Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Alexandra

How Did You Discover Ballet? (was Audiences)

26 posts in this topic

Hello, All!

This is a continuation of the thread Ed Waffle started called Audiences, where many of us "confessed" to how we became interested in ballet. That thread has gotten so long, it takes a long time to load and is hard to read.

So please continue telling your stories here. Everyone is welcome! (as to all threads, of course).

Thanks,

alexandra

Share this post


Link to post

I was fortunate enough to grow up outside Washington, D.C. where the Kennedy Center offered a smorgasbord of dance at which to be an audience member, and my parents were very generous in making sure I saw some amazing performances and dance greats.

In first grade I had the option of choosing which after-school activity I wanted to take....French or ballet. For some reason I picked French class, though I have the strong suspicion this was not entirely my own choosing. The next year was ballet was the chosen activity. And the following years it was always my love/hate relationship with ballet. I loved it but I hated some of the things that came with it, like no evenings with friends, no playing outside after school, and tights. (I still hate tights.) I even survived the later school years where it was uncool to be in ballet, and trying to avoid walking with such a turnout, to avoid being beat up. I had no dream of being a ballerina. The back row was my world and the specialty roles written for the "tall girls on pointe" at school performances. And "tall girls on pointe" pretty much knew that it was the little ones in the front row that would have a shot at the big time while we struggled with our balance and our weekly height advancements. Ballet wasn't to be my world professionally, but it was an enjoyable past-time and interest.

Until we had the Russian guest teacher one semester. I believe she was Cruella Devil's Russian sister, but I could be wrong. She had a big stick, loud voice, and her teaching technique had nothing to do with correction, teaching, advancement and respect for the art, but rather humiliation, mental manipulation, pain, and power. One particularly nasty personal remark was the final straw for me, and I did the unthinkable; I walked out of the class, the school, and ballet. As an adult, I realize I should have said something to my parents at least, and more to the point, to the director of the school, because this sort of thing was so completely different the school's way of doing things. I think the director, a highly reputable woman who has turned out a large number of principal dancers in the top ballet companies, would have been heart broken to hear about this. But I am sure she would have put a stop to it.

After awhile, I was longing to return to the studio, so tried other forms of dance. And in college, even helped get a ballet class for non-theatre majors started, and then lobbied for permission for the technical theatre majors to be able to take it (no small task.)

I was always going to make theatre my life. And it's been many twists and turns, but lo, and behold, the theatre work I do is for dance. I started working for a modern dance company, and then various ballet companies. The discipline, language, appreciation and technique I learned many years ago at my ballet school is information I use daily. The people and organizations I would have dreamed about working with as a dancer, had I had such aspirations, I work with now. What was a pleasant part of my childhood is now my livelihood, and I am forever greatful to the wonderful woman and organization who treated the tall girls in the back row no differently then she did the front row.

I am, however, very careful around Russian teachers with sticks.

[This message has been edited by Barb (edited 12-09-98).]

Share this post


Link to post

As with the Audiences thread, I'm just posting something to bring this thread back up.

I had missed Barb's post before -- I enjoyed reading it very much, and hope your early training helps with the stick dodging!

For newcomers, feel free to continue posting here; and read the posts on the Audiences thread to find out how some of the people who've been with this board since it started (back in November) got into ballet.

To confuse things totally, there's a Please Introduce Yourself thread in Anything Goes. Post either place.

alexandra

Share this post


Link to post

Isn't it lovely to remember our the first time when ballet hit us straight through the heart and soul?

I remember sitting through Onegin... well I enjoyed it, more out of expectation (the thought of any of us girls not enjoying the ballet was scandulous... we were of course students of the dance!).

But right at the end.. I'm talking the part were Titania sends Eugene away... the very last movement onstage is Titania developing her arm towards the ceiling.

Well that just did me in. The eloquence of that single waif like arm and hand and the perfect expression of beng torn between adulthood and childhood passion on Justine Summers' face reduced me to tears... and I can't describe how that just appealed to me but I was in a trance for weeks afterward,. I would desperately take my place at the barre and work myself as hard as possible to give myself the chance of being able to do what Justine did.

Since then I have not been able to get enough of dance. I watch videos all the time, I save my money to go interstate to watch companies that never come to my home state (if I hadn't gone to melbourne when would I have seen NYCB? Never, probably!).

