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YouOverThere

My First Trip to the Washington Ballet

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Having been banished from Colorado, I ended up in Silver Spring, MD. The good news (relatively) is that I'm only about 8 miles from the Sydney Harman Hall (and 9 miles from the Strathmore). I decided to take in the Saturday (Feb. 16) matinee. The 8 miles took about 35 minutes to traverse. Finding parking took more than 35 minutes. There were parking meters within 5-6 blocks, but it would have taken 5 dollars in quarters to park at one of them (in Denver, all the parking meters accept credit cards). I finally found a parking garage for a mere $15 (I paid $5 in Denver).

Despite missing the first third of the performance, I was quite impressed. WB is stronger than the CB on the male side. That being said, I'm not sure that I can endure the stress of going there again. And it's left me wondering whether the reason that they can't sell out a 750-seat theater is because you have to be a hardcore ballet fan to put up with the hassle of attending their performances.

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Transportation is one of the real differences between east and west coasts, I've found. In Seattle, people think that they should be able to drive pretty much anywhere, and find some parking when they get there (in my family we've named this after our father, who was very adept at finding parking right in front of wherever he was going -- we talk about finding an Allen Kurtz spot). We are gradually shifting to a different model, with better public transit and using parking fees as a way to limit use of cars, which is a contentious process, but we're still primarily a car culture. That's not really the default case in your new home. I'd encourage you to take a look at the transportation choices other people are making to get to the theater, and perhaps even contact the company and ask what they suggest for their audience (PNB in Seattle has that kind of information on their website). And just so you don't feel too awful -- we pay anywhere from $12-$20 to park in a lot or a garage near the theater.

But enough of that -- what did they dance, and what did you think?

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I'm so sorry to hear of your difficulty getting to the Washington Ballet. As a resident of Washington, DC, decades ago, I still miss the wonderful Metro system. Even long ago, it seemed that parking was priced high in town in hopes of encouraging people to use public transportation. The red line runs from Silver Spring to Gallery Place, a couple of blocks from the theater, but perhaps current DC residents could give you better advice on getting into town without all that hassle:

http://www.wmata.com/rail/maps/map.cfm?

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As a DC area resident I can't recommend Metro enough. Harman Hall is smack in the middle of downtown, near museums and a sports arena. The only time I would drive there would be on a week night when the no-parking spaces used for loading spots and in front of business entrances become available at 6:30.

If you decide to see the Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center, there is a free shuttle bus that runs every 15 mins. from the Foggy Bottom Metro station.

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$40 or so in ny

We have an excellent subway system (and buses for that matter). As well as taxis.

who drives in nyc?

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$40 or so in ny

We have an excellent subway system (and buses for that matter). As well as taxis.

who drives in nyc?

Lots of people drive, if the number of cars on the road is any indication. I just don't know how many of them park!

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Ok, but I still want to know what the company was performing, and how they looked!

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As a DC area resident I can't recommend Metro enough. Harman Hall is smack in the middle of downtown, near museums and a sports arena. The only time I would drive there would be on a week night when the no-parking spaces used for loading spots and in front of business entrances become available at 6:30.

If you decide to see the Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center, there is a free shuttle bus that runs every 15 mins. from the Foggy Bottom Metro station.

So you really think that driving a few miles to the Metro station, parking in a free parking lot, taking a 15-minute train ride, and getting dropped off a block from the theater is a better plan than driving on crowded streets with a traffic light every block, circling around for 40 minutes looking for a place to park, spending $15 to park, and walking (or, in my case, limping) a half mile to the theater?

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So you really think that driving a few miles to the Metro station, parking in a free parking lot, taking a 15-minute train ride, and getting dropped off a block from the theater is a better plan than driving on crowded streets with a traffic light every block, circling around for 40 minutes looking for a place to park, spending $15 to park, and walking (or, in my case, limping) a half mile to the theater?

When visiting back home in NY I'm notorious for driving into Manhattan being my first choice of transportation over the Long Island Rail Road.

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As a DC area resident I can't recommend Metro enough. Harman Hall is smack in the middle of downtown, near museums and a sports arena. The only time I would drive there would be on a week night when the no-parking spaces used for loading spots and in front of business entrances become available at 6:30.

