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audience etiquette rant


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I'm told that when I was 3 and at my first ballet performance, Nutcracker, of course, I jumped up and down and called out something along the lines of "go away, we've already seen you!" when the finale began...

I was, however, hooked for life. I kind of think, in the long run, it was worth it.

And so, I'm afraid, I took my own daughter at 3 to Nutcracker, waiting to see if she had the same reaction. It did not. Her gaffe was different... she thought the Sugarplum's variation was the funniest thing she'd ever seen and let out these deep belly laughs. I winced and cringed looking around for escape when I noticed cast members standing behind us watching the show... and saw they thought my child's reaction was hysterical. Maybe I've been missing something all these years. [she settled down and we stayed for the rest of the show... no one glared at me, so I guess my own horror was the worst reaction]

I tried again the next year, but still no interest in dancing. She did, however, understand advertising and status symbols. In her analysis, the thing to want was not dance classes but the darn Nutcracker doll.

This year, she's been making me read her awful dance picture books (I assume I need only say "bubblegum pink" and you'll all know what I mean" and the less than awful "Ballet Bug" chapter book. She started taking class last week, and we're off for our third try on Thursday.

Do you know what's worse than not having your child share your enthusiasm for dance? Having them begin to take interest in it and refuse to take any advice from you.

I'd love to see a poll of how many ballet alerters' interest was first piqued by Nutcracker and at what age... and if not Nutcracker, was there another particular performance?

Might help us all have patience with the wee ones.

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In any event, you might try to tap the offending party at the next concert, and simply ask, "Excuse me, is this performance interfering with your conversation?"

If that doesn't work,

Often it doesn't.
. . . you could always enter the theater after intermission with the chain saw retrieved from your car's trunk.  I think that, combined with a well honed death stare, would probably do the trick.

Delicious idea, but unfortunately at Lincoln Center all bags are inspected as we enter the Met or NYST. I think what they're looking for is just such a chainsaw.

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Once I sat next to a girl of about four who was at her first ballet with her mother. She was VERY excited about the ballet and full of lucid questions which she asked in a whisper and her mother answered quietly. I was really enjoying her until the guy in front of her turned around and glared and barked at her to be quiet. I almost smacked him, because none of us enjoyed the rest of the performance as much as we had with the little girl's help.

I'm not a silence nazi anymore. The last time I shusshed anyone she turned out to be the proud mother of a young man who was doing his first performance as a soloist. I was so embarrassed when we both went up to him after the show to congratulate him! But she was congenial about it.

But little children? ESPECIALLY at nutcracker for pete's sake. If they're into it it's the best part of the ballet. If they're not, mmm, better juice up the show. Oh, yeah, you go to nut to listen to the music? And wow, Amy, what would I give to sit next to Chloe at her first nutcracker!!! With a tape recorder running!

Ed, I have never been to opera in Italy but understand that the audiences are much more vocal there.

No, if someone is whispering ABOUT the ballet and obviously engaged in it it's fine with me. It's an opening for a conversation at intermission; I go to ballets and opera to meet people who are excited about ballet and opera!

On the other hand, I had two women in huge furs and too much perfume sit behind me and yack about the day's adventures at the mall during Serenade until I turned backwards in my seat and sat cross-legged until they stopped. And then there was the guy who let his beeper go THROUGH THE ENTIRE BALCONY SCENE of Romeo and Juliet. He was somewhere about five rows behind me, so at intermission I stood up and made the announcement that anyone who was sitting near the individual with the beeper was invited to join me in dragging him into the alley before the next act. Before I finished speaking thirty people were glaring at the offending party. So the final act was, well, properly tomblike.

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Guest gingembre

I have to add, Nutcracker (especially matinees!) is the one exception to the kids-talking etiquette rule for me. I feel that this especially is a ballet for children, and very often the first one for them! They're often brought quite young, and hopefully they love it, but we can't expect complete silence from them :lol: In fact, I agree with pumukau, if they're not getting into it, something is not right!

I'm definitely looking forward to taking my daughter at 3 or 4 :D As she's only 6 months now, I have a while to analyze her general tolerance level for sitting still :wink:

And in any case, if you *do* bring an infant (something I've been guilty of at movies :wub: ) there is a cardinal rule: crying means a mom-and-baby exit! (Or dad-and-baby). We've followed this with no problems.

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Inattentive, chatting, snoring, coughing, eating & drinking, singing-along audience members are so low class.

Parents should also realize that children have very short attention spans and while they might like to watch the growing tree, mice, even the snowflakes, they do tend to get restless during the divertissement.

