mnclimber

Bowing

26 posts in this topic

Hello all,

I just saw a production of sleeping beauty last night, my first time seeing it. I'm now curious...is it normal for the dancers to take bows after their solos?? I'm sorry that I don't know the names of any of the dances, but it first happened after the first time that Aurura danced, her and the three suitors danced, then she took a couple of bows. Later, some of the fairies also took bows after dancing. This seemed really odd to me, but since this was really my first actuall ballet to see (Swan Lake by Mathew Bourne is the only other I've seen live). I really enjoyed the production, I thought they did quite well from what I know. I felt bad that there was only like 50 people in the audience.

Anyway, sorry I get wordy, just curious if this is normal...thanks!!!

Mike

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Yes, frequent bowing is quite normal at ballet performances. It allows the audience to acknowledge dancers individually.

Which production of Sleeping Beauty did you see?

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mnclimber, I also hope you'll give us the details about, and your impressions of, the Sleeping Beauty performance.

From posts on other threads, I gather that the Russians are especially known for the frequency of their bows after each individual sections of ballets: variations, pas de deux, big solos, etc.

Has breaking up the performance in this manner, as a matter of course, always been the practice in ballet?

Was there ever a time when stopping the performance for applause was reserved for and limited to occasions when the dancing was exceptionally brilliant?

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I wonder if it's ever the case when the audience does not applaud and cheer a display of live virtuosity -- and the performer acknowledge it -- whether it's a song in a musical or an aria in an opera -- or a variation in ballet. In fact, in the old movie musicals, there are pauses after the big numbers, such as Fred and Ginger's dances, to allow the movie audience to applaud the dancing and not drown out the dialogue. Of course, there was no bowing in the films.

When movie audience responses petered out over the years (probably around the release of the "That's Entertainment" series? :clapping: ), directors stopped including pauses, and studios began editing out the ones in older fiilms.

mnclimber, I also hope you'll give us the details about, and your impressions of, the Sleeping Beauty performance.
And me, too!

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Well, it's very good to know that I should expect that in the future!! It's good that a couple of people in the audience at least knew to get the rest of us started then!!

As for which production it was, it was put on by Continental Ballet, a smaller company here in Bloomington. In the description on their website, it says some original coreography by Riet Velthuisen, the director, so I'm not sure what's by her and what's traditional. It was at a community center, and like I said, really only about 50 people there. Aside from the music being too loud, the stage possibly a little too small, and surprised by the pauses for applause, I thought it was really good overall. Their costumes were really nice, and I thought all of the dancers did quite well. That's not to say you couldn't tell some dancers were better than others. Some of them you could just tell they had to work at staying on their toes (sorry, but is it better to say "en pointe" then instead?? I'm still learning the basic terms...sorry). And it was really nice to now be able to understand what some of you talk about when referring to dancers transitions to and from pointe, demi-point and such. Aurora and the Prince (Tatianta Berenova and Pavel Homko married and both trained in Russia and have impressive sounding history) danced beautifully together. I thought it seemed obvious that they have danced together a lot and were very comfortable together. The other times that there was a guy and girl dancing together, there seemed to be a huge difference.

Anyway...sorry for a somewhat rambling post, I've gotta watch some more ballet to get a better idea of what's what still. This being the first time I've seen pointe work and a more traditional ballet, I don't really have anything to compare it to.

Thanks for answering my original question!!

Mike

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Obviously taking bows and curtain calls is both ad hoc and "rehearsed". I recall an article in the ABT playbill about the whole protocol around the bouquet of flowers presented to the lead ballerina. Who knew it was so formally "structured"? That little article did answer many questions in my mind about how those flowers got on stage at the end of a performance.

I would imagine that bows and departing flourishes must be "rehearsed" and anticipated... perhaps depending on the audience enthusiasm? Does anyone know the inside scoop about how this is done? Who decides when to "interrupt" the performance for some bows etc. Even, who decides how many curtain calls are made and which cast members appear etc.?

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Good questions! And how about selecting and directing the ballerina who escorts the conductor onto the stage for his bow? And -- how do the handle it when there is obviously not enough audience enthusiasm to sustain all of this post-curtain choreography?

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One of my strangest experiences with bowing took place during a performance of Sleeping Beauty. The women dancing the jewels in act 3 finished their bit, took a bow to the right, and then as they were about to bow to the left the applause just died. I'd never seen anything like it. There hadn't been anything wrong with the performance, but the audience, perhaps anxious to see the Bluebird pas de deux, all stopped applauding at the exact same moment, and the dancers walked off the stage in complete silence. I felt terrible and hoped to make it up to those women at the final curtain call, but they didn't come back out. I can't really blame them.

