Only the Swans Prevail

Last week I took B-cat to see Coastal City Ballet‘s retelling of Swan Lake at Vancouver Playhouse. Compared with Europe, all ballets and operas in Vancouver are expensive, but Coastal City — being a pre-professional company — is the most affordable option here for classical (story) ballets.

That said, they never seem to have nice costumes. I usually attend their performances with S, and her first remark when the topic comes up is always:

They always dance in T-shirts and pants.

Well, S had to work that day, so she missed seeing Prince Siegfried in tights! And prince boots! The other dancers, though, still look as if they raided some five-year-old’s dress-up box.

Here’s an idea of the group composition in more than one scene:

  • Three men in modern dress shirts and pants
  • Two dancers in lamé ’80s clubwear
  • A handful of women in cheap ballet class dresses or those sundresses with legs (?)
  • One guy all in mesh
  • One guy in an elaborate Romeo shirt and khaki trousers
  • Too many people mixing pieces spanning all eras

It’s even part of the story this time — Siegfried’s entourage finds a chest of clothes in a castle, etc. — but only draws attention to how badly dressed they remain when the story doesn’t require it (and made for awkward on-stage changing). And the corps is more mismatched than their wardrobe. They extend their legs to different heights, wobble when they need to hold still, and fall out of pirouettes or jumps, unable to finish properly. It doesn’t look like they even rehearsed in the same room.

What happened, CCB?


Maybe it’s bad for their morale that Sakura Inoue and her friends have pretty pancake tutus. As Odette the girl, Inoue is truly regal, i.e. proud, patient, and without arrogance. She dances beautifully. As the swan, she’s more bird-like and expressive than any I’ve seen. The cygnets, too, have surprising energy and perfect coordination; most professional ballerinas don’t manage to be as uniform as these four.

As for the men, what little Diego Ramalho’s Siegfried lacks in technique he makes up for in acting, and vice versa for his buddy (I think… For some reason the programme lists everyone alphabetically, making identification difficult). And poor Rothbart (Tyler Carver) may be the worst dressed, but he is flawless — turns out he’s a guest artist from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

It’s the really good dancers that keep this from becoming a disappointing experience. I wish B-cat’s first Swan Lake were better, but we’d definitely want to see Inoue in other lead roles in the future.

P.S. More than half of the dancers are non-white — how West Coast is that?

Coastal City Ballet’s next production is Swan Lake on June 10 (sold out, it appears).


Happy Nutcracker Season

B-cat by S’s tree — with ballet ornaments

Seeing as Royal City Youth Ballet‘s ticket price has overtaken that of the professional companies, B-cat and I are only attending two productions of Nutcracker this year: Royal Ballet‘s live broadcast last weekend and Ballet BC’s production next week. (This year’s guest dancers are from Alberta Ballet.)

B-cat and me; the glittery nutcracker I made out of scraps

We saw the first with S, who feels Royal Ballet’s costumes are “too drab” with the exception of the screaming pink harem pants she hates. I like the costumes precisely because they look like real clothing (again excluding those pants), but hey, she has much higher standards than I do about everything ballet.

Enough nitpicking: Royal Ballet’s backdrops are lavish in intricate details but muted in colour, with warm gold tones reminiscent of old books. And you can’t go wrong with Tchaikovsky. For next year, though, maybe they should leave out the grotesque Fu Manchu makeup and moustaches for the roles of Chinese tea.

I’m the one in white. Flabby holidays!

The three of us also attended the last ballet class of the year at Scotiabank Dance Centre. There was even a pianist/melodica player who played us holiday songs and a photographer to capture our holiday weight.

Merry statutory Christmas, everyone!

Warmest Way to Hallowe’en

Hallowe’en at the Orpheum

It’s as much tradition to rain on Hallowe’en as it is on the other 364 to 365 days in Vancouver. Every kid here has to endure the frustration of wearing some awesome costume under a warm, bulky coat. Being a teen is even worse, because you don’t even get free candy.

One great thing about being an adult is that, instead of being pressured to go clubbing or lining up at Fright Night for hours, I can spend the night at the freaking symphony.

B-cat as Todd Ingram (Scott Pilgrim), me as Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)

I hadn’t actually gone to a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concert in a while, since opera and ballet cover the classical music base pretty well, but I won tickets to their Hallowe’en concert (along with a Sultans of String CD) at the Vancouver Writers Fest volunteer orientation this October.

Not Totally to brag, but I’m really good at luck-based contests. It all started when, around the age of 3, I won both the cash prize and the top item prize (a motorcycle) in a mall draw…

Anyway, here’s part of the 2015 offering:

  • “In the Hall of the Mountain King”

  • “Night on Bald Mountain”

  • “Come Fly with Me”

  • Debussy and Berlioz

  • Excerpt from Phantom of the Opera

…and some Harry Potter and E.T. music I didn’t recognise. It was conducted by John Morris Russell, with guest singer Carman Price.

A few years ago, I had also gone to VSO’s Nosferatu Hallowe’en, at which the live orchestra accompanied the film playing on the huge screen. I usually can’t get into movies that… old, but the music made all the difference.

Nosferatu is spookier, but a jazz-filled dress-up night full of laughs is nothing to scoff at.

No one’s tough as Gaston, no one’s rough as Gaston, no one wins as much stuff as Gaston

If you’ve never gone to a VSO Hallowe’en concert, let me just point out that attendees in costume get two free vouchers for future concerts. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Certainly not Gaston.