All’s well that ends well
Last week was an unusual one, but it ended well. It started with a few days in hospital, which had not been in my plans, especially as I had been in the previous week and had hoped that would have been enough, but they needed a second go and this time were less keen to let me make a bolt for the door afterwards. After two days, I was offering to help make the toast for the pre-lights out snack – they were not keen on the idea, or on me helping out with anything else that seemed to need doing – and one of the nurses came to find me as I had been away from the ward for so long and they were concerned that I might have wandered off. I think it’s called cabin fever. And I did have visitors, so I needed somewhere better to entertain them than the side of my bed.
The issue that was really preoccupying me was the fact that LoLo and I had trains, hotels (if Travelodge counts as a hotel) and ballet tickets booked for Thursday, and I started the week thinking there would be no issue there. Then Monday turned into a procedure on Tuesday, then I had to stay in Tuesday night as well, have bloods taken at 6am (yes, I had finally fallen asleep) on Wednesday and then the wait for the results and the consultant to find each other and then get to me. I managed to get the ‘I don’t think you should go to London’ on Tuesday to ‘you can maybe go’ to ‘see how you’re feeling on Thursday morning,’ and I accepted that it might just not happen in the end. The only card I could play to bolster my case was along the lines of ‘it’s the last classical ballet performance of the best male dancer of his generation’ – and I’m not going to miss it.
This was the final farewell from Carlos Acosta to classical ballet, in the Royal Albert Hall. And we made it. We took it easy, had rests when I needed to, and had factored in so much extra time (I know, not like me at all) that we were unfazed by anything that might come up.
Carlos Acosta grew up in poverty in Cuba and ended up dancing with the Bolshoi and Royal Ballet, and becoming something of a dancing superstar. At the ripe old age of 43 (I know, I know, just a bit younger than me, what have I done with my life?!) the physical demands of classical ballet are simply too much, so he is moving on to contemporary dance and his dance school in Cuba, as well as everything else he is involved in.
The evening was a mix of the old and the new, some to our taste, some less so, and fortunately included the only thing LoLo had said needed to be included, a piece from Don Quixote with some spectacular leaps and spins (yes, it was the pas de deux with the grand jetés and 32 fouettes if you want to get technical about it).
You can see the memorable part here (at about 12 minutes in), just with different dancers – make sure you watch both of them, it’s all over in less than two minutes.
And you can see Carlos and Marianela Nuñez – the two we saw – dancing a different part of Don Quixote here, just so you can see the calibre of these dancers.
The second part of our (train) road trip was the following morning, when we finally managed to go on a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House, home of the Royal Ballet. In the past, we have always tried booking a tour too late in the day, but the middle of October is a lot easier than in the school holidays. We booked the morning tour, knowing that it was the time we were most likely to get to see some of the dancers in their morning class, then crossed our fingers.
When the lift doors opened on one of the upper floors and we found ourselves in front of a window looking right into the studio, LoLo just said ‘Federico Bonelli!’ without missing a beat. It turns out he is one of their principal dancers and was directly in her line of sight. She then listed off all the other principal dancers who were in the same studio, so it was pretty close to having most of her heroes dancing in front of her for a few minutes, including some who we had seen perform the night before. And imagine the joy when Marianela Nuñes walked out of the studio in front of us. Nobody else seemed to quite grasp the significance of the occasion.
Speaking of not quite understanding such momentous things, the following is the result of a request to include some basic ballet-attendance etiquette in my blog, some of which was sorely lacking last week. There is not much to it really, and if you follow these basic rules, you will contribute to being part of a well-trained audience, and we will all be so much happier for it. We like well-trained audiences.
- Arriving on time is really helpful. But if you do arrive 25 minutes late – and for some inexplicable reason are allowed in – do not spend your time wandering around trying to find your seat. Park yourself somewhere, anywhere, out of the way, not blocking the view of everyone else in your befuddlement.
- Please get back to your seats after the interval before the performance starts again, not five minutes afterwards clutching food and drink and trying to climb over people.
- Do not eat during the performance. This is not a cinema. There is no popcorn. We love the cinema and popcorn. But while they are good companions, they do not work with the ballet. There are no action scenes to disguise you munching crisps or rustling sweet packets or whatever else you mistakenly thought would be appropriate to bring with you.
- Before the performance and during the interval is the time to read your programme, not during the performance with the bright light from your phone.
- And finally, clapping. Rule of thumb – if nobody else is clapping, there is a reason for it and you should not be either. You don’t clap just because you liked something you just saw. Go with the herd on this. Sit on your hands if you have to until you get a sense of when a piece has come to the end and it is appropriate to clap. There are exceptions – like the 32 fouettes in Don Quixote. But everyone else will clap because it’s a stunning piece of dancing.
- It is absolutely acceptable for your dance-literate daughter to lean across and whisper when the ‘good bits’ are coming up so you don’t miss them. I made this one up but I think it’s a good one.
LoLo and I thank you for this.