When it comes to ballet, there's not much choice but to put the orchestra in the pit. Firstly, it's usually the best place acoustically for the orchestra, but also it's the dancing people are coming to see, not the musicians so the orchestra needs to be where they aren't blocking the view (same as in an opera).Understood!! I can remember dancing in a hall and just the piano and after all that practice and do that dance in front of an orchestra was so exhilarating as it makes ballet Worth the practice.
Also, it's hardly fair to consider a ballet 'cheap' because the only accompaniment is a piano. If the score only calls for a piano, a piano is all you are going to get - and some of the most glorious ballets are performed to a solo piano. Examples include Jerome Robbins' "The Concert" and "Dances at a Gathering" and one of Ana Laerkesen's ballets for the Royal Danish Ballet. The latter two are set to Chopin piano music, music that is meant for piano and only piano. Other ballets performed to a solo instrument include some of Balanchine's works ("Other Dances" I think), Ulysses S. Dove's masterpiece "Red Angels".These piano ballets are just like the dance hall where it's just you (the dancer) and the piano and there are plenty of them.
In other cases, an orchestra can't be used because the music is electronic or synthesizer based and so not written to be playable by a live orchestra. And if it does come down to a solo piano or taped music, I'd take the piano any day.
Thanks Kate, You know that the piano to me is the instrument that I would pick as it assimilates an orchestra better than any other means.
Happy holidays to ya'll down under!
Happy Christmas Kate.