Once we sat near a couple who brought 2 small kids to BAYADERE, of all things. The children were horrible, talking, eating, jumping up and down. An usher came over during the intermission and told the couple that there were numerous complaints. They apologized profusely but during the next act they continued to let their brats misbehave. We had moved to the other side of the balcony but it was not far enough...

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I have been known to tap on a persons shoulder and imform them that this is not a movie. I like the TV comment as well.

It took me a number of years of fuming to actually say this to anyone out loud. My reference used to be the movies; I was used to the absolutely silent audience members at the Film Forum in NYC. But since then, I've found that making out, sharing one seat, and talking throughout have become standard movie etiquette, probably because of television.

My friends and I gave up the Tuesday afternoon cheap show at the art house movie theater in Scarsdale, because it was full of senior citizens, who seemed to maintain a constant chant of "WHAT? WHAT? WHAT DID SHE SAY?," even when the movie was subtitled :)

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I don't mind whispering. Talking over the orchestra is not acceptable. Jumping up and down and running up and down the aisles is also not acceptable.

I don't mind babies who cry either, as long as Mom takes them out.

I have a colleague who took her son to many ballets when he was young, but they always left at intermission. This kid reached the age of 10 and suddenly realized that the death of Giselle was not the end of the ballet, and Clara actually went somewhere in that darn sled.

I know people who do the same thing at operas, i.e. they leave after the first act. There are a group of young, poor opera lovers who are known to ask people for their ticket stubs so they can see the rest of the opera. I have an acquaintance who has seen most of the SF Opera repertory, except for the first acts.

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I took my stepson to Nutcracker for the first time when he was 10 or 11, and he was dead silent with his mouth open the entire time. It was a thrill for me to watch his reaction. Of course, he's always been a child very taken with art and visual stimulation, which that ballet is chock full of. I do think that this particular ballet calls for some leeway -- and it is a joy to see all children's first reaction.

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Guest ivy'smama

I agree children and the Nutcracker go together. But INFANTS??? Why do people insist on taking infants places they shouldn't (weddings, ballet, funerals, etc. etc. etc.) I don't know of any baby that can sit quietly for two hours. Obviously, this is a pet peeve of mine. Hire a babysitter, PLEASE!!!

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One of my brothers has a very special relationship with his sons. I recall him telling me years ago when his oldest was two, he could go to a movie, put the tot in his lap and he was so content to sit with daddy, he'd just eat his little popcorn and be perfectly happy and not make a peep. There are some rare exceptions to these things.

Here's an even more interesting one. One of my sisters was getting sworn in as a criminal judge in a very somber ceremony in a courtroom with 15 different speakers that day, one of them being the former governor. A very serious event indeed. My sister-in-law came in shortly after it started, carrying her 10-month-old daughter. A few eyebrows were raised as the two sat down next to me. For the next two hours, the mother held her daughter in her lap, facing her, and periodically did sign language to her -- just small things, like "good girl." The child could actually sign back a bit. The baby did not make one sound, just beamed and smiled at everyone until all those sitting in back of her had fallen completely in love with her. I admit, I had my doubts at first, but I was pretty amazed at this new use of sign language for someone not hearing impaired.

It's never too early to teach our children how to behave appropriately, I guess. The more communication you have with them early on, with regard to what you expect, the better you'll fare.

I'm not sure this problem always has much to do with age -- there are adults who cough uncontrollably, stink, wear big hair or big hats, eat, laugh, converse, and generally make nuisances of themselves, at least as much as wee ones. (In case you can't tell, I'm an ardent lover of children.)

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I have a terrible confession to make -- I was humming accidentally at Swan Lake this autumn.

I hum in the car, the shower, the office (I work alone at home), walking down the street.. you get the picture. I was totally unaware that I was doing this in the theater until the woman next to me very kindly said that I was humming and could I please stop. I didn't expire from embarassment, but my ears were warm for several hours after that!

There are several movie houses and a couple of legit theaters here (Seattle) with "crying rooms" for parents with kids (unfortunately none of the dance houses have them).

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It also depends on the child's temperament and ability to be quiet and unobtrusive. My sister-in-law used to take her infant daughter to afternoon movies on a regular basis. The little girl was very docile. When, four years later, my nephew was born, sis-in-law just assumed she'd be able to do the same.

I think she took him to one movie in his infancy. He was active and vocal. He is now ten and has been a good audience member for many years, but he needed to gain a little (not much) maturity in the meantime.

