Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
All art is absurd. (My goodness; I wonder if Oscar Wilde - or one of his more objectionable and declamatory characters - ever said that.) You may, of course, be of the opinion that this statement itself is absurd, or at least a little OTT, and that, if I have a case to make, I’ve already overstated it and thus diminished my chances of winning you over.
Consider this, though. Every time we go to see a play at the theatre - or even watch one on tv - we all engage in a kind of collective lunacy. We know that the people in front of us are not who they are pretending to be. We know that they are acting and that what is happening before our eyes isn’t ‘real’. When we watch EastEnders or go to see the latest Woody Allen movie, we perform a psychological conjuring trick which only human beings are capable of: we suspend our disbelief and allow ourselves to believe in something we know isn’t true.
A moment’s thought tells me that I ought not to have cried at the end of ET; the strangely endearing creature never existed, did not get stranded on Earth, did not die in a suburban American lounge-diner... But, along with almost everyone else who doesn’t have a heart of solid concrete, I wept like a baby, because I willingly suspended my disbelief enough to allow myself to be swept along in whatever direction the skilled and manipulative Spielberg chose to take me.
As far as I am concerned, all art is like this. And the ‘higher’ up the artistic ladder you climb, the worse it gets and the more gullible we become.
Take opera, for instance. All it takes is two rough-cut lengths of balsawood painted to look like trees and the entire audience is willing to ‘pretend’ that there’s a forest up there on the stage. Opera-goers not only accept that people sing their thoughts and feelings to each other but are prepared to become emotionally involved in it all as well.
And ballet is even worse - perhaps the most absurd artform ever developed. The rigid dancing styles, the gestures and mimes, the ludicrous and faintly obscene costumes, the complete lack of a plotline that relates in any way to everyday life. Ballet is so completely stylised that it bears no relationship at all to anything that anyone watching it has ever experienced. Unreality has taken over completely and the extent to which its practitioners are drawn into its world of tights and tutus is aptly illustrated by the fact that Dame Margot Fonteyn’s real - and very unballetic - name was Peggy Hookham.
I’m giving voice to all this because last Saturday night I had the amazing experience of seeing Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and meeting some of the Principle Dancers afterwards.
In ballet circles, the ‘Trocks’ are an institution. A group of extraordinary ballet dancers who have recognised that ballet is ripe to be taken down a peg or two from its elitist perch and who do so with the grace and panache the artform deserves. Before you can do something badly, you have to learn how to do it well - Les Dawson could play the piano wonderfully well - and the Trocks prove time and again that they know their balletic stuff.
But it’s when they start taking the piss out of ballet’s stuffy conventions that they truly come into their own. On-stage jealousies, ill-disguised dressing-room affairs, missed entrances, wrong steps - they’re all there. And if you haven’t seen the Trocks’ version of The Dying Swan, you haven’t lived.
And perhaps the funniest thing of all is that that they are all men. Check the picture above for proof.
This was the first time I had seen them. If they ever return to the north-east, I’ll be at the front of the ticket queue.
THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU DIDN’T KNOW
Here are one or two facts about paper...
If the whole world used as much paper as Europe and the USA uses, there wouldn’t be a single tree anywhere on Earth.
In Europe, 60% of the toilet paper we use is manufactured from recycled products. In the USA, this figure is only 2%. For Americans to wipe their arses, trees are cut down in vast numbers.
And speaking of trees...
The world’s largest tree is General Sherman, a sequoia in California; it is 275 ft tall and its base is 102ft around.
The world’s oldest tree - indeed the world’s oldest living inhabitant - is a spruce discovered last year in Sweden; it is an amazing 9,550 years old.
The world’s tallest tree is a coast redwood in California; it’s called Hyperion and stands 380 ft tall.
The tallest tree in Britain is a Douglas fir at Stronardon in Argyllshire; it is 209 ft high.
AND DON’T FORGET...
...that the next AGM will be held on Saturday 21 March in the cafe at Sunderland’s Winter Gardens at about 1400.
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