The Eclectic Pen - from a letter


By: ROBERT J.   + 7 more  
Date Submitted: 3/2/2007
Last Updated: 9/1/2015
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs » Memoirs
Words: 781
Rating:


  Dear Barney, Elaine, Jazzy-

I have been telling everyone about my latest experience on stage, whether they want to hear about it or not. So just sit down somewhere and keep reading.

I am DANCING again. I cannot sufficiently impress on you the improbability of this. You see, as you might have noticed, I have these 30 or 40 pounds of spare flesh which, I will admit, I don't strictly need on a day-to-day basis. It's hard enough to get that mass of flaccid flesh moving; and then once it's moving, there is the whole other matter of making it stop.

Nevertheless...

The LPO [n.b.: Louisiana—not London—Philharmonic Orchestra] hires our little company from time to time to do programs with them for their family concert series. They were snuffling around for some new repertoire, when the ballet master thought to revive our old Snow White. This is a beautiful ballet, to music of Grieg, choreography by our beloved Dom Orejudos. [Did you ever see any of his ballets?: Wanderer, Benedictions, Rain (with Franklin's sets), This Persistent Image (likewise), Dracula (me!))? Dom died some years ago. AIDS...so sad.]

But we performed Snow White 23 (!) years ago, and the only record that we have of it is a rather fuzzy and soundless videotape. (Soundless because it was of a performance with the LPO, and we're not allowed to record them. It reminds me of the scene from the movie version of Amadeus, in which the music for the ballet in Figaro is disallowed; and Mozart and the orchestra must watch in silence as the dancers move to the sound of only their own thumping.) So they lassoed me, and a few others who had performed the original, to form the Choreography Committee. We did produce, I think, a reasonable facsimile of the original ballet, but wherever would we find seven dancing dwarves?

We got around this dilemma in the original show by re-styling it as Snow White and the Seven Woodsmen, but with the present resources of the company, we'd have had to re-style it yet again as Snow White and the Three Woodsmen. (We have to keep one of the boys in reserve to dance the role of Prince Miracle Lips.) [n.b.: The original story, from the brothers Grimm, had woodsmen. Dwarves are in the Disney version.]

Then someone--who chooses to remain anonymous--said something like, "Well, you know, we do have four of the men from the original show...." And ballet history was made. Alas.

Our combined ages were two centuries exactly, and our combined mass probably equaled that of the entire rest of the company. We reworked the choreography so that we Senior Woodsmen were a sort of blur upstage while the three Young Whippersnappers were downstage doing the Real Ballet. And as Senior Woodsmen, we were allowed a senior discount on the choreography: no big jumps, no big turns, no big lifts--and please, no profiles.

The costumers were very kind: I suggested moo-moos, but they came up with what were actually rather flattering solutions to the matter of what to wear. One of them, taking measurements, asked me insouciantly where was my waist, and I had to tell her, well, I forget. (The word “tights”, incidentally, takes on a whole new relevance.) I was unrecognizable (a mercy, that!) in a wig and whiskers which made me look like the Unabomber, so that we speculated about a modern version in which Snow-White doesn't bite an apple (byte? an Apple?), but instead opens a letter--or maybe an email. (Then what?)

There is this wondrous czardas' for the men that lasts only about two minutes, but leaves everyone breathless, at least on my side of the footlights. The conductor (Pam Legendre, remember her, from Sweeney?) gives us the downbeat, and from there on, it's the most exhilarating--and exhausting!--roller-coaster ride you can quite imagine. (Can we do it again? Pleeease!)

Anyway, to make a long story just a little longer, it all came off very well indeed. I think Dom would have been pleased. We did the four shows in New Orleans and five more on the road: Jackson, Lafayette, Prague, Hattiesburg, Vienna...it’s all a blur; and we had ourselves a very good time indeed! I was pleasantly amazed at how much I remembered, not only of the choreography but also of the style; it's lain dormant in my muscles all these years. (Of course, the muscles have lain dormant as well: my feet still hurt!) It was also a nostalgic reminder of a road not taken. Ah, well....

Next year we are reviving, as it were, our full-length Sleeping Beauty. Music by Tchaikovsky, choreography by Petipa (at a slight remove), King by moi. You may rise.

-rcj


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Comments 1 to 2 of 2
IONE L. (zaneygraylady) - 3/2/2007 6:10 PM ET
Let me know if you come to Kalamazoo. I would love to see it.
Lena S. (SquirrelNutkin) - 6/1/2007 8:06 AM ET
I love reading your stuff!
Comments 1 to 2 of 2