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The Unexpected Delights of Ballet, Broadway and Bawling

It was a lovely afternoon!

My son and I attended the Wizard of Oz Ballet, performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.  As this ballet was new to me, I came with an open mind. It was quite the experience.

I had purchased the tickets to suite my son’s work schedule – he works the evening shift. It didn’t cross my mind that a Saturday matinee would be filled with little girls in their very best princess dresses, young boys wiggling on their seats and their mothers clucking quietly in their finery. The chatter was both annoying and charming at the same time. Our neighbours, two little boys, asked questions throughout the first act. My son couldn’t help himself; he “shushed” them. Initially a bit irritated, I realized that their questions meant that they were fully engaged. I thought to myself, “You go guys, embrace the creative arts! “

Ballet is steeped in tradition. Most of us have heard of Swan Lake or Gisele. The Wizard of Oz was quite different. The story followed Dorothy and her companions on her journey from Kansas to the five realms of the Land of Oz and back again. Unusually, the orchestra played a blend of classical music, the Pops and a hint of something like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The dances featured classical ballet with some modern jazz to distinguish among the different realms. In their enthusiasm for Dorothy, the munchkins even did some “flossing”! I am sure, although I could be wrong, that I saw the Oz version of the “Radio City Rockets” and some 1930’s style tap dancing in the Emerald City.

The show was almost a Broadway-like extravaganza. The only thing missing was the singing. Technology provided the background for more traditional set design. With the help of wires, the cast were also able to fly. The company even used puppets for some of the animals. Toto, on his dual rods, stole the show and the flying monkeys were both lifelike and quite frightening.

No matinee would be complete without the embarrassing things that young children do. At the start of the second act, a young child wailed, “I want to go home!”  Of course, in the quiet after the dimming of the lights, this cry could be heard throughout the hall. I could just see in my mind’s eye the parent or parents holding onto their tempers and their dignity. Unsurprisingly, he or she went silent as soon as the curtain rose, and the music started. I was especially interested in the outcome of a toddler tantrum on our row. My son and I stood up as a mother shambled awkwardly past us with her two kids: one had gone board stiff in her arms in protest, the other carefully picked her way past us trying to look like a good little girl. The mother mumbled an apology, obviously mortified. Once they had found their seats, the first little one sobbed and flailed away on her mother’s lap. The little girl kept this up until the performance started. People were craning their necks to see what was going on. Unable to keep quiet for long, she started to giggle. I am sure I don’t know what set her off, but her chortles continued until the end of the performance. I couldn’t help but smile.

So why am I telling you this? Sometimes, the best things in life are those unexpected delights. Through the unexpected, we notice and can find gratitude in more of the little things. I spent an afternoon with my adult son, rekindled my love for the ballet, remembered why I adore children and how glad I am that my brood is mostly all grown up. Most importantly, I thought how good it is to watch and experience true creativity in action. We all need a lot more of that in our lives!

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