Sunday with Zin: Everything Was Beautiful At the Ballet

Ballet in the Window

Ballet in the Window

Hello I am Zin, and today we go to the Ballet at the Library! This is one supercalifragilisticexpialadocious library we have in Portland, with art and authors and furniture and now ballet!

In the evening on June 29 (yes, it was a long time ago, I got busy doing all sorts of other things and my files got mixed up so it just came to the top of the pile now) the Portland Ballet gave a performance in the window of the library! This window faces Congress Street at Monument Square, which is pretty much the center of Portland!

We stood outside on the sidewalk or across Congress Street in the actual Monument Square (yes, there is a Monument, to World War I veterans), and I would guess there were 100 – 200 people, most of them there the whole time, plus a lot of passers-by who were going somewhere but stopped to watch for a while!

The dancers were in the Atrium of the library. In the construction that was just completed a couple of years ago, this is a tiled area for food and beverages so you do not have to go somewhere else if you want a cup of coffee or something to snack on while you are visiting the Library! It has a glass front facing Congress Street! It was like peeping through a window! Except that is what we were supposed to do!

This was part of the Portland Fringe Festival, an Arts weekend that featured several events in more traditional venues and a few weird freebie things to catch the eye of people who might not go to the Ballet but might stop to watch. I knew about it in advance and planned to be there, but I thought it was a great idea, and if I had been just walking by and saw it, I would have stopped!

They did five numbers, with music piped out to the street! I was on the sidewalk 10 feet from the windows so it was quite loud but it had to be for the people across Congress Street!

I wish I had pictures – I know they exist because I saw a lot of people taking pictures (I do not have a camera) but I could not find any online, except this one on the Facebook page of the Portland Ballet! You can just barely see a couple of dancers! On the ground floor! They are wearing red! And you can see me! See? On the sidewalk? No, not there… yes, there! There is Zin! I emailed the ballet company to ask if there were any pictures online but they are on vacation so I do not have an answer yet; if I get one I will update!

The complete program of five numbers with full credits is below.

They started with “Cleansing Fountain” which used an old hymn, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” That sounds terrible, yes? “Drawn from Immanuel’s Veins; And Sinners Washed Beneath The Flood Lose All Their Guilty Stains.” If you are familiar with Christian imagery, you know that blood plays a big role! Lots of blood! Are you washed in the blood! Nothing but the blood of Jesus! If you do not know what is going on you can think it is pretty gross, but it kind of makes sense within the theology! And it is a pretty hymn (I have not been “religious” for many years, but I very much like hymns – I am singing it right now in fact, can you hear me?), it was done in very gospel-spiritual style, with five girls dressed in red shorts and tanks. They kept holding out their arms and shaking them, and I thought that was because the blood was flooding over them, but I saw a review in the paper from an earlier performance that called it “flowing movements with mournful evocation and lovely lines and shapes, juxtaposed with jerking gestures of anger.” I am not sure why they would be angry (maybe because blood is pouring over them?), but since I do not know anything at all about ballet (this was actually more like modern dance but I am not sure where one ends and the other begins) I will defer to greater expertise!

Somebody” to the music of Queen (“Somebody to Love”) was a duet, two strangers finding each other in their busy lives! “Saudades” is a Portuguese word which connotes a certain kind of intense and deep longing (it does not easily translate to English) and used a piece of music about the Azores. And “In Closing” used “Pictures at an Exhibition” which is always cool!

The program lasted about forty minutes. At 8:30, the listed start time, the Director announced “We will wait for our Lighting Director to bring down the house lights a little bit” since it was not quite twilight yet, and it was a lot easier to see inside the windows fifteen minutes later! I thought that was clever!

I love these crazy things that crop up once in a while – a couple of years ago there was a program of music in various odd settings, and I found a Afro-Caribbean vocal group singing in the bakery section of the supermarket! These things are a lot of fun!

The Program:

Cleansing Fountain – Choreography by Nell Shipman; Music: Elliot Goldenthal; Dancers: Deborah Grammatic, Morgan Brown Sanborn, Katrina Smedal, Meghan McCoy, Hannah Wallace, and Jennifer Jones

Somebody – Choreography by Nell Shipman; Music: “Somebody to Love” by Queen; Dancers: Joseph Jefferies and Jennifer Jones

Asunder: (Maine premiere) – Choreography by Jennifer Jones; Music: “Smoke & Mirrors” by RJD2; Dancers: Deborah Grammatic, Morgan Brown Sanborn, Katrina Smedal, Meghan McCoy and Hannah Wallace

Saudades: (Portland premiere) – Choreography by Joseph Jefferies; Music: “Ilhas Dos Acores” by Madredeus; Dancers: Joseph Jefferies and Jennifer Jones

In Closing – Choreography by Nell Shipman; Music: “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Hans Zimmer; Dancers: Deborah Grammatic, Morgan Brown Sanborn, Katrina Smedal, Meghan McCoy, Hannah Wallace and Jennifer Jones

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