Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ballet Idea - Neko Nabe

So I had this idea for a slice-of-life ballet set in a restaurant where a human waitstaff serves cat customers. All the romance and visual euphemism and innuendo of traditional ballet is converted to the romance between the cats and their meals. I call it Neko Nabe.
Nabeneko San from Neko Atsume
Act 1

1st dance (solo) - The curtain opens on a darkened restaurant. The backdrop is a city scene viewed through the restaurant's windows. The Host enters and dances while setting up the restaurant for the day - turning on the lights, sweeping, taking the chairs off the tables, etc. The stage lights create a sunrise in the background.

 2nd dance (group) - One by one, three Waiters arrive and get ready for work - neatening their uniforms, tying on aprons, putting out glasses and silverware, etc. They dance solo, in duets with the Host, and with each other. This dance emphasizes the camaraderie of the staff and the easygoing environment of their workplace. of A bell rings every time someone opens the door.

3rd dance (group) - The Postmaster Cat arrives to deliver the mail to to dance with each of the Waiters and the Host. This is a quick piece, and demonstrates the familiarity the staff has with their regular visitors.
Ekicho San from Neko Atsume
4th dance (solo) - The first Cat Customer (a human in a cat costume) arrives and orders a meal. This is a dance of hunger and longing, as the customer communicates its desire for food.

5th dance (group) - One by one, the three Waiters bring out Fish (either humans in fish costumes or 5' tall cutouts of fish) and present them to the Cat Customer. Each waiter tries to convince the customer to select this fish, then the three dance together to conclude the presentation. The dance concludes as the customer selects a fish, and the other two are returned to the kitchen. One waiter seems disappointed their dish wasn't chosen. The waiters and host sit to watch the next dance.

6th dance (duet) - The Cat Customer dances with the chosen Fish. This is a very romantic dance, incorporating all the tropes of courtship and consummation. At the end of the dance, the fish disappears offstage, and the customer takes a seat near the kitchen.
Kafe San from Neko Atsume
7th dance (group) - A second Cat Customer arrives. This customer is a realistic cat puppet that immediately hops up on a table. The three Waiters bring out dishes on large silver trays covered with cloches. Again, each waiter competes with the other two to give the most tempting and hospitable presentation to the customer. This is really the waiters' time to shine, and ideally includes some tap dancing along with the traditional ballet. The customer appears thoughtful, then selects a dish. The frustrated waiter is again disappointed not to be chosen, this time in a more exaggerated and comical way. Again, the waiters retreat to watch alongside the host and first customer.

8th dance (solo) - The Cat Customer puppet performs a solo dance with a plush toy of a fish as a prop. The puppet imitates traditional ballet moves. Some are very impressive (and would be physically impossible for someone who isn't a puppet, such as jumps with incredible air time), others include humorous slips and pratfalls. The waiters, host, and other customer all clap and act very impressed, but this should be played for comedy for the real audience.

That seems like a showstopper, so let's go ahead and stop the show and have an INTERMISSION after that!

Bisutoro San from Neko Atsume
Act 2

9th dance (group) - The curtain reopens, and a new customer comes in, a Cat Parent (a human dancer in a cat costume) and numerous Cat Children (child dancers in costume). The puppet customer remains seated on a table near the kitchen. The parent dances with the children, and the children dance around the stage, exploring the restaurant.

10th dance (group) - The Waiters hand out fish to the Cat Children (some are simple paper cutouts, at least one fish pinwheel and one fish kite). The children dance with their fish while their parent takes a seat, but eventually, the kids entice the Cat Parent to stand up and dance with them and their fish.

11th dance (duet) - The Postmaster Cat returns after work, dances around the children, and dances a duet with the Cat Parent. They are a couple, but theirs is an established, familiar relationship, and they are both tired after a long day. They dance support and reassurance to each other, with each taking a turn to do more of the work. The Cat Children sit to watch their two parents dance. Halfway through, the Waiters serve two fish (large paper cutouts) to the parents, and they continue their duet with the fish props. At the end of the dance, the children stand up and join the postmaster, while their original parent takes a seat near the kitchen.
Sebasu San from Neko Atsume
12th dance (duet) - An elderly Cat Couple enters the restaurant and dances a duet with each other. They have been in love a long time, and although they are not as athletic as they used to be, they have a tender, romantic duet.

13th dance (group) - The three Waiters present the Cat Couple with dessert options. This dance has the feeling of a contest between the waiters, and the frustrated waiter has a brief solo after each of the other two. After pulling out all the stops, the couple selects the frustrated waiter's desert, and the waiter is comically triumphant.

14th dance (group) - The Cat Couple begins to repeat their romantic duet. They are joined by a personification of their Dessert (a human dancer in a costume). Over the course of the dance, we see the couple remembering their life together. At one point they are joined by two Cat Children playing tag. Later we see a younger version of the Cat Couple dancing a courtship. Later we see a Cat Couple in wedding clothes. Costume details (including both the cat coloration and the color and style of their clothes) help establish continuity. The elderly couple continues dancing alone, and are joined by the other two desserts, the three Waiters, and the Owner.

Again, that seems like a showstopper, so let's go ahead and stop the show right there and let all the dancers take their bows. The three Waiters and the Owner tidy up the restaurant while everyone else is bowing, reversing what the owner did to open the shop at the beginning of the show.
Manzoku from Neko Atsume
The music should be light and happy. I don't know enough about the classical canon to pick a good soundtrack. The idea came to me while listening to the instrumental dance break in the song "King of New York" in the Newsies musical, which sounds to me like very good music for presenting cats with silver cloches of food.

As a concluding thought though, here's "Kuroneko No Tango" as performed by Pink Martini & the Von Trapps.