Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Booing at the ballet???


  • Please log in to reply
43 replies to this topic

#16 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 05:46 AM

Thank you for that story, Rick! I've never heard of a dancer booing the audience :)

I wonder how much of this varies from country to country? I had a German friend once whom I took to a local modern dance performance which he loathed. After the first number, he stood up and enthusiastically booed. It was a very small crowd, maybe 40, so people noticed.

He complained later that Americans watched dance the way they drove -- asleep. What was the fun of going if you couldn't boo? He claimed that German audiences booed all the time.

Sonja, is that true? Or perhaps the Stuttgart and Munich audiences are different from Cologne and Hamburg!

#17 Ed Waffle

Ed Waffle

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 493 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 06:24 AM

alexandra wrote:

He complained later that Americans watched dance the way they drove -- asleep.


At least he didn't say that Americans watched dance the way they drove--while talking on the phone and eating a cheeseburger.

#18 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 06:27 AM

Ah, Ed, this was in the 1980s. We were more civilized then! (I've been to dance performances where people talked on their cell phones and ate cheeseburgers!)

His analogy to driving was based on fun on the autobahn, where there are no speed limits. American tourists ruined the whole driving experience by insisting on sticking to 70 or 80 mph and freaking out at hairpin turns.

#19 Manhattnik

Manhattnik

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 847 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 07:43 AM

I don't think I've ever booed anyone, although I've been tempted to. Oh, I did join in the boos directed at the NYCB orchestra at their first few bows after the previous couple of strikes, but that's understandable. I think for awhile after the strike before last the orchestra stopped taking their last-intermission bows because of the torrents of boos. But that was only because they richly deserved it.

I also remember the boos that frequently greeted Watermill. I remember an early or mid-Eighties performance where Villella came out for the curtain call only to be greeted by a torrent of boos. Although I'm sure he was used to folks booing Watermill by then (I don't recall it getting booed in the mid-Seventies), I won't soon forget his crestfallen look of hurt and surprise, which he soon covered with a perfectly poised professional mien. Regardless of what one thought of Watermill (I rather liked it, but that's another kettle of worms), booing Eddie Villella at the NYS Theater is beyond unforgiveable.

Other than that, I figure someone someplace might've liked a particular show, and who am I to spoil their fun? There must've been people somewhere who actually enjoyed Heather Watt's virtues as a performer (whatever they might've been -- I lacked such fine powers of discernment). I wouldn't have wanted to rain on their parade. Besides, it's hard to boo when one is biting one's knuckles.

The most recent incident of really inappropriate booing I recall happend last fall at a performance of the Met's somewhat unconventional but rather brilliant production of Eugene Onegin (and I'm too lazy to look up the credits). After Onegin (Thomas Hampson, that night) kills Lensky, the orchestra goes immediately into that grand polonaise. Many be-wigged footmen emerge, some make off with Lensky's body, others change a very passive Onegin's clothes from his outdoorsy dueling outfit to formal eveningwear. I thought it was a very clever transition, representing his years of indolent wandering before encountering Tatiana and Gremin. Apparently it left some disgruntled member of the audience feeling short-changed out of the sight of the Met Opera Ballet in boots and ribbons stamping and kicking their way through a real polonaise, and as soon as the music ended, out came a very loud and prolonged "booo!" from somewhere up near the rafters. There was an embarassed murmer from the audience, and the show went on.

It was really beyond tacky.

I do wonder if opera audiences might be more prone to booing than ballet audiences. Thoughts, anyone?

#20 Ed Waffle

Ed Waffle

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 493 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 08:46 AM

I do wonder if opera audiences might be more prone to booing than ballet audiences. Thoughts, anyone?


Opera audiences are generally more boorish, ill mannered and short tempered than ballet audiences. Renee Fleming was booed off the stage at La Scala when she did Lucretia Borgia there. Not because of any terrible flaws in her performance--the tapes from the one show she was able to get through were quite good--but because she wasn't the singer they wanted to hear.

At Beyreuth, the altar of Wagnerian truth, new productions are regularly booed, hissed and screeched at, just becauset they are new. The Onegin production at the Met was roundly booed when it premiered--it seemed that no one like it.

#21 Manhattnik

Manhattnik

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 847 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 09:18 AM

The Onegin production at the Met was roundly booed when it premiered--it seemed that no one like it.

Well, I liked it. But what do I know?

#22 Ed Waffle

Ed Waffle

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 493 posts

Posted 29 April 2002 - 06:49 PM

Well, I liked it. But what do I know?


What I should have written (since it is what I was thinking) is that, like many new and untraditional productions at the Met, the current Onegin production was not well received and it seemed as if no one liked it at the time.

This was obviously not the case since there were a lot of defenders of the production when it opened and it has become much less controversial. The fact that there was a significant amount of discussion and that it was quite heated but also often well founded shows that direction and production design remain important to opera goers in New York City.

And the fact that the Met was willing to do a relatively standard work in a nonstandard but ultimately effective way speaks well of their artistic administration.

#23 Farrell Fan

Farrell Fan

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,930 posts

Posted 30 April 2002 - 08:12 AM

A lot of booing is caused by thwarted expectations. Some of the people who expected to see the customary pyrotechnical display by Edward Villella in Watermill were probably the booers Manhattnik heard. Similarly, the Met audience was expecting a polonaise during the Onegin polonaise and booed when they didn't get it. This kind of booing is completely unjustified, the product of closed minds.

However, sometimes I feel like booing when most of the audience is cheering. Some years ago, there was a production of Cavalleria Rusticana at the New York City Opera directed by Vera Zorina. During the justly famous Intermezzo, when nothing is supposed to happen onstage, the better to contemplate the mysteries of Sicilian honor, Easter, and Mascagni's music, Zorina staged a ballet for little girls in communion dresses. The audience loved it.

