Wow, it is already two weeks ago since I went to see my first ballet show, although “show” isn’t the right word for what I went to see. A show, to me, is related to spectacle and this was rather subdued. Onegin was something else: a relatable story put into motion. And, frankly, I was moved by it.
Honestly, though, I am not a ballet person. First of all, I have a tall, rigidly moving body that I don’t know what to do with and I certainly have no sense of rhythm for dancing or whatever. I don’t look, feel or want to be like a ballerina. Maybe that is also why I don’t particularly like ballet. I mean, I do think people are allowed to be proud of being able to stand on the tip of their toes and bend their feet in awkward, painful-looking angles and throw their legs into their necks and let other men put their hands on every inch of the woman’s body to stick them up into the air without anyone feeling uncomfortable about it.
I don’t want to be superficial about this, because, against all of my expectations, I really liked the performance of Onegin. First of all, I was curious about this couple that has been dancing together for 20 years (can you imagine?!) and secondly, because the show was sold out – so it had to be good. These two little facts were the only things I knew when I drove with my friends to the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp. No, I didn’t even remember the title, just that it was Russian.
Onegin is based on a story by Aleksandr Poesjkin that tells about the naïve girl Tatjana and the dandy guy Jevgeni Onegin. They are really attracted to each other, but live in completely different worlds and neither of them is entirely sure how to deal with this. Tatjana confesses her feelings to him, but Onegin rejects her in all his mondain arrogance. (This reminded me of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Right?) At some point, Onegin kills his friend Lenski in a duel (Onegin went after his girl, I guess Onegin is kind of a player) and he leaves the city, torn. When Onegin returns a few years later, the balance has shifted. Tatjana has become a high-class lady. She married a prince from the high nobility. (You’ll never guess what happens next!) Onegin pines away of regret and tries to make Tatjana choose him. Even though she is tempted at first, she realizes she does not want to be unfaithful to her husband. I guess she learned her lesson.
The ballet was for free. WHAT? Yup. We* can buy these culture cheques, a little booklet with vouchers, for €10 and with those vouchers we can get huge discounts to see 1 ballet, 1 opera, 1 theatre piece, 1 museum etc. And we didn’t even get the worst seats! We had a good view of the stage and could see the orchestra and everything.
* We means students, more in particular undergrads and grads. The booklets are available at the student center at the university.
So, what can I say? I winced often at the look of those feet that were bent over too far and I admired the flow of the girl’s dresses as they flew over the stage. I shed a tear when I realized Tatjana was making a tough decision, even though it was the right choice, and I felt quite high class myself in my dress in the opera building. I had a good time and wouldn’t mind going to the ballet again.
But no way you’ll ever find me doing a chassé or whatever. No way. Me in a tutu? O, com’on!