Apr 10

We went to the ballet last night at the Sydney Opera House, in the Opera Theatre, which is the smaller of the two big white, shell-like things. We saw the Australian Ballet performing “Firebird and Other Legends”, although I prefer the title “Ballet for Dummies”. And when it comes to ballet I am a total dunce.

The first performance was Les Sylphides, which is a non-narrative ballet (i.e. it has no story) with music by Chopin. The music was great, but I got a bit bored by the dancing itself. The dancers were dressed in tutus and tights – it looked just like real ballet!

After the first interval we saw Petrushka, which is the story of a puppet who comes to life. (Some people say Disney copied this story when they created Pinocchio, but those people are all dead or in jail.) I really liked Petrushka, because the dancers were in costume, and it had a story. The guy who danced the character of Petrushka was very good indeed. And the music by Stravinsky was great.

In the second interval Rach and I went outside and looked at the harbour, just like actual tourists. Then we went back in and saw the third performance, which was of The Firebird, also by Stravinsky. This was the highlight of the night, with the character of the Firebird danced by the Australian Ballet’s principal artist. She was tops! The story was a bit hard to follow; there is the Firebird, and also a strange lizard creature. The hero comes and releases a girl who is trapped inside a cage made of tree branches. A giant white egg sits at the back of the stage. I think everything turned out all right in the end though.

All in all, we both had a lovely night. We had cheap $28 tickets, so it was definitely a bargain. I also learnt a new word – “loge” – which is a fancy word for a private balcony. (It has a soft “g”, as in “luge”.) We were sitting in Loge A, although it’s far from private and our view was slightly obscured. But I had a good time anyway.

Let me finish by asking the immortal question: what is going on in the front of male ballet dancers’ tights? Why is the “package” of a danseur – or in Italian, ballerino - so large and well-shaped? Is it someone’s job backstage to “sculpt the bulge” (to coin a phrase)?

Some quick research leads me to the following conclusions:

  • all danseurs strenuously deny the use of supplementary padding to increase size, rather it is used for purely aesthetic reasons
  • the (ahem) testicles of the dancer must be tucked up somewhat to avoid being crushed between the legs during certain ballet moves – perhaps this is the origin of the term “Nutcracker”

Nureyev, the most famous bulge of all

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