Thanks to my friend D’s invitation, I got the opportunity to watch a ballet last Friday. It’s been a long time since I last watched a ballet live. I remember Les Grands Ballets Canadiens during the 1984 Singapore Festivals of Arts. My mother’s company Mobil was the sponsor and I got free tickets then. It didn’t particularly leave any impression, unlike the Dick Lee’s musical I watched, probably at the same Fest.
There were two tickets and so I invited a girlfriend along. Bee was out of town, Mike had a company BBQ, an aunt declined at the last minute. S was bored at home and so decided to tag along. Although both of us had attended numerous concerts and plays, we were both new to ballet. I went with an open mind. After all, I had never liked Chinese Orchestra but had thoroughly enjoyed SCO’s last performance.
It was the first time I stepped into a half empty Esplanade Theatre. I guess Singaporeans do not really enjoy Ballet. I know the story of Romeo and Juliet but am not familiar with the music or dance, unlike the music from Swan Lake. The painting on the screen gave a three-lined summary of the story.
When the screen raised, a dancer dressed in colourful tights and matching caps enthralled me with her lithe body and skill. I wondered about her role in the play and thought that she was cupid, but reading the program now tells me she is Fate. The next scene was impressive – a Roman square where many of the scenes are set. The stage setting was overall believable, from the square to the church and the famous balcony.
One thing about watching the ballet I had to get used to was – watching men in tights. That aside, the costumes were delightful : light and flowy for Juliet and girls, heavy robes for some others. We could tell the different gangs Capulets and Montagues by the colours of their clothes. I could immediately identify Romeo and Juliet for their clothes were of similar colour.
The dance was 3 hours long with two twenty-minutes intermission. In between scene changes, the audience had to wait about 3-4 mins while the music played on in semi-darkness – a rather long wait, I felt. Having woken up very early that morning to prepare our boys for school, S and I were dead tired by the first intermission. Some people left and I expected S to tell me to go too when the second intermission came on. S could hardly keep her eyes open, but she did not voice out any suggestion of leaving. I told her the last scene was the climax and I want to watch the part where the couple die. With no undue disrespect to SDT, for laymen like us with no ballet knowledge, the movements after a while looked the same and become monotonous. In fact, I thought two dancers actually tripped on stage, but I cannot be sure.
When the climax came and Romeo mistakenly thought Juliet died, it was weird seeing him break into a dance, no doubt an expression of his sorrow and grief but I couldn’t tell. Even the music was monotonous, with hardly any recognizable difference, or for that matter, any part that would leave an impression.
This ballet was choreographed by the Late Goh Choo San and I am sure many in the audience enjoyed it. I am just disappointed I didn’t.