Swan Lake Ballet (through the eyes of a Philistine)

Philistine:  A smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.

My oil paintings at my parents' place--they won't give them back to me

Being an artist (a writer and a when-I-have-time-which-is-almost-never painter), I wish I could say that I had swooned and had nearly died from ecstasy because I been so enthralled by the ballet—but the truth is, I am a semi-philistine. I was somewhat unmoved by the performance. The last time I watched a ballet was when I was twelve. So when I watched Swan Lake on Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Centre I didn’t know what to expect—but was super excited, nevertheless. I watched performances like the Phantom of the Opera and was expecting something like that where I would be watching with wide-eyes and a gaping-mouth. But instead I oooh-ed and awww-ed and drowsed a bit. I found it so odd that the ballerinas didn’t talk. I couldn’t get myself used to that. I was so focused on the plot that I found myself somewhat disappointed. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be wow-ed by.

However, I blame my initial reaction to the performance on the panic attack I was going through. The moment I sat down, and the lights began to dim, I suddenly realized I had to go to the washroom. I kept watching the ballet, waiting for the intermission, and getting annoyed as the ballerinas continued to prance around the stage. It was only AFTER I went to the washroom that I was able to appreciate the ballet a bit more. Rather than focusing on the plot explicitly, I tried to read the emotions in their movement, and in the music. It was then that the story came alive to me—somewhat. And by the end, as Odette mourned over the death of her beloved, tears burned in my eyes and my heart felt strangled.

I think I’ll be able to appreciate Swan Lake a bit more if I watch it a second time, maybe next year. One cannot watch a ballet while expecting it to be like a play. Expectations must be restructured. But still. There is something haunting about Swan Lake that sends a tremble through you now and then. It bewitches the unconscious. Each time I listen to classical music, there are ballerinas dancing in my head.

I’ve wanted to watch Swan Lake ever since I watched BILLY ELLIOT as a kid. I looked like the dad (the bald gentleman) in the scene below each time the dark, ominous, heart-wrenching theme was played (op.20 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky). Turn up your speakers when watching!!!:

This was one of my favourite scenes in the performance:

And because I watched the clip below before watching the actual performance, I had to cover my mouth to muffle my laughter:

19 thoughts on “Swan Lake Ballet (through the eyes of a Philistine)

  1. I’ve been attending the ballet for so long that I’ve forgotten how strange it can be for first-timers. Especially SWAN LAKE. But I’m glad you enjoyed part of it!

    You need to watch this:

    It’s the BEST SWAN LAKE parody ever. Literally. If I were to perform SWAN LAKE, it’d wind up like this version. (Especially when she has to hold her boobs when she jumps)


  2. The only ballet I’ve ever been to was an amateur performance of The Nut Cracker. It was okay, from what I remember, but I was 12 or 13, so it didn’t do much for me. I completely agree that when you’re distracted by the need for the washroom, everything seems to take entirely too long. I almost never get up during a movie and some of them go on forever.


    • Oh man. Needing to go to the washroom–I was so scared I could have cried, because I was seated at the ceter of the row–and to interupt all those people on my way out… THE HORROR


  3. Aside from Nutcracker, I haven’t attended a full ballet. I have friends who either are or were dancers, so I’ve been to a few performances, but all were pastiches of shorter pieces. I’d love to go sometime–and Swan Lake has some of my favorite music.


  4. I have never seen a ballet on stage, so I envy you. If you didn’t particulrly liked it, never mind. It’s not a shame and you needn’t feel … so sorry. I adore watching dancers’ performances but I can do it only on TV (the only things I sometimes watch on TV are shows with dancing and music) . Thanks for the clip from Billy Elliot, I love that movie.
    See you tonight on Fly High, then!
    Enjoy your weekend


    • Realy??!?!?!?! I am shocked. But I bet you went to the opera countless times. I should think Italy flourishes with those cultura/artsy performance centers


  5. The only ballet I’ve seen on stage was Swan Lake…:)
    I’m ashamed to confess that I am not a ballet & opera kind of girl but I LOVE Billy Elliot! 🙂


    • I think I will always prefer musicals to ballets. Phantom of the Opera (which I later learned was a musical) will most likely top everything for me. It was spectacular and moved me to tears and I ended up obssessed with the score for days on end.

      BILLY! I could watch it again and again. It’s such a quirky movie too


  6. I’ve only watched “Sleeping Beauty”, but I went twice. The first time I found it really awkward as I tried to get the plot. I think it’s very beautiful the dance, but sometimes I got lost in the story, I didn’t understand some parts, that were, apparently, meaningless. I think they were there only for the sake of the dance. The second time wasn’t so bad, as I’ve seen it a first time before. I think with time we get used to watching ballet.


    • Yah, I definately think that watching it more than once will get me to appreciate ballet once. Because really I had no idea what to expect. The scenes, which you mentioned were meaningless, left me so bewildered–I’ve had that concept drummed into me from writing that each scene should advance the plot. But yes. It’s the dancing. One must watch for the dancing.


      • Oh, by the way, I love your username. Mrs Thornton Darcy? Somehow I feel that is a trifle UNFAIR to be married to two of the major hotties in English Lit. Oh well. I’ll take Mr Rocherstor as my beloved then


    • I would have named myself Mrs Thornton-Darcy-Rochestor-Heathcliffe-Wentworth-Tilney

      I think it would be illegal to be married to so many men. But like you said–how can one choose?!


  7. I love ballet but think Swan Lake and Nutcracker are the hardest ballet’s for a first timer, the former because it’s so long and the latter because it’s seasonal and geared for children– there are also so many choreographic versions if you end up seeing one that’s not well done it can ruin it. Giselle is my favorite and I think a good introduction to ballet. It’s part of the Romantic movement so it’s very emotional and lovely. Or Balanchine’s Serenade or Jewels.


    • I recently watched Giselle! I definately did appreciate it more than Swan Lake – I think my seating might have something to do with it too. I invested a little more in the ticket and sat a wee bit closer to the stage. I was able to observe their expressions which made the experience more enjoyable. But still… I don’t appreciate it as much as I ought!


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