Taking wing

I went to the ballet tonight. Many of the Columbus Symphony musicians and Ballet Met dancers are part of our Carmen production, and tonight they opened the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet. Oh, and the symphony played a huge orchestral program last weekend as well. A daunting schedule!

I went to the Ohio Theater downtown and settled in for a fantastic evening: beautiful storytelling, gorgeously danced and wonderfully played. The reaction of the audience was based in much more than civic pride; this was a fine performance on every level.

I loved settling in with about a thousand denizens of Ohio’s capitol, in this 1928 movie palace turned performing arts venue. It’s all jazz age glitz inside, unabashedly overdone in gold and red velvet, a delightful surprise to a twenty-first century eye. The company’s director came out for a curtain speech and thanked by name the handful of donors who had made the participation of the live orchestra possible, and praised the players to the enthusiastic applause and cheers of the crowd. That applauding and cheering continued all night. It was so cool to hear the crowd get vocal when a dancer did some amazing feat – not only clapping, but woots and yeahs. How I’d love that in the opera house!

The dancers were so good, impressively physical, beautifully expressive, skilled in comedy. And they did that impossible, incredible ballet thing – they made us believe that they were flying, taking wing above the stage, borne up by the intensity of their joy and love from the ground where we watched, soaring with them inside.

Transported, I thought of the hours of private repetition, of the daily attempts that fall short. The feet bleeding in the shoes, the jaw tension, the tendonitis. Cups of hot tea on tired throats. All the work that goes into this moment, when other’s hearts catch in their throats, when instead of sweat and craft they see magic. I felt the whole stretch of that, from stumbling failure to effortless beauty, and it almost hurt in a way I can’t put down in words.

But when the conductor asked the orchestra to stand before act three and the crowd roared their appreciation, tears sprang to my eyes, as they would at the even larger ovation for the dancers at the act’s conclusion. Because then, I got it: the audience knows. I listened so gratefully as Columbus said thank you to its artists from the bottom of its heart.


Postscript number one: one of the biggest cheers at the curtain speech was for the NEA.

Postscript number two: Adam Cioffari, your mom rocked the bassoon.

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