If you decide to see the Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center, there is a free shuttle bus that runs every 15 mins. from the Foggy Bottom Metro station.

So you really think that driving a few miles to the Metro station, parking in a free parking lot, taking a 15-minute train ride, and getting dropped off a block from the theater is a better plan than driving on crowded streets with a traffic light every block, circling around for 40 minutes looking for a place to park, spending $15 to park, and walking (or, in my case, limping) a half mile to the theater?

Alas, the reason why the parking at the Silver Spring Metro station is listed as costing $0.00 is that there isn't any.

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As a DC area resident I can't recommend Metro enough. Harman Hall is smack in the middle of downtown, near museums and a sports arena. The only time I would drive there would be on a week night when the no-parking spaces used for loading spots and in front of business entrances become available at 6:30.

If you decide to see the Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center, there is a free shuttle bus that runs every 15 mins. from the Foggy Bottom Metro station.

So you really think that driving a few miles to the Metro station, parking in a free parking lot, taking a 15-minute train ride, and getting dropped off a block from the theater is a better plan than driving on crowded streets with a traffic light every block, circling around for 40 minutes looking for a place to park, spending $15 to park, and walking (or, in my case, limping) a half mile to the theater?

Alas, the reason why the parking at the Silver Spring Metro station is listed as costing $0.00 is that there isn't any.

There is municipal parking in Silver Spring within walking distance of Metro. It is free on weekends.

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Ok, but I still want to know what the company was performing, and how they looked!

Huh? Talk about ballet?

There were 3 works in the program, 2 of which were premieres.

The featured piece, which they unfortunately opened with so that I missed the first half, was titled Dangerous Laisons and was based on a novel titled Les Laisons Dangereuses, which was written by Pierre Choderlos de Lados in 1782. The choreography was created by the WB's associate artistic director, David Palmer, using music composed by Vivaldi. The novel is about a bored and corrupt aristocrat who likes to humiliate his rivals by seducing their main squeezes. He was lured by a noblewoman to take on a woman who was going to marry the man that the noblewoman had loved. Meanwhile, the noblewoman also sets up her dance instructor to become the dance instructor of her target figuring that he would fall in love with her, which he does. Everyone ends up trying to seduce everyone else, but things end rather badly for the aristocrat when the dance instructor shows a little backbone (and a little swordsmanship).

The dance moved along fairly briskly, which would be necessary because Vivaldi didn't use slow temps very much. The choreography was very much in the classical ballet style. During the half that I saw, there weren't any super-flashy solos, but because of the pace it did take quite a bit of precision. The costumes depicted the time period and were quite nice. Since I attended the matinee, I did not get to see the top pair, but everyone did quite well. They seemed a little more fluid than the Colorado Ballet, though that may have been due to the choreography. The work was probably between 60 and 70 minutes long.

Neither of the other 2 pieces did anything for me. They were both set to popular music, and though the dancing was highly quality throughout, there didn't seem to be much reason for them to exist. The second of these 2, which was choreographed by the increasing well-known Amy Seiwert, was particularly annoying. She used mostly familiar pop tunes, but used recordings by people other than the performers that made the songs well-known, e.g., Journey's Faithfully was sung by someone (or some group) named Matt the Electrician, who sounded more like an electrician than a singer.

I considered going back to see Dangerous Laisons again, but I lost my chance when I tried to figure out how to take the subway rather than drive, though I wasn't excited about paying for the whole show when I had no interest in staying after the intermission.

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I've made my second trip to the Washington Ballet (should I start a new thread? :) on Friday (2/22). This one didn't go quite as badly. I was only 15 minutes late. Armed with instructions from mapquest, I went straight from the office in Suitland. The directions would have worked better if I had not written down the wrong way to turn at the first intersection. And if I had remembered that since I was leaving after 6:30, the exit from the parking area that I normally use was closed and I was leaving by an exit on a different street. And if I-395 was actually a freeway rather than a construction zone. I would have preferred not to go on a Friday evening, but that was the only show for which they sold tickets for under $55.