Its amazing how one can become a slave to dance from just one perfect movement.

I envy everyone that regularly gets to see any kind of dance (esecially you, Alexandra! nearly every night for years! My idea of heaven... *sighs dreamily*) and one day I will be financial enough to see more performances..

I love reading what everyone else has to say. And I know how you feel Barb- I am constantly relegated to the back row even though at 5"4 I'm not that tall, its just everyone else is younger than me! I could also share some horror stories about various teachers (one in particular who had a pin that she would poke you with if you weren't pulling something up well enough...) and I know I will never make a career of dance..

But its nice that we can all appreciate ballet no matter what our talents.

Share this post


Link to post

Okay, this is going to be B-O-R-I-N-G!! Anyway, I guess I just heard about dance through the grape vine. My parents and I spent a lot of time trying to find a dance studio. Then we found one and I'm now forever attached to ballet. Okay, there's my piece.

Share this post


Link to post

Okay, pdance, that's how you found the ballet studio, but why did you WANT to find the ballet studio? What made you want to take ballet?

And, by the way, I wanted to say this on another thread, after you'd posted that you'd been accepted at the Southern Ballet Theatre summer intensive, but I didn't post in time, and there were several other posts in between, but CONGRATULATIONS! Hope you get to go, too.

alexandra

alexandra

Share this post


Link to post

pdance, not boring at all, and quite delightful! Thank you for sharing with us!

Share this post


Link to post

Katharyn wrote: "The eloquence of that single waif like arm and hand and the perfect expression of beng torn between adulthood and childhood passion on Justine Summers' face reduced me to tears... and I can't describe how that just appealed to me but I was in a trance for weeks afterward..."

and also: "Since then I have not been able to get enough of dance."

and furthermore: "Its amazing how one can become a slave to dance from just one perfect movement."

While there are a lot of great posts on this board, the one I excerpt really hit me because it is such a beautiful validation of my own feelings, both of obsession and that the obsession can come from that perfect moment, a moment that may be missed or just not as obvious to other people watching.

There is another thread "Spine tingling moments" which is seems to be about spine tingling moments in Giselle. But Katharyn's post brings back that one, essential, never to be forgotten time when suddenly the world of beauty and grace just opened up, became transparent where it had been opaque, the "shock of recognition" that this had been here for you all along and you are finally discovering it.

And it is always (for me at least) as Katharyn describes it--the eloquent action displaying the emotional content of the character and resonating emotionally in us.

THIS is how you go to the ballet (or opera or anything else worthwhile) and this is what can lead to hours spent walking and talking after a particularly moving performance, shocked that you were there, IN THE SAME ROOM as an artist who was able to touch you so deeply and seeminly with such graceful ease.

Share this post


Link to post

Beautifully done, from both Ed and Katharyn. It is amazing, isn't it, that it's often that "perfect moment" -- and it can be an arm, a glance,, the way a head is inclined, a look of despair or love -- is often what one remembers from a ballet, not the multiple pirouettes and high leaps?

Alexandra

Share this post


Link to post

I first saw a Christian dance company perform when I was five and fell in love with it. I became driven to take lessons there. I became a part of that same company five years later and am still a part of that company today! Alexandra: I hope I get to go to SBT too, but like I said before: it all depends on scholarship!

PS: sorry for the delayed reply!

[This message has been edited by pdance (edited 03-15-99).]

Share this post


Link to post

I saw my firstlive ballet performance on April 23, 1944!! It was by Ballet Theatre (as it was then called)at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York..The program opened with "Les Sylphides" with Markova and Dolin, followed by "Fancy Free"(its 3rd performance!) with the marvelous original cast of John Kriza, Harold Lang, Jerome Robbins, Janet Reed, Muiriel Bentley (who died just recently), Shirley Eckl and Rex Cooper. The closing ballet was "The Fair at Sorochinsk" with Andre Eglevsky and Anton Dolin (dancing on pointe)

Share this post


Link to post

This is for Atm711. If you don't mind, would you please say more about your first performance. I would love to hear anything you can say about Fancy Free, especially. I have read that the first night the audience went wild--did they when you saw it? And any details you remember about the performance, about Markova and Dolin. Thanks in advance. Mary

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for filling in the gaps, pdance. I asked, because it seemed, from your first post, that you went to take lessons first, and then became interested. (Which sometimes happens.) But most people see something they love and that makes them go to the ballet and now we know what you saw. It must be nice to be able to take part in what inspired you! (Hope you found the smilies. If not, email me)

ATM711, what a debut! I'm sure most of us are seething with jealousy (I know I am.) You started going at just the right time to have seen almost everything that's been important in America's ballet history, and I fervently hope you'll keep us entertained with more. Did you stick with Ballet Theatre, or go see everything? (And you can remind us how much ticket prices were then, too). A very hearty welcome.

