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Leigh Witchel

"I could just go home now. . ."

23 posts in this topic

Have you ever been to a ballet where something happens that seems so utterly right that you'd almost rather the program ended there? I can think of several happy times when I thought, "That was just marvelous. Maybe I should just go home now!" I usually stay though, being one who believes in getting full value out of a ticket.

So when did you feel like that? Did you leave or stay, and was it the right thing to do?

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Originally posted by Leigh Witchel:

So when did you feel like that?  Did you leave or stay, and was it the right thing to do?

It's never happened to me, but I know what I'd do.

About 20 years ago, the theatre critic of the Tampa Tribune asked in print, "When you go to the theatre, are you expecting it to change your life?" To me, the answer is "yes". Those moments to which you refer are the reason we go to the theatre.

. . .And why would we stay after seeing one?

Because there might be another one coming up.

[ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: salzberg ]

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I agree with Jeff. I'm greedy. If the first one's great, the second one just has to be greater. Often, I can't sort out the "good-better-best-awful" part until I get home, so leaving early (putting aside the fact that it's pretty rude to do if one has press tickets; I know that wasn't part of Leigh's question, but even if I loathe the first one and have every expectation that that is only a taste of what is to come I stay put.)

I have made the decision not to go back for a second performance of the same cast in a ballet because I didn't want to spoil my first view. It was a ballet I do not particularly like -- MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" -- with Nureyev and Park (who took the "Doomed Youth, struck down by fate" approach) one night and Seymour and Wall (the "young lovers who have no idea that it will all go wrong" approach) I was so caught up in BOTH performances, found both so perfect (yes, I'm sure that Park was nothing like Fonteyn) and so different that I passed on an opportunity to see those casts again. Of course, not going means you don't know whether you made the right decision.

What Jeff said reminds me of a regular balletgoer in D.C. whom we called "The Chinese Gentlemen" because we didn't know his name. He went to every performance (with a stopwatch. He clocked every ballet and wrote down the results). Once a friend of mine overheard someone asking him why he went every night, and he replied, "Because it is impossible to predict which night will be great." Very wise words.

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Well, if the first thing on the program was, say, Mozartiana with, say, Kyra, and the second was, say, Stabat Mater, and the third, say, Moves, well....

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Manhattnik, in theory, I agree, but in practice, I've had to go to so many programs that I thought I'd hate, and only to be plesaantly surprised, and seen so many dancers I thought I didn't like, or didn't find interesting, only to have them prove me wrong -- or, at least, be miraculously "properly cast" in this or that particular role -- that I'd stick it out (if it were the same cast I'd seen before on a program such as you described, if I were going as a civilian, I might join you :) )

[ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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In the far distant past when I first started going to the ballet (back when dinosours wore tutus and toe shoes) I couldn't wait to get back to the theater to see the same cast the next performance. It was like being in love--I resented the time away from the theater and couldn't imagine why anyone would want to talk about anything else.

We would often walk for miles after a particularly thrilling performance--not just ballet, of course, but opera or the symphony--talking about it and basically congratulating ourselves for being lucky enough to have been in the audience that night.

And much like Alexandra's precise Chinese Gentleman, I still always expect something wonderful to happen at the theater--I go prepared to be transported and thrilled and when I am, want to return immediately.

One of the many ways that we judge performances is asking if we would sit through them again, as soon as the final curtain. If it were possible for the artists, would you pull out your wallet and pay to watch the same people perform the same work, seeing and hearing it from the same seat?

Whenever it is one of those really sublime nights the answer is yes.

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i've never actually gone home half way through a program, but on one occassion at a pacific northwest rep. program i opted to stay in the lobby talking to a friend than watch another kent stowell piece.

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Most of the times I've left the theater early have more to do with fear or boredom with what's to come rather than delight at what's just past. I remember this Bejart concert, ages ago....

