Friday, July 1, 2011

Thursday with Aliya and the Abay Ballet


I attended a performance of "Red Giselle" at the famed Abay Ballet and Opera Theatre with Zarina yesterday evening. The theatre is aesthetically fantastic: a yellow exterior with white and gold-buttressed columns beckons theatergoers to a cream marble lobby. In the atrium, there was a sea of gold chairs with lush blue, velvet cushions and a painted sky (literally) on the ceiling, with ornamental touches of gold enamel.

Unfortunately, the ballet fell short of my expectations of a Bolshoi quality performance. I'm not a ballerina but I did take ballet for over ten years and have seen many performances from the New York City Ballet to Alvin Ailey and the Washington National Ballet. I recognize quality ballet. In this performance "Red Giselle," dancers were falling out of their arabesques in the adagio and did not fully straiten their legs. A few committed the dancer's ultimate sin of hopping out of a pirouette. I lost track of the number of times I saw girls running across the stage flat footed or in fifth position with poor turnout. Throughout the entire performance, I was imagining my old ballet teacher, Nadine, yelling "turn out, turn out!" Moreover, the principals were far from Nureyev and Fontaine.

What was really cool about the performance was that it started with a speech by the Kazakh Vice Minister of Culture and his Japanese counterpart. From what I could understand, they were announcing increased collaboration in cultural affairs between the two countries. What was most intriguing was the lack of security. After they spoke, they sat down in the middle of the orchestra, devoid of a cadre of security officers and posse of advisors. At the end of the performance, the ministers left the theatre with the rest of the theatre goers, again without security. Now that is what I call accessible, politicians of the people. I would love to see that in America…

On another note, as I was completing my homework in my room yesterday afternoon, my host sister Aliya (age 8) enters. She is always enamored with my computer, blackberry (which doesn't work here, but she enjoys staring at the black screen and caressing the buttons), Ipod and Nokia cell-phone. As I sat at my desk completing grammar exercises, she laid on my bed completely encapsulated playing games on my candy-bar Nokia cell phone. She probably thinks it is the best thing since the invention of refrigerated carton kumis. I have no idea how one can be entertained by one of those phones for such a long time -- but she was. Now, I am NOT a "kid" person at all. But living with a large host family, next to my eccentric host mother, Aliya is my favorite family member as she is so curious and always asks me a million questions which is not only great for practicing Russian because when I make a mistake she laughs, but she also puts the world into perspective.  To me, Aliya crystallizes the disparity between life in America and life in Kazakhstan. In New Jersey and Washington, it is blasphemous if one does not own a blackberry, Iphone or at least a phone with email capabilities.  I do not know a single person who would find a standard Nokia phone thrilling, let alone socially acceptable.

Now it is Friday and I am so looking forward to the weekend. I'm going to the museum with my Russian professor tomorrow and on Sunday I am attending a 4th of July barbeque hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Almaty. Thanks for reading J

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