Stuttgart Ballet – A Streetcar Named Desire

After 2 flights, a train from Frankfurt to Stuttgart (which was much more expensive than I’d been planning on) and two trams (because I booked far too late to get accomodation in the centre) I made it to my hotel in Stuggart. I couldn’t get the key for my room to work & when I finally got in I lay down for 15 minutes before throwing on a pretty dress and some make up and headed out. I don’t know if it was because I was jetlagged or if I’m more directionally challenged than I thought, but whatever the case I got on the wrong tram and ended up horribly, horribly lost. It took a lot of backtracking, intensive studying of the tram map and another 3 trams but finally after a 45 minute journey, which should have taken 15, I arrived in the area I thought the ballet was in.

If I wasn’t so frazzled or jetlagged I probably really have enjoyed the centre of Stuggart. Schlossplatz is absolutely beautiful and all the fountains, gardens and little cafes full of people sipping beer and enjoying their dinner gave it that typical European evening buzz. I vaguely remembered the opera house being to the left of Schlossplatz and I was just about to stop and ask for confirmation when I saw something incredibly familiar: two elderly well dressed ladies. I have worked at the theatre long enough to know without a doubt they were going to the ballet. I followed them and sure enough they lead me right to the front door.

As I got there an overwhelming peace came over me. I was back in my comfort zone. It didn’t matter I was thousands of kilometers away from home in a country with a foreign language, I knew exactly what was going on. There were two cafes/bars with plenty of tables and chairs (take note Arts Centre Melbourne), a beautiful cloackropm with wooden hangers (only an usher will notice such fine details) and so many happy ballet goers reading programs, sipping wine and champagne, eating biscuits and catching up with friends. I sat down (because there were plenty of chairs in the foyer…) and took it all in. I’ve made a habit of going to the theatre the first night I arrive overseas. The familiarity of it and the joy live performance gives me seems to make all the rushing and waiting and panicking and confusion and disorientation and jetlag dissapear and puts me in the right frame of mind to begin my travels.

The bells chimed and I headed inside. My seat was in the second row from the front and the men next to me stunk of wine.

It was different from anything I’ve ever seen. For a start there was no orchestra pit and I was in the second row from the front. I’ve never been that close before and it was a eye opening experience to see all the details. Im not going to lie watching their shaking legs, desperate hops to stay up en pointe, some dancers centre of gravity being quite far back and one male consistently rocking backwards (I was certain he was going to break his ankle) gave me satisfaction. It makes me feel better about making all the same mistakes in class.

I didn’t like not having a live orchestra. The music was far too loud and didn’t always match the dancers rhythm. The choreography was mixture of contemporary, neoclassical and jazz and there were a lot of different focal points. In my opinion due to the interesting choreography there were simply too many dancers or groups of dancers doing different things.

The first act was predominately a flashback to Belle Reve. Blanche, Stella and the various men were often the focus point downstage whilst the corps danced slow and whimsical pas de deux’s in the background whilst Blanche and her dalliances frolicked around them.

The second act was a stark contrast, this time set in frantic New Orleans. Again, Blanche, Stella and the men were predominately downstage whilst the corps were mainly upstage – jumping and leaping and doing all sorts of things. The men were dressed in jeans and t-shirts and the ladies in all different bold 50’s dresses. It was a bit chaotic. However, the chaos did help convey the Blanches disarray.

Something I did like was how they used spoken language at certain points to convey the narrative. I haven’t seen much of this done before and I think in a smaller theatre this mixture of dance and drama was great combinations. I don’t think it would have worked in the opera house and was a good choice to put it in the more modern Schauspielhaus.

I kept nodding off and jerking awake in the second act as I was so jetlagged and the lady next to me kept giving me strange looks. I was well and truly awake by the end of the curtain call. It was the longest curtain call I have ever sat through, it kept going and going and by the end the principle girl who danced Blanche looked quite irritated but kept her smile plastered on her face which had turned into a sickly grimace. I’m not sure if this is a European thing or has just happened at the ballets and operas I’ve been to but I adore how they raise the house lights for curtain call. I remember doing a ballet class on the Melbourne State Theatre stage and one of the other students complained about how bright the lights were “It’s so sad you can’t see us cheering and clapping and standing up in awe in the curtain calls!” she said to the coryphee taking our class. She has a point. It was so nice to see the dancers being able to appreciate the reception of their audience.

Overall I had a mixed response. Technically they were impressive and the choreography was fascinating. But I didn’t love it. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a traditional pointe and tutu and fairies and princess ballet girl or if I was so exhausted and jetlagged.

Whatever the case that’s another ballet company ticked off my endless list!

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