SF Ballet’s “Onegin”, Zyzzyva

photo by Erik Tomasson

Often, the thing we love about the work of a great author is the ability to describe a moment, an emotion, some nuance of experience, in such a way that it is immediately recognizable to us, however foreign to our experience it actually is. We feel they somehow rummaged around in our mind and conveyed our lives back to us with different plots and more elegant language. The months after I graduated from college and was struggling to find work, feeling like I was both fabulous and doomed to uselessness, was probably the worst time to read The House of Mirth. And who would not recognize his own moments of mortified infatuation in Tolstoy’s description of Levin: “He avoided long looks at her as one avoids long looks at the sun; but he saw her, as one sees the sun, without looking.”

Ballet can elicit the same recognition: it doesn’t matter that most of us are too stiff, short-limbed, paunchy, or weak to even think without strain of the movements we see performed. Though we speak a different language, we can “read” dance and transcribe its expressions as our own. In Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet,” when Romeo has left Juliet’s bedroom and fled the city, she pulls the window curtain aside, arches her back, thrusting her chest toward the dawn light streaming into her room. Somehow, we know she is asking the gods to assist her in her helpless, entirely vulnerable state, that this is the physical manifestation of heartfelt entreaty. Though dancers portray human experience in a way that most people couldn’t and wouldn’t do themselves, they are able to evoke sympathetic experiences through their movements; we (ballet lovers, at least) watch and think, “Yes, this is what love/lust/fear/jealousy/etc. looks like,” and momentarily, feel it along with them. (continue reading)

This entry was posted in ballet, REVIEWS, Russianism, San Francisco, theatre and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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