How Swan Lake Is Like Rambo


I’ve decided that the main criticism hurled at action movies also applies to ballet… The major problem with each is that too much of the action does not further the plot but is included merely for the sake of spectacle.  For those people perfectly happy with a slow-moving or under-developed narration as long as there’s some impressive choreography of action and/or some big music or sound effects– then either genre, depending on tastes, may be appropriate for you.

I have alloted a very few spaces on my Reading List to works NOT utilizing the printed word but which I feel necessary to experience in order to round-out my education…

Operas I would include in this category, but before starting my Self-Doctorate, I educated myself on most of the big operas so I need not give up space for those.  However, ballets I have been putting off… and putting off, and putting off.

My favorite composer is Tchaikovsky. Since he also wrote some of the world’s most beloved ballets, I thought I would start with him.

I have now seen: The Nutcracker (which I somehow managed to never see as a child), Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. And I find that, for the most part, I was right in my intuition that I would absolutely loathe ballet…

The Nutcracker was by far and away the closest to being endurable. If it were half as long, I could probably say, even with honesty, that I actually liked it. And the music is AWESOME!  On the other hand, I found both Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty tortuous and tedious. I didn’t really even enjoy the music all that much in Swan Lake.

I’m sure some of you now stand appalled that I could and would dare say such things about such obvious works of beauty. In answer, I offer, with a shrug, only this explanation…

I liken my situation with ballet to my situation with the highest caliber spectator-sports… I can appreciate the talent involved, but I just can’t get into it.  In these three ballets, there are of course… lovely music (some of my favorite ever written)– the truly amazing strength, stamina, dexterity, and grace of the dancers– the complex and lengthy choreography– the beautiful forms and faces– the exquisitely wrought set-designs– the wonderful special effects and expert stage-management– all that and more… but I found that I would prefer to listen to the music while doing something else– anything else!– than watch the ballet, itself.

I could enjoy watching people dance for some short period of time, maybe ten or twenty minutes, I don’t know, but to watch pirouette after pirouette, tiptoe scurry after tiptoe scurry, featured dancer after featured dancer, national music-style after national style-music– it was just too much of a good thing.

And the miming! Dear God, I did so loathe the miming.

There’s a certain troupe that goes around the world doing a comedy called The Complete Works Of Shakespeare– Abridged or something like that. If someone did something similar with ballet, I could probably enjoy it. Sleeping Beauty performed in, say, fifteen minutes– maybe with an explosion or two thrown in– that I could watch.

As it was, I have to say… My time spent with these operas was some of the most painful time I have put-in during my quest to complete The 300.


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