Monday, January 24, 2011

The Weekend Report: Ballet and the Natural History Museum

Saturday afternoon I saw American Ballet's The Bright Stream at the Kennedy Center. It was soooo good! I do love ballet, but this performance would be good for anyone who enjoys any kind of dance.

The music was fantastic, so lively and up-beat. The plot is a bit Shakespeare-ish, complete with cross-dressing and mistaken identities. They were the happiest Soviet-era Russians I think I've ever seen. (The ballet was banned in Russia because it was suspected to be poking fun at farm workers, rather than giving them the respect they deserved.) The Bright Stream is tagged as a “comic ballet” and it really was laugh-out-loud funny! Read more about it here

On Sunday I took my refugees to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Nothing says fun “American” experience like looking at stuffed dead animals, right? But seriously, they loved it. They were amazed by the ocean exhibit – looking at the giant squid, they pointed in awe, It is real????
Yes, I confirmed. In the ocean. Very deep water.
The family has never seen the ocean.

Next we hit up the Mammal Hall. They recognized all the standards: lion, giraffe, zebra, and were really excited to see an antelope-ish thing with a zebra-striped butt.
Okapi! Okapi! Swahili is Okapi, what is it in English please?
I looked at the placard. Um, it’s an Okapi. Same.
Wow! Swahili, English, same? Wooowwww.

Clearly they’ve seen this animal before, despite the fact that the placard also informed me that they are extremely rare and officially “threatened.” So that’s kinda cool.

Things got really confusing as we made our way through the dinosaur fossils. First I explained, No, they’re not dragons. They’re dinosaurs. Then Leyla (the mom) saw the huge diplodocus and then turned to me, a look of wide-eyed concerned confusion on her face. She pointed, It’s big! In USA?

And then it occurred to me – dinosaurs were almost definitely not a part of the curriculum in the Tanzanian refugee camp. They have no idea what they’re looking at. So I launched into my best beginning-English explanation. They lived a very long time ago. One hundred forty million years (as I pointed to the writing on the display), all gone now. All dead. Scientists dig up the bones and put them together, so we know they lived. But not any more.

Oh dear. I hope they learned something.