Thursday, December 07, 2006

being cultured

I went to the ballet tonight.  In Europe.  Honestly, who does that?  A year ago, I never would have said it would be me.  But a lot can change in a year.  I remember standing outside my dorm building in the snow last January, on a borrowed cell phone, calling my dad to say that I had heard about Calvin’s semester program in Hungary, and I thought I might apply for it.  And now here I am, going to the ballet on Thursday night.  And not just any ballet - I saw “The Nutcracker.” 

We aimed to leave at 5, but got a bit of a late start.  We needed money, you see.  We are supposed to get our weekly food allowance on Tuesday evening during our culture class, but this week there were no funds in the bank.  The money hadn’t been forwarded on time to get here by Tuesday, so we got it today instead.  We do have it now, though, so all is okay.  We won’t be receiving another payment since our time here is almost up, so we got a little bit extra.  Our ballet tickets were quite inexpensive though - 800 forints/$4 - so we have a decent amount of cash to get us through the next 8 days in Budapest.  Wow, 8 days. 
Anyway, traffic was heavy, so our bus took longer than usual, but got to our stop right behind the tram we needed to catch.  How nice!  Oh wait, five people from our group just got on the tram, but Christine and I are stuck on the bus behind two women in absolutely NO hurry to get off.  They will, however, get off, so don’t think about going around them.  They’ll just take their time.  And now the warning bell is buzzing for the tram doors!  Twenty seconds until they close!  Will we make it?  Sprinting across the platform we see the the doors begin to close in front of Ryan’s panicked face.  All of a sudden, his foot shoots out, holding the door open as Christine squeaks by, and he’s slipping…the door is pushing its way closed…I force my way on, bruising my hip on the slamming door and almost catching my scarf in it at the last second.  As I tumble onto the tram, I trip over Ryan’s foot, and we both almost fall, but hey, we all made it.  :)
After that little adrenaline rush, everything else went smoothly until we arrived at the Opera House.  The building itself is simply gorgeous, outside and in.  We used the side entrance, since there are direct stairs there to the balcony, which was where we had seats.  None of them were together, so we split up as soon as we reached the top (about four flights up).  Karin and I waited in line for the mandatory, but not free coat check, and then rushed to find our seats just as the doors were closing for the ballet to begin.  We had no idea where our seats where, though, or how to find them.  Our tickets were all in Hungarian (of course - why does this continue to surprise me four months later?), and the row numbers were impossible to read in the dark.  I saw Ryan, who was supposed to be on the opposite side of the theater, sitting where I thought my seat might be, and there were a number of open seats near him, so Karin and I went there.  My seat was in fact there, so I sat in it, and Karin sat in a free seat down the row until the first entr’acte.  Someone had been in Ryan’s seat, so he traded with her and ended up next to me.  That was nice.  You can see where we were in the picture below.  From the very top right corner, follow the top balcony toward the center of the picture and you’ll run into a large black light.  We were right above that in the first row.
 
The light did obstruct our view a little bit, but really not much.  With some creative head-movement, we could see the whole stage, although not all at one time.  And for the dances that were really all over the place, we could stand because there was no one behind us. 
The performance was phenomenal.  The physical strength and grace of the dancers never ceases to amaze me.  They are incredible and make everything look perfectly easy.  I was impressed.  We all were.  When we reconvened after the performance we all agreed that we wanted to be ballet dancers.  Some of us would make better ones than others…
 
The costuming was different than in the film version I have at home.  I’m used to seeing the Sugar Plum Fairies wear flowy purple dresses, but these fairies looked like some sort of Austrian cowboys.  Or something.  That part was a little bit disappointing.  But it was the only thing I didn’t like.  And the fairies still danced beautifully.  All the dancers did.  It sort of made me sad that I quit ballet lessons when I was younger.  It also made me miss playing in orchestra, because we had a perfect view into the orchestra pit.  The performers tonight were so incredibly talented.  The whole thing was beautiful.  I’m so glad I got to do this tonight.  It was spectacular.  I can’t wait to watch the video with my sister over Christmas break and see how it stacks up.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 12/07 at 05:30 PM
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