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Jack Smith

Ballet suitor, in a play worthy of a Raider wide receiver, puts a nifty move on his pursuers

September 24, 1986|Jack Smith

My wife took me and two of our grandchildren to the ballet the other night.

I say she took me, as well as the grandchildren, because it was her idea and she bought the tickets. She did the same thing to me when we were in the Soviet Union.

Our grandchildren are Alison, 9, and Casey, 7. The only ballet they had ever seen before was "The Nutcracker Suite," which children love.

This time we were going to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to see the Joffrey Ballet do "La Fille Mal Gardee."

I wasn't sure we would all enjoy it. My grandson is a serious Dodger fan. He has been to several games at Dodger Stadium and is a sophisticated baseball critic. He knows all the players by name, knows their various skills, and knows the rules of the game. He has been loyal to the Dodgers throughout their dismal season.

Of course I'm a Raider fan, and it looks as if I'm in for a dismal season, too. I have seen a lot of ballet, and often enjoyed it, but I am not as thrilled by a young man in tights doing an entrechat as I am by a wide receiver outwitting a defensive back and leaving his feet to catch a touchdown pass.

As I have explained before, a ballet is choreographed, down to the last twinkle of the toes; but a completed pass is all improvisation and suspense. An equally skillful opponent is trying to keep the receiver from making his play.

I wasn't too sure how Casey and I were going to adjust our macho instincts to a night at the ballet.

First we went to the Itchey Foot for dinner. Alison and I had spaghetti and meatballs, my wife had eggplant parmigiana, and Casey had a medium-size pizza. A medium-size pizza turned out to be at least one foot wide and was cut into eight pieces. He managed to finish one piece. We had to take the remainder of it with us in a box.

They had never been to the Music Center before. They were obviously awed by the grandeur of the Pavilion.

Alison said, as we walked up the carpeted stairs under the chandelier, "I'd like to have this for my house."

Both of them had to go to the bathroom.

Our seats were in the Founders Circle. I sat between my grandchildren. We had two sets of binoculars of different sizes, and they kept swapping the two back and forth over my lap. Otherwise they were angelic.

The ballet is bucolic and romantic. It is about Lise, a girl who is not too well guarded. She is in love with a young farmhand, but her rich widowed mother wants her to marry a rich vineyard owner's nitwit son.

We first see a rooster and his harem of hens that come out of their coop and dance. They were pretty funny. It was a good start.

There are simple complications involving Lise's attempts at eluding her watchful mother and trysting with her lover, Colas. It is harvest time and the harvesters, all young men and women, come in and dance. The act ends with a sudden storm that scatters everyone. I couldn't see that the storm had any significance except to end the act.

At the intermission both grandchildren said they were thirsty, and my wife set out with them to find a water fountain.

A woman who was sitting next to Casey leaned over and said, "That little boy is the best behaved boy I have ever seen!"

I didn't know whether to tell him or not. It might make him think he was being too good for a boy.

When they got back he wanted to know what the intermission was for.

"So you could get a drink of water," I said. "Everybody has a little rest and then they do the second act."

"Are the dancers practicing?" my granddaughter wanted to know.

"No, " I explained. "They have to practice a lot, but right now they're probably resting. For the second act."

The orchestra was drifting back in. The strings were tuning up.

"Why are they playing?" my grandson asked.

"They're not playing," I said. "They're tuning up their instruments. After they've played a while their instruments get out of tune, and they have to tune them up."

It gets a little risque in the second act. Lise's mother locks her in her bedroom to keep her out of mischief, not knowing that Lise has already hidden Colas in the bedroom. This contretemps is discovered by Alain, the nitwit suitor, and there is hell to pay.

Alain and his arrogant father are outraged, but the harvesters appear and intercede for Lise and Colas; the mother relents. Everyone dances in joy, and the young lovers engage in an eloquent and lovely pas de deux.

My grandchildren clapped enthusiastically during the curtain calls, especially for the rooster and his hens.

"What part did you like best?" I asked Casey.

"I like the chickens best," he said.

After the show they had to go to the bathroom.

When we got them to our house our son was waiting to take them home. We made sure he took the pizza. It should give Casey lunch for a week.

"Well," my wife said, "how did you like it?"

"I think I like the chickens best," I said.

Altogether, though, I think I behaved pretty well. Maybe if I'm good my wife will take me again sometime.

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