I Truly Don't Understand Art (but that doesn't mean I didn't get a kick out of the ballet...)

After becoming seasoned pros of the standing ticket line at the State Opera (thanks to Dr. Baldwin’s orientation to this phenomenon), Fiona (my roommate) and I decided to attend a performance Tuesday night called “Homage to Ballet,” a show neither of us knew much about since the sign was mostly in German. We figured we couldn’t really go wrong, since it's cheaper than a cup of coffee and after a successful subway adventure, we found ourselves near the front of the line in which we weren’t even the most obnoxious Americans.

The curtain opened on a completely gray stage with about fifteen dancers in silver spandex. I don’t know much about ballet, but I know you’re not supposed to flex your toes, and I also know ballerinas don’t usually just lay on the ground like a corpse for like thirty seconds while their friends shimmy around them angrily.

Though it was complete chaos, it was definitely intriguing, and it finally started to make sense when a character appeared in a costume that seemed to be an allusion to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” True to the story, she danced herself to death, and the curtain fell for intermission. I was so excited to finally understand part of the show that I pretty much yelled “IT’S RITE OF SPRING,” basically ruining the blasé European concertgoer image I was trying to project.

The second act opened with a man grunting loudly while artistically hanging himself in the company of three other dancing men, and it only got weirder from there. I’ll spare you the complete synopsis, but just know that it included a man in a wedding dress whose husband died from one too many glasses of gin, a couple who emerged from dementor-like sheets, a woman who mimed screaming in pain for a full two minutes, and lots and lots of symbolism (I think?).

The curtain drew after all the characters walked off stage (or symbolically descended into hell, according to Fiona’s theory) and a single lightbulb slowly ascended. We started to get up to go, accepting that sometimes deranged art ends anticlimactically, but we stopped when we noticed the orchestra walking in. It turns out sometimes ballet has two intermissions.

The third act was basically every little girl’s dream. It had tutus, glitter, and a prima ballerina with a tiara. The orchestra played lyrical, sweeping dances and the stage was packed with clip clopping toe shoes and men in very white, very tight tights. Finally I was watching ballet that didn’t include German chants interspersed with English poetry or nude bodysuits, but I was surprised to find I soon found it dull compared to the show that was the first two acts.

Even after those two and a half hours I still don’t really know anything about ballet, except that there is decidedly more to it than Swan Lake and the Nutcracker.

Oh, and if a girl comes out in a sheet and dances herself to death it’s an allusion to Rite of Spring.

Ballet in Vienna