Today I managed to rope myself into going to see a ballet, and despite it being ‘Edward Scissorhands’ I still half expected something pretentious, inaccessible and dull. Still, I thought, you’ve got to try these things once. Although I doubt anyone has been on their deathbed thinking, ‘Damnit, if only I’d seen a ballet,’ I’m sure there are plenty of people who have never seen one despite a vague plan to ‘do it some-time.’
Now I must admit to liking the theatre, even if I don’t actually go all that often. There’s something vaguely ‘magical’ that it has, that the cinema has either lost, perhaps just through familiarity, or half an hour of previews. I know there’s a perfect word to capture what I want to say, only its slipped my mind.
But onto the production itself. Well although I don’t have much to compare it with I was pleasantly surprised, not only was it accessible but I actually enjoyed it. It was completely lacking in any pretentiousness, and had a style which was almost ‘cartoon like’ in nature, using a caricature of the well established Hollywood version of Suburban America and the characters within. Not only that but these characters were shown not just through different clothing and roles, but also in the manner in which they danced and moved.
My fears that it would be difficult to understand were also unfounded. It was surprising how much could be conveyed without the need for words. In some ways the ‘cartoon’ style helped here as it allowed for exaggerated actions, without them looking unnecessarily cheesy or grandiose. Secondly the choreography was excellent, seamlessly combining the movements associated with progressing the plot with more set-piece dance moments, which were themselves woven into the presented world as much as possible.
Once again my preconceptions were dashed when I was surprised by the variety in the styles of dance. The stereotyped image of the ballet I held before hand was one mainly of pirouettes and leotards, and although I realised that this was probably inaccurate I had still imagined that the style of dance was fairly rigidly defined. However ‘Edward Scissorhands’ embraced a number of styles from what I would consider ‘Traditional ballet,’ through dance more closely resembling ‘rock and roll,’ to the more general choreographed movements around the set. Clearly my prior understanding of ballet was deeply limited, and instead it is the central role of choreography and (non-vocal?) music to a production that is important, rather than a set style of dance.
Technically the production was excellent. Scene changes were smooth and barely noticeable and yet managed to produce dramatic changes in mood and setting. Not only did the set fly in and out un-noticed, but it did so without any disruption to the action on stage, leading to a number of moments of genuine surprise when the back-lights went up to reveal a completely different set to the one which was present a moment before. The set design also managed to match the character of the rest of the production, and produced a contracts between the Gothic opening and suburban America.
Overall I was very impressed. Although my experience is limited, and thus I am unable to compare it with other productions, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and rate it highly on its own merits. Yet ‘Edward Scissorhands’ was presented to me representing more than just itself, and also managed to destroy my preconceptions of what ballet was. While I’m sure there are a few ballets which will lie closely along my preconceptions the concept itself is no longer a turn-off, and I’m fully prepared to go along to another ballet in future, especially if its as good as ‘Edward Scissorhands.’