My Gran once told me a story about going to see the ballet with her best friend, Mary. With seats way up high in the slips the only thing they could afford, they had the perfect view of the all the action going on. Not content with simply watching the ballet, my gran and Mary ate fresh cherries from a brown paper bag, and promptly dropped the cherry stones on the unsuspecting people sat in the prestigious stalls seats below. Talk about brave and mischievous, especially on such hallowed artistic ground!
It was Gran who inspired my love of ballet. Having been wise, thrifty and frugal for her whole adult life and with the most generous heart, she thought nothing of buying tickets for us both, in the stalls of all places. The stalls. Former cherry stone crime scene. Together we inhaled the beauty of so many gorgeous works. Works full of passion, drama, love, life and always, always pirouettes and pas de deux. I felt light just watching these extraordinary men and women manipulate and contort their bodies into such grace-filled shapes, telling a story with their whole body, right down to their fingertips.
It didn't really matter what we were there to see. Whether classical or modern. New or old. We were there. We were together. We shared the moment. Eyes glittering and captivated as the dancers leapt through the air, as if flying.
I returned to the Royal Opera House this week to watch the sublime La Fille mal Gardée. It was the first time I'd been back since my lovely Gran passed away not so long ago. It was of course, as it always is. As I knew it would be. Timeless. Imbued with glamour. Hallowed artistic ground, still.
What I was less prepared for was the sudden rush of emotion that echoed around my body as the first act began to play out. Silent yet determined, the tears fell. The beautiful darkness of the amphitheatre afforded me this moment and I didn't want to let it go. And so I watched. I watched as the dancers acted out a joyful story of love. A story filled with fun, tender and romantic moments.
And I thought to myself - you may be gone, but we'll always have pirouettes and pas de deux.
// Photograph credit : Tom Allen for Harper's Bazaar UK (April 2014)