The secret life of ballerinas and Bridget Jones

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2012

At one point in my life, I wanted to be a ballerina. Groundbreaking news, I know. Yet there it is, sandwiched in between vet and chef as one of my ultimate life goals.

I am never going to be any of these things though.  Obviously.  That doesn't mean that when I see a puppy being helped, or a tarte tatin being whipped up I don't get a pang of the jealous grumps.

But it's ballet that really gets me, right in the special place where dreams live.  And never more so than while watching the Royal New Zealand Ballet at work at The Civic this week.

Their new production - NYC - is, in a word, incredible.  It has everything you could ever hope to see in a ballet - grace, elegance, beauty and edge, and I was lucky enough to go and have a sneaky chat with American ballet legend Gillian Murphy who is lending her well-worn feet to the company for a while.

This woman makes it look so stupidly easy.  Speaking to her she seems quiet and reserved, but get her on a stage and it's all strength and determination, while looking like she is floating on a cloud of tulle.  She is all graceful legs and poise and has won every award under the dancing sun.  Basically, she is amazing and the RNZB must be stoked to have her here to impart a careers-worth of knowledge onto some of our younger dancers. I almost asked for a few tips myself before realising that was an incredibly silly first impression to make.

While Murphy is a dream to watch, it was the international debut of a specially-commissioned piece by New York choreographer Larry Keigwin that made jaws drop and ovations become standing at NYC's opening night.

When you think of ballet, you more often than not, think of words like "pretty" and "delightful" (unless you've seen Black Swan, then there is a whole other vocabulary).  But Keigwin's work - Last Dress - was the polar opposite of this.  With half-naked dancers, daring choreography and heart-pounding music, it pushed the limits of what ballet is, or at least how the Civic's audience felt about it.

It was 20 minutes of edge-of-your seat stuff.  There was no set - just a bare stage, wings and all.  The dancers were on show the whole time, stripping down and re-clothing themselves slowly and deliberately on the side of stage.  The, at times scarce, costumes let us see the bodies that create this art, in all their glory.  And my god, you forget just how strong and athletic these men and women are.  For anyone who says dancing is not a sport, you are very, very wrong.

TV fans will have seen some of the faces on (my personal must-see telly show) The Secret Lives of Dancers and to see the talent in front of you, trying something that breaks the mould, is magic. And yes, Sergio is still here!

I know, I know, I am gushing (about the dancing, not Sergio).  But it has been a very, very long time since something has moved me as much as this.  And to think this was a work that could be loved anywhere in the world, and it was first seen by an Auckland audience makes me pinch myself.  It's blowing minds in Auckland until the middle of next week, so go.  Seriously. Even if you don't think you like ballet, because it turns out sometimes watching is better than doing; except maybe when making apple tart or helping puppies.

» Follow Bridget Jones on Twitter: @bridgeyjones

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