Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tutus, Tights, and Pigtails

All that on a 60-year-old lady. You have to understand that entertainment in Mexico takes many forms, some just plain weird.

Oaxaca's Teatro Macedonia Alcala is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and has programmed a rich and diverse collection of artists throughout the year. So when I saw the sign advertising "The World's Best Crotalist" (La Mejor Crotalista del Mundo)...I had to go, if only to find out what a crotalist wass. To my mind "crotalist" sounds like some kind of Ukranian meatcutter. Or maybe someone who makes croutons for a living. Who knows?

So I went. And, honestly, until the curtain rose, I had no idea what I was going to see. The house lights dimmed in the gorgeous old theater. The announcer asked for cell phones to be silenced. And out on stage comes Sonia Amelio in a tutu and white ballet tights, piroutting en pointe...up on her little tiptoes...spinning around and clacking castanets for all they were worth. Yep, "crotalist" is a castanet player. Click, click, clack.

Now, I have nothing against castanets. I think they're fine on your typical gypsy flamenco dancer. But Sonia has taken it to a whole new art form, slapping her spoons together in time with works by Debussy, Liszt, Mozart, and Chopin. Over the years, I've seen a ton of widely different performances: all kinds of plays, readings, dance concerts, and music. This left me I'd stepped into another dimension.

The Mexican audience seemed to know her well. She's apparently been in Mexican films and on TV. Plus, as her self-aggrandizing bio proclaimed, she's done it all: child prodigy on the piano, concert pianist at 6, ballerina at age 7, she's performed with the Boshoi Ballet in Moscow, done world tours, and earned the keys to the city of Manila.

Between numbers, for her backstage costume changes, they did an A/V presentation on a big screen showing Sonia performing in venues around the world and with clips from her film appearances. Sort of "Sonia the Magnificent." And with every round of applause, she gave us a deep theatrical ballet curtsy and sort of a Gloria Swanson thing with upswept hands. And with her Technicolor ear-to-ear smiles I was seriously worried she was going to bust loose some facelift stitches. That's catty. Sorry. Actually, she looked good. But the gauzy see-through dresses slit up to.....umm, just's time to give those a long-overdue rest.

As Monty Python famously said, "and now for something completely different." It really was. For $1.50 admission, it wasn't half bad.