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Dinner & Ballet: Andaluca & Coppelia

For this season of the ballet, Michael and I vowed to “try” and visit a new restaurant for each of the 6 rep performances.  I think we succeeded in visiting at least 3 new restaurants, so 3 out of 6 is not bad.  It’s hard to go someplace new, especially when you know your favorite place will deliver a home run every time.

Last night we visited Andaluca.  I have to confess, I had made reservations there once before, but the pull to one of our favorite haunts became too strong, and I canceled (like every good restaurant goer should do).  Last night it happened again. We were in Pacific Place killing some time, and the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese from Il Fornaio started calling me.  Alas, we kept our reservations and walked to Andaluca.  I now wish we had gone to Il Fornaio.

I will say the service at Andaluca was great!  Our server was informative, attentive and spritely.  Michael and I each had a salad.  I had the pear salad with Stilton cheese, hazelnuts and balsamic vinaigrette.  The pear salad was okay, nothing amazing, and quite possibly a tad over dressed.  We split a starter of crispy calamari, with harissa cocktail sauce and lemon aioli.  Again, pretty standard, nothing extraordinary.  For my entrée, I ordered the Andaluca Paella.  For one, it came to me hot as h***, maybe the waiter made a mad dash from the ultra-hot broiler to the table.  I’m sorry to say, that this too was okay and certainly didn’t blow my skirt up or my pants off.  Both of us were to full for dessert, and that probably was a good thing, I’m not sure how much more mediocrity I could have taken.

It’s not that the food was bad, it simply wasn’t amazing.  They had many signs of a good place: quality marketing, rich decor, great staff, nice web site.  I guess it boils down to personal preference, or maybe I’ve been spoiled with really fantastic cuisine.  But that’s the difference between a good place and a great one.  Good restaurants don’t quite hit the mark, but still charge you over $100 for a meal.  In a great restaurant, you usually don’t question the bill.  Because your experience was so amazing, you are usually willing to pay for it.

On to the ballet.  Coppelia is considered a story ballet, just like The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake to name a few.  The sets and costumes were colorful and did a fantastic job of helping to tell the story.  The dancing, as always was magnificent.  I took issue with some of the choreography.  Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Coppelia was choreographed by both George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova (after Marius Petipa).  More often than not, I like Balanchine’s choreography.  I myself have learned a great deal about how to choreograph simply by watching his ballets.

It was in the pas de deux (dance for two) that I feel the female lead got cheated.  The standard order of a pas de deux is: duet, male solo, female solo, coda (male starts, then the female joins).  The male variation in Coppeila was very challenging and was designed to beautifully show off the male dancers abilities, in laymen’s terms jumping and turning.  In ballet it’s a rare occurrence when a male dancer can really show their stuff.  Usually they are busy partnering the female and making her look good.  It’s truly a treat to see a male dancer (athlete) unleash their technical precision and power on the stage.

Coppelia’s solo for the female began with a great deal of prancing and walking about en pointe.  This doesn’t really take skill.  It’s designed to show how light, delicate and feminine she is.  I guess that’s not my style, because in my eyes she’s just as powerful as the male, and yet she gets stuck with almost cute and kind of prissy choreography.  The audience is often easily impressed, thinking that walking about en pointe is hard . . . it’s not, it just hurts the dancers feet (more).  Some female solos are choreographed to keep her en pointe darn near the entire time of her one and a half or two minute variation.  This doesn’t show us what the dancer can really do.

Finally, towards the end of her solo, she did a series of quick traveling turns in a circle called en manege.  She actually did two large circles around the stage.  This can be challenging in many ways.  Turning to the tempo of the music and the speed she needs to move.  Spotting is how a dancer can turn and not loose their place.  Turning in a straight line, the dancer has one spot and is moving towards it.  Turning in a circle, their spot travels, moving around the room or stage as the dancer moves in a circle.  They are doing many single turns within one big circle – make sense?  It’s very easy to loose what is front or where the audience is.

Anyway, the female lead danced beautifully as did the whole cast.  It’s not her fault she had lame (in my opinion) choreography – as it is classic choreography, and the choreographers are dead.  But as a dancer, it’s her job to make it not only look good, but easy and effortless as well.

Like I used to tell my students, “If ballet were easy, everyone would do it!”


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