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Are you a Balletomane...?

Do you consider yourself a balletomane?   55 members have voted

  1. 1. Time to confess...

    • Yes
      33
    • No
      9
    • Not sure
      4
    • Yes, but wouldn't say it out loud
      9

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68 posts in this topic

We could have a little more fun with this. How 'bout a few rounds of "You know you're a balletomane IF"? I'll start.

You know you're a balletomane if:

1) Despite the horrid mug-shots in the program, you can instantly identify > 75% of your "home" company members;

2) You have to restrain yourself from giggling, pointing, and bouncing in your seat, because you've just spotted one of your favorite dancers in a restaurant;

3) The box office employees recognize you as the season-ticket holder who always comes back for cheap-seat opportunities for alternate cast performances;

4) You remain genuinely puzzled regarding the relative social acclaim for sports figures.

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According to Arizona Native's list it would appear I'm not a balletomane after all.

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Oh, those were just examples of my own mania-demonstrating behavior. Feel free to add your own!

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Oh, those were just examples of my own mania-demonstrating behavior. Feel free to add your own!

I thought they were very good, and probably apply very well to some of the BTers I consider True Balletomanes.

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1) Despite the horrid mug-shots in the program, you can instantly identify > 75% of your "home" company members;

2) You have to restrain yourself from giggling, pointing, and bouncing in your seat, because you've just spotted one of your favorite dancers in a restaurant;

3) The box office employees recognize you as the season-ticket holder who always comes back for cheap-seat opportunities for alternate cast performances;

4) You remain genuinely puzzled regarding the relative social acclaim for sports figures.

Guilty on all counts! :D

I can add a few:

5) Most box office employees recognize you on the phone since you speak to them so often, and have relatively lengthy conversations as you sort thru all the ticket options available for additional performances.

6) Somehow beg to sit in as an observer at class.

7) Never ever miss a post-performance Q&A session.

8) Regularly fall in love with this dancer or that dancer.

8) Follow dancers on Twitter.

9) Go to the company library to study video tapes of one-on-one teaching sessions (such as those done by the Balanchine Trust).

10) Find it impossible to shake the feeling that dancers are somehow on a plane btwn mere mortals and the gods (sort of like angels) when all along your rational self knows they are human like everyone else.

[Well, OK.......maybe you can still be a balletomane without doing all these things, but if you are afflicted with a case of true obsessive mania, these sorts of behaviors can be common.]

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Thanks, Arizona Native and SandyMcKean! Although I have abjured being a balletomane, I can still recognize some traits: 1) You refer to dancers not by their first names but by their nicknames. 2) You know what Veronika Part thinks of Arvo Part. 3) You can pronounce PAMTGG. 4) You know all the ushers in the third and fourth rings. 5) You have vowed never to call it "The David H. Koch Theater." This is fun.

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How 'bout either

a) You have purposely gone to another city to see "your" company perform, or

b) You have planned your vacation around seeing a ballet.

Farrell Fan -- How *do* you pronounce PAMTGG? "Pamteg"? "Pamtug"?

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PAMTGG is pronounced pamtuhguhguh. I wish I could remember where I learned this but I've forgotten. I did see the ballet though, and have mostly forgotten that.

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... when

  • you have chosen to live within a five-minute walk to your favorite venue, obviating the whole telephone voice recognition business :P
  • you generally buy your tickets at the very last minute, so you don't get stuck holding a ticket for an unwanted cast.

Great topic, Arizona Native! :flowers:

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..... 2) You know what Veronika Part thinks of Arvo Part.

I don't know what Veronika Part thinks of Arvo Pärt (their names are spelled differently -- "a" and "ä" are separate letters in the Estonian alphabet), but I know that both are Estonian! "Part" is Estonian for "duck", "Pärt" has no counterpart in general usage and is probably derivative of a word like "pärit" (alluding to one's lineage), for example. What does she think of him? :flowers:

I love the criteria lists and identify with many points! May I submit that a balletomane is prone to argue discuss infinitesimal details of a ballet, to wit:

A ten and a half year old Ballet Alert quiz (it doesn't say who wrote it) gives the following pronunciation for PAMTGG:

"Pam-Tee-Ga-Ga"

Scroll down to last quiz/answers -- it's the first question:

The following review gives a pronunciation closer to Farrell Fan's:

"Pam-te-guh-guh"

I have always (mistakenly, I guess) read and said "Pamtag". I did see the ballet, more than once, but don't remember it at all, even after reading about it on BT and in old reviews. Not one thing rings a bell, not the runway lights, the strange costumes, the clouds and stars -- nothing! I can't believe I have absolutely NO recollection of how it went.

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"Part" is Estonian for "duck" ...
:P Are you absolutely sure that it isn't "swan"? :flowers:

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Absolutely, carbro, much is the pity. lol

"Swan" is "luik".

