I'm so happy to be able to tell you that I've checked off the first item on my bucket list. And it wasn't even in my hands! Thanks to Mystery Travel, I got to see the Royal Swedish Ballet at Stockholm's Opera House.
I got lucky because when Mystery Travel started planning my Mystery Trip to Stockholm in Sweden, I hadn't yet launched my #Anydaysgood list. They simply booked the experience based on some preferences and likes I indicated in the questionnaire I filled out for them and that they'd use to plan my trip. You can imagine my excitement when I found out.
Why did I put seeing a ballet abroad on my #Anydaysgood list?
I've always been a fan of the theater in general. I love going to musicals, seeing plays and watching dance performances. I also went to the opera once but didn't enjoy that nearly as much as I did the ballet. Mom and I have seen quite a few classical pieces together, such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, but also some works by Maurice Béjart.
In the best cases, seeing a ballet transports you to another universe, making you forget about the actual world around you for a couple of hours. I felt like seeing ballet abroad would add an extra dimension to that experience.
The Royal Swedish Ballet at Stockholm's Opera House
Thanks to Mystery Travel, I got tickets to an evening ballet at Stockholm's Royal Opera House, the Swedish national venue for ballet and opera since 1773. Located in the Norrmalm borough right in the center of Stockholm, it was easy to find and as usual, I arrived early.
Mystery Travel had recommended I'd dress nicely but I noticed that, just like in Belgium, the times of dressing up to go to the ballet are over. People generally looked nice, but there certainly was no lack of jeans or sneakers (and I wasn't even wearing mine, for once).
I had a seat on the front row up on the highest balcony. Not the best spot for those with long legs, but I was alright and got a good overview of the stage. I snapped a few photos but it was pretty dark in there, even before the show so I'm sorry they didn't turn out all that great.
I now regret not having gone down to the parterre during the break to get some shots from there. I think I was a little worried they wouldn't let me in as I didn't have a ticket for there – I'm such a wuss.
But let's talk about the ballet!
The program that night consisted of two pieces by two different choreographers, Sharon Eyal and Olivier Dubois. On the website of the Royal Opera House they're described as “two of Europe’s most sought-after choreographers” and they'd created the pieces I saw exclusively for the Royal Swedish Ballet.
Spoiler: I really didn't like one, I absolutely loved the other.
Weirdly enough, I only found out which one I liked when I was writing this post. You see, on the ticket and on the program it said “Sharon Eyal & Olivier Dubois” and with one piece performed before the break and another after, you'd think the first was Eyal's and the second Dbois', right? Yeah, that wasn't the case.
“De l'origine” – Olivier Dubois
The first piece I saw was Olivier Dubois' “De l'origine” (“Origins” or “Of origin”). Now, I don't know a lot about ballet so I'm discussing this piece purely from my own perspective and… I didn't like it. At all.
It was dark, depressing and – in my eyes – didn't involve any dancing. What it showed were two dancers dressed in a catsuit with leopard pattern, crawling around a stage covered in black human-shaped stuffed dolls.
Sometimes they'd come together and their bodies would intertwine, but most of the time they'd just crawl around the stage and in between the dolls, first carefully, then throwing them around.
All through the piece, a disturbing, pounding sound would play.
When the piece ended, the sounds gave way to merely a polite applause. It was clear that I wasn't the only one wondering what the hell I just saw. Sure that I'd missed the undoubtedly “contemporary” meaning, I dug up some reviews online.
The ones I could find were in Swedish, but thanks to Google Translate I now know “De l'origine” is about how people are born out of and climb over and through the corpses of history.
Like I said, kind of dark and depressing. I could've handled that if they'd actually danced, but the technique their trained bodies must have possessed, wasn't quite put to use. Such a shame.
“Half life” – Sharon Eyal
You can imagine I was a bit worried about the second piece. Wouldn't it be the same style? Thank chocolate it wasn't. Sharon Eyal's “Half life” was a revelation, weirdly waking everyone up through repetitiveness.
On stage were two dancers repeating the same movements to music with a heavy bassline. Only occasionally would they slip our of their routine and let loose. Not much later entered the group.
It took them forever to reach the center of the stage, taking ever so tiny steps, always the same way, always on the rhythm. You'd think it was annoying but it was nerve-wrecking in a good way. I was constantly in anticipation of the next time one of the dancers would break free and the formation would lose its cohesion.
Oh, and the dancers stood on their toes for most of the 40 minutes the piece lasted. Craziness!
When it was over, the audience burst out in applause and cheers, giving a standing ovation. The dancers came back to greet us at least five times. What a difference with Dubois' play! You could feel the energy vibrating through Stockholm's Opera. It was the perfect ending to a night with the Swedish Royal Ballet.
Where to stay in Stockholm
I stayed at the Mälardrottningen Yacht Hotel which is a boat hotel docked at Riddelholmen Island, right next to Gamla Stan. It offers a breakfast buffet and also has an on-site bar and restaurant. WiFi in my cabin was great – a bit to my surprise and personnel was friendly.
I stayed in a two-person cabin with a bunk bed which was small but cozy and really all I needed for two nights in the city.
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I was invited by Mystery Travel to try out their Surprise City Trip concept and tell you honestly about my experience with them.