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If I could give any piece of advice to any Brisbanite, it would be to never arrive only 30 minutes early to a free ballet at Riverstage.
Around lunchtime earlier that day, a group of friends and I had seen an advertisement for the ballet Coppélia, which was to be performed at Brisbane Riverstage in the evening, and decided to go along. Toting a picnic rug, a bottle of bubbly and some cheeses with us, we had naively assumed that since ballet was a relatively niche interest, there would be plenty of space for us.
How wrong we were.
As we looked out over the natural amphitheater, it was difficult to find even one square inch of grass to settle ourselves on. People – families, couples, groups of friends and unreasonably large gatherings of children – had crammed the space almost completely full. It took us nearly the entire half hour we’d allocated ourselves before the show started to find a spare patch for our bottoms.
Ordinarily, this could have been rather annoying. Nobody likes to feel squashed, and one could be forgiven for becoming a tad irritable for being swamped by such a crowd. But the funny thing was, that was where the magic of the evening came from.
When you’re forced to get up nice and cosy with your neighbour, it’s actually a pretty good icebreaker to strike up a conversation. When you’re squished into such close quarters, there’s no weird awkwardness in saying ‘hi’. And of course, after you get over having your legs touching, you end up having a lovely conversation with someone who, previously, was just a simple stranger.
Of course, the performance was amazing. For those who don’t know, Coppélia tells the story of two lovers, Franz and Swanilda, who are intrigued by the eccentric villager Dr Coppélius’ mysterious ‘daughter’. The two break into the Doctor’s workshop, where playful mayhem follows.
The dancers were all beautifully enchanting, moving with graceful ease and precision in every scene. I also thoroughly enjoyed the witty interplay between the young couple when Swandila catches Franz blowing kisses to the beautiful Coppélia, and the wonderfully performed AFL football game in the first act.
For me, though, the magic didn’t come from the awe-inspiring dancers twirling on stage, as impressive as they were. It was the beauty of bonding with a fellow Brisbanite, who was no more a ballet expert than I am, who just liked the idea of spending her evening soaking up the ballet.
AUTHOR: Mel Keyte
IMAGES: courtesy of Mel Keyte and …