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You have chosen to live within a five-minute walk to your favorite venue...
: Carbro

And in New York you rate the ballets--or symphonies--by what streets you cross and you're still talking about them, such as 67th, 70th, or, if it's a great great performance, you're still going on about the ballet when you hit Fairway.

In San Francisco it's on the wonderful aquarium of the 47 or 49 Van Ness bus where a lot of ballet conversations take place. But here no one goes beyond the level of first names. If only.

Despite the horrid mug-shots in the program, you can instantly identify 75% of your "home" company members...
: Arizona Native

The worse part is being so dense you have conversations with company dancers and don't realize who they were until afterwards. I've done this twice. One of them told me that Balanchine was "the past," and that he was totally uninterested in his work, but I notice he's been dancing very well in two parts of Jewels this year.

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Quiggin, Carbro -- not being in a walkable metro area, I hadn't thought of those implications. How entertaining! I have noticed, however, that I judge audience enthusiasm somewhat by how long into the intermission people are still talking about the dance.

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We could have a little more fun with this. How 'bout a few rounds of "You know you're a balletomane IF"?

You know you're a balletomane if...

...your computer screen-saver is a ballet-related image. Guilty as charged here. Mme. Alonso in Balanchine's "Waltz Academy" :clapping:

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My mouse pad features ABT in Swan Lake....

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My ATM card password has for about 10 years had Suzanne Farrell's initials in it--and mine as well, but there are highly charged numbers as well which refer to me--so you'd have a hard time figuring them out, or the order, so there will be no success by those with pernicious intent. Although someone else is my muse, and is a man, also a dancer (but not exactly a ballet dancer) but not even my book collaborators know who that is...I wrote a zany, campy song once about 'frenchification' and 'New York City Ballets' (that one is so good I really won't put it down, because someone would steal it, and it finally goes in my next year's book, the first chapter of which was inspired by 'La Valse'.) I've had framed photos on my walls in the past of both Farrell in 'Nijinsky Clown de Dieu' and 'Vienna Waltzes' and Peter Schaufuss in who cares what--that animal.. I consciously try to walk with a Peter Martins swagger sometimes, not quite as tall but several years younger...:clapping: I used to wear ballet shoes as house slippers..

True Friggin' Confessions this is....

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I would add to SanderO’s post and make a distinction between balletomane and fan.

The use of the word balletomane has only changed over time due to its misuse in newspapers.

In describing the Russian ballet devotee of the end of the 19th and early 20th century, the word balletomane was used to describe not the regular fans in the seats in “Paradise” at the St. Petersburg Maryinsky, but instead, the educated nobility and Imperial family members who were habitués and the artistic and literary fraternity of the Russian capital. Ballet had become a significant past-time of the Russian elite.

When Russian Ballet eventually arrived in Paris with Diaghilev’s “Saison Russe” in 1909 it was the artist and intellectuals of Paris that became ardent aesthetic balletomanes.

Both Haskell and Beaumont use the term in their writings and they were still using the word in its meaning of the cognoscenti.

Clues to the term’s various meaning can be seen in the Spanish words for balletomane “aficionada al ballet” and the Italian “maniaco del balleto” which appear to give the distinction between balletomane and fan.

In the early 1960’s in London at least, the more polite aesthetic use of the word for serious admirers of balletic art began to be abused by the press when they began to use balletomane when they meant the newly arrived category of “fans” a shortening of fanatic.

The word fan is considered by some to come from 19th century usage to describe a boxing “fancier” which meant a committed admiration for boxing and over time got shortened to fance and then fan which gives it obvious links to the modern use of the obsessive fanatic in a sporting context.

If academic classical ballet(ACB) had generally not been torn from its throne as a high art, I would as a serious admirer of this art form be quite happy to be called a balletomane. But as ACB

has through the influence of athletic neo-classicism and a gradual move towards gymnastic displays and may now, be in the process of becoming generally “sportiv” as several former Russian ballerinas have stated.

I have sympathy with SandyMcKean’s point of view but I feel it is financially difficult for a lot of people to go to every cast change of a particular ballet and I would add that a balletomane knows which performance to go to and those to avoid.

All ballet companies are followed by serious balletomanes, but I undertake various manoeuvres to avoid the dreaded fans in London because as soon as they open their mouth to speak, they rob a performance of its aesthetics and drag it down to a narcissistic obsessive response.

I remember an example of one obsessed Nureyev fan who like others people had travelled to Zurich to see him dance and she was following in his shadow wherever he went. When they were at the airport to return to England, the obsession took on mythic fanlike behaviour. With nothing in view except her adored one, she followed him straight into the gentleman’s toilet and came out pretty quickly but not abashed by the event. Was she a balletomane? I think not, she was most definitely a fan.

