I confess straight away that I have no pretensions at all when it comes to an appreciation of ballet, and it’s a very rare event indeed for me to buy a ticket to watch a live performance of it. That said, I was intrigued by the idea of a Chinese ballet company giving an interpretation of an English classic novel. Moreover, I’d never visited The Coliseum before to watch anything, so that is just where I found myself on the second night of this brief four night season.
Despite being a bit of a philistine when it comes to an appreciation of ballet, it was a very watchable performance, and I particularly enjoyed Fan Xiaofeng’s portrayal of Bertha Mason, which had an utterly compelling beauty, and was well worth the price of the entry ticket alone (£20 for a Balcony seat if you were wondering ;)).
This rare night at the ballet triggered the memory of a poem that I’ve long loved, Louis MacNeice’s ‘Les Sylphides’, published in 1939…
Life in a day: he took his girl to the ballet;
Being shortsighted himself could hardly see it –
The white skirts in the grey
Glade and the swell of the music
Lifting the white sails.
Calyx upon calyx, Canterbury bells in the breeze
The flowers on the left mirrored to the flowers on the right
And the naked arms above
The powdered faces moving
Like seaweed in a pool.
Now, he thought, we are floating – ageless, oarless –
Now there is no separation, from now on
You will be wearing white
Satin and a red sash
Under the waltzing trees.
But the music stopped, the dancers took their curtain,
The river had come to a lock – a shuffle of programmes –
And we cannot continue down
Stream unless we are ready
To enter the lock and drop.
So they were married – to be the more together –
And found that they were never again so much together,
Divided by the morning tea,
By the evening paper,
The children and the tradesmen’s bills.
Waking at times in the night she found assurance
Due to his regular breathing but wondered whether
It was really worth it and where
The river had flowed away
And where were the white flowers.
After the performance I wandered the short distance to Trafalgar Square, and listened to a reggae busker for a while before heading for home.
As so often happens in life, synchronicities manifest themselves at times like this, and on two occasions in the following couple of days, I found Jane Eyre staring out at me from the window display of a charity shop in North Finchley High Road. Yes, I think I owe it to Charlotte to read the original ;).