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Ooooh, you have just got me to admit a great luxury, a sinful indulgence--I adore leaving the theater after a great performance of something I love--I also like to leave after a premiere, if the dance is something I want to hold in my mind. Whatever I see last seems to sink in all night long. Sometimes I go expecting to leave after a dance (or two) and sometimes I sit there thinking, "It doesn't get better than this," and float off into the night.

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With the option of free standing room, I left every performance of "Sleeping Beauty" after Act I. I really just wanted to see the technical interpretation of the different Auroras and new nothing else further on in the ballet would test them like Act I. But I had that luxury. It was great.

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Originally posted by LMCtech:

With the option of free standing room, I left every performance of "Sleeping Beauty" after Act I. I really just wanted to see the technical interpretation of the different Auroras and new nothing else further on in the ballet would test them like Act I. But I had that luxury. It was great.

I hope you stick around for the whole thing if a truly great ballerina is ever in town, because the test for Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is to see her "mature." I've seen several Auroras who were breathtakingly different from act to act. I agree that that doesn't happen so often today, but I live in hope.

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I think you find out a lot more about an Aurora in Act III. All I learn from the Rose Adagio is if she can balance. The Act III variation is simple, but it takes an artist to do it well.

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If Margot Fonteyn were living and dancing, I would stay to watch Sleeping Beauty!! I came to ballet very, very late in life and I am regretting a lot. I saw her once with Nureyev in Manilla of the Filipines. Ballet was Swan Lake, and no dry eyes from people! Someone in lobby told me about how Sleeping Beauty grew up through evening but I never saw it.

Money is hard for me to use for ballet so I stay no matter if I have bad feeling from act 1. Sometime I am wrong and ballet is great!! But maybe bad! :) That is part of fun about ballet for me.

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I was thinking here of leaving a mixed bill. For a full length story ballet, you do have to see how character develops. (Leaving because something was bad wasn't the issue here, we will recall.) Not only Aurora matures from act to act--I think Giselle does, too. And there are other characters one would like to see over the full course of a narrative.

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Well, actually, just last week, after the kiddie corps debuts in Divertimento No. 15, I split. I suppose I would've stayed had there been something really compelling on the program, but the truth of the matter was, I didn't need to. I'd already gotten my money's worth.

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I would leave early because the performance is not what was expected. I have never been to a performance so wonderful that I wanted to leave early, and keep myself in a good mood. I makes sense, though: "If I stay any longer, something might go wrong, and that would spoil the whole evening!" I have only experienced that thought once, but I stayed for the rest of the show. Sleeping Beauty with a 'Russian Ensemble' company, Zelensky and Makarova, together. It got better every second. The mannerisms were just as I hope, and even better! Makarova's arms flowing in a fashion of tranquil dignity, that I knew I would never see anything like again! I left the theatre in the best mood I had been for ages!

[ 05-12-2001: Message edited by: ~A.C~ ]

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When I went to see Ballet West in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the first act was so "complete" for me, that I had a slightly difficult time sitting through the second act! I really could have gone home after the first act and still have felt that I saw the complete ballet. I am very familiar with the play and realize what is transpiring in the second act - but for me the first act was perfect in it's self!

When I originally posted about this performance, I was hoping to find out how others felt about both acts, but since not even ONE person responded to that post..........., oh well! :)

As far as mixed bills go, I agree with Lezhkina - money is tight for me (for ballet tickets), so I doubt that I would ever walk out mid-way through the evening. I really want to see "Theme & Variations this month, but it is on the same bill as "Black Cake" and "Polish Pieces", both of which I have NO burning desire to see (also with a wedding comming up in October that I have to foot the bill for, there will be NO ballet tickets for me again until "Nutcracker" time rolls around again!!) :)

[ 05-13-2001: Message edited by: Yvonne ]

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So far, I've never walked out of a full length ballet, but I HAVE sat out a middle ballet of a triple or quadruple bill. I do have a list of ballets I never want to see again. Obviously, if they are full length ballets I just don't buy a ticket. If they appear as part of a mixed bill, the foyer is a great option. When I worked at Covent Garden and standing was free, I only stayed for the parts/casts I was interested in. Sometimes I go in just to watch one variation. Now that I don't have that luxury, I have to be more picky about what I buy tickets for. Standing room at ABT is now $20, so one wouldn't spend that money just to see some corps kid get her big chance at a small role.

