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Booing at the ballet???


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#31 BW

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Posted 23 April 2002 - 03:22 PM

I have to say that I throw my lot in with Doris R. and if I'm really unimpressed, I try to imagine myself up there doing whatever it is that they were doing.:eek:

All right, the truth be known, I do withhold my applause on occasion. The whole idea of booing a performance reminds me of a scene from Fellini's Satyricon, or perhaps big time wrestling.

#32 Farrell Fan

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Posted 21 April 2002 - 05:21 PM

I've never booed a performer at the ballet, but I felt like booing the choreographer Angelin Preljocaj at the NYCB premiere of La Stravaganza a few years ago. Now I'm sorry I restrained myself --they're bringing it back! The booing of Heather Watts was led in print by Arlene Croce. It shouldn't have happened. The worst booing I ever heard at NYCB was when the curtain came down on Balanchine's Don Quixote and Robbins' Watermill during their first seasons. But the booing stopped when the dancers came out.

I confess I once booed the great Franco Corelli at the opera. It was a performance of Turandot with the even greater Birgit Nillson. Corelli had good looks and the greatest tenor voice since Jussi Bjorling, but his stage deportment was atrocious. In the final scene of Turandot, while Nillson descended a long staircase, he waited for her at the bottom, with his arms folded and looking bored out of his skull. When she arrived, he kicked the train of her dress out of his way and began the love duet, facing the audience and holding her at arm's length. After the performance, when he took a solo call, I booed. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, but I've been sorry ever since. He was a magnificent singer and reportedly suffered from terrible stage fright.

#33 Farrell Fan

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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.

#34 Farrell Fan

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 07:58 AM

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.'"

#35 Doris R

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Posted 23 April 2002 - 02:33 PM

What wonderful posts! I myself do not boo, (nor hiss I have a slight lisp and this would sound really terrible!) But as I said in the "Bravo" posts I smile and applaud loud and long when I'm pleased, so I applaud politely and try to afix a proper facial expression when I'm not.

#36 Guest_cjoddy_*

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 01:29 PM

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.

#37 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 09:06 PM

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....

#38 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 23 April 2002 - 10:41 PM

Like other members, I never boo a dancer, on the grounds that he or she had given a "best effort," though I have withheld applause.

Heather Watts is a case in point. She rose to prominence as what baseball calls a "utility player": she could dance almost any ballerina role with great skill if not total mastery, and on very short notice. As she matured as an artist her gift for modern and dramatic roles became clear, and her performances in other roles deteriorated. For instance, I once saw a Swan Lake she more or less phoned in. [sentence deleted by Alexandra] Add her mercurical temperament, and you have the recipe for a controversial star.

But I digress. I might withhold applause from an inadequate performer, and (in cases where such folks appear onstage) boo a conductor who lost all co-ordination with the stage, designers who left performers in the dark, or a director who pursued a wildly wrong-headed concept (like Carmen in Franco's Spain).

On the proper occasion, I will stand and cheer. But I insist on keping a sense of proportion.

#39 Morris Neighbor

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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."

#40 Morris Neighbor

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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).

#41 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 05:58 PM

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.

#42 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 04 May 2002 - 06:12 PM

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.

#43 balletstar18

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Posted 21 April 2002 - 04:25 PM

Performers have put in years of hard work, classses, failures and rejection to reach the moment when they're onstage in front of an audience. However much a performance I've just witnessed was disappointing to me, it helps me to think about how much work they must have put into that, and I assume they made their best attempt at the role. Many times I have done something successfully a million times in classes and rehearsals but on stage it just doesn't happen. The most frustrating thing for me as a dancer is when they do something perfectly seconds before the curtain opens I'll do something perfectly, and then when it comes time to do it, I mess it up :)

#44 Moonchilde

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Posted 10 May 2002 - 08:11 AM

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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