On March 10, the Russian National Ballet came to Davidson College to do a showing of Swan Lake. While I’ve seen amateur ballet shows before, I haven’t been to a professional ballet performance. To my inexperienced eyes, I couldn’t spot major differences between the shows I’ve seen in the past and this one. This, no doubt, was merely caused by my complete lack of knowledge about ballet. One thing I was able to notice, however, was the elaborate stage set up. The props, costumes, and set design were so beautiful. I remember one particular moment in the show when they even used a see-through screen and a spotlight to create an effect that mimics a mirror. There was lots of creativity into making the most of the stage. This was one of the biggest things that made this show stand out.
One thing I noticed was the use of music to communicate a message or emotion throughout the show. Typically during ballet shows, no words are spoken. Everything is told through dance and music. I think it’s important to talk about the music as the dance and music go hand in hand. Both music and dance use their own tactics to work together in telling a story. A common misconception is that language is the most effective when it’s spoken language. I disagree. There are other forms of language, such as music or dance, that are at least just as effective. If we alter the way we view music, we give it power that allows it to stand on its own as a storyteller. A perfect example of this is Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. This was much more than the average jazz ballad. Strange Fruit was a telling about the brutal story of racial terror in America. This song shocked the world, perhaps more so than a speech or anecdote. In the form of music, Billie Holiday successfully expressed herself, and this is no way the only example of this. We must recognize the validity of music as a storyteller to better listen and hear each other.