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Learning to "watch" a ballet performance


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 10 November 2003 - 10:30 PM

BW, thanks for reviving the thread -- I'd be curious to know what Treefrog, especialy, thinks of this question NOW (and you as well, BW).

And, since it's the start of a new season, it's a good topic to bring up. We can start it over, if you like -- forget what we wrote last time. Take it from the top: how do you watch ballet? (Remembeirng, always, that it's perfectly ok to go and have fun and not worry about why, but for those who do....) How has your watching ballet changed over the years -- that's another way to get at this question. What can you/do you see now that you didn't before?

#17 Treefrog

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Posted 30 November 2003 - 11:57 AM

Thank you for the invitation, Alexandra. I'm sorry I've left this hanging so long.

As you have all hinted, learning to "watch" a ballet -- as opposed to just "absorbing" it -- takes a while. Over the last year I've been to maybe ten or twelve performances, including five major companies (Bolshoi, Joffrey, ABT, NYCB, Ballet Nacional de Cuba). I've learned something new every time.

Overall, I'm more confident than I was. I know what I like and don't like, and I have ideas about why -- sometimes just glimmers, sometimes very firm, concrete ideas. Being someone who thrives on external motivation, it heartens me when people on Ballet Talk agree with me. It seems to validate my ideas, so I can spend less time worrying if I got it "right" and more time contemplating what it was I did or didn't like. (One example is loving Maria Alexandrova -- who was just one of a number of soloists the night I saw her, so I felt like I was picking her out of a crowd -- then coming back to the board and finding previous posts about her that mirrored my feelings. Now when I'm taken with a dancer or a performance, I trust the feeling more.)

My continuing frustration is that I lack a vocabulary to encode what I've seen. As a consequence, I cannot form detailed memories, and I have trouble describing particular scenes or choreography. Where I described the overall feeling of "Les Noces", someone (Paul Parish, maybe?) mentioned an important part of the choreography that contributed to that feeling. I'd love to be able to get to the point where I can consistently remember details, large and small.

By the way, I never did get to implement my Nutcracker plan. I did go to see it six times last year, but the luck of the draw handed me the same cast all but one time!

#18 Justdoit

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Posted 01 December 2003 - 09:20 AM

I have conceded that knowing all there is to know about the art form of ballet will never be possible. I am happy to learn as I go, learning alittle bit here and there. Awhile ago I logically justified my ongoing ballet ignorance by deciding that knowing too much might interfere with the pure enjoyment of the performance. I found when I began looking for technical details I was also missing the total visual package created by the music and movement. Being a very visual, and only somewhat analythical learner, for me ballet is like watching a beautiful painting come to life. I also enjoy thinking about what the choreographer heard in the music and why he/she chose that movement for that count. I also find what others have to say about what they are seeing to be very enlightening and interesting. Case in point: the fact that I have enjoyed reading this thread. Of course, a certain level of technique is expected at the professional level. But, when I go to the ballet, for me it's ultimately all about being entertained/moved by the mood set by the composer, choreographer and performers.

And, so, the average audience member has spoken! One of those who watches the face and not the feet!

Thanks for reviving this thread, I didn't see it the first time around and really enjoyed it's content.


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