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Are you a Balletomane...?


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Poll: Do you consider yourself a balletomane? (55 member(s) have cast votes)

Time to confess...

  1. Yes (33 votes [60.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

  2. No (9 votes [16.36%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.36%

  3. Not sure (4 votes [7.27%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.27%

  4. Yes, but wouldn't say it out loud (9 votes [16.36%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.36%

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#46 leonid17

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 05:03 AM

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.

#47 SanderO

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 05:14 AM

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?

#48 bart

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 06:28 AM

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:

#49 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 06:45 AM

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:

#50 Mashinka

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 08:30 AM

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.

#51 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 08:37 AM

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.


No offense, Mahinka, I'm sure you've seen plenty of it and that there is, but mightn't it be your greater experience with them? This is a sincere question, as I would have thought rock stars and movie stars would have more the sociopaths. Actually, hadn't heard of the very worst sort of ballet stalker till Leonid wrote about this idiot actually going into the men's room with Nureyev. I confess to wanting to know what he said to her to shorten her visit...it may well have cured her of her fandom for good! I mean, we hear about Stephanopooulous or Meg Ryan or Jodi Foster or that troll that got into the queen's Buckingham Palace bedroom, but even though I've been around ballet somewhat over the years, I never heard of ballet stalkers till today. Although with Nureyev, I should have already thought of it.

#52 Hans

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 08:47 AM

I was once sent a series of creepy, stalker-ish postcards as a student. It was very disturbing.

#53 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 08:48 AM

When I was a teen and started to go to the ballet, I remember my older balletomane friends, who would always go to the stage door to greet their favorite stars. I never went backstage, due to some shyness, and the fact that I don't really like to bother them. But in Cuba, the stage door was THE place. I remember observing my friends going toward the bailarinas, taking pictures with them and chatting...sometimes even going with them to eat after the performance. That really has never interested me, and the only occasion that I truly interacted with anyone was when I went to do my practical exam to get my driver license in Havana. Suddenly I saw this familiar face coming toward the parking lot where the test would take place, and then, I realized that Lorna Feijoo had made her driving test appointment right after mine, with the same instructor. I approached her and while waiting for the professor we started chatting. I tried not to overwhelmed her with praising or to look intrusive, and she was very down to earth and cute. Here in Miami I've met this other type who really seem to be fixated with the dancers more than with ballet itself. Conversations revolve non stopping around the dancer/person/persona, and sometimes there's even little interest in ballet history, music, literature and the like. For me, I don't even like to see them out of character. At the end, is the character what really interests me, not the real person behind the tutu.

#54 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 09:00 AM

For me, I don't even like to see them out of character. At the end, is the character what really interests me, not the real person behind the tutu.


That's a good point, and also unless you are also a ballet dancer, they might not be as interesting as people to someone else, and may prefer their own, so they can mostly talk about dance and related issues--I've definitely run into this, and it's usually a quick realization of little in common, unless it's time off, a vacation period, etc. Of course, there are a lot of exceptions to this. Ballet dancers are also more disciplined, like opera singers and classical musicians, and aren't probably usually as colorful as characters as some pop entertainers, but those also usually prefer others 'like them'. Nureyev is an exception, in that he's a fascinating character as well as great artist. Then way back to the old days with Pavlova maybe, and some like Danilova, but i can think of some of my favourite ballet dancers being almost exclusively interesting and adorable onstage. Opera singers too. I love Kiri TeKanawa, but if I got a chance to spend some cafe time with Catherine Deneuve, I'd much prefer that, because she'd be funny... :FIREdevil:

#55 Arizona Native

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 10:56 AM

Well, I wouldn't say I'd like to have any significant interaction with any of them, but I would say I often find dancers' stories "interesting" ... for instance, Natalia Magnicaballi, of Suzanne Farrell Ballet and Ballet Arizona, supported her entire family as a dancer while still a child. Humberto Banderas, also of Ballet Arizona, escaped Cuba in a wooden fishing boat, was threatened by smugglers with being thrown overboard, had to swim to shore, and got his job basically as a walk-on. Russell Clarke, of Ballet Az, has been the subject of a BBC special about 4 dancing brothers from a tiny Scottish mining town. The journalist in me thinks that the people are usually interesting, as well as the dance. I don't want any sort of personal interaction with any of them, but I *would* like to interview a lot of them!

