Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...
On Wednesday, we all drove down to Chicago to see the opening night performance of the American Ballet Theatre's Chicago engagement. They're doing Le Corsaire for the rest of the run, but opening night was a combination of a sort of "Ballet's Greatest Hits" performed by some of ABT's principal dancers and, in the second half of the evening, a performance of Copland's Rodeo.
The show was at the Civic Opera House in downtown Chicago. It's a great venue, easily one of the nicest theaters I've ever been in. (In a moment of Madison pride, though, I do have to note that the lighting was nowhere near as good as it is in the Overture Center. We can chalk that up to the fact that the O's lighting system is brand-new, but still.) The acoustics were really great, and the seats were comfortable.
I think I've said this before, but I'm not really a big fan of ballet. We have a lot of videos, and while I'm glad that Savannah and Lani enjoy them, I just don't get into it. To be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to this trip: the drive, the traffic, the city...the drive back. Ugh. It all seemed like a lot of hassle for something that I wouldn't really enjoy.
WAS I EVER WRONG. The show was incredible. I do not have words for it. We had great seats on the left of the house, twenty or so rows back. The orchestra was live and superb. The dancing was fluid and expressive. There is literally no comparison between what these people were doing and what we saw here in Madison in January. If I was to try to compare them, I'd say something like "The Russian National Ballet were in seventh grade, and the ABT dancers were studying for their second Ph.D." or "The Russian National Ballet were the High School varsity baseball team, and the ABT dancers were the '61 Yankees." I might even venture a "Paradise versus Metallica" comparison, but I think only one person would get that.
The "Greatest Hits" format was really perfect for a person like me. It had a lot of dazzling physical pyrotechnics--spins, leaps, "how the hell did you do that" moves--and no endless "okay, we get it" moments that classical ballet usually has. These were superb dancers doing amazing things, and that's it. I was thoroughly engaged by the whole thing. That's not to even mention "Rodeo," which has a very sweet and touching storyline that was beautifully danced and acted. No real dazzlers in the second half, but it didn't need it and in a lot of ways it was better than the first half program. (It didn't hurt that, like I said, the orchestra was great. They really brought a lot of life to the Copland piece and somehow managed to keep it from sounding cliched, which it's sort of become. Copland is one of my favorite composers; you can really hear, especially in this piece, how huge an influence he had on Leonard Bernstein, one of my other favorites.)
All in all, it was an excellent performance, and I have to say that I think we had a really great time in Chicago.
Up until about 10:00.