Saturday, November 24, 2007

Demi pointe and retirement

The circle is complete. We reached the halfway point in the theatre where it all began so many years…uh…weeks ago. I am counting dates here for once, as shows are still being added and shuffled around and none of us are really sure any more how many we are doing. For the count, we have now done 50 shows in 57 days.
But there is good news! We stayed in one place, in the same hotel, in the same bed for the unbelievably long time of 8 days! And this place is of course Sydney and not some tiny one-horse town like Whyalla and furthermore, (wait, are you sitting down? Good) we had 3 days off! It was almost too good to be true, and of course it was to good to be true. Everyone did have 3 days off (I had 4, but more on that in a bit) not consecutive though, but as we learned after the first of these long coveted days we would be facing 7 days and 13 shows a couple of times in the very near future. Lesson learned: whenever time off, rest, adequate sleep or any of those luxuries pop up on the schedule, it is because something hideous is lurking around the next corner.
But how sweet those days were and I was terrified that I would be too tired to actually enjoy them and get the most out of being in Sydney. As I am likely to start doing Swan Lake with a new partner who’s never done it before, I was even given the day after our shows in Sydney off. That meant 3 days in a row for me. I was not too popular with the “girls” when they found out, but so far I have not found itching powder in my dancebelt or broken glass in my shoes, though I am not sure if this is the reason why they have cooled off on the trying to assure me that I am missing out on a huge part of this tour and life in general by not becoming their boyfriend. By “their” I mean all of them, sort of a reverse harem I guess it would be.
But back to my days off and my new favorite city, Sydney. What a place, reminiscent of Copenhagen by the harbour, the Mediterranean, with it’s crooked alleyways in Old Town and San Francisco by its sheer atmosphere and casually sophisticated bohemian conservatism and hills.

It’s an odd feeling to feel the familiarity with a place of recent acquaintance, that is normally associated with places one has had longer association with, but such was the case with the State Theatre in Sydney. It felt like being back home and to my original group, those of us that started here it felt like we should stop now, that we had made a complete circle. Sadly we only had two shows, in one day here, it would have been nice to have an actual run in a big city in a beautiful theater, but I won’t complain as the days we could have performed were given to us to enjoy the city instead.
And enjoy I did. I met up with my friend Marshall from Perth, had dinner with the composer Ross Edwards, his wife and a young composer Drew and had plenty of coffee and good times with Ilmar, a good friend of the woman who’s keeping me on the straight and narrow. Ilmar has, in my opinion a perfect life, he lives and works part of the year in Sydney and the other part in Paris. I know what you are thinking and I had to get a box of Kleenex too, to wipe the tears from my eyes when he told me.
Having been joined by a Turkish guy for the next 4 weeks, the group made an uneven number, and I was able to be apart from my involuntary roommate for a week. I never thought that solitude could be so sweet.
Thinking that I would catch up on my journals turned out to be wishful as every day was spent walking through Sydney. Here as in Melbourne I ventured in to a few museums and am most amazed by how many kids visit and how they are truly invited in. In one museum with an exhibition on the prison ships (the Australians are truly proud of their origins) I ended up following a group of about 25 young kids, fascinated by their tour more than my own. Not only fascinated at them being given assignments putting them in situations the prisoners would have been in, making them experience what they were shown visually but equally if not more fascinated by the kids’ active mental participation, their questions and their skills in keeping attention and ability to think critically.
Sydney has a wonderful museum, rather large classical building, located on the way from Pott’s Point, where I met Ilmar for coffees, to the Opera House, very close to the Botanical Gardens. Most people can’t miss it when they go for a walk in the gardens. I did. I am still not sure how, but I managed to walk right by it, in broad daylight, so I have no thoughts about this museum. But the Botanical Gardens are a treat, the sheer variety of indigenous trees is mind-boggling and I ended up dozing off on a bench in the shade of a tree long thought to be extinct, listening to birds and realizing how I do not remember the last time I heard birds in SF while lying under a tree. Well, I actually don’t doze under trees at home as most trees there are used as toilets by the homeless.
But Sydney is a truly Australian city in the sense that I have come to know this country. It’s a place of dualism and contradiction. It’s friendly and familiar, dangerous and foreign. You are constantly reminded of something, some place, some atmosphere when you walk in Sydney, but right as you are about to put your finger on it, you turn a corner and the light changes, the weather changes, the people sitting having flat whites change and you are back at square one, racking your brain for what it is this reminds you of. Now that I am sitting writing this it comes to me what it reminds me of: Having a good time.
Aside from marking the halfway point of the tour, Sydney also marked the retirement of what is the most amazing pair of ballet slippers I have ever had. After 50 shows and enough rosin to make the soles look like Pirelli tires I decided to place these trusted pieces of canvas in a hermetically sealed plastic bag (for obvious reasons) before they could run away on their own.


Emma2 said...

Congratulations on having your blog quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle! You will no doubt be able to guess which part of your comedic tour de force was printed when you return from your tour and notice an extra-attentive audience whenever you turn around.

Jay said...

Farewell to the shoes. You're hilarious. - Shelby

Cheryl said...

Shelby's right. I can hardly wait to read about your impressions of New Zealand.

The program on New Zealand's TV 3 about Les Ballets Grandiva was very interesting. I hadn't seen the "girls" without makeup before. It's quite an amazing transformation.