On the other hand, I have skipped all of the various opportunities (fund-raisers) to talk to or dance with dancers -- I'd rather just send a check, when I can. What I don't mind doing is telling them a performance was wonderful or inspiring, assuming it was, or otherwise providing an ego-boost.

#56 SandyMcKean

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 11:37 AM

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.

I could let this go, and I am definitely not feeling defensive, but this distinction may be an important point in attempting to identify oneself as being afflicted with "balletomania", so I will amplify:

My words were:

"obsessed with seeing multiple casts"

And that's exactly what I meant. I see it just as you do leonid, a true balletomane likely avoids some casts just as well as insists on seeing multiple casts. But the essense is the need to see multiple casts -- the feeling that if you don't, the entire experience lacks dimension. There is the cost issue, but beyond someone who is living a true low income lifestyle, cost is usually handled by the quality of the seat and by avoiding other expenses (PNB has some $25 seats open to every goer for every performance).

I'll just speak for me......it is seeing different dancers in the some production that adds the extra dimensions to the work. I am reminded of Picasso's "need" to paint a woman from multiple angles all at once or resign himself to not capturing her at all (well, capturing her alright, but only with a misleading representation since so much would be left out). True, I know all my dancers, and I love to see them all dance, but my real motivation is to see multiple artists interpret the same piece, the same role. It is from all those angles that I get insight into the piece (I could even say learn to love the piece). There is another benefit I didn't expect. When I know I am going to see a production 2 or 3 times, I can relax and pay attention to details, emotions, corps work, the orchestra, etc -- a freedom I never felt before I regularly started going to each production more than once. I no longer worry about "getting it", or missing something. If I want to watch a corps dancer for 5 minutes with my binoculars (following him/her around the stage), I do it since I know I will get a chance later to see what I missed. Sometimes I just watch all the feet, other times all the arms. I find my "dance education" goes up exponentially by seeing multiple casts because these other avenues (angles) open up that are impossible to explore with just one performance.

Bottom line....I agree: it's multiple casts, certainly not all casts (except sometimes :FIREdevil:)

#57 Arizona Native

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 12:09 PM

SandyMcKean -- my thoughts, exactly! On those occasions when I am able to see only one show, there's no question that it is a much more limited experience.

#58 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 01:27 PM

Arizona Native--I don't think I responded to Cristian quite properly. Frankly, I DO like to see actors, dancers, singers in 'real life', out of their character. It doesn't spoil the magic for me at all. And I've known a lot of dancers over the years, and liked many of them, still do. I just think that, like musicians and actors, they do often themselves prefer each others' company, because they understand each other well. But I also know that, when it's possible to make the connection and there is time to reach a bit further than usual to communicate, it's quite rewarding. I think the main thing is figuring out how it's going to be a mutually beneficial and pleasurable exchange, and if it is, then that's the ticket, of course. Probably it's the matter of scheduling more than anything else that makes it difficult to get to know people in all sorts of artistic disciplines, but I certainly know that having known some dancers well has been as important as anything else in making me appreciate and love dance.

We probably pulled back a little too far because of the discussion of obnoxious fans, which is true of any field, I guess. It's equally important not to be too shy when one has the opportunity to enrich oneself with personal contact with artists. All the writers I've met have only meant even more to me by having had some personal contact and conversation with them. Same with dancers, painters, singers, and the rest. The obstacle is usually just 'the business' and being able to 'talk shop', etc.

Like the way you introduced that new element into the discussion, as it made me remember all those ballet associations I had without ever having thought about it, like my ATM card!

#59 Nanarina

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 01:57 PM

:FIREdevil: Difficult one this, I do fit into the stated catergories of a Balletomaine, but really consider myself to be a Ex professional member of staff in a ballet company. Sometimes members of the public who were "besotted by Ballet" could be an embarresment and nuisance at the stage door etc, to Dancers and Staff alike. This may sound a little harsh, but some people could be way over the top, chasing people . I suppose it was a form of hero worship. The view from the inside is very different from the audience.

#60 Arizona Native

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 03:03 PM

Papeetepatrick and Nanarina -- yes, chasing people, creepy (sometimes sexual) fixation is something else again. It is an unfortunate hazard for anyone in the public eye. The stalkers may or may not know the first thing about ballet -- stalker status should definately disqualify anyone from being considered a "balletomane."


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