Alexandra

Share this post


Link to post

Nutshell Version: Saw Alicia Alonso & the Ballet Nacional de Cuba perform in my native San Juan, Puerto Rico, in August 1978. The troupe performed four divertissement programs, with Alicia dancing excerpts from Carmen, Swan Lake and Giselle. All seats were sold-out way in advance. I went with my parents to the opening night, for which we had good seats. I was so enthralled that I bought standing room for the other three nights, going by myself & screaming "Bravo!" each night til I lost my voice. The rest is ballet-madness history!

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for your kind interest. I saw the third performance of Fancy Free (with Bernstein in the pit) and all the performances were greeted raucously! but for sheer noise nothing can top the debut of the Sadler's Wells' Sleeping Beauty. The "Old Met" had standing room for $1.80 in the orchestra and we lined up at 12 noon for the evening performance. It's true--when Fonteyn made her entrance the applause sounded all through her first variation. In those days we did not have the abundance of dance companies that we have today...but what we saw!!! Alonso-Youskevitch Giselle - breathtaking. (I cannot bear to watch the later videos of Alonso in Giselle--not even a shadow of what her Giselle was) Nora Kaye in "Pillar of Fire" and the early Rosella Hightower (I never forgave her for going to Europe - the best Myrtha, ever. We saw Balanchine with the Denham Ballet Russe and we were there for the beginning of New York City Ballet, starting with Ballet Society. Here I must confess we went up the fire escapes of the City Center to see the performances-- since they were all subscription and no one had that kind of money!

performances

Share this post


Link to post

atm711....Tell us more, pleeeease!!

Giannina

Share this post


Link to post

Hi, I am Irina's daughter. My first ballet teacher used to sing a song called There was a Pretty Princess every day at the end of class. The song was about the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and my classmates and I got to dance the roles. At 6 years old I thought it was very romantic and I dreamed of being able to do it on a big stage in a pretty costume. I had no idea of how to get there. I continued to take ballet classes basically because of this.

I probably really started to fall in love with ballet when I was 11 and I met my first serious ballet teacher. I remember watching her perform The Dying Swan from the wings with my friends and she was so beautiful. The music seemed to be a part of her and she brought so much of her soul into it that it made me emotional just watching her. I cried for the dying swan. At that moment I decided that I would put all my heart into trying to become the kind of ballerina that she was. I worked with her nearly every day for the next 4 years and tried to learn everything that I could from her that would bring me closer to the kind of ballerina that I wanted to be, and she taught me so much.

[This message has been edited by Irina (edited April 09, 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Irina (edited April 11, 1999).]

Share this post


Link to post

I first heard about dance from my mother, who studied as a child with Vasilieff (sp?), Jacqueline Schumacher, Madame Alexandra Fedorova,and took class with Igor Youskevitch and the Ballet Theatre when they were the visiting company. She then married and had a family, rather than continue with ballet. She introduced me to it when i was very young.

The first ballet i saw was Giselle with Carla Franke (sp?) when i was about 4-5. I remember very little, except i wanted to take ballet! (and the teacher said not until i was 8) *vsf*. She took me to see Cynthia Gregory in Copellia the following year, and i absolutely loved everything about it! - Cynthia was my idol for many years thereafter. She also took me to see Swan Lake with Natalia Makarova, but Cynthia Gregory did the performance. Everyone we went with seemed so upset that Makarova wasn't in the role that night, except my mom. I was just plain in awe, she was the most beautiful dancer i ever saw do this role (maybe just because i was so young and impressionable, but no one has come close to her performance for me). The teacher finally relented at 7 years old, and allowed me to take class. I am still in love with Ballet, and am way too isolated here in the Islands.. Cant' wait to move back to the mainland" - *S*

Aloha

[This message has been edited by Lugo (edited April 09, 1999).]

