Bohemian Rhapsody: The Best of Pop Ballet Video Yet?

On the heels of the successful dance video “Take Me To Church” performed by the “bad boy of ballet” Sergei Polunin, another ballet video featuring pop music has just been released. This time, the music is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and the dancers are English National Ballet’s Lead Principal Erina Takahashi and First Soloist James Forbat. The Huff Post raves about it, but I am a bit reserved about the “incredibleness” of the dancing. Here is why:

This pop rock song has a unique style created by Freddie Mercury and, honestly, he alone commanded such a stage presence and emotional impact that no one else can replace. So it is a tall order for anyone to even attempt to reinterpret his song with an impact that would equal his own.

According to the author of the Huff Post article, the ENB dancers did an incredible job in a similar vein as Polunin’s video. Well, perhaps the only similarity is in using a pop song, but that’s it. Emotionally, the two dancers don’t give the impression that they dance in total abandonment, which is what the nature of this powerful song calls for. They are holding back, again and again. Some parts of the choreography is “OK” kind of nice, but it was not stunning overall, and most parts aren’t even interesting.

The “mock opera” part of the song, like a scherzo, requires faster and perhaps some “comical” or “teasing” movements that are distinctly different from the rest of the piece. But I didn’t see any attempts in doing that. In fact, the movements just don’t seem to match the music, let alone the lyrics. And instead of bringing the dance to a sort of energetic climax in the third–rock–part of the song, the dance just sort of fell flat. Overall, it is as if the dance was randomly schlepped over the music. It doesn’t do the song any justice. Personally, I would like to have seen more raw power and a rebellious streak, which would’ve made the ballet a lot more interesting.

What do you think? Let me know.

Now let’s enjoy Queen’s performance instead 😉 :

A Christmas Gift to Myself: Back to First Position

First Position - Balletomanehk.com

This Christmas, I gave the best gift to myself… No, it’s not those Christmas slippers (I bought them for Christmas two years ago). It was a home ballet class.

For various reasons, I’ve taken a six-month hiatus. But yesterday, which happened to be a full-moon day, I finally got an impulse to start picking up ballet again. I took to the roof, placed a couple of children’s thick play mats (which are placed together like a jig-saw puzzle), covered them with a sheet of Marley, and made a “sprung floor” out of it. It actually felt pretty darn good! Then I just used the edge of the roof as the barre (though a little low). Voilà!

Ballet on the Roof - www.balletomanehk.com

Kathryn Morgan was my instructor, and here are her easy ballet lessons on YouTube:

Barre:

Center:

It feels so good to have worked up a good sweat after the barre and center. Kathryn Morgan’s videos for beginners as well as dancers returning after an injury are really wonderful. They are slow-paced and do not demand high extensions. Yet they are beautifully choreographed. They made me feel like I was totally ready to get back to class yet was not forced to do anything uncomfortable. All the exercises were manageable and Morgan’s tone was so encouraging throughout the tutorials. 

I had so much fun doing the center exercises, especially the port de bras 😉 To my surprise, my balance is still quite good and my ankles didn’t wobble very much during rises! 

A neighbor peeked out from his roof and was wondering what the heck I was doing. Obviously he could not understand the English instructions coming out of my laptop, but the beautiful piano music and my movements got him curious, ha ha! I bet no one in my village does adult ballet. Perhaps this will get people interested.

In the new year, I hope to be able to do class more regularly. My the force be with me!

My Connection to Margot Fonteyn

My headline may have you fooled into thinking that I have any sort of personal relationship with Margot Fonteyn. Well, in that case I have succeeded 😉

To say that I have a connection with her is actually not that far-fetched, even though such a connection is not personal.

What ties me to this prima ballerina absoluta, who still is very much alive in many balletomanes’ hearts, are two vintage items that I have collected.

The first can be considered my favorite piece of ballet memorabilia in my meager collection: An autographed copy of “The Magic of Dance,” written by Fonteyn herself.

The Magic of Dance by Margot Fonteyn - © www.balletomanehk.com

I acquired this book a few years ago from someone who apparently did not know who Fonteyn is, and was thus selling the book on eBay at an extremely reasonable price. I was pleasantly surprised to find the ballerina’s autograph in the book as well as a pamphlet for a luncheon held in London to mark the publication of this book. Whenever I look at her autograph and touch the title page, a special kind of awe springs from deep inside me. Unfortunately, the pamphlet has been lost during a recent move. Luckily I have scanned the cover. I remember the inside spread shows the rest of the guest list as well as a seating plan.

The Magic of Dance Luncheon Pamphlet - © www.balletomanehk.com
In the book, there are a few lovely pictures of the dancer herself, including one taken inside the Drottningholm Theatre in Stockholm (which I had the great opportunity to visit one time), one in Shanghai and one in Athens. She wrote about dance history and all forms of dances in the book, not just ballet. Not surprisingly, one can find quite a lot of photos of her dance partner Rudolph Nureyev. This book has a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart.

The other item I want to share with you is a vintage ballet postcard showing Margot Fonteyn as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Act I. On the back of the postcard, a beautifully handwritten message says: “June 16, 1953 Covent Garden, ‘Sylvia’ Sadlers Wells Ballet. Margot Fonteyn – Sylvia, Michael Somes – Aminta. Beautiful setting and decor. Superlative dancing by both of the “stars” – also, by John Hart (Orion) and Alexander Grant (Eros). The group dancing was also near perfection.”

There is something magical in reading someone’s handwritten note that summarizes a ballet performance in such earnestness, albeit in great brevity. The magic lies in the nostalgia of a bygone era. Today, most people would not take the time to do this sort of thing. A selfie inside the theater, a short status update on Facebook or a review on a blog are the most common ways to record our experience at the dance theater. But a handwritten note on a postcard? This just feels so much more tactile, more real. Not a bad idea to revive this practice, eh?

Margot Fonteyn in Sleeping Beauty, 1953 - www.balletomanehk.com

Today, it is not difficult to find tons of digital images of ballet stars past and present. But owning a postcard like this helps to shorten the distance between me and the dancer. This postcard is framed and sitting on my desk, and Margot Fonteyn continues to inspire me with her beauty, grace, elegance and strength.

What are your favorite ballet memorabilia? I would love to hear from you.

Related article:

Margot Fonteyn Autobiography