17 January 2009

The End of the Week

Yesterday I went into London for the day.  I was going to the ballet, but then it turned out I also needed to do some research for my mother.  So that's what I did.

My mother needed some more portions of an M.A. thesis I'd photocopied portions of before, and it was quite easy to order it up and go collect it now that I knew the ropes.  The unfortunate part came when I had to photocopy it.  You have to get a permission slip to do this, and last time I went there was an experienced librarian who was pretty loose about it ("Yes, photocopy, here's the slip").  This time I got a much younger, and I think much newer, librarian, who was very conscientious:  she flipped through the thesis, and filled in my information on the slip very carefully; whereas before when I'd specified page numbers the librarian had said, "I only need an approximation," this time when I gave only an approximation she got frowny and asked for specific page numbers.  As a result, we had one of those strange conversations I sometimes have where you start off on the wrong foot and can't salvage it.  I kept trying to hurry the process along because I knew the ropes, but she didn't like those ropes.  After a few exchanges she actually said to me, "You're being very snappy with me.  I'm just trying to help." And I saw that I was being very snappy with her, and was appropriately humbled.  I did apologise, but it still reminded me that I need to remember to play by other people's rules, rather than trying to impose my own.

What this librarian didn't know was that just before I'd gone to collect the thesis I'd walked from the tube station to the library - about a five-minute walk - crying all the way (just for the usual reasons).  Indeed, while I was photocopying the necessary pages I cried the whole time, too, and then I went and had a half-hour long cry in the ladies' room.  But I'm not sure misery is a really a justification for rudeness or off-handedness.  Surely if you're miserable you've earned the right only to be rude to what's made you miserable, and since in this case it was circumstances that made me miserable I had no right to be rude to anyone.  What made it sort of worse was that my half-hour cry in the bathroom made me late for a meeting with a friend of a friend, someone the original friend had thought I might like (I only liked him as a friend, as it turned out).  It's terrible to be 15 minutes late for a meeting, and I feel worse about that than about the librarian, really.

The ballet, for its part, was La Bayadere, and it was pretty silly.  It's not the silliest ballet I've ever seen - that title goes to Le Corsair, and I think even those who love Le Corsair, even those who dance it, would agree with me that it's very silly indeed - but it was perhaps the second silliest.  La Bayadere is famous for the opening of its "Kingdom of the Shades" scene, in which 32 female members of the corps de ballet descend a ramp, following each other down the ramp performing a simple series of steps (arabesque, plie, temps lie onto arabesque leg, backbend, three steps onto arabesque, repeat sequence).  The stage slowly fills with women in floaty white costumes performing the same steps, and if the steps are done with the precision they ought to be (as they were last night) the effect is both eerie and magical.  You can get a sense of it here:

and you can watch it here.  In any
case, once you see a full-length Bayadere it's easy to see why they tend to extract the Kingdom of the Shades portion.  The rest of the ballet is more a collection of divertissements and melodramatic mime than anything else.  That being said, the woman dancing Nikiya, the Bayadere, was very good, and Ivan Putrov, who played Solor,  was dynamite - much better than he was when I saw him Manon.  Putrov is the Royal Ballet's newest sex symbol/star male, and he fills both roles amply - particularly, last night, star male.

Then, in the lift after it was over, a  madwoman started telling me that all ballet stars had had "their faces fixed."  So all in all, a lively day.


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