then as now, was the sheer theatricality of it all; the sexiness, the aggression, the high drama of the final duet-cum-duel. My exposure to ballet back then had been very much of the order of “Swan Lake”, “Fille”, “Nutcracker”… Not chic-yet-vampy women in corsets standing on chairs and shouting, and certainly not erotic violence and murder.
I can only begin to imagine the impact this had on a London audience accustomed to the delicacy and classicism of the pre-Macmillan-era Royal Ballet… Not just the unabashedly sexual pelvic movements, but the furious energy, the stamping of feet, grinding out of cigarettes, slashing high leg extensions, all must have seemed like the proverbial bolt from the blue.
I loved in particular the way that even in the central love scene, as Carmen and Don José move through their highly sensual pas de deux, there’s a constant undercurrent of muted aggression that suggests their essential incompatibility as effectively as any amount of speech could do. A corking good show altogether.
Sunday afternoon was spent in the boiling heat, with a large water bottle, a couple of pints of Hobgoblin and an assortment of the usual Festival Food – Thai street nibbles, a crepe, some popcorn, veg curry, fruit sticks with chocolate sauce… Plus bluegrass, ska, Cuban rock, Balkan gypsy music, Hungarian traditional dance and Congolese soukous. Great dancing stuff, and one filthy, sweaty, tired and very cheerful Dent at the end of it all.
To finish off on Monday night with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two” was a very welcome finale to the weekend (especially coming after a pretty trying day at the office). It’s excellent; fun, exciting, a bit emotional, good battle scenes, cliff-hangers and great special effects. It was my first time at an IMAX, too – corblimey, now that’s what 3d cinema is good for! My only problem was that Jane and I had been to Sagar in Catherine Street first and eaten an enormous supper of aloo chaat and spicy creamed wheat and dosas, and super-rich creamy mango lassis, and we were both absolutely stuffed by the time we got to the cinema, trying not to entertain our neighbours with burping - such a ladylike pair we are...
At least yesterday evening I stayed in, wrote, and flopped. Pushing on with the revision of “Ramundi’s Sisters” I’ve noticed the spacing in my typing is all to pot. Between full stop and capital letter I've got one space here, two spaces there; it’s all over the place. Trying to make it uniform must be just about the most boring job out, but it has to be done. I like to know I’m producing clean copy. Chuntering through it I had a sudden good idea for solving something that has been bugging me in something else; it necessitates a bit of a rewrite there as well, but what the heck. So I think I’ll have a look at that tonight, for a change. And then an early night.
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