Friday, 19 August 2011
The smoke and mirrors
In many ways when we stand to applaud, we clap for what is immediately before our eyes. A procession of performers or a slight genuflection, the celebration is signalled and we are on our feet, gushing praise. We applaud the spectacle, though members of the audience never forget the craft.
But the craft is a spectacle all of its own. A performance itself behind closed doors. The preparation and procedure of a performance can last for weeks and merge across continents in differnet terrains before coming together before our cacophanous ovations.
For the Peony Pavillion, i knew this was certainly the case. The National Ballet of China allowed me to access their dancers on and off stage during their visit to the Edinburgh International Festival this week. It allowed me to penetrate the smoke and mirrors, so to speak, of their own rich spectacle. I saw how grand a feat it is to bring, literally to transport, a performance like that to the stage. Dozens of dancers, an orchestra, props and stage equipment as well as the company staff, all for 5 nights. I was lucky to see beyond the porceline expressions of some of the worlds greatest ballet dancers, to see how young they are and how their youth still shone through the pressures and demands of thier roles.
In the wings of the show i stood like a brick, while their serpentine bodies eased in and out of costumes and disappeared and reappeared through hidden doors. I was overcome just how powerful the ballet is from close quarters, but i was struck more by how wonderfully out of shape i felt.