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In Raymonda Variations, Balanchine actually choreographed a call for the woman dancing the piccolo variation. (It may have been one of those "keep it in" accidents.) I remember one performance -- but not the dancer -- when the applause after her variation did not warrant a call, but she popped out of the wings nonetheless and curtsied to near silence. Very awkward.

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There are many conventions attached to bowing, some of them historical and some specific to certain companies or audiences. In the early romantic and classical era works, performances were often in an opera environment, and some of the theatrical traditions that attach to opera carried over to dance. In those cases, the aria as a stand-alone kind of work, with acknowlegement at the end, became the bow at the end of an extended solo or duet. Petipa's works are often constructed in this 'modular' fashion, with natural pauses at the end of most variations. This is reinforced in many of the classical works by their actual scenarios, placing dancing in a performance situation -- the dancers 'bow' to the observers on stage, and therefore to us in the audience. (think fairy variations and wedding performers in Sleeping Beauty). This convention starts to come apart toward the end of the classical period (contrast the Petipa and Ivanov acts in Swan Lake), but still crops up as a theatrical tradition, even when it is not supported by the structure of the choreography.

I've been fascinated for years in seeing how a dance 'tells' the audience that it is over, especially if the work is not well known to the viewers. There seem to be myriad clues involved, but even then, there can be a fraught moment before understanding takes place and the response kicks in.

Here in Seattle, Pacific Northwest Ballet has been doing front-of-the-curtain bows (sometimes called tab bows) after the full stage bows for around 3 years, and it's only been recently that audiences seems to anticipate them. For an uncomfortable number of performances the applause would die off quite quickly after the main curtain came down (even though the spotlights came up on the curtain and you could see it being pulled back for the dancers to pass by) and things needed to get started up again when the first performers stepped out in front. I like these bows very much -- the dancers are just that much closer to the audience, and it feels very immediate, but I have great respect for those people who had to step out in front of an audience who had started looking for their bags on the floor and standing up to head out to the lobby for a break.

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Thanks for your responses and for helping put this in a historical context.

I've been fascinated for years in seeing how a dance 'tells' the audience that it is over, especially if the work is not well known to the viewers. There seem to be myriad clues involved, but even then, there can be a fraught moment before understanding takes place and the response kicks in.
What a great idea for a thread -- or an article. Can anyone help with the research on this? The big tableaux endings are easy. What about the more subtle or ambiguous endings that might indeed be confusing -- as, for instance, when the music ends by fading away? Which ones are handled well? Which ones fizzle out and cause confusion?

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mnclimber, how lucky that you got to see Sleeping beauty so early in your "career" -- it is such a great ballet, and it sounds like it "got to you" (in hte best sense) even in a small production. t also sounds like you're smart and observant -- one of the fascinating htings about ballet is how obvious it is who's comfortable and who's not, and how important that is -- i.e., the lead couple clearly know how to dance with each other and it makes yhem more comfortable, and htat makes YOU more comfortable. A WHOLE lot of the gallantry in ballet has to do with these attentions, the ability to put someone else at their ease -- and that's what makes it civilized and civilizing and a pleasure to see.

Are you talking about Bloomington Indiana? There's a ballet company, you know, at the University -- our own Ed McPherson came from there, and it's a very good school, by all reports. You might want to see some more ballets that they dance.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

PS In the OLD old days, not only was there applause interrupting hte show, and bows, if the audience REALLY liked something they swould "stop the show" -- literally clap and holler until in extreme cases the performer would do the whole thing all over again. They'd cry "Bis! Bis" or "Encore!" which is French for "do it again!" That would even happen with movies -- the Nicholas Brothers' movies, it would happen that hte audience would make the projector rewind the movie and show their dances again -- even if they were only making a 'guest appearance" and it was supposed to be a Don Ameche/Betty Grable movie, like "Down Argentine Way" (which is an exceptionallly stupid movie with a sublime number by hte Nicholas Bros.)

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Wow, you guys are truly a wealth of information, and you've thrown in some nice stories too!!!

Thanks for all the responses!

Paul, nope, not Indiana, I'm in Minnesota, Bloomington is a suburb of Minneapolis.

Thanks!

Mike

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Here are some personal thoughts that Roberto Bolle has about the practice of interrupting performances for bowing (AND about certain performances which take place in complete audience silence). It's taken from a LINK posted by mussel on the Alessandra Ferri retirement thread.

