It’s possible to travel across oceans and back in time without ever leaving your city – back to the wonder of childhood or to a velvet seat in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Such is the power of the ballet.
The Nutcracker was the first ballet I ever saw, at the Centennial Concert Hall on snowy Main Street. I marvelled at the gorgeous chandelier, the rich sound of the familiar score played live, the fairy-tale characters and the incredible human form.
Some time spent in Russia was a great way to see and learn more. Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky, or Kirov, Ballet, has such control and precision with Swan Lake, with an incredible 32 ballerina swans on stage for the Waltz. Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace is a triumph of Soviet architecture, and a ticket for the Kremlin Ballet includes entry for a pre-performance stroll of the grounds. The Bolshoi Theatre (now in its 237th season) is where, in 1944, it was the audience members Stalin and Churchill who received a standing ovation.
Ballet puts you in the same seat as tsars and princesses, and a few weeks ago I was thrilled to take mine for The Sleeping Beauty. I settled back to enjoy the same music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa as the audience at the premiere 123 years ago. Danced by my hometown Royal Winnipeg Ballet, it was bright, colourful and full of joy. I was frightened by the actions of Carabosse, relieved by the saving grace of the Lilac Fairy, and delighted by the antics of Puss in Boots and the Bluebird. Principal dancer Jo-Ann Sundermeier‘s Aurora smiled throughout the entire two-hour plus showtime, which was over all too soon. The packed house was on its feet, but the thunderous applause and wolf whistles were still insufficient to express our gratitude for the magic we just witnessed.
What is your favourite ballet?