The Scottish Ballet


By Chuying Xie

Last Saturday at 8:00pm, Scotland’s National Dance Company's the Scottish Ballet played the energetic Highland Fling at Northrop. My friend and I, and especially this lady sitting beside us, were laughing through the show, from the club full of drunks, to the woods of the sprites, until the tragic ending.

The Highland Fling, directed by Matthew Bourne, was a story about a young man, James, who fell in love with two women. James lived in a big house with his girlfriend and a crowd of four other pairs of young men and women. They were enjoying their youth as a big family, working in different places at days, and hanging out and get drunk together at nights.

One day, a sprite that was so energetic found this big family and when she was watching them play and dance, her eyes stopped when she saw James, sitting by himself, drunk, so dispirited yet so pretty. She fell in love with this human, who can only see her when he is drunk. James, too, was enchanted by the sprite, who always eager to get close to him, not afraid, and not hiding. They dance together, chase after each other, and they threw everything they see around the house and made a mess. But when James was sober, the sprite disappeared.

James’ girlfriend was traditional. Unlike other girls in the house who would ask their boys to wash their clothes for them and mop their floors, James’ girlfriend did not grew up spoiled and took good care of her boyfriend. She would say firm no to any other boy and she stood by James even if when the tarot predicted that they were not supposed to be together.  

On the day when James and his girlfriend were about to get married, everybody who loves them came to the wedding, their friends, her mom, as well as the sprite. When the wedding came to an end, the sprite showed herself to James, and only James, and when James realized the sprite was real, he went crazy chasing after her, just like the old nights. He was hers.

In the second part of the play, James left his fiancée and went to the sprite’s world with her and lived with all the sprites in the woods. He wanted to take her away but he found that only he could leave the woods, and whenever he tried to bring her together they would come back to the same place where they depart. He realized that if the sprite was going to leave the woods, she couldn’t be a sprite anymore. Her wings belong to the sprites’ world.

In the last scene, he cut her wings; the back of her dress, where she used to have those signs of an angel, was full of blood. And finally, on their way out of the woods, she died.

To be honest, watching ballet has not always been a memorable experience for me, because I fall asleep easily to music. But the Highland Fling was waking me from eyes to toes. This was my first time seeing a ballet without tiptoeing; it was full of Scottish step-dancing, one of them being the highland fling, when dancers flip their feet here and there. Scottish music was also played before and all along the show, adding a lot of energy to the Scottish dancing.

If you read the introduction in the booklet, director of the Highland Fling Matthew Bourne said we may have wrong notions about romanticism. “It’s about wildness and passion, and it’s raw,” Bourne said.Watching dance shows in Northrop has been a hobby of us because there is always a story, a group of dancers or actors, and a stream of music that can bring our mind back to where we started, that we enjoy, that we cry and laugh with.

Scott MeyerComment