What does he [bolle] think of vocal audiences, particularly if they interrupt the flow with applause and cheering…does it distract him or encourage him? "I like it very much…it makes me feel the audience and it's very exciting.

Sometimes I perform in front of really dead audiences; for example, in Italy I sometimes get an audience who are mostly there because they have subscriptions to La Scala and get a ballet or two per season thrown in amongst the operas. They often sit there and look as if they don't really want to be there, and that is terrible for us; I try to do my best and there is no response. I need to feel an audience.

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Reading this thread got me thinking about "group think"... of audiences. It seems that when you attend a performance there is a consensus in the audience and so after some wonderful moment the audience will show their appreciation and applaud or shout out some "bravos" or "bravas"... I've not heard any other words... why is that? I think I shouted out

YES at the opera once...

But after reading reviews it is more than obvious that not everyone responds the same way to the same performance. I don't recall ever hearing a very few enthusiastic audience members clapping and shouting their bravos and the rest of those attending remaining quiet. Why not?

Do you think the audience reaction is a bit "infectious" as opposed to spontaneous? Clearly when virtuosity is displayed almost all the audience is enthused and reacts spontaneously.

So who are the reactive audience members? I wonder if the real cognoscenti are less demonstrative and the audience outbursts are mostly from the enthusiastic relative newbies. So who do you think are the shouters? And the booers... (I've not seen that... but I heard that Roberto Alagna was booed off the stage in La Scala this past Fall. Are some audiences more sedate and better behaved?

I would think that the performers like the spontaneous feedback... no?

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This is a good addition to a previous thread on Clapping styles: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...=19989&st=0

I'm a loud-and-long applauder and a producer of bravos. (Especially with performers I've seen often and have come to feel that I "know.") I've never thought about it, abut I guess I do hope that my applause will be "infectious". It's fun, and I always assume that the dancers appreciate it.

In fact, in the old movie musicals, there are pauses after the big numbers, such as Fred and Ginger's dances, to allow the movie audience to applaud the dancing and not drown out the dialogue. Of course, there was no bowing in the films.

When movie audience responses petered out over the years (probably around the release of the "That's Entertainment" series? :beg: ), directors stopped including pauses, and studios began editing out the ones in older fiilms.

Carbro, your post made me think of something. This season the Met did a series of live simulasts in movie theaters. These were in real-time, but also on a screen. Kind of like a hybrid: part live, part film.

About 2/3s of the audience in the theater we attended acted as though it was a movie and showed no reaction during the times when action stopped so that the live audience in NYC could applaud. The rest of us applauded. I found myself so entranced by the idea that so many thousands of us around the world were experiencing a "live performance" at the same time that applauding seemed quite natural. Others, obviously, did not feel the same, even though just about everyone -- clappers and non-clapperst -- seemed to have been thrilled and moved by what we saw.

It was odd to be making noise in the midst of others who were sitting there, snacking on popcorn, immobile and soundless. :D

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I once read an interview article with a dancer who had experienced very different audience reactions in different countries. Paraphrasing: Some applauded at the entrance of the principals, some didn't. Some were mostly silent for the entire performance, and then applauded continuously at the end through numerous curtain calls (behind and before the curtain), finally waiting in "thousands" at the stage door afterwards. In short, national temperament/culture and experience with the art form itself were all factors. For example, NYC audiences applauded at entrances because they recognized and appreciated a dancer, whereas in Japan they were more restrained. The surprise was that a European audience which did not have that much experience with classical dance was as vociferous and enthusiastic as an American audience.

And yes, the Russians were notorious for mid-performance stops to bow--whether they deserved it or not, and I have seen in the past, shameless attempts to "milk" the audience's applause. Not having seen the Kirov or Bolshoi recently I don't know if this is still the case.

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Just this Sunday in a post-performance Q&A, General Director of Seattle Opera Speight Jenkins told us that he warned the singers in the current production of La Boheme that the response of Seattle audiences was more Germanic -- i.e., wait to the appropriate stop in the music to applaud -- vs. the Italianate -- i.e., clap and applaud at all the big moments, even if the music is still playing. An example he gave is that Italian audiences will burst into applause at the conclusion of Musetta's Waltz, while we listened to the transition out of it and waited until the blackout before applauding. He didn't want them to think if we were silent after a scene, we didn't like them. (Or as he put it, to paraphrase, a tenor who didn't get an ovation after "Che gelida manina" would run offstage crying.)