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks Giannina. My introduction to ballet was via the film company, Warner Bros. They filmed two of Massine's ballets, "Gaite Parisienne" and "Capriccio Espanol". I was mesmerized by the hypnotic stare of Massine in "Capriccio". If you have never seen these two films (made in 1941) I would urge you to seek them out. You can imagine my joy only a few years later when I "supered" at the old "Met" in a production of Petrouchka, with Massine-- and Eglevsky as the Blackamoor, and Lucia Chase as the Ballerina...Ballet Theatre was considered a very glamorous company then--lots of guest stars, but we longed to see our favorite "home growns" like Alonso and Nora Kaye and a dancer you don't hear too much about nowadays- John Kriza. I was not a fan of Alicia Markova, she and Dolin were well passed their prime, even then. I am still an avid ballet-goer and generally seek out Nina Ananiashvilli and Wendy Whelan.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks Giannina. My introduction to ballet was via the film company, Warner Bros. They filmed two of Massine's ballets, "Gaite Parisienne" and "Capriccio Espanol". I was mesmerized by the hypnotic stare of Massine in "Capriccio". If you have never seen these two films (made in 1941) I would urge you to seek them out. You can imagine my joy only a few years later when I "supered" at the old "Met" in a production of Petrouchka, with Massine-- and Eglevsky as the Blackamoor, and Lucia Chase as the Ballerina...Ballet Theatre was considered a very glamorous company then--lots of guest stars, but we longed to see our favorite "home growns" like Alonso and Nora Kaye and a dancer you don't hear too much about nowadays- John Kriza. I was not a fan of Alicia Markova, she and Dolin were well passed their prime, even then. I am still an avid ballet-goer and generally seek out Nina Ananiashvilli and Wendy Whelan.

Share this post


Link to post

atm711, I remember John Kriza. I was very young (pre- and/or early teens) when he was dancing with Ballet Theatre and they'd visit San Francisco. My favorite ballet at the time was "Fancy Free" (I still love it) and it was a treat when he was in it. He seemed more dashing than the others, especially Youskovich (spelling). I still have some programs from those old Ballet Theatre productions, and it was fun to watch the kids from San Francisco Ballet school (where I studied...in vain) enter the corps of Ballet Theatre.

Giannina

Share this post


Link to post

Well, this is going to be a little B-O-R-I-N-G too. We put Lexi in dance to help her overcome her shyness. She has been in since Sept 98 and loves it. She won't even play t-ball or soccer!!!! I think it is a great way to help kids spread their wings.

God Bless,

kim

Share this post


Link to post

Well, I don't know if anyone will see this, but my parents took me along to the ballet school when they signed my sister up for ballet. the receptionist (who only very recently left the school) said that there was a boys' class and asked if I would like to dance, too. I said yes, so my mom signed me up, too. I enjoyed class, but I didn't become really serious until I was about 10. That's when I could really understand the technique and the work that was involved in becoming a dancer. However, I didn't really understand the art of ballet itself until I went to a summer program taught by Suzanne Farrell. She taught me that it's not just technique; it's emotion and passion. You have to put 100% of yourself into every performance, and that is what will not only captivate the audience, but provide a catharsis for you, the dancer, as well. Now, I compare the emotion and passion of every dancer I see to Ms. Farrell, and I have yet to find one who actually puts all of her/himself into every single thing s/he does. Several people come close, and many move so beautifully that it's hard to take my eyes off of them, but I don't think that anyone quite embodies this ideal of dedication that Ms. Farrell exemplifies. (Well...Kyra Nichols and Alexandra Danilova come close smile.gif)

Share this post


Link to post

I didn't even sign up for my first ballet class! My friend was shy and her mom thought ballet would help. She wouldn't go alone, so she signed me up, too. I was on vacation! I was only 4 at the time. I don't know if she is still dancing but because of that class I decided I wanted to be a ballet dancer and haven't changed my mind since. Also, when I was about ten and a half my mom took me to see Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty and I loved it. From then on I've always wanted to be Aurora. (hence my e-mail address Aurora314). I'm 15 now and I'm still dancing.

Share this post


Link to post

Lauren, did you know that supposedly Pavlova decided to become a ballet dancer when her mother took her to see the Sleeping Beauty? As I recall, her mother asked her if she would like to be like one of the dancers in the group (the corps), and she said, no, she wanted to be like Aurora. Who did you see do Aurora? Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0