“To be honest, Mrunal, I’m not really sure I understand what comes first: The music or the choreography,” said John, my father in law as we settled down into the Mayflower theatre in Southampton.
“I’m glad you said that, “I responded. “I have no idea how a ballet works.” Now I would hardly class myself as a culture vulture but ballet is a real blind spot for me. This was only the second ballet I had ever been to but my pedigree was good. The first show I had seen had been the Bolshoi in Moscow whilst on a sixth form trip more than half a lifetime ago.
Settled in between us, wide eyed and expectant, my own little prima ballerina was oblivious to our Philistine musings. My four year old was ready for her first ever ballet – a performance of Coppelia by the English National Ballet no less.
Now normally, an afternoon at the Ballet would not be first on my list of ways to spend a Saturday afternoon. Both John and I would have been a good deal happier at St Mary’s a couple of miles away watching Southampton play Sunderland. We were both there as substitutes. My wife and her mother had planned to come but were both were feeling under the weather. So, the “B” team stepped up and hunkered down to have our horizon’s expanded as the curtain went up.
Now, I’m not a prude but the first thing I noticed was the phenomenally tight tights that the male dancers were wearing. The fact that they were flesh coloured made it even worse because every time they turned around, it really did look as if a couple of raw (if perfectly sculpted) naked buttocks were being thrust in our direction. It took me quite a while to recover from that.
Coppelia was suggested to us as a fine ballet to take a young girl to because the playful story of a doll that comes to life. However, by the middle of the first act I was thoroughly lost. I had some idea of what was going on which mostly seemed to involve a somewhat choppy love affair but other than confirming that there was a good deal of twirling and poncing around in disturbingly tight tights I’m not sure I could have explained the finer points of the performance.
The second Act was a little darker and a few minutes in, little Meri turned to me and said, “I want to go now. I don’t like it anymore.”
The first thing I did was wake up. I’m sorry but I’m the dad of a four and six year old and if you give me a big meal and put me in a warm seat in a darkened room, I’m going to have a doze. I managed to reassure her that it was all OK, gave her a bit of a hug and paid a little more attention as the plot progressed.
At half time, sorry I mean the interval, I was able to get a good signal on my phone, and checked the football scores. Leicester were drawing at Newcastle. Reasonably content I settled down for the final act.
In the end, it all seemed to work out fine. Boy married girl but not before some more dancing, twirling and pirouetting in disgustingly tight flesh coloured tights. We shuffled out and I asked Meri, “Did you enjoy the ballet? Would you like to come again.”
“Yes!” she nodded.
I checked my phone again, “Bloody hell. Southampton eight, Sunderland nil! We really should have gone to the football!”
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