CriticalDance Forum

New to Ballet - Some advice please!
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Author:  AnthonyPaulO [ Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:51 pm ]
Post subject:  New to Ballet - Some advice please!

Hello everyone!

I am relatively new to the theater, and though I have gone to a few opera performances in the past (and enjoyed them) my appreciation is still very much that of a layman. In an attempt to remedy this, I purchased a book called "Opera 101" and though I am still in the first half of the book, I have learned some important advice, one of which is to read and understand the opera performance you are about to watch "before" watching it, which wasn't obvious to me at all. I was wondering if you have any similar tips for me on how to appreciate ballet. I have purchased tickets to see the Nutcracker at the NYC Ballet so I am excited, and I am looking forward to attending performances on a regular basis.

I also have a specific question regarding something I read online... some of the posters who are veterans in the ballet world have mentioned seeing the same performance over and over again, within the same season. This left quite an impression on me, and I was wondering if one of you could enlighten me as to why one would see the same performance (I assume same exact dancers) over and over again. I confess to watching some really good movies over and over again, so I wonder if this is the same or whether there's something else going on that I am missing. I can definitely see the value of watching the same performance when the dancers are different, or some new choreography has been added, or some other change has been made. In any case, given multiple viewings of the same performance, any advice on what I should be looking at with a critical eye?

Many thanks in advance, and please forgive my complete ignorance, I am trying to pull myself out of the cultural dark ages.


Author:  ksneds [ Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New to Ballet - Some advice please!


The Nutcracker is a relatively simple story, so it doesn't require much prep if you're familiar with the general idea of the story. If you are interested, there is a picture book of the ballet (I think the photos were taken about 10 years ago) available - check Amazon or your local library. For other ballets, it really depends whether there's 'preparation' which will help your enjoyment. Some ballets have no story, so the best you can do is learn about the choreographer and the music. Other ballets have a story, and it might help to read the synopsis before arriving at the theatre.

There are number of books with summaries or information on ballets including the most in depth, which is Balanchine's Stories of the Ballet (or something similar). Some editions are out of print, but I think the most recent edition is still in print, or can be bought second hand on Amazon. A search of Amazon might also suggest other books with synopses. In addition, many companies provide information and even program notes on their website - both ABT and NYCB have repertory indexes on their websites.

As to seeing a ballet multiple times, there are many reasons to do so. It's rare for two casts to be exactly the same, though almost all companies have two or three casts who rotate through the principal roles while the casting of the corps/minor roles may have unlimited variations. However, quirks of casting, injury or illness can cause variations in even the principal casts.

So, people often go to see different casts in the same roles, but just as often go to see the ballet again. For me, most ballets take many viewings to appreciate all the little details in the sets, costumes, acting and choreography. There are some ballets which I've probably seen 20+ times in performance and/or rehearsal, and I'm still noticing new things or picking up on little nuances that different dancers bring to the ballet. Then there are some ballets which I could see endlessly and never be bored - for instance, 'Serenade' or many of the Bournonville ballets. Ballets can also change over time - for instance, Christopher Wheeldon continued to play with 'Carousel' after its premiere and I found it fascinating to see how he tweaked the ballet over a couple of years. Finally, sometimes people see a ballet multiple times because it's the only way to see multiple performances from a company you might not often get the chance to see in person.

Author:  AnthonyPaulO [ Sat Dec 31, 2011 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New to Ballet - Some advice please!

Thank you very much for your detailed reply, you've definitely clarified a couple of questions I had. I've just watched the Nutcracker (2rd row center Orchestra) and it was wonderful! I'll have to watch it again next year from the 1st tier to see if it makes a difference watching it from above.

Thanks again!


Author:  DuckyFrance [ Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New to Ballet - Some advice please!

OMG The NYC Ballet?!?! Thats arguably the best Nutcracker in the World! :o Thats so cool. When you start dance just relax and don't break anthing. Here are some tips on finding a studio.
1. Make sure the floors are okay. They sould NEVER be concrete. They should be like a basket weave with Marley on top.
2. There shouldn't be more than 15 to 20 people in the class. A large class can mean little or no direct help from the teacher.
3. Find something that fits you. If you want to focus on just Ballet then you should probably find a Studio that focuses on Ballet.

Hope those were helpul!! :!:

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