Thursday, March 12, 2009

Giselle tidbits

Southam Hall, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario

1) The National Arts Centre's Southam Hall, the main stage theatre, has 2323 seats and they were either completely filled or just about completely filled for all 4 performances of ABT's Giselle. What recession?

2) The audience, which might have been as much as half Québecois judging from the amount of French I heard (the Quebec border is just minutes away), was enthusiastic in a conservative Canadian way. Lovely people milled about during intermission, a great proportion of the women queued up (as we say here) in the endlessly long but swiftly moving washroom lineup (rest room line), expressing their generic delight in the daisy-plucking scene and in how beautifully everyone danced.

3) First performance and José Manuel Carreno bounds onstage. I applaud with recognition and respect. I am the only one out of well over 2000 patrons. I do the same when Xiomara Reyes steps out of her cottage. Again, it's only me honoring her.

The next night, I'm all atingle waiting for Marcelo's entrance. There he is! Wild clapping on my part. Did I hear one other person applauding? I think I did! Paloma got my appreciation next. I may have been the only one. Or perhaps it was her entrance that elicted someone else's acclaim. The hand chimed in after mine, so it was a copycat effort, but I'm glad I wasn't the only one this time.

On Saturday, David Hallberg and Maria Riccetto received my ovation. Only mine. Saturday, Jose and Xiomara again heard the sound of two Estonian hands resoundingly clapping in an otherwise hushed hall.

Now, is this the way Ottawawians (that's my own word since I don't know how they call themselves -- probably Ottawans) greet their ballet stars, or is it just that not a soul in the audience recognized ABT's principals or was familiar with Giselle's opening sequence of their introduction to the stage?

4) At the end of the performance Thursday night, all received proper laudation, but not as much as a single flower to sniff between them. Friday brought the blooms, one for Paloma and one for Marcelo (I'm sorry I've forgotten whether Simone received such a tribute). Saturday matinée had the same long-stemmed flower, one each for Maria and David, but in the evening José and Xiomara again were left flowerless.

5) There were no curtain calls after Act I. That was disappointing, as eager was I to applaud the dancers who performed the peasant pas de deux, the Berthes, the Bathildes, and even the Wilfreds. The entire audience would have loved to give the elegant Russian wolfhounds a hand!

6) Binocular rental was only $3.00 (and your photo ID was taken hostage until their safe return).
Under-theatre parking was only $10. While leaving en masse, traveling through the multi-tiered underground maze following the exit signs that seem to take you in circles, no one honks their horn, ever. This is not New York, or even Toronto. Canada's capital city can be proud of the deportment of their denizens and its visitors.

7) David LaMarche is such a kick to watch conducting. His precise, brisk baton-waving provides a pleasant visual during the overtures.

8) I didn't have a backstage pass, but I had dancer friends to see, so I inquired of an usher how to get backstage. She said I could try knocking on a certain door and see if they'd let me in. After opening a door which led upstairs and to a locked door, I (along with my daughter who is always aghast at my brazenness) came back down and discovered an unmarked door with no doorknob next to the one I had opened. So, I knocked on it, Järvi imploring me to forget about it. Lo and behold, after a bit of rapping, the mystery door open-sesamed.

I was asked my business and whether I had a backstage pass, and after explaining whom we were there to see, we were admitted and told to "sit there". After a short while, Isabella Boylston came rushing toward us, arms outstretched, and we met with a warm hug. I then moved aside to reveal my daughter, and Isabella, seeing her old friend, squealed with joy and the two of them embraced and chattered excitedly. It had been 7 years, 7 months since they last saw each other.

Afterwards, I asked Järvi whether she was still upset with me for my chutzpah. No, she responded, she was glad I had persevered. It had been a wonderful reunion. Remembering how I had been just as shy at her age to do such cheeky things (reticence learned from my own mother who would NEVER be so bold), I hoped that as she got older, my daughter would become more brassy too. It makes life much more enjoyable. :)
Isabella Boylston and Järvi Raudsepp

The next day I returned backstage to congratulate Isabella (she told us we could still call her Hildur) on her Moyna. This time there was no one to point out a seat or who offered to go fetch her, and I went looking for her myself, passing by many of the dancers in the corridors who were scurrying to leave for lunch between performances. Hildur and I talked animatedly (she had to join her friends but was still happy to spend time with me) and then I left for my inn in order to get an hour's rest between performances.

9) Tidbits learned from conversation with Isabella Boylston:
a) the stage was much smaller (although it seemed quite large to us in the audience) than the one at the Kennedy Center from which they had just come, and the Wilis had to close their ranks in order to fit on it. That made for less expansive movements and smaller steps on the part of the corps. We who watch from the other side of the curtain rarely think about such nitty-gritty issues.

b) Isabella was so pleased to know we were there watching her. She wished she would have known before the first performance (we visited after the second). It's nice to know you've got friends in the audience.

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