Jump to content

This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

What things did you watch in ballet?The very first performances

  • Please log in to reply
22 replies to this topic

#16 Cliff


    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 161 posts

Posted 13 November 2003 - 10:57 PM

What did you watch and/or notice in your own very first ballet performances, before you learned to know and see "more"?

I'm still learning to watch ballet, just like Jaana Heino.

My first perfomance was the Bolshoi doing Romeo and Juliet. My seat was way off to the side which made watching the far end of the stage difficult. Consequently when the principals were distant I tended to watch the nearby dancers. Nowadays I sit closer to the center and devote more attention to the principal dancers.

I also spent some time looking at the audience. I still do that.

Initially I didn't pay much attention to the steps. Later on I did, but found it less interesting than watching the whole dancer. Of course, I've barely studied the steps. Just a little introduction from the little book "Basic Ballet: The Steps Defined" by Joyce Mackie.

#17 Paul Parish

Paul Parish

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,946 posts

Posted 14 November 2003 - 12:25 AM

When I first started seeing ballet, I started writing about it right away, in letters home. I was living overseas at the time--- and suddenly my letters filled up with ballet.

But I haven't re-read them; my mother saved them, and I have them in a box somewhere. I'll have to check them out.

But I DO remember what I started DOING after I started seeing ballet. (My first was a Saturday matinee of La File mal Gardée at Covent Garden, which a friend who was already a balletomane dragged me to -- it was Leslie Collier's debut in a full-length ballet, and he was a fan of hers and was very excited. I don; remember her in the role, but I DO have VERY vivid recollections of her fast FAST feet in red heeled shoes dancing Ashton’s Tarantella in Swan Lake, which I saw later that year.

But what I remember from that era was how wild I was to see the ballet -- I'd leave Oxford by train, be in Paddington Station in about an hour, take the subway to -- where ? Shaftsbury Square? and run the last bit of the way to the theater, which was at least a few blocks -- and the closer I got to the theater, the more my feet would turn out. I'd do little jétés as I jumped onto the curb -- I still do -- and when the crowd was thick I'd turn my shoulders into fourth arabesque and slice through it like butter.

So I must have been watching that I think what I was into was not so much the way they looked as a kind of kinesthetic identification with the dancers -- yes you have to look, the evidence comes in through your eyes, but the vision was not the main thing, it was the swing, the rhythm, the weight transfers, the feeling of being able to move in an ideally graceful way that was intoxicating me. I must have been feeling the way they were moving, because I was unconsciously trying it out, and I didn't care who saw me doing it. Of course, I was a stranger in a great city, so there was no-one about to say, "Paul Parish, you forget yourself: what ARE you doing?" I was indeed forgetting myself. That was a huge relief; I was very depressed at the time, and ballet virtually saved my life.

#18 Balletmom



  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 14 posts

Posted 14 November 2003 - 08:54 AM

I've never been adept at expressing myself verbally about any kind of art--to me, the arts are experienced at a much deeper level of my being, but I'll give this a try. The first time I ever remember seeing any kind of ballet as a child was on TV. I remember seeing Edward Villella guesting on The Odd Couple (I think), and I was totally entranced by his looks, his energy and graceful athleticism, and to my adoring pubescent eyes, his sexuality. Many years later, I still have so much to learn about ballet, but I have always looked at what I guess would be called the line of a dancer first, and the beauty of the human body as it moves with such apparent ease through space. Tie this together with the auditory experience of the music, and I'm in heaven. As my daughter has gotten more & more involved with ballet, I've begun watching more little things--placement & line of the feet, the "softness" of beautiful arm movements, the use of the upper body.

One of my more embarrassing memories of watching ballet happened a few years back when my daughter was about 6 or 7. I had volunteered to help backstage with our local pro company, keeping watch over a small group of young girls in the production (including my daughter.) With another mother, my main duties were sheperding these girls from their dressing room when the backstage coordinator called us, escorting them to the wings, and then escorting them back to the dressing room as soon as they finished their part. There was a beautiful pas de deux following the scene the girls were in, and I started watching the dancers without even being aware of it, or aware of anything else, for that matter. After the pas was finished, I looked around and noticed with some embarrassment that I was alone in the wings except for the technical people and a few company dancers. The other mother, luckily, had taken the girls back to the dressing room. My daughter, of course, will never let me live this down, and still occasionally reminds me of it. I still enjoy watching a ballet from the wings, but have learned to not let myself get so lost in what I'm seeing!

#19 BW


    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,048 posts

Posted 15 November 2003 - 05:52 AM

Balletmom, I think you've expressed yourself very well indeed and I love the story about your being entranced in the wings. Cliff, Marianna, Garyecht, Jaana, Mel, Paul - everyone, from psavola on who has posted has brought something different to the table. You've all gotten me thinking about what impressed me most initially and what my experiences are like now, as an audience member.

For me, it was the big picture - music, sets, lights, action, costumes and faces. I wouldn't have truly known if someone was truly a good dancer or not. It was all in the feeling for me - my feelings, that is. I want to become not just unaware of my "own worries and troubles" but unaware of anything else around me when I'm watching a ballet.

#20 vagansmom


    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 635 posts

Posted 15 November 2003 - 06:11 AM

I think the very first thing I noticed, and struggled against, was the tutu. I seemed to have been hyper-aware of it. That, and the mime, neither of which I liked. I remember finding it all so stilted and thinking that ballet wasn't something I could give my heart to. It seemed slightly ridiculous.

But even back then, I was also very conscious of other aspects that still grab my attention now. The music: how does a dancer respond to it? Their upper bodies - are they fluid and expressive or are they wooden? Right from the beginning, I've noticed that at every single performance. I can't NOT pay attention to it.

I wasn't terribly aware of the patterns at first. That was a gradual awakening. When I paid any attention to the corps, it was to see if they were together. Interestingly nowadays, although I like a coherent corps, I'm more forgiving and WAY more interested in the patterns, how the choreographer moves people around.

Oh, and I remember at those first performances being made aware, without intending to, of the sound of the pointe shoes hitting the floor - "that sure takes away from the image of grace and lightness" and occasionally of a dancer's breathing. I remember thinking how funny it was to see their calm faces but (I was up close) hear them snorting through those nearly closed lips.

#21 BW


    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,048 posts

Posted 15 November 2003 - 06:16 AM

Oh, vagansmom - what a perfectly wonderful post! I'm laughing even now as I'm typing!

You're so much more honest than I in your memories - I thought it was pretty stilted, too and oh those pointe shoes clopping! :rolleyes: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Fortunately, I went back again! :blink:

#22 artist


    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 177 posts

Posted 04 March 2007 - 12:08 AM

my first live performance I saw was in Virginia of 3rd grade, 8 yrs old, of the Richmond Ballet's Nutcracker. All I remember seeing and thinking of was how big Mother Ginger's skirt was. and then children came out of it???!

I guess all I looked for were the oddities :clapping:

#23 Helene



  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 13,051 posts

Posted 04 March 2007 - 12:48 AM

I'm not really sure, because the first ballet I saw was on television, when I was little. Given that it was the early 60's, I would guess either The Ed Sullivan Show, Bell Telephone Hour, or Firestone Theater. I have no idea what was danced or what the dancers wore, but because I wasn't a tiara-loving kid, I suspect it was bodies moving to music that got me hooked, and that's how I came to love figure skating and gymnastics growing up, too.

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases. (If it doesn't appear below, your computer's or browser's adblockers may have blocked display):