Sunday, 15 January 2012

From Upper Slips to Under Slips: ballet with the Badgers

I'm taking a short break from my introductory series to blog about our visit to the ballet today. You'll have to wait for the thrilling entry about little houses and their significance in my life.

The Mouse and I went with our Badger friends* to the Royal Opera House, to see a performance of The Nutcracker. The Mouse is a keen ballet dancer and thoroughly enjoyed our trip there two years ago, to see Tales of Beatrix Potter and Les Patineurs. We had a slightly lengthened journey there, due to engineering works, but at least that meant we got to chug past Griffin Park stadium, home to the Mighty Bees.

Although the view out of the train window wasn't quite like this

We made it there though and took our seats in the Upper Slips, which are a very long way up but the great thing is a) I can afford tickets to watch a ballet in a beautiful space and b) the Mouse can fidget as much as she likes and nobody minds. Credit to her, she didn't fidget much at all, but she did need to crane forward to get a better view. At one point I worried she would slip right off the balcony, as her dancing feet got the better of her and she almost joined in.

The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is sandwiched in between other buildings, it's glass house-like exterior almost lost in the crush, but the interior of the auditorium is really impressive. It looks very much as a toy theatre should, only on a much larger scale, obviously. The first time we visited, two years ago, I was completely wowed by it it all: the red velvet curtains with gold brocade edging and 'ER' emblazoned on them (as in the Queen, not as in Dr Kovac); the plasterwork angels and cherubs along the edges of the balcony, the Grand Tier and the auditorium; the blue and gold domed ceiling... it's a visual treat before you even reach the performance.

You can just about see the angels and the cherubs

Wrong ER

The ballet was amazing, the sets and staging were stunning and the music was beautiful. I'm not sure I've ever seen two harps in one place before; quite big, aren't they? You can watch a trailer for it here. The Mouse says her favourite part was the palace of Sweets and she loved the the Sugar Plum Fairy's costume and Clara's nightdress. She was rather eloquent on that topic and I'll try and remember her words. "I loved Clara's nightdress because it was so simple and yet looked like a ballgown as well as nightdress." The Mouse is interested in fashion and costume design and I find I learn things from her observations, which is good because I really don't have a clue about these things! One of my favourite aspects of the day is how it felt like a proper day out with her. She was good company and very much in her element.
Speaking of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I did find myself a little distracted during the Grand Pas de Deux, speculating on what, exactly, male ballet dancers wear under their tights. I know, and I'm sorry, but I couldn't help noticing that a) there was no VPL (Visible Panty Line) and b) Prince Coqueluche had quite a Grand Pas de Deux himself. Well, in the interests of your education, dear readers, I looked it up on the Internet once I was back home again and I can reveal that male ballet dancers wear a thing called a 'dance belt' under their tights. I would post a picture but, frankly, some of you may be reading this early in the morning. The dance belt is a cleverly designed piece of dance foundation wear, which neatly addresses the twin problems of aesthetics and support. It's essentially a flesh-coloured high-waisted jock-strap/thong arrangement, constructed largely from spandex. So, now you know. Consider yourself educated.

* Not actual badgers.

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