Arthur Elgort for Vanity Fair September 2006
On Sunday, I caught the matinee performance of “Don Quixote” by the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly called the Kirov) from St Petersburg, and I’m still feeling exhilarated by the experience. I enjoy watching ballet, especially classical ballet, for the sheer theatrical grandeur (costumes! sets!) and of course, for the grace and rigor of ballet itself. But watching it for the first time in a long time on Sunday reminded me that I had forgotten the sheer athleticism of ballet.
Like many middle-class Asian kids, my parents signed me up for all kinds of classes to “enrich” me as a child – violin, art, and ballet. I like violin and art enough but lacked the discipline to make up for a lack of aptitude, so it was ballet I stuck to for seven years, graceless as I was. I certainly wasn’t any good, but I liked the challenge of having to blend grace and beauty with power and strength. I was a sporty kid but ballet taught me discipline and precision. It taught me to face a crowd and perform without being crippled by shyness, it was an excellent foundation for the various sports I later participated in. The class was entirely populated by girls, and it was there I learnt how to navigate the treacherous waters of female friendship – how to make friends, how to deal with enemies, understanding the rules of clique-dom and facing off bitchery – essential skills for adolescence. Quite an educational seven years.
“Don Quixote” brought back fond memories, even as it provided me with some of the best three hours I’ve ever spent with anything. The costumes were gorgeous, the sets were lavish, the choreography a classic repertoire one never tires of, the orchestra a perfect partner. And the dancers themselves were pure joy to watch - not perfect but there were enough breathtaking moments to carry the whole performance through.
I thought of the elegant layers ballerinas don in practice today – the muted palette, the soft silhouettes, the comfortable materials. I paid tribute in the tiniest of ways, wearing a blush pink top the exact hue of the ballet slippers I donned as child – a little detail only I know.
Here's a few more images from the lovely Arthur Elgort shoot of the Vaganova Ballet in St Petersburg for Vanity Fair. I still have this issue, and will try and snap some good pictures of the whole feature.
And I found a terrific Flickr set in the course of looking for pictures for this post, check it out here.
EDIT: Here are more pictures, as mentioned -
Pictures from here and here