Friday, 2 April 2010

Elite Syncopations

The first ballet I ever saw on stage has stayed with me for a long time. I was eight years old, and my ballet teacher took a group of us to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet perform a trio of one-act ballets. And so it was that the first real, live point shoes I ever saw skating across a stage were part of a ballet called Elite Syncopations.

Created by the celebrated Royal Ballet choreographer Kenneth Macmillan, Elite Syncopations was first performed in 1974, and set to the ragtime piano music of Scott Joplin.

There is no specific story, but rather a series of sketches, as each dancer takes a turn either solo, as part of a group or for a short pas de deux.

I had no idea at the time that this short, funny little ballet would stay with me. My ballet teacher passed me a pair of opera glasses too big for my face, smiled and pointed at the stage as the curtain rose. "Watch," he said to us all. And we did.

From the second the lilting, drunken piano music began, I was hooked. On a bare stage devoid of backdrop or set pieces, a group of dancers sat around on wooden chairs and crates. They then watched one another as they took their turn in a series of short, wonderful dances. I remember being dazzled by the beautifully bright costumes; the pom poms, the stars and stripes, the top hats and coloured shoes. 

And then there was the choreography. I marvelled at how the sinuous, effortless movements perfectly matched the music. I don't think the opera glasses left my eyes, even for one second. It was perfect poetry in motion; at times serious and sad, and then ridiculous, witty and joyous. Into a forty minute piece, my eyes took in a calvacade of colour and movement, my ears drank in the music and in my little dancer's heart, I felt magic.

Elite Syncopations (Highlights) by the Tulsa Ballet, 2009.

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