Cav and Pag seem to bring out the worst in directors. A few years after the Zorina production, they were transferred from their original locales in Sicily and Southern Italy to New York's Little Italy, under an elevated train station. I admit it was striking concept. There even was simulated sexual intercourse ender the el, between Turiddu and Lola. Once again the audience cheered loudly. But I thought the music was ill-served. Nobody booed. Most people cheered. And I just sat there.

#24 Morris Neighbor

Morris Neighbor

    Senior Member

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 140 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 12:21 AM

An excellent point, FF. In ballet, almost as much as at the opera, audiences arrive with very specific expectations -- related to the work scheduled, the dancers scheduled, their relatives scheduled -- and protest if those precise expectations aren't met. Such demands are, for the most part, unfair to the dancers, the choreographers, and others involved in the production.

On the other hand... I went last night to the new production of The Elephant Man, a play that ran on Broadway, to great acclaim, 23 years ago. The new production is much more abstract (or, if you will, "post-modern") in its staging, but it remains the story of a Victorian man, his body hideously disfugured by disease, whose spirit and wit came to be admired by London's elite.

Billy Crudup, in the title role, wears no protheses (though he does shave his head). As the clinician who became his protector describes the title character's deformities, Crudup distorts his body, his pace, and his speech. Later, at the moment of his death, he simply relaxes his face, and stretches out calmly onstage. The gesture draws gasps from the audience. As Stephen Sondheim wrote, "It's the little things...." And (judging by the buzz around me) audience members accepted both approaches as illuminating interpretations of the same play.

Similarly, there must be room for interpretation, and room for failure, if we want to see innovation in dance. I never heard Watermill booed, but then again, I've never seen it with more than a handful of fans rattling around the State Theatre. Thank you Mr. B., thank you Mr. R., for persevering, the one essential step from "flop" to "masterpiece."

#25 rubria

rubria

    New Member

  • New Member
  • Pip
  • 9 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 05:47 AM

it probably is a cultural issue as well, whether to boo or to sit out a performance. having attended performances in quite a few parts of the world (including north america, china and europe), i generally would say it is a matter of cultural attitudes...someone mentioned in one of the posts how fascinating a strong "theatrical" response can be - loud, over the top booing is probably taken less seriously in a country like italy, by both audience and performer and seen more as an act of participation in the artistic discourse that is being established. In germany wild shouting at the end of a performance ís likely to be regarded as offensive behaviour.
Personally i enjoy the italian way. i think if it is understood on both sides - performer and spectator - that this is a dynamic, enjoyable ritual with a spark of good humour all around, then booing is acceptable...and i would say it adds a lot of passion to the discussion, which is only to be encouraged.;)

#26 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,271 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 07:46 AM

rubria, I think it's also dependent on the culture. I think what you wrote is what my German friend meant by "Americans sleep" at the theater. We're very polite. We'll clap for anything and then tear it apart during intermissions :P That's one of the things that drives me crazy about audiences. There are times when you can feel that they hate the piece -- especially a new work -- There's no applause during the ballet, just a sulky silence, and then at the end there are bravos all over the place. A friend explained that she's clapping for the dancers, not the work, and I can understand (and respect) that, but a good boo or too would certainly break up the boredom.

#27 Manhattnik

Manhattnik

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 847 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 08:07 AM

If there were a way to clearly differentiate between booing the dancers and booing the choreographer, perhaps I might consider it. Or perhaps not; it's just Not Done here, usually. Besides, this is a season heavy with old and new Diamond Project ballets, and I'd never get over my laryngitis.

#28 glebb

glebb

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 807 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 05:52 PM

I couldn't wait for 'Russian Hamlet' to end, but I still had to get on my feet for the dancers. I wanted them to know how much I appreciated their beautiful dancing.

PS. I loved 'Red Giselle'.

#29 Morris Neighbor

Morris Neighbor

    Senior Member

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 140 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 09:25 PM

I like Robria's comments on cultural differences, which are clearly visible even in American audiences. I recall an interview with Virginia Johnson, Dance Theatre of Harlem's first prima ballerina. Describing one of the company's first performances, she said that the audience stood and cheered when she and the corps first rose on pointe. "We've got a lot of educating to do," she told herself, though she and her colleagues obviously came to enjoy the immediate and candid feed-back from their public. No doubt, this response helped shape the flamboyantly theatrical house style of DTH.

At the same time, total silence can be a tribute. I recall an exceptional performance of Concerto Barocco with Farrell, Martins, and Watts in the principal roles. The Adagio ended in total silence; Suzanne and Heather surely knew, as they extended elegantly sculptured palms, that some 2,000 people were sitting in them, spellbound.

On the downside, politesse demands applause for any new work. All those people spent so much time, the logic goes, so they deserve recognition, even if they really were wasting their time and ours (sigh).

#30 Estelle

Estelle

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,706 posts

Posted 01 May 2002 - 11:56 PM

I have very few memories of booing for POB performances (on the other hand, I've read it's quite common for opera productions at the Paris Opera- I don't know if it's because the audience has a different attitude, or because the opera productions are less good than the ballet ones!)

And the only real booing that I remember was a bit odd: it was for the creation by Odile Duboc on "Rhapsody in blue" a few seasons ago. It was not especially successful, and was not danced again after the season of its premiere. The dancers were applaused (a bit tepidly), and then a lady came on stage and was booed by one part of the audience. But she was not the choreographer but... the pianist. The choreographer herself didn't come. Either there were some problems with the pianist that I didn't notice, or (which seems more likely) one part of the audience erroneously though that she was the choreographer, and booed her because of that. It must be awfully frustrating to be booed because of such a mistake! :rolleyes:


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):