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This thread reminds me of two anecdotes, one related to ballet and the season:

1) We were in Chicago a number of years ago, visiting friends and family during Christmastime. I was speaking with my sister's eldest daughter one afternoon and asked her if she was going to the Nutcracker that year with her mother or grandmother, as she had each year for the past several. She told me that she wasn't going because of all the young kids in the audience--kids, she said "who just had no idea of how to behave at the ballet". There were, she said, too many pre-teens.

I didn't get it, of course, and asked something like "Oh, you mean really young children who fidget and cry?" She fixed me with the kind of look that long-suffering kids of her age give to adults who simply don't get it. "No, I mean pre-teens--you know, the 12-year olds"

She was thirteen at the time.

2) When the 1967 Luis Bunel film Belle de Jour was re-released with sparkling new prints, we saw it at the local art house. Like hockeyfan228, we were surrounded by senior citizens (one of which I will become in all too short a time) but, for a change, they didn't have much to say. Until the very end of the movie, when the credits were rolling. One lady immediately behind us, said to her friend, "That Catherine Deneuve is amazing. She still looks great after all those years."

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I think it's true that you can't expect peace and quiet at a Nutcracker, but kicking the seat in front and jumping up and down are NEVER acceptable. I don't mind the kids talking -- I enjoy listening, in fact.

I would never say, "This isn't a movie" because that implies that bad behavior is more permissible at a movie house, and I don't concede that!

Hi, Ed. :D

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This is probably illegal in many varied ways, but I have found that a chupa-chup (thick spanish lollipop now widely available), carefully unwrapped PRIOR to the dimming of the house lights will buy one about 20 minutes of calm focused silence (less than one act). However, candy wrappers of all kinds should be stiffly punished. I think the only thing acceptable is those Ricola cough drops that seem to be easily silently unwrapped (probably the real reason they're favored by opera stars). However, BEWARE, anyone offering candy to a child during a performance will most likely find the child's attention far more focused on the candy than the performance...

Keith, I applaud your aplomb!

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Guest stacymckenna

My introduction to live theater was gradual and very prepared. My aunt and uncle started us with child-oriented things, like puppet shows and such, small gatherings where noise would be more forgiven. Then we moved to productions of Peter Pan, The MUsic Man, and Annie in Broadway-caliber venues here in L.A. about age 7. We were very carefully instructed on proper behavior during the performances before the show, sometimes for weeks or months. A trip to a restaurant for dinner was usually included so dining etiquette was also emphasized. It was very exciting - we planned for weeks or months in advance and were very good in order to be deserving of such a treat again. In fact, at Annie, I was so quiet my aunt wasn't sure I was enjoying it until we got home and I sung my mother every line I could remember over the phone, telling her all about the production! When I was 12 the most exciting gift I got was tickets for Cats! (my bday is in Jan, the tickets were Oct - agony!) Opera was introduced in my teens starting with La Boheme followed by Tosca and Turandot, and I started taking myself to ballet in my late teens (my uncle didn't like ballet - he kept expecting them to sing!). I also belonged to the youth program affiliated with OCPAC where proper theater etiquette was expected at student-attended dress rehearsals, etc.

I think it's all about parents being responsible and considerate. So many parents now don't know how to teach their children proper manners for any public place - church, restaurant, theater, any of it. Of course, when adults have manners like those described here, how can you expect them to teach proper manners to their kids? Very sad...

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I agree with stacy. Completely.

I had very strict theater etiquette training that started very young (first play at three). If we misbehaved in public we heard about it when we got home. My mother was (and is) a firm beliver in the correct time and place for things and she never reprimanded us in public. We were taken to the car or a bathroom or somewhere else and then severely lectured. As infants we were never taken to concerts or shows. It was a privelege we had to earn by displaying good behavior at extended family dinners or sports events or school shows.

It is maybe unrealistic of me to expect all parents to act as mine did, but I do wish they would at least try to control their little monsters. The mother who yells at me because I asked her daughter to stop kicking my chair is particularly offensive. I have been known to say to mothers like this (and there are many in San Francisco), '"If you won't control your child I guess I do."

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Guest pique_arabesque

A couple of months ago, I got comps to see a performance by my studio's affiliated company. They were doing a ballet at a local park, I think they did three or four short vignettes (the entire show was only about an hour and a half, maybe two hours, counting intermission), and the tickets were cheap, so of course there were a gazillion little kids there. We were sitting right up by the stage (on another subject, I felt so bad for those dancers - the stage was cement and they only had a thin layer of marley laid over it), surrounded by young kids.

