Last week became a series of ballet interludes…interludes that presented to the world a Rachel with contented smiles, nostalgic thoughts and a childlike gaze. Pure wonderment.
As a rather last-minute and unexpected recovery kingdom treat (thank you Gav!), I went to the Royal Opera House in London to see Romeo and Juliet (after some great Vietnamese food from Pho I might add). As I’ve mentioned before, ballet was to be my other life, as such, as I was with the Royal Ballet School into my mid-teens, when a move to the North of the UK somewhat brought my ballet days to an end…although I have taken it up again in recent years as an adult. There are some things you never lose sight of in life, where I’ve never lost my love affair with this dance…it’s part of my soul. The last performance I saw in London was the English National Ballet’s ‘Swan Lake’, post-New York life and pre-China days back in 2008 (five years ago?!), therefore I was particularly excited to see Romeo and Juliet.
Split into three acts, each one I swear disappearing in the blink of an eye, I was captivated by every second. I find the sound of the ballet shoes, the tap tap tap of pointe and leather on stage, hypnotizing, where I get lost in the dancers angular yet fluid stream of movement, knowing (in part) what it feels like to move in that way, whilst decoding the visual metaphors in the set and performances. The costumes were colourful, playful and in part very theatrical – the jesters noteworthy; Juliet was perfectly cast with her petite frame and childlike stature, and eyes that glistened with the infatuation of love and fraught at the devastation of a love lost; comical parodies cut the fight and party scenes at appropriate times to provide an element of humour…where it wasn’t just ballet, but a contemporary dance take on the tradition.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet, led me to come across (consciously and subconsciously), in my digital peripheral vision, these three videos, three rather beautiful pieces of short film, that left me in awe.
Watch. Stare. Worship.
The first video, ‘Zero Gravity’, shows the ballerina Georgeta Varvarici in slow motion doing a grand jeté…powerful, simple, poetic, it portrays the pure energy and focus of the ballerina as she dances, the beauty of this simple jump, the strength in her body as she “loses gravity”, and her dedication to her calling.
The film below, ‘Ballet 360’, is part of ‘The 360 Project’, an exploration into the crossroads of photography and motion pictures. Directed by Ryan Enn Hughes, it shows a series of dance moves by ballerinas from Canada’s National Ballet School, captured by 48 cameras aligned in a circle that create “digital statues”, embodying the essence of the dance style from 360 degrees. It clarifies to the viewer their inner and physical strength, poise and focus…and again, the capabilities of the human body.
The final video, I came across through the Royal Opera House’s Twitter feed. By artist Javier Pérez, ‘EN PUNTAS’ shows a ballerina whose pointe shoes are extended by a sharp set of kitchen knives. She dances, steps, pirouettes precariously on the top of a grand piano, on an empty stage, in an empty theatre. She is initially hesitant, nervous on her feet, building with emotion to a world of frustration when she begins to fight to maintain balance. An eerie soundtrack of a childlike music box is heard in the distance alongside the aggressive cuts and scratches of the knives into the wood of the piano. This performance is to show the human condition, the effort, sacrifice and strive for a kind of perfection, how it can be so fragile and pure and yet so cruel, angry and violent.
“Using a strongly metaphorical language rich in powerful symbolism, he reveals the weaknesses that become the boundaries between seemingly irreconcilable concepts such as: beauty and cruelty, fragility and violence, culture and nature or life and death.”