He did mention that German audiences often have huge, long ovations at the end, with rhythmic clapping and stomping. Seattle audiences are, by contrast, obedient: when the curtain goes down and/or the lights come up, a full-fledged ovation peters out in seconds, and we all file out. (Except when Rostropovich was in town, and then we wouldn't stop until he took the hand of the concert-master and led a conga line of musicians off stage.)

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Not a ballet story, but my oddest "applause" incident occurred in Prague, where I had gone to see Puccini's Tosca (performed in Italian with Czech supertitles). This was in 1996 as I recall, prices were dirt-cheap, and the theater was maybe half full. I remember the sets being utterly meaningless, as if the producers just had three or four sets to choose from and plonked the first one they could think of onstage. The oddest thing was that the tenor got no applause. He was no more horrendous than anyone else that night, but they didn't applaud his aria in Act I, they didn't applaud his aria in Act III, and he got no applause at the end.

Years later I described this bizarre incident to an acquaintance, who remarked, "Was he German?"

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Not a ballet story, but my oddest "applause" incident occurred in Prague, where I had gone to see Puccini's Tosca (performed in Italian with Czech supertitles). Years later I described this bizarre incident to an acquaintance, who remarked, "Was he German?"
Bizarre! I can't resist asking: WAS he German?

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From my ballet-watching experience, the major classics (Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia and some productions of Giselle) seem to have included breaks for the dancers to take a bow. Many more contemporary works do not.

When the late Christopher Gable was artistic director of Northern Ballet Theatre, who specialise in narrative ballets, we were not encouraged to applaud during the performance because it could break the flow and mood of the story line. We could, of course, show our appreciation at the end. It is very hard for me now to applaud mid-performance because I just got used to not applauding.

I would agree with him that it can interrupt the mood. Last time BRB performed Giselle, Chi Cao was performing such a wonderful set of entrechats in act 2 as he was dancing towards his death that many in the audience started spontaneously applauding. As I had the tears streaming down my cheeks at the time, I could not understand how other people were not so wrapped up in the story as I was and, to an extent, it did ruin the mood for me. When I commented on this on another website, I discovered from the responses that I was very much in a minority in my opinion.

At one matinee performance of David Bintley's Galantries in Birmingham some years ago, everyone (including myself) started rapturous applause at the end of the pas de trois and it did ruin the flow. I noticed at the evening performance the orchestra did not even have a nano-second pause between the sections so there was no hint of an opportunity to applaud.

When I have seen Kenneth McMillan's Requiem performed there has usually been a note in the programme asking the audience not to applaud till the end.

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I'm a loud-and-long applauder and a producer of bravos. (Especially with performers I've seen often and have come to feel that I "know.") I've never thought about it, abut I guess I do hope that my applause will be "infectious". It's fun, and I always assume that the dancers appreciate it.

Same here bart ! What can i do?, I can't contain myself to do it, specially after the succesful completition of a certain difficult step even before the variation ends... :)

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It's fun, and I always assume that the dancers appreciate it.

Certainly I've heard many dancers express this. I'm sure Ivan Vasiliev mentioned this in one of his interviews.

I'll never forget watching a ballerina(don't know who she was) of the Saint Petersburg Ballet Theatre performing the fouettes from her Le Corsaire variation. She was outstanding and very, very fast. The audience started clapping enthousiastically, upon which she gave us just a hint of a smile and doubled her speed!

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mnclimber, I just came across this as it is over a year old (your original post). I just want to say that I was on stage that evening; I was the queen. I am no longer performing. I danced with CBC for 10 years. I'm glad that you enjoyed Sleeping Beauty, and yes, it is difficult when there is no one in the audience. I am happy to tell you that not all of the performances were so poorly attended. :)

It is customary for principals and soloists to take a bow after their variations in a classical production. However, it's got to be a Russian thing for these long, drawn out (sometimes over dramatic) bows. I must say, during may of the performances when we had a packed house with many regular ballet-goers in the audience who were not conservative with applause, it felt appropriate. However, there were many times that the rest of us (meaning the entire company) really felt uncomfortable with the excessive bowing. The king and I started counting per performance! Gotta have something to do while sitting on that throne! LOL! :P

They really are quite good, and I must admit Tatiana's extensions are amazing! I've taken class from her many times and I find myself forgetting the combinations because I am just in awe of her legs. :bow:

I hope that you get a chance to see more ballets and I hope that you enjoy yourself.

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Angie, I was in two different productions of Belle this year, one as the King, the other as courtier. Each had very different bows. In one production the king and queen sat in their thrones and gestured to the audience.

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