Pink, Lacey, and Racy : Marie Antoinette Ballet

Melody Herrera and Christopher Coomer. Photo Pam Francis Melody Herrera and Christopher Coomer. Photo Pam Francis

The Houston Ballet brought our favourite 18th Century French villain to life in choreographer Stanton Welch’s interpretation of Shostakovich’s historical ballet Marie Antoinette.

At Place-des-Arts, the entrance to the Salle Wilfred-Pelletier was decorated for spring with a bright grassy carpet leading to the doorway and ostriches on either side adorned with colourful puffs of crinoline.

It was lovely, and passers-by were excited as they posed with the enormous birds. As a precursor to the show, it brought to mind the decadent lifestyle the young Queen enjoyed.

Marie Antoinette Ostriches. Photo Alice Isac.

Marie Antoinette Ostriches. Photo Alice Isac.

 

The ballet began with a young Marie leaving her family in Austria to wed the timid Louis Auguste of France. After the death of the French King, it was imperative for the couple to conceive a new heir to the throne. This proved to be quite difficult as Louis, being anxious and inexperienced with women, continuously shied away from Marie’s advances. The pressure mounted as everyone impatiently waited for Marie to become pregnant. This was conveyed perfectly through the immense white bedroom looming centre-stage, symbolic both in its placement and size, with its massive doors extending high up above the dancers. When the doors opened up and the bedroom walls extended out across the stage, Marie and Louis lay restless in bed, rising up chest-first in this almost macabre way. The tension between them seemed almost insurmountable, but they reluctantly shared an intimate moment.

With that behind them, Marie moved on to enjoy the finer things in royal life. What unfolded next were scenes of splendor and comedic debauchery, with guests prancing around at dinners, throwing food and guzzling champagne. Yet, this light-hearted dancing and feasting was cut short as French people stormed the castle. In this moment, the set pieces rapidly flew up and hung ominously over the chaotic scene below. The people blamed their plight on Marie’s lavish spending, and murdered her confidante, the Princess of Lamballe. Momentarily satisfied by their act of vengeance, they raised the princess’s newly severed head up high for all to see, foreshadowing the fate that Marie ultimately succumbs to.

Melody Mennite and Ian Casady. Photo Amitava

Melody Mennite and Ian Casady. Photo Amitava

All in all, the ballet was a huge success. The costumes by Kandis Cook  in particular were superb. It is not an easy feat to design 18th century clothing that can be danced in. With all the ruffles and layers women wore, it is surprising how they even managed to move at all. Of course, the performers wore slimmed down versions of those ensembles, while still being magnificently decorated. From the costumes to the choreography and the elaborate set design, everything was executed beautifully. The standing ovation that the cast received from the crowd was well-deserved.

 

Thank you to Les Grands Ballets for inviting us to such a great show!

 

also of interest