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Keeping Score

February 1, 2008

It's funny how much ballet audiences are like pro sports audiences. I'm still bemused by the way people sitting in the War Memorial Opera House watching San Francisco Ballet perform invariably reserve most of their mid-performance clapping and cheering for the prima ballerinas who can 32 execute continuous fouett├ęs. The whoops of delight and enthusiastic clapping make me laugh. I suddenly feel like I'm at a football stadium rather than in the stuffy old opera house.

The link between ballet and major league athletics makes itself felt outside the auditorium too. Take Rachel Howard's recent review of SF Ballet's opening night gala performance in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"For those readying their preseason scorecards, Lorena Feijoo is out with a hurt ankle but reportedly recovering speedily," Howard reports. "Meanwhile fellow Cuban Joan Boada struck up a heated new partnership with Kochetkova, he dashing with usual recklessness through tours while she delighted the standing-room die-hards with her fouette turns, not only tossing in ample doubles but rotating her spot (a gyroscopic feat much harder than it looks)."

The link between ballet and pro sports is also being exploited in an innovative way by ODC dance company in a couple of weeks time on February 12. For the second year running, the company is mounting a fundraiser entitled "Toe to Toe" in which local dancers and athletes face off in a series of physical challenges in a stadium-like setting. The idea is to test such skills as agility, coordination, strength and stamina among these two traditionally very opposed physical professions.

Really, when it comes down to it, perhaps the biggest thing separating ballet from something like football or baseball is the amount of money that the pros are paid.

And finally, another tidbit from the world of dance: Ballet Rambert, one of the UK's leading contemporary ballet companies, just premiered a new dance work about Britney Spears. It's called Meltdown. "It portrays Spears as she fends off the paparazzi, shaves off her hair and is carried off on a stretcher," a BBC Online story tells us. I don't mean to sound stuffy, but don't we get enough of Spears in the media without getting ballets about her too?

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