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I am wondering if the distinction that Leonid makes leaves out the "serious" ballet lover who is neither obsessed fan, nor at the level of a balletomane, perhaps an aspiring balletomane but held back because of any number of reasons - lack of money, access, time, other pressing commitments, yet not the "obsessed" fawning fan?

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A very good post Leonid, and I’m relieved to discover I may have some of the qualities of a true balletomane after all. :clapping:

but I undertake various manoeuvres to avoid the dreaded fans in London because as soon as they open their mouth to speak, they rob a performance of its aesthetics and drag it down to a narcissistic obsessive response.

That’s understandable as London ballet fans are uniquely partisan and insular in their opinions in my view, though that hasn’t always been the case.

The Nureyev fan story made my jaw drop and I’m tempted to ask if Leonid knew the name of the lady in question; and if so was the surname by any chance the same as that of a leading UK economist elevated to the peerage? If it was I can confirm that the lady made a habit of doing what is described.

I went to Zurich to see Nureyev dance in a new full length production of Raymonda in 1972 and a large number of fans had gathered from around Europe for the event. A couple of them invited me to lunch the day after the last performance at the restaurant of the hotel where Nureyev had been staying (he had flown off early that morning). It was a happy lively meal but near the end the eldest of the group, an English lady of advanced years, disappeared for long enough for her friends to become anxious. When she eventually reappeared she was asked where she had got to and coolly replied that after a trip to the ladies she had gone into the gents to ….er… soak up the ambience, as Nureyev may have gone in there.

For once I was speechless, but worse was to come when at the end of the meal certain of the party started to pocket articles of cutlery from the table because Nureyev just might have used them: downright theft in my opinion.

In spite of everything I still consider myself a Nureyev fan, but the actions of those women on that day appalled me and from then on I regarded them not as much fans as poor deluded souls with a serious mental aberration.

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I am wondering if the distinction that Leonid makes leaves out the "serious" ballet lover who is neither obsessed fan, nor at the level of a balletomane, perhaps an aspiring balletomane but held back because of any number of reasons - lack of money, access, time, other pressing commitments, yet not the "obsessed" fawning fan?

Over the years I have met a good number of "serious" ballet lovers whose knowledge in other fields far exceeds mine. They may who attend ballet performances perhaps only three or four times a year due to living a distance from London. At the Royal Opera House we have met whilst sitting on the banquette or sharing a table in the Floral Hall at Covent Garden and they have often have brought a freshness of view when discussing performances in some depth. I was not born a serious balletomane, initially as a teenager I was taught by older balletomanes and by Royal Ballet students whom I met in standing room. Then both Dance and Dancers and Dance Magazine taught me about appreciation and criticism and Cyril Beaumont's bookshop in Charing Cross Road and Johnny O'Brien's bookshop in Cecil Court set me on my way. In the 1960's, critics were in general much more approachable and more knowledgeable than those of today and I engaged them in conversation. I am sure my early experience in ballet going is not a lot different to others around the world. The important thing is that you don't have to be very knowledgeable to be a "serious" ballet lover but you can always expand your knowledge as I try to do on a regular basis. “Obsessive fawning fans" may not quite be the life blood for a dancer that they think they are. Fans are in some case an utter burden to some dancers. In England leading dancers have had to go to court to get a restraining order against a fan. I have known and observed many fans over the years who were lonely who have developed a fixation on particular dancers and that is okay if it doesn’t become an intrusive. A good thing about fans is when there really is a good performance and they cheer and throw flowers, it is a great finale for those attending ballet for the first time. I am inclined to say that normal, serious people love the art form above individual dancers. I confess however that I have seriously admired from a distance a good number of dancers over the years.

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Just curious... what "class" of ballet lovers actually wait at the stage door to meet or speak with a dancer? It would seem that his would be the "fan", but I am not certain that some serious ballet lovers might want to speak directly with or to an artist or see them up close and personal and not on stage.

While interaction outside the theatre seems perilously close to "fanatic", there is lots to learn about ballet from off stage interaction with the players.

What say you?

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leonid, I appreciate your account of your own experience. It parallels in many ways my own, especially beause we both discovered our interest as teenagers. Acting on that interest, by taking the train to perfomrances of the New York City Ballet, buying books, etc., was probably the only non-conformist behavior I ever exhibited in my teenage years. (I would, for example, never have dared to approach a dancer or any adult involved in the ballet world.)

I also agree that it can be fascinating and even revelatory to talk with those one meets at performances. Over the years, I've come to feel that there is a network of ballet aficionados out there. This kind of conversation has been, for me, a means of expanding my sense of what it is that draws people to this particular art form. It's been a learning experience and a comfort. As has, of course, regular attendance at Ballet Talk. :clapping:

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I remember an example of one obsessed Nureyev fan who like others people had travelled to Zurich to see him dance and she was following in his shadow wherever he went. When they were at the airport to return to England, the obsession took on mythic fanlike behaviour. With nothing in view except her adored one, she followed him straight into the gentleman’s toilet and came out pretty quickly but not abashed by the event. Was she a balletomane? I think not, she was most definitely a fan.

