Daily Archives: January 13, 2007


Dawn and I have a grand night out, dinner and the ballet.

We hardly ever go out to eat, not since we bought the house. When we rented in Adams Morgan, boy, we went out all the time. But now we’re so much more budget conscious. And of course the ballet subscriptions are a big expense, so we trade those few nights for all those nights out, I guess.

But we do enjoy some fine dining on ballet nights. Not too expensive, mind you. Tonight we go to our favorite Indian restaurant, Aroma. It’s on Eye Street Northwest. Dinner entrees there are generally in the ten dollar range. And a bottle of wine is twenty-six dollars. So we leave full of good food for not a lot money.

We see the American Ballet Theatre do Othello. We see the ABT every year, but this is my first time seeing Julie Kent herself. I don’t know why, but I think of her somehow like I think of Erin Mahoney-Du of the Washington Ballet. Maybe because they’re both tall? Although I have no idea how tall Julie Kent is, having never seen her. But she looks tall, judging by her headshot in the program. And she’s a local girl. Says she’s from Potomac MD.

I get all mixed up, however, reading the program beforehand, as to who is playing Iago. The program clearly says it’s Sascha Radetsky, but they don’t have a picture of him. Program says Herman Cornejo is playing Cassio. And they do have a picture of him. Clear as day.

And yet for some reason, after I close the program and the lights go down and the show begins, I’m waiting to see Herman Cornejo as Iago. And let me tell you, it’s a somewhat confusing first act, if you’ve got Iago and Cassio mixed up. I mean, this is ballet, folks. There’s no dialog, no talking, no speeches, nobody coming up and saying, “Hey, there, Cassio, buddy. How ya doing?”

So Iago and Desdemona have a nice little dance together, and I’m thinking that they’re actually getting along pretty well. Iago’s being really nice to her. I keep waiting for him to be mean, to show some reason why he’s going to do all the horrible things that we all know Iago ends up doing. But no sign of that. He seems to genuinely like her.

And then there’s the scene later where Cassio’s with Desdemona’s maid, being all crazy and angry. What’s that all about, I wonder. After that the act ends and I start to realize that I’m maybe a little mixed up here as to who’s playing whom. I flip open the program and see that I am.

But all of this is minor, really. I mean, we’re here to watch the women dance, not the men. I’m here to see Julie Kent, not some dude named Sascha.

And Marcelo Gomes as Othello, I suppose. He’s got on dark makeup, which kinda surprises me. Like, in this day and age, if we’re all so used to color blind casting in the theare, why does the white guy playing Othello still have to be in blackface? And again with this being the ballet and all, and nobody’s going to actually say, like, something about Othello the Moor. We all know the story, but if we don’t, we can read the synopsis in the program. We’ve got suspension of disbelief going enough here to watch the story of Iago convincing Othello that Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio, but it’s all happening on that stage right over there, with that orchestra playing music right down there, we can see the conductor, oh and nobody actually utters a single word, and there’s no real furniture or buildings, and they’re all dancing with each other. But somehow I’m not going to buy it because this one guy isn’t black?

And yet in spite of all this I just enjoy the hell out the whole performance. All of these things now that I’m writing about, they sound like complaints, maybe, but they really aren’t. (That whole bit about suspension of disbelief and blackface is all rather tongue in cheek.) All of these little things that I notice just seem to delight me. Like right at the beginning, as the lights come up ever so slowly, there’s this … lump … on stage. It slowly resolves itself into a person. Seems like the person’s bent over, way down low. Kinda looks like somebody praying to Mecca to me. Oh, yeah! Hey, Othello the Moor, right? Got it. And then immediately in comes everybody else for the wedding, the marriage of Othello and Desdemona, and there’s somebody carrying this enormous cross, really emphasizing then this immediate change from things Muslim to things Christian.

And later there’s this very obvious cross hanging around Desdemona’s neck when Othello murders her. But no real mention of anything remotely Islamic ever reappears, so it’s not like this is meant to be like this whole comment on Islam & Christianity. At least I don’t think it is. Unless it’s supposed to be like a motive for Iago. Which, again, I don’t think it is. And Iago never tells us what his motive is, unless we were supposed to figure it out from his expressionistic dance at the end of the first act. But I thought that was Cassio at the time, so I sure didn’t get it. Only thing I can figure is he was mad about the blackface.