This is a fun topic and I’m glad it was revived! My love of ballet began in the summer of 1980 when my future husband took me on two dates to see NYCB at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I was 24 years old and hadn’t experienced much ballet at all up until then. How I wish I had kept my programs! The first date included Scotch Symphony and I do believe Suzanne Farrell danced the lead role. I was enchanted, I tell you! The second performance we saw that summer was Midsummer Night’s Dream and Patricia McBride danced Titania. Talk about being enchanted! And gobsmacked! I’d never in my young ladyship seen anything like it. Well, I was hooked and thus began my ballet education and long devotion to and love for the New York City Ballet. Over the next few summers I was to experience many of Balanchine’s, and Robbins’, essential works.
So the five critical ballets in my life were:
Apollo (the old version, I think, before Mr. B changed the choreography to eliminate the staircase and other elements)
and the Balanchine ballet closest to my heart, Symphony in C. I will never forget the first time I saw it. It was so thrilling and it was danced so perfectly, I nearly wept.
I must also add a sixth, Mr. B’s one-act Swan Lake. Such a distilled beauty.
For many years, the only company I saw was NYCB at SPAC in the summer, and, except for taking some adult ballet classes and reading a ballet history or two, that was my dance education. I was going to college, working, and other life experiences took center stage. I felt blessed knowing that this great company was in my proverbial backyard each summer, and, at that time, that was enough.
Fast forward to the 2000’s and I had 1. the opportunity to see more ballet, 2. the time and maturing interest to broaden my dance education through acquiring books not available in the library, and 3. the ability to learn ALOT through the internet, most importantly and critically, on YouTube, especially Russian and Soviet ballet. And I began to acquire a video and book ballet library, which gives me great pleasure.
So I think of my ballet education and enthusiasm in two distinct parts. As such, I must add five more ballets that were critical in making me the ballet-lover I am today.
Swan Lake (full-length - Russian performances on video, American stagings [NYCB, ABT] live).
The Sleeping Beauty (Royal Ballet and Russians on video, NYCB live).
The Firebird - NYCB’s.
Giselle (ABT’s live, especially Xiomara Reyes and Sarah Lane; Ballet Nacional de Cuba live; Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet on DVD, and all sorts of video clips on YouTube, especially Maximova and Vasiliev).