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Originally posted by Yvonne:

[QB]W

When I originally posted about this performance, I was hoping to find out how others felt about both acts, but since not even ONE person responded to that post..........., oh well

Well, here, in a better late than never response: I know just what you mean. The first act is a whole world, complete. I always stay for the second act, and I am always surprised that I am enjoying it so much after the transports of the first. But if there were only the first act, Midsummer would still be my favorite story ballet. (Don't throw vegetables at me, traditionalists!) The second would not be my favorite anything, just a very good dance.

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Thanks Nanatchka! I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who felt that way about the first act! :) :)

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I didn't like the first act at all the first time I saw it. I was with a friend, and both of us actually started laughing at the musical juxtaposition when the second act began. While this will never be either my favorite Balanchine or my favorite "Midsummer," I've come to like the second act, and see how it's related to the first. It's a kind of abstract apotheosis. All those mismatches have been put right. It's the glorification of love, and human love (as opposed to magic love or fairy love.) In the original cast (which I didn't see) it seems that Balanchine was also making a point, that two mismatched halves can make a whole. (Oberon and Tatania are short/tall; in the second act pas de deux, I believe it was Verdy and Ludlow, the opposite, and more usual, short woman/tall man). This doesn't necessarily make the act more likable, if one doesn't like it, but it isn't as tacked on to fill out an evening, as I had once thought.

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The only performance I have ever walked out on was Netherlands Danz Theater. It was very expensive too because we had wonderful tickets and hotel room for the night just for this performance. We had travelled over a 100 miles to see the company.

But, the music was miked and was so loud that my husband and I left - as did quite a number of other people in the audience. Sad to say.

Basheva

[ 05-14-2001: Message edited by: ORZAK ]

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Here's a switch: I used to go in late. Ruth Page's "Nutcracker" used to be headed up for the first three or four perfomances each season by a couple of Balanchine's dancers, and after checking out the whole production, which made me groan inwardly, I would go back on later nights to go in at intermission, because I had discovered that when the curtain went up, Patricia McBride would be standing still at the back more effectively than anyone else had moved in Act I. For her pas de deux with Helgi Tomasson I could endure the rest of Page's Act II; and the one-ballet-a-year crowd in the huge Arie Crown Theatre at the McCormick Place convention center would bring the house down another year when Peter Martins uncorked a cavalier's variation (unseen in New York) on the huge stage, built for automobile shows. (His dancing-thistle partner was Violette Verdy.) To see even a little bit of dancing like this without having to get on a plane and rent a hotel room was a marvel.

But I have left after the first ballet even when I thought the rest of the program would be worthy. The instance that comes to mind was "Mozartiana", not with Kyra, but with Suzi; expecting that the "Fancy Free" scheduled to follow it would get a bang-up performance, I made my way to the coat room in the New York State Theatre and found a lot of my friends and some people we didn't know were there, too, none of us being in the mood for being banged up, and all of us feeling we had got more than our money's worth. "Now I could just go home?" Okay, but, maybe, "Now I can die." We felt we were already in heaven, and we wanted to stay there for as long as we could.

But I have felt that the last acts of Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Harlequinade" don't go easily with the first acts, which are complete in themselves in that the situations in them are resolved. But I stay: The invention in them, and the execution of it, was better than you got most other places, and they achieved ballet's purpose, too, if less intensely.

What's ballet for? someone asked Mr. B. when the discussion had already established the costs of ballet in terms of physical rigor and financial expenditure. "It makes people happy." Who can argue with that?

We're all different, and what makes us happy will be different; our different experience - not only in the theatre, but reading and listening outside it - eventually tells us when going is likely to be a good time, when not. We might miss something, but I've found selectiveness has a benefit for me: To some extent, the less I see, the more I remember.

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