Wednesday, 20 March 2013

From Bar to Barre

Although I have been a balletomane for over half a century I have always known my limitations when it comes to ballet.   I make my living from the law and even as a child that was my aspiration though I loved my trips to Covent Garden, the Colosseum and the Wells .

"What do the Bar and ballet have in common?"   I hear you say,   "More than one might suppose" is my reply.

For a start both ballet dancers and barristers perform in costume,  We wear wigs and gowns and they wear whatever the part demands.

We're also neighbours.   The Royal Opera House is just across Kingsway.   In fact, I discovered Lincoln's Inn while looking for a parking space near Covent Garden one matinee.   Sadlers Wells is just up the road from Gray's while the Peacock is on our door step.

They say that barristers are actors manqués but look how they perform in court.  The exaggerated courtesy to the judge - "May it please your Lordship" and opponents - "my learned friend" - remind me of the flourishes of the courtiers in Act 1 of Swan Lake.   A rough cross-examination reminds me of the denunciation of Albrecht in Giselle  and sadly can have similar consequences.

Like ballet the Bar is a very competitive profession.   You have to be good to get into chambers - any chambers - in the same way that you have to be good to get into a company - any company.

Both professions have their stars - ballerinas and premier danseurs nobles in ballet - and silks or Queen's Counsel in the law.

Despite having much in common the two professions seldom come together.   There are very few ballets that have a role for a lawyer.   At the top of my head I can only think of the attorney at the end of the last act in Fille tearing up Simone's settlement.   One occasion when the two worlds did meet is when Margot Fonteyn was a guest at Grand Night in Lincoln's Inn.   Normally the Bar and Students bow as each bencher exits Hall but Fonteyn's exit was marked with thunderous applause.   That was the first and only time something like that has ever happened in my recollection.   And Fonteyn rewarded us with her smile - the same smile that I had seen so many times on stage.

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