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Ed Waffle

Booing at the ballet???

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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 :) 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.

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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.

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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'.

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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).

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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:

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i recall a performance of ruth page's 'bolero', a somewhat unusual staging which involved a young man taking his pick of comely ladies in a brothel and a mysterious young woman who enters at first all covered up, being greeted after one performance with *literal* vegetables being thrown at the performers!

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Well, apparently there was plenty of booing, hissing, stomping and screaming at the Bolshoi Theatre during the Benois de la Danse Gala last Saturday. When one of the ballets up for The Best New Choreography (or some such thing), a piece by Belgian Jan Fabre (sp?), called something like "My movements are as lonely as stray dogs", turned out to be a prolonged session of, I don't quite know how to put it, self-love, complete with drooling, screaming, and actual stuffed dogs (don't ask), the audience erupted in loud boos, began to stomp it's feet, screams of "get off the stage", "Shame", "Shame, Grigorovich" (it's basically his show) were heard, and the Minister of Culture actually walked out, as did many other people.

The second scandal of the evening occurred when it was announced that the much reviled Anastasia Volochkova was being presented with the Benois de la Danse prize for the Best Female Performance (for her turn as Odette-Odile in Grigorovich's Swan Lake). The entire audience fell into a deafening silence and then again came the booing, the stomping, and screams of protest.

Aurelie Dupont (the co-winner of the dubious prize) was greeted by loud cheers, bravas, and very vigorous applause.

The other nominees were Kirov's Svetlana Zakharova and Natalia Sologub.

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I haven't seen any work by Jan Fabre, but what I've read about his works (often performed in France) looked a bit similar to what you depicted.

Recently, one of his works in Avignon was called "Je suis sang" (I am blood) and included quite a lot of (fake) blood, nudity, people doing a (fake) circumcision, etc. Not very surprising if some people booed! Actually, the Benois de la Danse look a bit odd: isn't it a bit strange to mix classical productions and such modern works?

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I haven't ever felt the need to boo (yet) and on occasion I'll withhold applause. I do feel catty about the ROH orchestra though, which can be exceptional on opera nights, and truely awful, not even trying on ballet ones as was evident in the last couple R&Js I've just seen. The rest of the audience just loves them though. Didn't they hear those duff notes?!!

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The only time I can remember more than an isolated boo at the Royal Ballet was at the first night of Kenneth MacMillan's full length Anastasia, and it was rather pointless as no-one knew if it was directed against the 2 new acts or the existing 3rd act, or both.

I do sometimes boo myself, but only very, very quietly.

Sylvia, I do agree about the ROH orchestra - they sounded far better at Trovatore on Wednesday than at R&J on Tuesday.

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Roma's comments are a warning about audience expectations as defined by style. If people are expecting classical dance -- with technique, style, musicality, and emotion -- they are likely to reject self-indulgent displays. Classical companies who stray into avant-garde non-dance have earned the scorn they get. But we do need to keep an open door here, and classic technique is unquestionably essential.

There are many ways to legitimately expand the classical vocabulary. (NYCB's Diamond Project is a case in point.) There are differences in national styles and tastes (truth be told, I have never understood the parallel that Nureyev saw between Henry James and Charles Ives), but we can all benefit from exploring the differences, the simililarities, the drama, and the humor of this situation, and from exchanging our views.

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In today's New York Times, there's an interesting article by Anthony Tommasini on Luciano Pavarotti, whose great career is coming to a somewhat ignominious end. Pavarotti withdrew from a scheduled performance of Tosca on Wednesday night. a fact posted on bulletin boards in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House.

"But when Joseph Volpe, the Met's general manager, went onstage before the performance to make it official, the pent-up anger spilled out and he was greeted by vociferous boos. Looking just like a modern-day operatic villain in his stylish suit and trim goatee, he said, 'Boo some more, if it makes you feel better.'"

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I have never really booed anyone during ballet. In fact, I am a very quiet and hmmm... timid person. If I really think a ballet is aweful or worse boring (i rather sleep at home), I choose not to applaud.

One memory I have of someone booing at someone I know was during my early days at the opera for youth (actually, its operette, a bit of a mix between a musical and a play with lots of dance). One of our lead singers, who had a really gifted voice, got sick during performing and she could not make most of the high notes. The poor girl was booed of stage and it really devastated her. We had to look for an alternative singer because she was in no shape to perform the 4 days we had left.

