Contemporary BalletLast night, I attended my first professional ballet since I was a child.  Performed by the Missouri Contemporary Ballet, “Falling” was certainly a perfect way to come back to a world I had long since abandoned as out of my reach.  There were four pieces in the program, three short pieces and a full ballet.  It was gorgeous.  I loved every minute of the show.  There was a light-hearted piece that told the story of two sets of lovers, ending with catchy music and playful choreography.  The second piece was based on the physical and mental wear on a dancer.  The costume concept alone was brilliant, and the dance itself was technically demanding.  The third dance was inspired by an artist’s depiction of the sex slave trade in Japan in WWII.  The lighting was truly spectacular, and the men shone.

The intermission was even an experience in and of itself, because it gave me a chance to explore the theatre.  Let me tell you something about this theatre: it’s two theatres shoved into one space.  The lower half, where we sat, has a very low ceiling, almost too low, that has stained glass set into it.  The lighting behind it is soft, low light, reds and greens, but the effect is stunning.  I’ve never seen it before and don’t expect to see it elsewhere, though I hope to return to see it again.  Once out in the foyer, you naturally look up because you can.  It’s a good thing, too.  There’s a set of mirrors that opens up the small space across from the walkway above.  Also, there’s a sitting area above, too.  The edge of it has been cut to shape the half-ceiling like a piano.  There’s also a restored tile water fountain.  On the upper level itself, the mirrors reflect you as you walk to the stairs that will take you to the balcony.  If you ever go, take these stairs slowly–let the second theatre creep up on you.  It’s stunning.  The upper half  of the theatre is completely open where the lower half is closed.  There is a giant chandelier hanging from a curved inset in the ceiling, painted in graded shades of sky blue.  The coat of arms is carried by cherubs, and the entire upper level is gilt with red velvet.  This theatre is grand and full of history.

At the end of intermission, I returned to the intimate theatre to watch the final performance, the full ballet.  It was the title piece of the show, and clearly the baby of the artistic director.  Curtain up.  The set transported me home, specifically to a singular room in my favorite aquarium, 2,000 miles across the country.  The set was system upon system of overlapping strips of translucent white cloth, about twelve feet tall, nearly touching the floor.  Then above the systems of cloth, hanging along the proscenium, were several more pieces of cloth, this time bunched like crumpled paper, hanging in lines of three.  I really could not tell you how perfect it was–but if you’ve ever been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to the room with the Dance of the Jellies, you might get an idea.  The Dance of the Jellies exhibit is a large hallway of tanks filled with jellyfish, and every surface that isn’t tank is mirror.  You’re surrounded by blue and white, drifting softly like stars.  I love it.  “Falling” not only looked like that room, but also began with ocean sounds.  From the first moment of the ballet, I was home.  Not only because of the place I was emotionally, but because I had returned to the world of dance.

Part of the beauty of live theatre is the experience of it.  Not just what’s on stage, but what’s going on in your heart and head while the music plays and the people move.  I miss that more than anything when I go a long time without attending the theatre.  And I pity the poor soul who has never felt the joy of the experience.  Because it is beautiful, wonderful, and makes you feel alive.

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