Monday, July 12, 2010
Ballet Fans x6
At a recent matinee performance of the NYC Ballet I sat next to four little girls with bows in their hair and dressed in ruffled dresses. We sat high up in the fourth ring, two rows from the very back. The girls sat on the edges of their seats and dangled their paten leather shoes above the floor. It was Darcy Kistler's final performance. Darcy had been a soloist for the NYC Ballet for almost thirty years. She was the last "Balanchine" ballerina, having studied with the great master during his days there. She had grown up in Riverside, California, thirty minutes away from Rialto where I grew up. She and I had both began dancing in the same studio: Vera Lynn's dance studio in San Bernardino. We had both climbed the steep stair case leading to the studio, which for me was always a magical space. We had both stood at the barre in the cavernous studio, still the prototype for all subsequent studios for me. Vera Lynn could be a stern task master, and emphasized technique. Darcy rocketed to stardom and my muscles have retained the technique Vera Lynn imposed on them. These days, though it takes effort, I still have a natural ballet turn-out. After returning to ballet training two years ago, my front leg is inching towards my nose when I do a forward grande battement. I can still almost do a standing split. So, given our connection, I had to see Darcy's last performance. The four little girls next to me seemed equally excited. The performance started with a Balanchine piece. The girls sat with folded arms, tolerating the Balanchine. But next came an exerpt from Midsummer Night's Dream and they went into rapture. They squealed with delight when Bottom wiggled his, well, bottom at the audience. They giggled with glee when Titania fell lasciviously into Bottom's arms, who looked at the audience, mystified by his luck that such a heavenly creature would fall for him. They leaned forward, entranced by the entire piece. When it was over they leapt to their feet in a standing ovation. "Bravo! Brava!" they squealed over and over, clapping with all their might. Impressed that they knew to use the feminine form brava at such a tender age, I turned to the Russian woman on my other side and said, "They like that one, don't they?" She smiled good-naturedly. Truth be told, all the women in that row, young and old, had been entranced by the romance between Bottom and Titania. And Darcy had given a brava farewell performance, worthy of Vera Lynn's approval.