Way to lose your head

March 2, 2011 at 10 a.m.
Updated March 1, 2011 at 9:02 p.m.

by Dianna Wray/dwray@vicad.com

I don't much like ballet, but the Houston Ballet's production of "Marie" looks like it will be a sight to see.

Ballet generally makes me think of skinny, skinny people in fluffy dresses, dancing a lot of graceful steps, before arriving at the tragic ending. But "Marie" looks to be a horse of a different color.

Marie Antoinette may not have ever said those four little words (Let 'em eat cake), but as Queen of France, she lived the pampered life of the royalest of royals.

Born an Austrian archduchess (aka princess), she married the French dauphin at 15, and there were probably scores of French peasants better educated than her - she could barely write her own name.

I'm not going to quote Dickens about how it was the best of times and the worst of times, but when the French Revolution really got going it was definitely not a good time to be royal.

The ballet tells her story taking us from her arrival at the French court, to her days as a party girl, and then a mother as the popular anger of the French Revolution boils beneath her.

Created by the Houston Ballet, the story ballet is meant to be a probing, psychological portrait of the queen, according to a news release issued by the Houston Ballet. And, crazily enough, it does just that, the release says. She starts out as a truly stupid and useless person, but she does change into something more worthwhile.

The French king and queen didn't seem to live with much dignity - I mean, they were publicly dressed, fed and bathed every single day - but they both pulled it together and got their heads lopped off with a bit of grace and style.

Which sounds awful, but they kind of had it coming.

The set may have a minimalist feel that goes against the famed queen's known extravagance, but about 150 costumes were created for the performance, according the release.

But still, go check out the ballet. The Houston Ballet Music Director Ermanno Florio put together the score based on Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich's music. It creates a dark mood for the ballet, fitting since it ends with a severed head.

How many ballets can say that? Don't answer me, but head on down the Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. and check it out.



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