Sunday, January 22, 2012

Favorite Gift #7: Dinner at Asia de Cuba and Sleeping Beauty @ The Royal Ballet

Yes, it's been over a month since my birthday passed and we're soon about to hit John's birthday, and I'm still blogging about my presents ... I can't help sharing!

Shortly after my birthday, Jodi sent me a text asking if I was free on Thursday. I texted back, saying that I had planned on taking a ballet class with a friend after work, but nothing could have prepared me for what she responded with: "You'll still be doing something ballet-related, since I got tickets for us to see Sleeping Beauty at The Royal Opera House!" I kind of almost passed out with excitement. Despite my obsession with ballet and frequent visits to Sadler's Wells, I hadn't yet made it to see The Royal Ballet. I immediately called off my plans to work on my plie at the Central School of Ballet and met Jodi instead at Asia de Cuba, where she had booked a table for two.

Though we were booked in for the pre-theatre menu, our food took some time to arrive, which was a shame since we were rushed. The courses selected from the set menu were nevertheless delicious and I particularly remembered my dessert, which was Caribbean carrot cake served with a lemongrass-infused raisin ice cream and pineapple cream cheese frosting, which was at once creative, delectable, and cool. Jodi opted for the Mexican doughnuts, which she had apparently had before and loved, consisting of sweet brioche doughnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and filled with butterscotch sauce. YUM. Because we were in such a rush and waited for over half an hour for our main courses (which would have been completely reasonable, had we not been trying to make our seats at the ROH), the ever-helpful staff offered to comp one of our meals - a meaningful gesture we appreciated. Thankfully, we're returning to the restaurant for John, Joe, and Peter's birthdays this week (yes, they all have birthdays within a few days of each other) so we can really sit back and enjoy the experience without the mad dash.

And on to the ballet ... I certainly hadn't expected to be seven rows from the stage, and when I discovered that we, in fact, were, I teared up a bit when the curtain rose. For someone who studied ballet from the ages of 2 - 17 and used to pore over her subscription of Dance Magazine page-by-page, the incredible view was overwhelming. I can't remember the last time I was actually able to see the expressions on dancers' faces, let alone the details of their costumes and footwork - I'm usually squinting from the nosebleed section, obscured by a column.

The dancing was spectacular (albeit with a few near misses - Princess Aurora nearly lost her balance in one particularly tricky partnered arabesque and a principal dancer did actually lose his balance and fell backwards after completing a tours en l'air) and the set was absolutely magical. As the first ballet I ever had a part in (I was 8 and I'm pretty sure my lilac costume is still lurking in my closet at home somewhere), Sleeping Beauty has always made an impression on me and seeing it performed by The Royal Ballet, at the risk of sounding cliched, was truly a dream come true.

The evening was one of the best gifts I've ever received and I was so touched by Jodi's thoughtfulness that it'll definitely be a present I'll never forget. Thanks, Jodi!

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