I was there & even I don’t believe it!!

Guys, I don’t even know where to start!! I went to Shanghai last week to attend Patrick de Bana’s All Star Ballet Gala. I’d been excited about it from the very second I heard about it. Patrick de Bana, Manuel Legris, Svetlana Zakharova, Matthew Golding, Maria Eichwald, Fan Xiaofeng, and, holy moly, the return of Isabelle Guerin!!! Patrick de Bana was choreographing a new piece for Isabelle and Manuel, for that alone I was determined to go to China.

You might remember a while back – at the last Manuel Legris gala in Tokyo – I got some sort of abnormal surge of bravery and talked to Patrick de Bana at the stage door after the last performance. He was incredibly nice and more than a little surprised that I traveled all the way from Los Angeles to Tokyo just for a ballet performance. Since then we became “friends” on Facebook but let’s face it, being “friends” on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

In January of this year I went to Paris to see the homage to Manuel Legris gala. Manuel and Patrick both danced at that gala as well. I went to the stage door but didn’t have the bravery to stay. Apparently in Paris it’s not cool to go to the stage door the way it is in Japan. I felt silly standing there by myself, stalkerish. Plus I was positive that neither Patrick nor Manuel would remember me or worse that they would remember me, the mute girl who suffers from temporary strokes and loses the ability to speak whenever they are around.  Either way I could safely assume that I would have a temporary stroke, go mute, stand there without brain function and thusly assure myself a place in the dork hall of fame. I didn’t even have the safety of a crowd to get lost in. Turns out there’s great security in the anonymity of a whole bunch of ballet fans. But on the plane ride home I got a really sweet message from Patrick asking why I didn’t come by to say hello. I was shocked and amazed that he not only remembered who I was but actually thought of me.

So when I couldn’t find a way to get information and tickets online for the gala in Shanghai, I took a chance and sent Patrick a message. Next thing I know I’m having a lovely conversation, I’ve got an offer for comped tickets and, good grief, I’ve got the man’s cell phone number and instructions to text him when I get to Shanghai!!!

If you want to read about the AMAZING and GORGEOUS gala, Isabelle Guerin’s triumphant return to the stage, how Carboy spent an evening talking cars with Matt Golding over Chinese food, how I got turning tips from the Director of the Shanghai Ballet, and how I took this photograph…

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you’ll have to stay tuned and come back as the Shanghai saga unfolds!!

 

Day Two of Fabulous Dance Salad

Night no. 2 of The Dance Salad was Friday, April 18th. One great treat was being able to meet up with Nichelle from Dance Advantage! I am still amazed that real friendships can be born of talking about dance on the internet but it really can! The relationships we forge online in places like Twitter and Facebook can truly produce friendships in real life and I’m really amazed and grateful to find like minds and souls, like Nichelle, all over the world.

Act 1 opened with Royal Danish Ballet and Bournonville. An interesting way to open the evening and I still loved it. Then we immediately moved on to Manuel Legris and my happiness. Neumeier’s Sylvia pdd with Laetitia Pujol.

Paris Opera in Sylvia. Photo by Helmut Fohringer.

Paris Opera in Sylvia. Photo by Helmut Fohringer.

Let me take a minute to divert to a little side thought right here: my Manu hopped a pirouette. I’ve never seen him not turn perfectly and beautifully before. I’m not sure how many people would notice but I’ve seen this pdd a lot and I know this choreography by heart. It didn’t seem to bother him at all and the rest of the pdd was flawless as usual. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t relish seeing people that I love or care about make mistakes, I always hope for the best for everyone. BUT it’s a little comforting to know that even professionals, even dancers who are flawless, make mistakes and when they do, they keep going. When a beautiful dancer hops a pirouette, he doesn’t threaten to quit taking ballet class, she doesn’t tear herself down and question every and all dancing skills, he doesn’t whine about sucking, she doesn’t believe that she won’t ever be able to pirouette again and he doesn’t think the entire performance (or class) was awful because of one mistake. They keep dancing. So there we are, lesson for the day.