They had a different program this weekend. Titled Tour-de-Force, it was basically an exhibition rather than a performance. The first part of the program consisted of individual dances from various ballets, with the (to me) uninspiring Stars and Stripes after the intermission. Some of the dances were quite spectacular. In the Pas de Trois from act 1 of Le Corsaire, the dancer who danced the part of Ali (Brooklyn Mack, I think) nearly hit his head on the ceiling (OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but he could have easily won the NBA slam dunk competition). My favorite, besides this one, was the Pas de Deux from Edwaard Liang's La Offrenda. It was recognizable as one of his works without needing to check the program. The highlight of the first part was supposed to be Nacho Duato's Cor Perdut, but I arrived in time to see only the last minute of it. Stars and Stripes was crisply and energetically danced, but as I said it just doesn't do a whole lot for me.

I'm sure that I will eventually fall in love with this company, but right now it isn't as much fun as going to the Colorado Ballet was. At the Colorado Ballet, the people-watching was half the fun, as it was a big dress-up occasion with women of all ages showing off their Sunday, better make that Saturday evening, best. At the 2 WB performances, the audiences have been almost entirely over 50 and pretty casually dressed (the audience for the Baltimore Symphony at the Strathmore was also casually dressed, which surprised me).

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I'm sure that I will eventually fall in love with this company, but right now it isn't as much fun as going to the Colorado Ballet was. At the Colorado Ballet, the people-watching was half the fun, as it was a big dress-up occasion with women of all ages showing off their Sunday, better make that Saturday evening, best. At the 2 WB performances, the audiences have been almost entirely over 50 and pretty casually dressed (the audience for the Baltimore Symphony at the Strathmore was also casually dressed, which surprised me).

Do remember that Colorado Ballet is the only show in town for classical ballet. No companies of any significance tour here, ever. Some major stars show up at the Vail festival in the summer, but that's just two weeks. The Washington Ballet has ferocious competition, both for audiences and fund-raising. It's not just the Kennedy Center dance series, featuring almost all the major companies on the planet, but also the easy train/plane ride to New York City to see everything there.

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Hi YouOverThere.

Welcome to DC!

Yes, DC traffic and parking can be trying, and the Harman Center is tougher for parking than the Kennedy Center (!). That said, metro can work to Silver Spring, and there is parking to be had for lower cost/free around the Harman Center if you can do some scouting. There is, for example, a garage near 9th and D that charges $10, or $7 with ticket stub. For Kennedy Center performances, there's street parking to be had within a 10-minute walk, but it's best to either allow some time or to familiarize yourself with the area.

As for the fashion standards: Well, DC is (ahem) not really known for style, and many people do attend performances right after work. The weekend ballet crowd at the Kennedy Center is a bit more formal, and the Kennedy Center opera crowd is more formal still.

Now, as for the performances: I thought the "gala" format was a bit odd, but it was enjoyable, and for the friend with whom I attended, it was like "Cliff Notes" ballet. Once a season, it's OK. And I did like Stars and Stripes.

Again, welcome, and good luck with attending future performances!

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Tonight will be my first trip to the Kennedy Center. I'm a little nervous about getting there from work, but I did go to the Suitland Metro station to check things out (and didn't realize that I would end up paying $4.50 for parking just to go into the station and buy a SmartCar). Buying a ticket for the WB was a bit of an aggravation because seating sections jumped around from sold out to 30 or 40 percent of the seats available and back to sold out and back to seats available several times a day. A week and a half ago, I had written off this production because all seats except for a handful of very expensive seats for a couple of performances were listed as sold. Then I jumped on today's performance even though I don't like to go in the middle of the week and I don't like to go to opening night because it appeared to be the only one available. Now there are affordable tickets available for most of the performances, except for the matinees (not surprising that for Cinderella the matinees would be the most popular).

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Buying a ticket for the WB was a bit of an aggravation because seating sections jumped around from sold out to 30 or 40 percent of the seats available and back to sold out and back to seats available several times a day. A week and a half ago, I had written off this production because all seats except for a handful of very expensive seats for a couple of performances were listed as sold.

I don't know the specific practices of WB, but availability of seats can be very unpredictable at most theaters due to several factors. (1) Theaters typically hold back excellent "house seats" for guests of the company, big donors, and critics and only release those near to performance date. (2) If the company allows subscribers to exchange tickets for different performances, excellent seats can open up late in the game. A swing from 30% available to sold out and back does sound a little extreme, though.

