I really dislike saying that I hate something… I may dislike something quite a bit, I may find something disappointing or infuriating or revolting, but hate is a very strong word. It’s not that I’m wishy-washy, I’m not. I know what I like and what I don’t. However, and this is very important to me, I’m always willing to have my mind changed. In fact, I think one of the coolest experiences that you can have in life, is to be blown away by something so unexpectedly that you have to take a few steps backward and really, really think about all your previous perceptions.
And so it was last Friday night. I do love San Francisco Ballet. I find them to be a company of talent and personality, very full of life. I also love that their programming includes classic narratives, as well as, new contemporary pieces. So when I heard that they were performing the Wayne McGregor piece Chroma, I almost had a stroke. I’ve seen bits of Chroma on the internet along with enough other clips and stills of McGregor work to be all kinds of excited, ecstatic even! Joy of all joys, I found a weekend that offered both Program 6 & Program 7! This is winning the ballet lottery, the only thing better is when you can get multiple programs and multiple companies in a long weekend or the real trifecta of ballet mini-vaca-ing… the all-Marcelo-Gomes-weekend which I actually managed to have last year and still shines as an act of miraculous divine intervention upon my existence! I’m seriously looking forward to next year when SF Ballet brings Onegin goodness to California!
But last Friday, last Friday… one of the things about ballet is the minute, the very second the afterglow begins to fade, I want more! The final offering at SF Ballet was The Little Mermaid. Please don’t send me nasty hate mail because I have a delete button and I’m not afraid to use it… but, I wasn’t all that excited about seeing that. I’m not a big fan of Hans Christian Anderson, I think he needed counseling and lithium. But, let’s face it, ballet is not overly concerned with staying true to literature anyway. I’m not a big fan of animated movies, so I’ve only seen bits of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and it failed to impress. Again, no hate mail please… I’m not a John Neumeier fan. He’s very literal and theatrical. His work strikes me as very American – Hollywood even. I work in movies and TV, I don’t watch them! I like subtle and nuanced, I don’t want to be slapped up the side of the head with it, I want to dig for it (anthropologist metaphor, ha!). I’m not even that big of a fan of Broadway musicals, they seem to be so cheap after a night at the ballet. It’s like comparing polished silver and burnished gold with a tin can and a bedazzler.
So why would I not only buy a theatre ticket but a plane ticket as well? … well, make that three theatre tickets and three airplane tickets! My sisters both have birthdays early in the year, M in March and C in May. I decided to “Happy Birthday” them with a trip, a long weekend in San Francisco on me, including a ballet. C has always like ballet and M likes most theatre, and they both like a free trip to anywhere as they are both kind of purse poor these days.
Within the first 3 minutes, I was fairly certain, I was not going to like it… very theatrical beginning and there was talking… I don’t like talking in my ballet, no talking please. So my brain was already going into cynical mode by the time we went “under the sea.” And my first impression of the super long palazzo pants=mermaid fin, was not good. But holy moly, I have trouble dancing in leggings, those freaking pants would have put me down and hard. I let myself begin to be impressed just by the sheer skill of dancing in insanely long, terribly wide pants. My thought pattern has always been, even if you don’t like the story, be impressed by clean technical skill and execution. But by the end, I had tears in my throat and I am not a crier.
I’m not going to go blow-by-blow, you need to see it for yourself, somehow, someway. The story is heartbreaking, the choreography is literal and theatrical but fitting and intriguing, and if you are fortunate enough to someday see The Little Mermaid, with all my heart, I hope you get to see it with a company is gorgeous and emotional as SF Ballet.
I’ve often said that I don’t like Romeo and Juliet, that The Lady of the Camellias bugs me, that I’ve found certain dancers to be irksome and stiff… but I hope that I continue to go to see what is offered, to be prepared to set cynicism aside, and leave previous perceptions at the door. Because I am always hoping, wishing that someone and something will blow my mind, will change my way of seeing, hearing, and even thinking! I’m still not a raving Neumeier fan. I still think the story of The Little Mermaid is strange. I still don’t have a preference for literal and theatrical. But I will continue to go see as much work as I can, perhaps most of all I should be challenged to see those things that I’m certain I won’t like because sometimes there is a surprise in store and sometimes you just don’t really know until you are sitting in the dark with tears in your throat and everything you thought before has changed and that is what living is all about!