Excellent points, chrisk217. And all of them true, based on my conversations with occasional ballet-goers. Going to see "the Nutcracker" is often perceived on a par with going to see the lighting of tree at Rockefeller Center, or whatever the local variant of that is. I do think, however, that people recognize the dancing level and production values for just what they are. They leave the theater thinking THAT level is what ballet usually is. Does this translate into greater ticket sales? Expanding appreciation of ballet? Willingness to go to an all-Balanchine program next month? Who knows.
It creates a serious branding problem.
The intention of all the Nutcrackers is obviously to fill the theater, pay the bills on the short term and introduce some members of the audience to ballet, so they'll come again. But what happens in the mind of the audience is this:
"FACT 1: There are kids on the stage, in the audience and this is a children's story" => "Nutcracker is a kiddie ballet"
"FACT 2: Nutcracker is the only ballet I know"
=> "Ballet is for kids".
On the long term ballet as a brand is associated with kids. Most of the adult audience will come again only for Nutcracker, therefore creating a vicious cycle where more Nutcrackers have to be performed to survive financially.
Another point she makes is that watching mediocre dancers is not that fun for the untrained eye. This is a good point. Contrary to what you'd expect, the less you know about ballet the more unlikely you are to enjoy a bad performance. It takes knowledge to separate the specific performance from the ballet and you must already be interested enough to make the effort to disregard the mess and search for what is beautiful.
The endless repetition of half of the Messiah are the choral equivalent. So is the growing international franchise of New Years at the Vienna Symphony knock-offs.
I wish that there were some national uber-board of ballet policy makers somewhere that could be persuaded to address your points.
Edited by Helene, 11 December 2005 - 06:35 PM.