Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ballet: The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare's comic "The Taming of the Shrew" is a provocative gender satire, and the Korean National Ballet did a splendid job putting it into choreography.

As the story goes, two sisters -- one older and a man-hater and one younger and an amorous flirt -- were old enough to be married, but in Padua, Italy the older one needs to marry first or "dance barefoot at her sister's wedding". The older one was definitely a shrew. Three young men were in pursuit of the flirt, but all avoided the shrew, and yet the father wanted the older one married first. By chance the three men met an adventurer-traveler in an inn and told him of their plight. The adventurer was all for the dowry that would come with the shrew and determined to marry her ... but he also determined to woo her so she would want to marry him, and as men dreamed, have her be subservient to him. The wooing began after she was forced into marriage with him. He gave her the choice of riding the donkey to his home ... or walking with her delicate feet; she rode, and he kissed her. He gave her no food, because as he said, it was spoiled and he was saving her indigestion; he secretly ate but she didn't but he kissed her. The next morning he allowed her to eat, but on his terms, and she was so hungry she acquiesced, but first he kissed her. And so he tamed her, kissing her always when she fussed; his kisses were her reward for agreeing to his way of thinking. Eventually when they returned to the sister's wedding, she was tamed and obedient and oh so very loving, while all the other women were conniving and disagreeable in their relationships to their husbands. And so Shakespeare's merry tale of woo and taming lauded men and made women all look shrewish ... unless of course they became meek and mild and submissive after marriage.

Probably my favorite musical is "Kiss Me, Kate", which is the modern version of "The Taming of the Shrew", and this ballet very much followed he story-line of "Kiss Me, Kate"!

I love ballet performances and so when I saw this particular ballet scheduled, I knew I had to see it. However, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Ballets that includes majestic leaps, graceful spins and floating footsteps are exhilarating to watch, and of course this ballet did have some of those features, but it was more of an miming performance rather than a dance, and the mime was vaudeville style ... and I really dislike vaudeville. The target audience of this performance was clearly kids, for their entertainment. The deep story and twisting Shakespearean comic-humor was replaced with the cutesy, which of course Korea being a cutesy culture, was much enjoyed by the larger audience. Felt a bit let down after the vaudeville, uh, I should say ballet. Serious or thought-provoking performances are what fuel my brain, but really I can't complain. I only paid W5,000 for the ticket and I certainly got a lot of entertainment for my money! And if I ignore the silly and exaggerated actions of vaudeville, I can say that I really did enjoy this performance and had quite an entertaining evening.

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