A Day at the Ballet

Nick and I went to see Snow White at the Koger Center on Saturday. On Sunday, I met one of my professors for coffee and she asked me how it was. My response was something like, “It was a ballet.” To be honest, I struggled a bit to understand what I saw.

I watched my first ballet over the winter break. Ovation TV was showing The Nutcracker as performed by three different ballet troupes. I came in about 2/3 of the way through the first and couldn’t follow the story at all. I should add that this was not a story I was told as a child so I don’t have any familiarity with it. This led me, thinking I had missed something key, to sit through a second rendition by another troupe. Nope, still didn’t get it. Where the hell did the mice come from and who are all of these people at the Christmas(?) party? I figured Snow White would be better, especially since it is a story I know well.

If you ever go to a narrative ballet, you have to read the program otherwise you’ll have no idea what is going on. I was surprised at how many scenes take place in the “Royal Bed Chamber.” (Including a disturbing scene where the King tries repeatedly to get his new Queen into bed but she won’t have it – he eventually succeeds). The ballet opens with the birth of Snow White and the death of her mother. The story then moves forward sixteen years. On the stage, this meant they showed a picture of a castle and then the words Sixteen Years Later. R’ok. I thought I missed something because a late patron opened the side door but no, nothing happened.

There were a lot of scenes like that. Dancing in front of the mirror = the mirror tells the Queen that Snow White will soon be more beautiful than her or twirling around with a box and then opening it = the Queen eats the false heart. I wonder if there is meaning in the movements that is lost on me and that there is more to ballet as a storytelling art that I am just not aware of. There were a lot of children in the audience and I kept hearing them asking their parents what was happening. They also couldn’t tell key figures apart because the costuming was similar.

I just don’t get the large parade of people scenes at, say, the royal wedding. I’ve seen this sort of thing in The Nutcracker too. Here’s a group of five dancers dancing before a group of eight dancers dance before a group of four dancers dance before the main characters actually get married. I just kept thinking of Monty Python “and the people rejoiced.”

A note about the story, the seven dwarfs were seven knights/princes including Prince Charming. They all live in a small cottage in the woods where they later let Snow White live with them. I don’t think she would be marriageable after living in a cottage with these guys, no reputation can withstand that (especially not in a marriage plot!). I also wonder why these men were living together in the forest anyhow? Was it like a royal frat house? Also, why let Snow White live there? Are they keeping her tucked away like a dirty little secret? What really killed me is the scene where the knights/princes go off to “work” for the day. They take their fancy swords into the forest. What kind of job do they have in the forest? And what kind of job in the forest requires a fancy, fencing sword? You need an axe yo. Get down to business choppin’ down trees and shit.

So, I still don’t get ballet. It was beautiful and the dancers were amazing athletes. I just think I’m missing something critical because it felt like when you put on a movie and something key happens when you are in the bathroom or getting a snack that leaves you perplexed and bewildered for the remainder…except I didn’t get up once, not even during intermission. Hopefully this explains my answer of “It was a ballet.” I’m glad I went, I just don’t know what to do with it as an experience.

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