I guess that has really affected how I react to either performers or producers. Perhaps I am just a wee bit too sensitive :)

Peace,

Farieda

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I don't think I have ever booed a ballet performance--in fac t, I saw the 'Pied Piper' last year at ABT and did not Boo---I never realized I had that much restraint.

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Years ago my daughter went on a school trip to a Royal Ballet Schools matinee of Sleeping Beauty. Belinda Hatley was dancing one of the fairies and slipped and fell during the fairies entrance. As my daughter is also called Belinda she has always taken a particular interest in Belinda Hatley and she was horrified that the audience - consisting mostly of primary school aged children - proceeded to boo for the next ten minutes or so every time Belinda Hatley danced. Initially I shared her reaction but, on reflection, I wondered whether there was some interest to seeing how an unconditioned audience reacted to such an event however much I might sympathise with the dancers.

Adults react in a rather more subtle way but I also found it very interesting when I went to a Royal Ballet performance of La Bayadere in the autumn. A well known teacher from the Royal Ballet School was sitting a few rows in front of us and it was noticeable that she applauded some but not others of the principal dancers.

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I, too, cannot recall actively booing a professional dance or theatre performance, though I do engage in selective applause and cheering, to give credit to artists who gave exceptional performances. While every performer deserves polite applause for a professional effort, those who go further deserve special recognition. On the other hand, there's what a friend calls "The Hamburger Test": would you rather see the next act or get a hamburger? Every few years, I do walk out, discreetly, at intermission.

When it comes to slips and falls -- well, they can happen to anyone. Every great dancer is pushing the laws of physics and biology to the limit, and I've seen many of them hit the deck. (Peter Martins once described the act of partnering Suzanne Farrell as "utterly terrifying," since he had no idea what she might try, though he could almost always rescue her, with gallant grace.)

Maybe it's just a New York phenomenon, but when a dancer falls here, there is always a gasp from the public. If she returns (as is usually the case; a dancer smart enough to just collapse on her tusch will do much less harm to herself than one who tries to fight gravity), she will get a round of applause, and extra applause at the curtain call. I guess we value resilience, this year more than ever.

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I once yelled "demasiado" at a dancer who was battering an (already dead) chicken onstage at tTheater Artaud here... He''s a famous surrealist from mexico, and , I don't know whether he understood me or I understood him, I actually felt like he was ASKING for the audience to tell him to stop, so I did, and he DID stop.....

I dont know how I kept myself from booing Preljocaj's ROmeo and Juliet, which was set in a concentration camp and was patrolled by a Doberman Pjinscher (a very beautiful DOberman) on a leash on a guard-tower sort of catwalk; the whole production was dazzling and horrifying and fantastically well danced..... all my female friends thought it was great, and was all about the war in Bosnia, and I felt like I'd been beaten up.......

with respect to falling, Elizabeth Loscavio, whom I adored, used to fall all the time, and bounce right back up, and never stop dancing...... she fell once outdoors, in the rain, doing fouettes in BAllo della Reginaand was right back up and turning some more, never lost her phrasing-- I LOVE that kind of dancing......

the thing was, it didn't faze her, she wasn't embarrassed, or shocked, or self-conscious about it; she was aljmost like a cartoon character, you know how tom and jerry pancake against the wall, and are right back at it after a beat passes... it really only bothers ME if it bothers them....

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Ed Waffle wrote: So did I. Pet murder to express displeasure is going way to far.

I agree!!!

I also do not boo at ballets if I don't like them, I just do not clap.

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At the Closing Night Gala last Saturday, there were no boos directed at Volpe, presumably because the audience was well-prepared for the cancellation and the Met had gone out of its way to Concorde in the up-and-coming Salvatore Licitra from Milan. Of Licitra, they tell the story that he was booed at La Scala after the "Di quella pirra" in Trovatore which traditionally ends with some ringing high Cs. Licitra didn't do the high Cs because they're an interpolation and Muti, the conductor, believes in following the original score. Muti's predilections in this regard are well known so in theory the audience should have booed him rather than Licitra but I guess the Italians didn't see it that way.

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