Calling Miss Arlene

"C'est fini! C'est fini!" K. and I heard the woman two rows behind us whispering to her companion (more on that later) during the last ten minutes of Alice. Glen Tetley kept proving our ill-mannered Francophone friend wrong, however. I'm assuming that the choreographer is a Beethoven fan. Just as the endings of Beethoven symphonies go on for longer than they should, so did Alice. If the last ten minutes had been fun or funny or aesthetically pleasing, Tetley could have been forgiven. Instead, the last ten minutes were dedicated to Tetley making a point about mortality, memory, and the inability to go home again. In this regard, ballets are like books, if an author needs to include an epilogue to tie up loose ends and pontificate (or in Tolstoi's case, needs two (TWO!) epilogues), then the author failed somewhere in the previous three hundred pages (or in Tolstoi's case, in the previous one thousand pages). Tetley didn't really fail in the first thirty minutes of his ballet, in which he masterfully characterized everyone and everything met by Alice on the other side of the looking glass, but he did fail in that the second-hand psychology of the last quarter of the ballet felt tacked on. Alice reminded me of act 3 of The Nutcracker when humorless, self-important men get their hands on it: lots of impressive, yet ultimately pointless (I mean this in the best way possible) dancing framed by a desperate and boring attempt to make the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy and the Snowflake Realm relevant and meaningful. I'm convinced that sometimes the clowns appearing out from under a woman's skirt are just clowns appearing out from under a woman's skirt (or a cheap gag to get a laugh) and not a statement on Clara's subconscious fear of childbirth (or a carnivalesque......Bakhtin and Rabelais are so cranky from being misunderstood that I've put them down for a nap)...

Now, back to Miss Arlene. Miss Arlene ran the first dance studio I attended. Before every recital she gave our parents and siblings a little speech about audience etiquette and I wish that she were still alive to give her little speech before TSO concerts and National Ballet performances. 1. If you don't want to be here, leave. 2. Don't talk, you'll insult the performers, who have trained very hard to learn how to convincingly dance like square-dancing lobsters (no joke!), and the other audience members, most of whom have shelled out quite a bit of money to see their angels convincingly dance like square-dancing lobsters. 3. If your other children can't behave themselves while their sibling is convincingly dancing like a square-dancing lobster, take them outside. 4. No pictures.

I have a couple of additions to make to Miss Arlene's speech. Points six and seven apply more to classical music concerts than the ballet. 5. Don't clap every time someone leaves the stage. 6. Don't clap in between movements. If you're not sure when to clap, count the movements ahead of time and then count down during the performance or you could wait until everyone else is clapping and by everyone else I mean everyone else. There are lots of people out there who want to clap in between movements. 7. Wait until the conductor (if you're at the symphony) or the members of the ensemble (if you're at a chamber music gig) have lowered their arms/instruments to applaud. This is a concert, not a race. 8. If you're confused, you'll have to suffer for not doing your prep work, because you should wait until intermission to ask your date any questions you may have about the performance (See point 2).

There's more to audience etiquette, of course, but at this point in time, I would simply be happy with the elimination of the background buzz of my fellow audience members talking during the performance. I could use this as a springboard to discuss the self-centred nature of today's society, but that subject deserves even more of rest than poor Bakhtin's carnival. -Zh.


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