To quote the woman sitting in the seat behind me at the Kennedy Centre as a male principle dancer strutted across the stage en pointe: “YAAAAASSSSSSSSSS!!!”
I didn’t grow up with ballet, brown marginalized youth seldom do. But as a gay man, there is a certain amount of peer pressure to do ‘cultured’ things like ballet and to love them, and leave the stubs laying around your apartment to prove your worthiness of the title **fabulous**.
I’ve never been one to cave into pressure, in fact, I have never and never planned to see a ballet in my life. The thought of men in tights skipping around a stage hadn’t ever tickled my fancy – strangely enough. But, the program for Ballet Across America seemed anything but traditional, and there is nothing I like more than to see the rules of tradition being shredded to pieces in public spaces – that’s the activist in me speaking.
I wondered what it would look like, a ballet tribute to the late gender-bending rock star. He gave them so much to work with, but also, so much live up to. I imagined sequins, geometric hair and purple lipstick. I pictured lights and smoke and lots of color. But, I never imagined the ultimate drag show ballet extravaganza that unfolded after the lights dimmed. It gave me life, heck, it brought the legend himself back to life.
I’ve seen people try to blend genres before across the performing arts, and a lot of the time, it failed dismally. Not only was the Complexions Contemporary Ballet company taking a risk on creating an interdisciplinary piece, but also the mammoth task of presenting all things David Bowie in a way that ringed true.
It was that moment, the moment people in the audience started yelling like they were at a rock concert that you just knew that they had done exactly that.
I am not so sure if I am ready to sit through a Swan Lake anytime soon, however, if this experience was anything to go by, then perhaps I’ve had the ballet scene all wrong. We’ll see.