Never mind the suitcase, where are the swans?

Last night we went to the ballet to see Swan Lake, performed by the Kiev Ballet at a venue called The Zenith in Montpellier. My suspicions should have been roused when the tops of our water bottles were confiscated by security guards on the way in. Why? I asked.

“There are people who throw bottles at the stage,” I was told. “If the top is off they don’t travel so far.”

This was clearly not going to be like any ballet I had ever been to. At Covent Garden the audience might murmur their disapproval at a false step or you might even get the odd polite cough, but a water bottle as a missile? Most unlikely.

“Let’s go and have a glass of champagne,” I said to Mary once we were through security. No, my suitcase has not arrived but we had managed to feed ourselves and our four children for a total of twenty euros at IKEA so were feeling like we could splash out (pardon the pun) a little.

More disappointment. There was not a champagne bar in sight. What was on sale, however, was a selection of pizzas, fizzy drinks and dreadful-looking baguettes filled with ham.

We went into the auditorium. It looked more like the venue for a giant rave than a ballet. The seats were plastic and instead of chandeliers we had scaffolding.

I am pleased to report though that the ballet was divine. They were perfect. No reason to hurl a water bottle, empty or otherwise. The first sight of the corps de ballet all in white running onto the stage made the whole thing totally worthwhile. Odette/Odile was fantastic; innocent and graceful as Odette, naughty, humorous and totally seductive as Odile. Even the prince, whom I normally find too tedious, was impressive. Although the girls were a little surprised to see a man wearing tights and showing “all his bits”.

As we left I was in a haze of tutus and pirouettes. I hoped the girls had loved it as much as I did.

“Did you like it?” I said to Bea.

“Yes,” she said. “But we didn’t see any swans.”

There is no pleasing some people…..

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Reality or fantasy – which one wins?

It was one of those few moments in life when the reality was better than the fantasy. Yesterday the girls started their ballet classes. I was so nervous about arriving late we were there an hour and a half before the beginning. We wandered around for a while and then went to the school.

It is called the Skouratoff Studio and is in a small back-street in a part of Montpellier you have never heard of and wouldn’t really want to visit. It has two studios, one that looks out on the street. It was here I witnessed the obsession begin. Olivia and Bea stood totally transfixed watching a class of teenagers dance. It was a magical moment. I almost wept with joy.

Then it was their turn. They looked divine in their little pink tutus, hair up in a bun and ballet shoes. I wasn’t allowed to stay and watch but they came out beaming, telling me they wanted to join the more advanced class. Since coming home they have talked about nothing else and done practically nothing else. As I write they are leaping around upstairs. Bea incidentally is a very good jumper according to the teacher. I have to say the transformation in Olivia after just one lesson is astounding. She now looks like a ballerina.

As for me, well I did ask about the adult courses and there are lots of them, for all levels. I am sorely tempted but Rupert warns me that Zelda Fitzgerald tried to become a ballet dancer just before she went mad.

Maybe I’d better stick to watching the girls. In my case the fantasy is probably better than the reality.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008