Well, worse, actually, she was a stalker and psychotic clearly--fans don't usually try to disturb their idols. i think narcissism doesn't particularly lend itself to obsessive fandom, I know mine doesn't--rather leads me to a certain amount of admiration by imitation--this can be writers like Joan Didion (the only person I ever asked for an autograph and simply had to talk to at a lot of readings (but I then did go to so many that she got nervous and may have thought I was a stalker, so I stopped for 4 years) or my buddy Nick Land in China, who I'm nuts about (but since he knows me, he appreciates it), or when I played the Boulez Second Sonata in 1981, there was a page in the 3rd Movement in which I finally got a sense of flexibility that reminded while on stage of Suzanne Farrell's flexible limbs, it was the best part of the performance. Most of the examples I wrote on my last post are from the past, except for more recently the Martine and Schaufuss I still admire them--how better to admire them then to imitate them if it inspires you? It doesn't have to be only 'in performance' that these dancers' art inspires you--all the better that you keep thinking of them as aesthetic models to refine your own life. The way Martins describes the way a dancer wears his body is something anyone should aim for to some degree, if they're athletic--you won't become a ballet dancer, but you'll present yourself more impressively. Dancers think about their looks all the time, why shouldn't you? Of course, that's narcissism, but I don't care, and anyway it is obvious that many great dancers are narcissistic, and it doesn't bother them at all (nor should it.)

I do disapprove totally of ANY kind of fandom in which someone is followed EVER. My best friend was once obsessed with Garbo, and used to sometimes look for her, but once she spotted him, and saw that it frightened her a bit, he never did it again--but I still couldn't believe he'd even gone that far. And then there is celeb fandom, as Susan Sontag and Philip Glass (in the Paddock/Rollison book) or Barbra Streisand following around Andre Agassi (I finally understand this last, but didn't for the longest time, it seemed embarassing at the time, but she's a great woman and hardly harmful.)

As for Nureyev, he used to do a lot of aggressive and determined approach to good-looking young men (including one I knew well), and was quite brazen about it, so it works both ways. I don't feel sorry for him, really.

I'm definitely not a balletomane, though, because I am not as fiercely concentrated on it as a number of people here, and because other kinds of dance and dancer and other arts mean as much to me. My absolute greatest genius is Martha Graham, and I will never love Balanchine or any classical ballet choreography as much as I do her work. Same with Barbra Streisand, a few writers, film directors, composers, etc., whom I love as much as classical ballet.

I do have other balletomane tendencies. My education in ballet has proceeded apace since I've been at Ballet Talk, and I regularly give sermons about Alla Sizova, for example, to my best friends, and make them watch her. Same with Nureyev and Fonteyn. But some of the TRUE balletomanes, that is in terms of being in the audience a great deal of the time, are very different from me, which is why I know they are the really true ones: Flying from one city to another very frequently for performances, going to perfs. night after night, year after year, valuing above all other Arts. I don't. .

My main point in my way of appreciating ballet is that it's become a part of my own life and art, but I think the true balletomane is always going to a lot of performances. I don't actually want to go that often, but when it comes down to it, I think the true balletomane is much more concerned when a dancer retires, for example. The fact is, it is another kind of 'ballet love' to import and incorporate what you learn from it into your own other arts, just as ballet dancers go to museums and look at paintings to learn from them, just as they become knowledgeable about music (when they do), and when they read books. But I basically think the way a balletomane is mostly understood is someone who is following every new development in the ballet business and going to many, many perfs. a year.

I confess however that I have seriously admired from a distance a good number of dancers over the years.

Yes, I want to be at a distance from any artist of any kind I admire, unless I have something to say to them that they are also going to have some interest in, beyond the usual fan oozing and unctuousness. That's for the birds. As for dancers I've known, in most cases I like those at a distance too. :clapping:

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Having worked over a period of time with a contemporary troupe and more recently with a classical company I've seen attitudes towards fans from both sides of the divide so to speak and there is no doubt that fans can make nuisances of themselves and not just fans as I have a keen memory of a dancer begging me not to leave her dressing room when she heard that a certain well regarded critic was about to pay a visit. That young dancer was also a brilliant singer and eventually made a career in the world of music, I expect she has bodyguards to keep her safe today.

Some dancers seem to simply love their fans though and I can remember one very charismatic Russian male dancer who on a UK tour kissed every last one of the sizeable number of female fans waiting for his autograph afterwards.

I think that most dancers are would be wise to keep a distance though, as over the years I've encountered more sociopaths amongst ballet fans than in any other areas of life.

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