Monday, February 21, 2011

Giselle and Gelato Part I: London High Life

When I was making plans for the beginning of the quarter, I think I somewhat overestimated my ability to magically appear in different places hundreds of miles apart from one another with little or no intermediary period. A prime example: this weekend I scheduled both dinner and a ballet in London on Friday night (something that would have been a fairly sizable weekend adventure in itself) and then a 9am flight out of Gatwick the next morning to go to Florence for 36 hours, getting back with enough time (hopefully) on Monday afternoon to polish off a good paper for Tuesday midday. Sounds simple, right? More like... what was I thinking???!

Fortunately, everything turned out FABULOUSLY--seriously, the best weekend of the quarter so far--with only a small (okay, fairly large) sacrifice of sleep on my part. But who needs sleep, right? So here's the first part of what went down--the ballet:

Friday was a nice quiet day for me, where I could just whittle away some work (I fortunately had finished my reading the night before and so was just organizing notes) and watch music videos instead of packing. Of course with nothing to do all day I managed to leave everything until the last possible second, leaping in and out of the shower, making a flying jump into my gown, and sprinting out of the house with my hair still wet to try to get to the station on time. I would have been fine, but ended up getting stuck in a massive queue at the last possible step when I had to pick up my pre-ordered tickets (note to self: Friday afternoon = a busy time to go into London!) and missed my train by actually 15 seconds (I watched it pull away as I pushed my way through the stiles onto the platform). Whoops! Fortunately I was able to sneak onto the next train, stow-away style (as my super saver tickets were technically only good for the one I'd missed) and even had said void tickets checked and approved by an either oblivious or very forgiving ticket agent with no trouble. I got into London, had incredible Tube luck going for me, managed to sit down long enough to change into my heels, and got to the ROH with literally no more than five minutes to spare for my dinner reservation. Phew! I had just enough time to check my coat and order a drink before my company for the evening--my mother's good friends Lynda and Peter--arrived and we settled into our table.

(The only picture I'd seen of the ballet going in - I would later discover that these were the Wilis, the ghost brides - courtesy of

I certainly felt very fancy indeed at the Amphitheatre Restaurant where we ate, and was super thankful for Lynda and Peter's generosity in letting me join them. We had a lovely dinner where I tried very hard not to be too boring or drop my cutlery on the floor (two of my biggest dinner table fears) and had a great time getting the update on their lives. Funnily, Lynda had just seen my mother and brother two days earlier (she had been doing business in New York), and so she could tell me how they were doing better than I could tell her! All in all I felt extremely welcomed and couldn't be more indebted to their generosity and kindness for inviting me into their evening.

At the call we went our separate ways, me to the super-cheapo partially-obstructed view seats and Lynda and Peter to rather a more respectable location, and settled in for the performance. I hadn't seen a ballet since I was probably six years old, and didn't really know what to expect.

(Giselle and Albrecht, Act II - courtesy of


Seriously, I was enthralled. Sure, the first act had some moments where I could have missed a peasant dance or two and not been too upset, but overall I found it magically beautiful and entertaining. Even from my seats, which were so high I was basically looking straight down on the dancers and so far over that the entire left half of the stage was blocked, I could seriously admire the grace and beauty that was going on before me. The ballet I saw, Giselle, is split into two fairly distinct halves, with the first act containing a fairly fast-paced sequence of narrative, and then the second act containing more or less one extended dance. This made the work feel VERY different between the acts, with the second act hands down my favorite of the two (at the end of the first act the title character kills herself and then entire second act is her joining a group of ghost brides who lure men to their deaths, except for her own lover who she saves - super ethereal and super creepy... just the way I like it).

(The Wilis again)

At the intermission I got to meet up with Peter and Lynda again for the remainder of our meal (how very civilized), and then after it was all over scuttled straight back to Oxford as quickly as I could. I got back at around 1, furiously packed and prepared for an hour, and then fell in bed, completely satisfied but totally exhausted, before my 4:30 wake up the next morning to head to Gatwick.

...Which, I will have to talk about tomorrow as I've got a paper to write!

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