Random Feats of Graceful Strength Performed By Hot Strangers
Post-vaccination I’ve been slowly off-ramping out of quarantine and into real-life events, and last night I caught a performance of Peter Pan as a ballet.
I hadn’t been to a ballet in a really long time, and I also knew very little about Peter Pan except for a few scattered scraps of childhood memories associated with the Disney movie. I remembered that Peter Pan is some sort of seducer demon who abducts children and curses them with an eternity of immaturity; I remembered that he is accompanied by Tinkerbell, a magical bitch who pouts and throws tantrums a lot and who is universally beloved by Disney fans; I remembered that their enemy is Captain Hook, a disabled veteran who wants to teach children discipline and teamwork and useful ship-related skills, and that the children ultimately kill him by having him torn apart by wild animals. The story is ultimately a morality play celebrating the youthful virtues of impulsivity, self-centeredness, and inexperience.
The ballet experience was very strange, made extra strange by the extreme height of the back-row balcony seats we got at the amphitheater. It felt like the venue was flirting with an exploitative business model: the seats are dirt-cheap, but then they nail you with a premium for the necessary oxygen tank. The height-related vertigo warped my perspective of the stage, making it appear closer than it actually was, but still too far away to discern the dancers’ facial expressions - so for two hours I squinted at a strange world of faceless, voiceless puppets where everyone could only communicate through beautiful dance moves.
Nobody vocalized a thing, so I picked up next to nothing in terms of character intentions and motivations. The only words involved were location descriptions projected on the closed curtain during scene changes, with the letters in all in Harry Potter font for some (British?) reason. I didn’t get any new information about the story, but that was ultimately fine - you could have titled the performance “Random Feats of Graceful Strength Performed By Hot Strangers” and I still would have paid money to see it.
The most surprising thing to me was that they attached harnesses to some of the dancers to hoist them into the air at (I presume) story-appropriate moments, and every single time they did so the audience oohed and clapped approvingly. Given the 100%-positive response rate it occurred to me that more stage performances (maybe all of them?) should include moments where the actors are suddenly dragged 20 feet up in the air to accentuate the moment’s dramatic power.
After the performance concluded they dismissed the guests row-by row to help facilitate social distancing, and my row was dead-last. The COVID-safety intention pretty much went out the window once you got to the lobby, and I had to shoulder-check my way through crowds of mothers and daughters in fairy wings and intimidatingly well-groomed homosexuals to make my way to the exit. I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d just seen a show or had a delayed and exotic response to the COVID vaccine, but either way I now had context and deeper connection with one of Orlando’s star attractions - seeing the ballet and the power of performers in the air meant that I could now see and “get” the nightly ritual at the Magic Kingdom, where families gather their children at the close of the park and watch Tinker Bell get thrown from the balcony of Cinderella Castle’s tallest tower.