Next up was Sorrowful Song performed by Beijing Dance/LDTX. I feel this choreography all the way through my soul and it’s so gorgeous and so painful, it’s hard to breath. I’m not even recovered when Cygne performed by Samantha Lynch of the Norwegian National Ballet begins. The choreography is by Daniel Proietto and it is an ode to Dying Swan. The piece begins with a curious image of a boy on a screen and then images of the ballerina. From the moment Sam Lynch starts dancing, I am entranced by her. She is tall with long, long limbs that move between unearthly grace and a frightful ability to flail radically and wildly as if no longer attached. The juxtaposition of perfect swan ballerina loveliness against the angular jutting of neo-classical/contemporary positions is as striking as the ballerina’s black hair against her whitened skin. It is pain, it is perfection.  Entranced, I realize that a boy is singing Tennyson’s Dying Swan. Is that live? It can’t be. It is. A boy’s soprano is devastatingly beautiful as a swan is dying. It is a perfect performance, the kind that takes you completely out of the audience and there is nothing but the stage, almost an out-of-body experience where the art pulls you out of reality and into another world completely. The entire audience has forgotten how to breath as the swan finally collapses her wings, there is a moment of amazed silent, and then the entire place erupts in applause.

Cygne. Samantha Lynch. Photo by Erik Berg.

Cygne. Samantha Lynch. Photo by Erik Berg.

We are besides ourselves as an audience but we regain composure enough to be offered the Royal Danish Ballet in a piece called Traditional. It was anything but. A contemporary piece, it is choreographed by Alessandro Sousa Pereira. Ida Praetorius and Andreas Kass in black pants and tops slink, slide, and move each other about the floor. It’s a great work that showcases this very young talent. It would have been neat to watch the two Royal Danish offerings back to back to contrast the purely classical with the contemporary.

Royal Danish Ballet. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

Royal Danish Ballet. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

We end Act 1 with the Contemporary Dragon KungFu Dance Company performing Gateway and the audience adores them.

Contemporary Dragon KungFu Company. Photo by Li Huimin.

Contemporary Dragon KungFu Company. Photo by Li Huimin.

Act II gives us Elephant in a Black Box dancing Cel Black Days. This is a Jean-Philippe Dury work. The program offers an uncited poem which I share with you:

Youth is not a period of life.

It is a state of mind, an effect of will

A quality of imagination, in emotive intensity

A victory of courage over shyness

From taste of adventure over love of comfort

We don’t get old

For having lived a certain amount of years

We get old

Because we have deserted our ideal.

Years wrinkle skin; renouncing our ideal wrinkles our soul.

Concerns, doubts, fears and despairs

Are the enemies who slowly tilt us towards earth

And become dust before the death.

At first, I didn’t really like this piece, with its use of film and the girl who wears a top, doesn’t wear a top, then wears a top again. Why? Lots of angularity, lots of lost-ness, dancers moving lights about on stage. I’m not sure… it’s a work to watch carefully and then think about. In the end, I usually really like dance that makes me work for it, that dares me to dislike it, that makes me think and that sends me on a trek of emotions and mind. Good for you Elephant and Monsieur Dury.

Elephant in a Black Box.  Photo by Ignacio Urrutia.

Elephant in a Black Box. Photo by Ignacio Urrutia.

Next is Manuel, Laetitia, and Le Parc. I get the opportunity to enlighten my neighbors on the fact that Monsieur Legris is retired and how much of a treat that it is to be able to see him dance, especially in the U.S., since he really doesn’t perform that much anymore.  I also get to tell them about the link between Manuel and Rudolph Nureyev and other tidbits of information about Paris Opera. My neighbors happen to be a very sweet grandfather who has brought his ballet dancing preteen granddaughter to the performance. I have enlightened a young one – points for me 😉

http://www.impulstanz.com/en/videogallery/article/173/

We close with tango. I’m still not a big fan but it has its moments.

Milonga. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Milonga. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Afterward, Nichelle and I go out for nibbles to talk dance and close out the restaurant. I love being able to talk about a performance afterward with wonderful company. What a perfect evening! I wish we had thought to take a photo. Well, maybe next visit. It’s not like I won’t be back to Houston! 😀

**All images are property of The Dance Salad and the Photographer.