Cultural Rebirth at the Ballet
I told my friend that I was going to the ballet later that evening. She said, "Ohh, you should dress up and go out for dinner" and I was like, "Duh." This will be the first time in over two years that I set foot in la salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, the most prestigious theatre at la Place des arts, Montréal's foremost performing arts complex. This will be the first time in over two years that I'll be in a room with thousands of other people, witnessing live artists and sharing emotions with a crowd... So of course I'm going to dress up, of course I'm going to go out for dinner and of course I'm going to take pics and write a blog post about it!
Me, mesmerized by the tapestry that hangs in the lounge of la salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
Les Grands ballets Canadiens' production of Romeo & Juliet, with its iconic score by composer Sergeï Prokofiev was the perfect re-introduction to Montréal's world class cultural scene. I'm not gonna lie, when Conductor Jean-Claude Picard stepped out into the orchestra pit at the start of the show and faced the applauding crowd, I gasped as my eyes swelled up from emotion. One of my all-time favourite experiences is to hear an orchestra tune up, and this time, the sound was, well, like music to my longing ears. It felt so familiar but also so important. It was like the applause were ringing in an era of hope in which arts & entertainment can come back to life. By the time the Conductor came out to start the show I was already on the edge of tears, ready to be re-acquainted with my lifelong love of attending a live performance. My mind flashed back to so many shows, concerts, plays, recitals, and performances that I've held cherished memories of seeing. In an instant, I remembered all the people who I shared these experiences with, and the dinners before or the drinks afterward. These were some of the best moments of my life. On this night, hearing the orchestra tune to the sound of the oboe was like hearing an angel heralding in a new era.
The Dancers who played Romeo and Juliet, Hamilton Nieh and Kiara DeNae Felder, gave wonderful performances and were well supported by the rest of the cast. The lifelong dedication of a ballet dancer is one of the most special relationships in the art world. As my husband puts it, "They've been training since they were kids to be able to do what they do, they've given all their time and energy to their art and they're in constant pain." Very true. But they suffer through it with a diet of cigarettes and applause. And people like me get to enjoy the spectacle.
It did not go unnoticed to me that the pre-show lighting in the theatre was coloured in blue and yellow. A nod, I'm sure, to the invasion of Ukraine. These days, when producing a ballet with a Russian composer, it's smart to address the elephant in the room.
On the way home, I took a moment to be thankful to live in this city. The cultural scene of Montréal punches way above its weight. For a medium-sized city, it has an arts and entertainment scene on par with a world capital or a much bigger metropolis. This has always been among the top reasons I choose to live here. Over the last two covid-ridden years, that side of the city has struggled. Health measures and a cautious public are just some of the issues that put events such as the ballet on pause. Now that things are opening up and measures are starting to loosen, I see it as my responsibility to support, participate and promote the very thing that makes Montréal so special. The blue and yellow lights also reminded me to be thankful for living in such a safe and peaceful place. May it always be so. And may art continue to unite us and remind us that humans are capable of such beauty.