BEDJ 9: Hold me closer tiny dancer

Had the world gone gaga for ballet? I never took ballet lessons. My swarthy highland physique did not lend itself to spandex, tights, and grace, although I did figure skate until I was too tall for it.

As a fan thoug h- regular Christmas visits to the Nutcracker, seeing Karen Caine and Rex Harrington perform at one of Ross Petty’s pantomines, and even went to a subscription at the O’Keefe Hummingbird Sony Centre. But it was something my parents took me to.

Then there was Black Swan, which made ballet dark and sexy and cool.

Then the other night there were three different ballet shows on TV. The Canadian Ballet Company’s Romeos and Juliets has a reality-TV format show following the auditions and followed the auditions and training of different pairs of the star-crossed lovers. The production value is impressive, and includes much gratuitous footage of the beautiful Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (somehow Christopher Hume lists this as one of the worst buildings in the city, but he and I disagree on many points). You can also find a way trashier ballet-reality-TV show on CW by the name of Breaking Pointe.

But the highlight of my random ballet-themed night was the televised version of Love Lies Bleeding. Performed by the Alberta Ballet to the music of Elton John, this has got to be the sexiest and most over-the-top ballet ever.

I’ve dabbled a wee bit in audience development, and I know there’s a tension over selling out and staying true to a traditional form. The last thing you want to do is alienate an existing audience member (or donor, or client) for the sake of getting a new one.

But I don’t see that risk here. And partly because it’s so good. And so outrageous. Gender-bending, explicit references to drugs and sex, fringed chaps, so much hip gyration… but at the core of all the extravagance is sheer good dancing. As perfectly as the dancers move to make it look easy, picture yourself twirling in platform stilettos. Even if skin-tight sequined bodysuits aren’t your thing, you can’t help but admire the quality of the dancing.

It’s always interesting when a dance company, or orchestra, or gallery or museum dabbles in populism. Hate it if you want, but it makes it cool to like it, it makes it welcoming. It reminds a potential (or infrequent) visitor that the organization hasn’t forgotten about them and their interests. Like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Scifi Spectacular with George Takei. A little bit of current pop culture is good for an arts organization.

The reviews of Love Lies Bleeding have been great, and I really wish it success. I watched it on TV and really want to know how it translates to the stage. I hum along to Tchaikovsky when I see the Nutcracker. Not so outrageous to picture myself humming along to Rocket Man next time I’m at the ballet.

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