Friday, September 14, 2007

Tourist time

We have now covered more than 8000 km/5000 miles in two weeks. It must be because we are down under where things go the opposite way (the sun, water going down the drain) that it is becoming harder rather than easier…
We have done 12 shows now and those first two seem very far away. The next stops were in small towns Tamworth, Wollongong, Albury before we had our first big city show in Melbourne. This is the part of the tour we were warned would be hard, getting up at 6 to sit on a bus for 6-7 hours, drop bags off at hotel (if they had the rooms ready), then go to the venue and find a place to do class, while the crew got the stage ready, perform, sometimes twice and get up and do it all again the next day. But like birthing pains do not remain in the physical or the psychological memory I have to refer to my notebook to remind myself that my ankle got jammed and my back spasmed on me on a regular basis.
We have been selling well, to near capacity in most places. Some are small though - both stage and audience. The Tamworth was in the town hall!!! With metal folding chairs and a tiny raked stage designed mostly for handing out diplomas. There might have been a glitch in the planning, because none of us got one…
Wollongong was a bit harder, with a 6 am bus call, 7.5 hours on the bus and two shows with an hour between. The town itself had a nicer feel to it. After all we were closer to the water and the smell of cattle not as prominent outside. This area of the country is supposed to be the largest flat part of land anywhere in the world; it looks like Denmark with the horizon farther away, a LOT farther. This may be why the bustrips remind of the trips I made as a child in Denmark to my grandparents’ summer house. In little Denmark, those 1-hour trips were looongg when I was small. I guess it’s proportional; I got bigger, the countryside (Australia) is bigger and the trips longer, which must equal to being close to a 1-hour trip in the back of the car when you are 9 years old and antsy.
Still what makes this what it is, is the fun we are able to make on stage and off. There truly is no better cure for pains and aches than a good laugh.
After 4 shows in 2 days in Wollongong and another 7 hour bus ride and another show in Albury we made it to our first (and possibly last) days off before Dec. 3.

Those two days in Melbourne were truly days of recharging, spent eating, drinking and taking in the place we were in for the first time really. The first day the sun was taking care of us, so I took Paul to the Botanical Gardens. Upon discovering that no one had brought Mary, we brought along Max the Mad Hatter (our costumier genial) and Manolo aka Fifi. It was a truly spectacular day and a wonderful Gardens. Staying in an apartment-style hotel we were also able to make home-cooked meals. After just one week on the road, the meat pies did become tedious I must admit, and the restaurants of San Francisco could not compare to George’s Chicken Piccata Pasta or Max’s Hungarian Paprikesh (sp?).
Having been introduced to Ned Kelly legend I of course had to visit the Melbourne Gaol, where he (and countless others, well 175) were hanged. Following a school group around, I became fascinated with the Australians fascination with hanging. In very clear voice these 10-12 year olds were taught the finer details of the ways of the past. The guide seemed a bit stumped when one of them asked in a true 10-year old fashion how this “past” differed from what was done to a certain leader of a Middle East country not too long ago. Standing on the level from which these “events” took place I got a knot in my stomach. This knot intensified when I noticed that there was one girl who did not have her gaze transfixed upon the gallows. Her traditional Muslim headdress served to me as a most poignant reminder that Outback outlaw or Dictator, we are all humans.
My spirits were lifted from this dark, cold place as I went to see the Australian Ballet perform Massine’s Les Presages from 1933 that evening. This is the ballet that Tatiana Leskova, whom I met the week prior, had staged. Though costumes and sets were definitely a bit dated, the choreography was far from it! Set to Tchaikovsky’s 5th, it was the first symphonic ballet, paving the way for countless choreographers to come, some better than others. The one to follow Massine this evening, Krystof Pastor, who had done a ballet to Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique (which Massine choreographed in ’36) belong to the “others” group. Where Massine’s ballet had structure, intricate steps, interesting groupings and musicality, the newer work seemed to be nothing more than series of steps with little or no relation to the music. Most irksome to my eye was the lack of connection to the key theme with the lead ballerina. I found myself enjoying the sets more than the dance; the exact opposite of my reaction to Massine’s work. It made me think what is more important to preserve in choreography: the full piece or the nucleus, the steps and how dated would this new work look visually in 70 years.
The dancers were glorious, very uniform the way only seen when the school supplies the company, yet still individuals with beautiful technique.

As I learned the next morning the day ended on a sad note, coming full circle from death to life to death, with the passing of Pavarotti. However, there is beauty to be found everywhere and this day happened to be our first and only show in Melbourne at Her Majesty’s Theatre. This is the stage where Pavarotti made his debut in ’63 and it is hard for me to describe the feeling I had dancing there that night. But I do believe that his larger than life joy of his art surrounded me that night.


SG said...

How eerie it must have felt to dance among long-ago echoes of Pavarotti, Sutherland, and Bonynge. How quickly and inexorably the circle of life spins; a half century vanishes in the blink of an eye.

Kelly said...

Peter - this is an amazing adventure for you. Keep writing! I think I held my breath when you wrote about your "knot"...
I just saw Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man - thought of you - you have to check to out when you get back. Take Care - k2

Emma2 said...

You are so right when you write, “There is truly no better cure for pains and aches than a good laugh”. Especially during balletclass.

Do pirouettes go the opposite way in Australia, too? This could offer new hope to ballerinas in North America who can turn in only one direction.