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Buying a ticket for the WB was a bit of an aggravation because seating sections jumped around from sold out to 30 or 40 percent of the seats available and back to sold out and back to seats available several times a day. A week and a half ago, I had written off this production because all seats except for a handful of very expensive seats for a couple of performances were listed as sold.

I don't know the specific practices of WB, but availability of seats can be very unpredictable at most theaters due to several factors. (1) Theaters typically hold back excellent "house seats" for guests of the company, big donors, and critics and only release those near to performance date. (2) If the company allows subscribers to exchange tickets for different performances, excellent seats can open up late in the game. A swing from 30% available to sold out and back does sound a little extreme, though.

Your second idea probably played a big role. The theater isn't very big, with only 1100 seats. And I'm thinking that the "all sales are final" is a rule that is meant to be broken. They might not offer refunds, but I would be surprised if they didn't allow upgrades, and maybe even performance exchanges.

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I went, I saw, I, well, I didn't care much for the design of the production. I much prefer the version that the Colorado Ballet has done. [i]Cinderella[/i] without the evil stepmother just didn't seem right.

In general, I thought that the story parts of the ballet seemed rushed. If you didn't know the story (OK, nobody doesn't know the story) you might not have figured it out from this version. We never really got to know Cinderella before she was off to the ball. In the 2nd act, the prince acted like he knew that Cinderella was coming and fell in love with her before really even seeing her. And no sooner had Cinderella fled than the jester was showing her shoe to the prince.

For my taste, there was too much of the stepsisters and too little of the prince. I wouldn't be surprised if the stepsisters spent more time being featured than the prince did. There was only a VERY brief solo for the prince. I would like to see some of the gratuitous scenes with the stepsisters edited out, with more dancing by the prince and Cinderella.

I missed having a big waltz (to Cinderella's Waltz) in act 2, as is always in the CB's production. There was only muted dancing by the ensemble. I didn't care for the ending, which didn't include Cinderella's forgiveness of her stepfamily. Prokofiev intended Cinderella to be a morality play, and this was a noteworthy part. Overall, I think that the production was more child-oriented than what I've seen before

As is often the case on opening night, the dancing seemed a little stiff.

In the unlikely event that I get to another performance, I'll probably completely change my take.

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Buying a ticket for the WB was a bit of an aggravation because seating sections jumped around from sold out to 30 or 40 percent of the seats available and back to sold out and back to seats available several times a day. A week and a half ago, I had written off this production because all seats except for a handful of very expensive seats for a couple of performances were listed as sold.

I don't know the specific practices of WB, but availability of seats can be very unpredictable at most theaters due to several factors. (1) Theaters typically hold back excellent "house seats" for guests of the company, big donors, and critics and only release those near to performance date. (2) If the company allows subscribers to exchange tickets for different performances, excellent seats can open up late in the game. A swing from 30% available to sold out and back does sound a little extreme, though.

Your second idea probably played a big role. The theater isn't very big, with only 1100 seats. And I'm thinking that the "all sales are final" is a rule that is meant to be broken. They might not offer refunds, but I would be surprised if they didn't allow upgrades, and maybe even performance exchanges.

The Sunday evening performance which for the last couple weeks has been shown as essentially sold out now shows over 180 seats available.

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The Sunday evening performance which for the last couple weeks has been shown as essentially sold out now shows over 180 seats available.

It makes you wonder if there's a problem with the software in their on-line ticketing system...

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The Sunday evening performance which for the last couple weeks has been shown as essentially sold out now shows over 180 seats available.

It makes you wonder if there's a problem with the software in their on-line ticketing system...

I'm starting to wonder if this is the case. For the Sunday evening performance, the system is showing 3 seats available in the center section of the next to the last row. One of the tickets costs $65 and the other 2 cost $99. The $65 seat is the closer to the center than the $99 seats. It doesn't make sense that seats closer to the center would cost less.

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I did end up going back to see Cinderella again. I still wasn't captivated by it. Something was missing for me. I met someone a couple weeks ago who had been in the NYCB for a few years, and she said that she didn't watch the Washington Ballet because they are "careful dancers" - they hold back to avoid risking mistakes. That might have something to do with it. The performance once again seemed stiff, and the dancers didn't project a lot of emotion.

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