Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurrication! And Art Prevails

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene passed through NYC last weekend.  The TV news broadcast doom and gloom.  Downtown Manhattan will be under six to twelve feet of water! New York hasn't been threatened with a hurricane like this in 100 years!  The subways will be flooded!  Will the Statue of Liberty even survive?  Bloomberg Etc. pulled out all stops.  The subways ceased running at noon on Saturday.  The bridges were supposed to be closed in due order.  There were forced emergency evacuations.  Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum were closed.  It was the first weekend of the Met Opera Live in HD Festival at Lincoln Center, and that was canceled. Even my dance classes were canceled.  Which is sayin' somethin' 'cause Ballet Arts at City Center is like the postal service: they don't close for nuthin'.

Late Friday night I started to prepare. As I lugged a gallon of water up five flights of stairs, I decided to take a Hurrication.  In my neighborhood the only time it's quiet is when it rains (car windows are closed, minimizing bass-osity; and street socializing becomes non-existent.)  So I slept.  And slept.  And slept.  I slept so long that I missed Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene.  When I woke late on Sunday morning, there was a light drizzle and a moderate breeze.  The power was on.  And the only evidence of una tormenta was a small leak in my closet, and scattered vegetable debris on the sidewalk.  Bloomberg, I said, you over-reacting numbskull.

But there were downed trees in Fort Tryon Park, and flooding in coastal areas was worse.  Some parts of the city were without power for days.  But for the rest of us, it was business as usual on Monday.  Everyone (those poopers!) showed up to work.  The blue sky thumbed its chin at Bloomberg, as if to say, it's still summer and you can't spoil my fun. 

After work, I went house hunting (more, much more, on this later-- it could fill an entire book).  The Poocherooni came along.  He has a more highly developed sixth sense than I, and at this point I need his help.  After beating the pavement, we drove slowly passed Lincoln Center.  I had checked earlier about the opera broadcast, but the website was mute.  But Monday evening to our joy, there it was:  art broadcast on the big screen.  Poochini lay exhausted on the passenger seat.  I opened the car window.  He sprang to his feet, poked his nose out the window, sniffed, and stared excitedly at the projection of Iphigenie en Tauride over Lincoln Center Plaza. 

I certainly chose the right name for you, I said, as I drove toward a parking spot.  The temperature was just right for sitting outside, the sky overhead was clear.  I bought a gelato and found a seat.  Poochini slurped up my leftover icecream and stared at the giant screen, true to his nature.  It was as if nothing terrible had ever happened.  It was the gift of art to us all.      

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Perfect Pair: Semionova and Gomes in Swan Lake

Some dance performances are so phenomenal that it requires time to fully appreciate them.  On Saturday July 2, I took my usual balcony seat at the ABT.  For weeks I had anticipated Semionova in this performance of Swan Lake. Earlier in the season I had seen her paired with David Hallberg in Don Quijote.  It had been a stellar performance, but the two were missing chemistry, which cannot be invented.  Chemistry is either present or not.  For this performance of Swan Lake, Semionova was scheduled to dance again with Hallberg, and so it was with a certain amount of relief that I opened my program to read that Marcelo Gomes would replace Hallberg in this performance.  Hallberg is an elegantly beautiful dancer, and might well be paired with the graceful Cojocaru.  But Semionova requires the passion and sheer physicality of Gomes.

The magnetism between the two was apparent the moment they stepped on stage together.  Semionova portrayed a heartachingly vulnerable Odette, draping herself in a fluid backbend over Gomes' strong arms.  She shone as Odile, performing the grueling 32 fouettes with flawless precision, showing off her prowess with double revolutions during the first five fouettes.  Gomes confidently matched her stamina, and allowed her to steal the show.  He epitomized the gentlemanly manner of the male ballet dancer, who becomes ennobled by supporting the ballerina and allowing her beauty to shine.  The emotion between the two carried the audience on a wave exhilaration until the final denouement, when Gomes leapt heart and soul after Semionova.  It was the grandest stage fall I have ever seen.  Gomes flung his chest out with all his might.  His legs kicked forcefully behind.  In the drama of that fall, he made the audience believe that there exists a love so profound that it can lead a man to the ends of the earth.

More followed.  The drab, unsatisfying ending in which Odette and Prince Siegfried stand separate but united, side by side in the dawn of the afterlife, was no more.  Instead, Semionova and Gomes embraced.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect performance by a perfect pair.

At the curtain call, Semionova and Gomes smiled with obvious joy about dancing together.  Semionova accepted with grace the customary bouquet of roses (at the end of a ballet performance, the principal ballerina always receives a rose bouquet, but the male lead receives none; the ballerina usually extracts one rose, kisses it, curtsies and hands the rose to her male lead).  Then Semionova broke rank and offered her bouquet to Gomes, who refused with barely concealed embarrassment.  Semionova tried several times to give Gomes the flowers, then outrightly placed the bouquet in his arms.  With school boy charm, Gomes bowed to her and placed the bouquet at her feet.  A few curtain calls later, Semionova and Gomes embraced warmly and kissed on the lips.   If you didn't know better, you'd have sworn they were lovers.  Which is exactly how you should walk away from a performance of Swan Lake:   believing that love can be strong enough to conquer the spells of an evil sorcerer.