From Russia with Love – Part 5

Ballet and Heavy Metal
When you are in Moscow, in my humble opinion you have to go to see ballet. To me Russia is the capital for ballet. I hadn’t planned anything for it and was not expecting to be able to see ballet, but a short check in the internet revealed that the Bolshoi had tickets available for a never before heard of ballet called “The Bright Stream”. So what the heck, ballet is ballet and it’s at the Bolshoi, so I ordered tickets, which were not too expensive (by Japanese standards anyway), just about 8000 yen.
Unfortunately the thing happened not in the “real” Bolshoi theater, but next door to it in a smaller theater. The “real” Bolshoi was occupied with an opera, La Traviata.
The Bright Stream turned out to be a rather unknown ballet of some Russian composer from the 1930ties and is “comical”, telling the story of a woman in an agricultural commune who once learned ballet before she married an agricultural student. He doesn’t even know she was a ballet dancer once. When a ballerina friend of hers comes to town, her husband is flirting around with her but the ballerina and the wife plot to show him what a formidable wife he has and reveal that she is a ballet dancer in a grand finale. There is a nice side plot with the ballerinas husband, who pretends being a woman to fool some other member of the agricultural commune. This was the funniest elements with a big guy wearing women’s clothes and dancing like a ballerina.
There was surely formidable dancing going on but the story and the costumes were a bit weird, evoking nostalgia for agricultural commune life, which surely wasn’t a walk in the park in the 1930ties. Well, it was interesting and I’ve been to the Bolshoi, seeing some real ballet.

Then something that is more down my lane, heavy metal!
I had tried to get a ticket online for the Moscow Amorphis gig, but everything was in Russian and I had given up on that. So I simply went to the venue which apparently opened at 4 pm each day once I had arrived in Moscow. Amorphis is not a super big band and they usually play in venues of around 1000 people or less on their tours. The Moscow venue Volta is one like that. It’s at a subway station a bit away from the city center and turned out to be in an old factory. It was a bit spooky to walk around there, but I found the entrance all right and there was even someone there as internet promised and sold me a ticket 🙂
Then came the day for the actual gig, on the last day of my stay in Russia.
Although everything was in Russian, I thought to have figured out the following. It said on the ticket start 19:00. I saw somewhere in the Internet something of 17:00 and interpreted that as doors open 17:00.
So I left the hotel at 17:00 and was there at 17:30 in front of closed doors. I was not the first one but only very few people were there. We waited and waited. I tried to ask the others waiting what’s going on, but no English. Sigh… it turned out we waited in the cold for a bloody 90 min until 19:00. Aaaaahhhhh… I was frozen solid by that time. 
Then they finally let us in through a cloak room and security, but I kept my coat, since I wanted to aim for the first row and was frozen solid… behind security another door to the venue, a closed door. They made us wait there for another thirty minutes, but at least it was warm. The people behind us were unfortunately quite pushy, squeezing us against the barricades, hmpf… I already thought maybe I give up on the first row under such circumstances. 
Then, finally door open and you had no choice but to run into the venue pushed from behind, thus, I made it into the first row, including an opportunity to hang the coat over the balustrade. 
Then more waiting. There was also a pre band and I got into a panic for a moment, when will this end and will there still be a subway running? I saw myself already stranded in the cold at night, speaking no Russian and not knowing how to get back to my hotel. So I tested again around me and hallelujah one guy spoke fairly good English and assured me the subway runs until 1 in the morning, we’ll be fine. 
Then we chatted a bit. Behind me was a big dude called Andrey who was pretty drunk and wanted to feed me whisky cola, lol. Then at 20:00 the gig started with an Italian pre band I never heard of before called Heretic’s Dream with a female vocal. They were nice but way too soft for my taste.
Then, finally at 21:00 it was Amorphis turn, uh. The crowd was quite normal, no surfing and only once there was a bit of a mosh pit behind us. Big Andrey kept squeezing me against the balustrade, but it was still okay. 
I was happy I had kept my coat, since there was a monstrous queue at the end of the fabulous gig which I didn’t have to wait out and was thus back in the hotel at 23:30.
The gig was excellent and a great closure to a fascinating and challenging trip to huge Russia.

Ballet Under the Dome

Okay, this blog entry will be a little bit of a stretch – Russian ballet vs. American TV.
I’ve been to my first ballet ever and consider that worth a report and I’m watching the series Under the Dome at the moment and got some comments about it too.

I spontaneously went to see my first ballet ever last Wednesday, The Matthew Bourne “all men” production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
I guess it was a good choice to make this my first ballet ever, since I at least remotely knew something about the story, thanks to a movie I like very much – Black Swan – with Natalie Portman. So there is this princess Odette, who is turned into a swan by a curse and only true love can bring her back or she will be turned into a swan forever.
I kinda expected a “black swan” – the bad sorcerer who turns her into one somewhere but either I didn’t get it or it was missing from the Matthew Bourne production. In the original the hero, Siegfried, is not married and his mother seems to be bitching him around, but in the Bourne production she looked more like his wife than his mother, at least to my eyes.

It was amazing to see just a few gestures establishing their relationship. They looked like they have been married to each other for politics and especially she does not like him and rejects any sort of affection he is trying to show her. Very subtly expressed with just a few gestures and how the dancers posed their bodies.
The swans were impressive, all men and they did an excellent job at looking animal like. I’m kinda interested in seeing a classical production of the ballet where the swans are all girls. With men as swans the esthetics were elegant, yes, but also animalistic. Odette was danced by a dancer called Chris Tranfield (I think) and man, the guy was good. I found the scenes without the swans a bit long and dragging at times, but whenever the swans were around it was interesting and impressive. These dancers don’t seem to have bones in their bodies.
The finale of Odette and Siegfried dying was really amazing to watch. You don’t need words to tell a story. As a writer there are quite some lessons to be learned from that 😉
I shall be on the lookout for more ballet.

Under the Dome:
I’m watching that on hulu and while I liked at least most of the first season it’s starting to be a bit bland in the beginning of the second season. It’s about a small US town suddenly being trapped under a mysterious, invisible and indestructible dome some 30 miles wide or so. Although there is no ultimate revelation yet, aliens seem to be involved. What I find noteworthy about this series are only two things. Uncle Hank from Breaking Bad is playing the main bad guy (quite well) here and the other thing is the Game of Thrones syndrome of killing off major characters like flies… What has Mr. George R.R. Martin done??? He kicked off a trend to kill your characters. While your protagonists should suffer, yes, go through hardship, have tough decisions to make and and and, what good are they to you if they’re dead?

That does not mean like I’ve never killed off one of my characters but I am weary of the numbers. If I counted correctly, within the 15 episodes that I watched of Under the Dome, five major characters have bit the dust, especially during the last few episodes, where it’s more or less one per show. The dangerous thing about that is that the viewer gets used to it, detaches him/herself from the characters, since you have to be prepared that they are having switched their lights out. The character killing only has an impact if you were invested into that character and when it becomes a standard plot device it loses its impact in my humble opinion. The other issue with that is that you need to replace those characters with new ones that you have to draw out of your hat like a magician and that just doesn’t work all the time. I’ll keep on watching Under the Dome a bit more, let’s say until the Uncle Hank (here he is Big Jim) character bites the dust, but I am not invested anymore. However, thanks to Under the Dome for teaching me something about character deaths for my own writing 😉