Grands Ballets: Kaguyahime review

Back on the 24th, I attended my first ballet performance in my life. One of my fellow improv classmates is one of the dancers and she offered us the opportunity for a 50% discount. As such, I and another classmate decided to go to support our new friend and support her artistic endeavour. As a self-professed metal head, ballet and metal (or industrial, alternative or even rock) don’t have much crossover appeal. That said, I recommend checking out bands like Nightwish, Symphony X or Thereon for opera and classical music crossovers. Strangely enough, my classmate classed it up with a Nirvana t-shirt while I sported a navy blue sports blazer, dress shirt and pants to the soirée.

We were seated in rows F and G adjacently. Being taller, I volunteered to sit in the latter row to avoid obscuring my companion’s view. The show itself was entertaining if short. At an hour and 25 minutes, including intermission, it felt as though the whole production was maybe half an hour in length. Although, I write this as a positive aspect as I never looked to my watch or felt bored during the show. I am no dancer, and definitely not knowledgeable in ballet or dance so I won’t critique the performance but rather write about my impressions as an outsider on the show.

ACT 1

I did not read the program prior to the first act, expecting the story to unfold on stage with perhaps a narration of some kind. I was wrong in the narration part. Besides, is there not meaning in interpreting for ourselves what the performers are portraying? While my guesses weren’t too far off from the official story (based on the title and my limited knowledge of Japanese, I thought the main ballerina was a princess but in fact she is more of a moon maiden) on the general premise, certain details were pretty laughably wrong. The show had a lot of horse imagery and as such, I thought the male dancers were steeds or riders fighting to defend the princess. Instead, it turns out they were villagers fighting off the black leotard nobles hoping to woo or forcefully kidnap the moon maiden for themselves.

When our friend came on stage, my companion turned to me eagerly with a beaming smile to which I nodded, not wanting to divert my attention away from her performance. I certainly was impressed the fluidity and graceful movements, not just of the women but also the men. When I was actively following the P90X regimen, I originally scoffed at Yoga until doing the first workout. I know have a healthy respect for all yogi and yoga enthusiasts. This was at a whole other level.

However, unlike say an acting performance, I was somewhat disappointed in seeing the dancers were very stoic in their facial demeanours. They let their bodies tell a story, which worked very well for everyone but the moon maiden herself. Although our friend was very expressive. I don’t lay the blame on the ballerina herself but perhaps to the choreography. Her performance was more akin to yoga with poses being the focus rather than movement in act 1. The only lull during the entire show as I kept expecting something, anything to happen. A giant taiko drum loomed in the background ominously (representing the moon), almost begging to be played. Instead, we were exposed to very slow, methodical movements which I don’t quite understand the meaning of in the context.

The best performance was really the male actors in a “fight” scene. The drums came out in full force and gave a sense of urgency and primal energy to unfolding dance. Particularly when the lights began to have cut in and out very quickly which gave the impression of watching a series of rapid still shots depicting an action scene.

ACT 2

During the intermission, we read the program for the second act to better understand what we were about to see. This act overall was the best though. The chemistry between the emperor character and the moon maiden was palpable. The Emperor almost lusted after the woman who wanted nothing to do with him but rather return to the moon. It was stunning to behold what they accomplished with the luminous gold curtain.

Not seen is the Emperor trying to grab her behind the curtain.

Overall, I enjoyed my first real exposure to ballet although I don’t think I’d have gone paying full price but that is a matter of personal subjectivity and taste rather than a knock on the quality of the show. I will probably go see the Nutcracker this winter, for what it’s worth, with the 50% discount 🙂

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