A couple of nights ago I took my daughters to the cinema to watch a ballet. Sounds weird, but it worked rather well. There was none of the stuffy atmosphere you get if you actually go to Covent Garden, and we had a better view than you could ever get in person. It wasn't like watching it on TV either - the big screen transformed the experience into something rather wonderful.
What we saw was a BBC film of the 2006 Royal Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty. The performance itself was magnificent and magical, traditional ballet at its very finest. It was the classic Petipa choreography which was the way the ballet was first staged, way back in 1890. The costumes and sets were a truly sumptuous rococo fantasy, almost as if they'd got Elton John to do the production design. (Actually, it was Oliver Messel. No, I didn't know who he was either until I googled him.)
Sleeping Beauty is a real crowd-pleaser of a ballet. Old Tchaikovksy really knew what he was doing when it came to that kind of entertainment. It's utterly undemanding - we all know the storyline - and it provides opportunities for lots of short showpiece moments as each of the fairies gets to have their moment in the spotlight. And, of course, it's full of tunes we all recognise, even if only from the Disney film. It's been twenty-odd years since last time I was at a ballet, and this was an easy and pleasant way to remember why I used to enjoy it. And, of course, a great show for the girls.
Given pretty much my sole experience of ballet on screen has been watching The Red Shoes on TV, I wasn't sure what to expect. However, the film worked surprisingly well. Being able to get in really close meant that for the first time, I could actually see their facial expressions. It wasn't like being several hundred feet away, straining to see a tiny figure on a huge stage between the heads of the people in front. Every sensuous movement of cloth was captured perfectly, every detail of the dancing came through.
I really didn't expect to enjoy the show nearly as much as I did. But now I'm thinking, maybe Romeo and Juliet next week?