These parents were TERRIBLE. They were letting their kids run around and climb onstage, for heaven's sake! There were little kids talking, dancing, doing cartwheels in the grass - it was all I could do not to say anything. I just couldn't believe it. I mean, just because it's in an atypical venue doesn't mean that you have the right to let your kids misbehave like that. Honestly.

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Parents let their children behave that way because we live in an era in which people consistently demonstrate their philosophy that getting any attention, even negative attention, is better than getting none at all. Hence, the cell phone behavior, the entering a classroom late and walking in front of the teacher while he/she is lecturing, conversing in public in such a vociferous fashion as to ensure everyone knows the intimate details of your private life, drenching yourself in fragrance instead of a hint behind the ear or knee, showing your guts and butts in pants and tops that allow the world to see your lack of torso tone ... oh yes, this all started out when someone started proselytizing about how important it was to GIVE self esteem to people instead of allowing them to earn it. Perhaps we need to start an organization entitled "Partnership for a Saner World."

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I must say that I am shocked and outraged at some of your experiences! I would have a very difficult time sitting next to someone who is bothersome after I've paid a goodly sum for the seat. I do remember one occasion when a very drunk couple came late to a performance and the man fell asleep and started to snore rather loudly. Somehow that didn't bother me, but reading the posts here I should feel fortunate that I haven't had to live through them.

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:devil: For those out of NYC who might not have heard, on Monday night one patron at Rao's (a very very exclusive, impossible to get into, restaurant) was shot dead for a drunken outburst criticising one of the impromptu singers that are part of the geshtalt of the restaurant. After reading these stories (and recalling some of my own), I feel great sympathy for the shooter. :FIREdevil:
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And whatever happened to the policy of not seating anyone once the performance has begun? I went to a NYCB performance last summer and the ushers actually brought people to their seats (right in front of me) while Wendy Whelan, one of my favorite dancers, was dancing. It completely destroyed the feel of the ballet to have an interruption like that.

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I cannot imagine (no really, cannot even imagine) any one breaking up Ms Whelan's performance. I have only seen her on video & pictures) and yet think her grace and toughness, her sensuality and hard-mindedness (sorry for the non-English words) so define what it is to be a ballerina, that I sincerely mourn with you.

Wendy Whelen seems to me to be made up of equal parts diamond and horse hair, by which I mean that her movements are clear and quick, her physique is taut yet flexible.

I realize many folks dislike her. I am not among them.

To relate this to the thread: I went to Jose Mateo's Nutcracker a few weekends ago (can I just say how gorgeous Jose is? He was the Drosselmeyer, and so beautiful I could totally see Ms Endrizzi wanting to keep him away from all the female guests! In fact, all the dancer's were beautiful, and the arms of young Clara alone were enough to make me cry. Dang, this is a good company!)

I had a family next to me with a "cherub" in the 2nd act. Now coming from a theater family myself I understand the need to see your sister. But why in the name of GOD do you need to kick my seat the whole time, read Charlie Brown Cartoons and reasure the three year old that she's going to see her sister any second now?

The magic took over for me, I might add. I loved the show, especially the dancing ,(there isn't much else , music or set to love at at JMBT show)but it was seriously an effort of will.

I remembered this forum, and tried my damnest to like all the kids.

You know what? I liked the kids who were excited but well behaved.

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If I were a lady, I'd take a Spanish fan to any performance where I might need o tap someone brightly on the shoulder and ask them to behave themselves.

Chinese fan would work just as well.

But I'm really with pumukau, if the audience is enjoying themselves intelligently, it doesn't bother me; in fact, I like it if the audience sawys a bit during hte waltzing, and at Flamenco performances or Gospel concerts, if there isn't active commentary from the audience ("SING it, baby"), I feel like there's nothing going on, and the performers are visibly dismayed.

It's NOT television. The artists are there, in the same room with you, and if you're with them, they feel it and give to you. (Check out the wonderful interview Donald O'Connor gave Mindy Aloff, on the Danceview link, about how much he loved to perform at the Apollo and other houses where the audience was LOUD and alive and egging him on.


i remember in london, when I went to the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, the Brits amazed me -- they weren't "proper" at all, certainly NOT a stiff-upper-lipped audience; they didn't impinge on each other, but they made a LOT of noise at times, ate chocolates during hte performances, swayed during the waltzes (beat time in various ways), applauded when the ballerina made her entrance, and the hero, bravoed a lot, rushed down to the brass rail at curtain calls, and made the dancers bow and bow and bow. I'm not a total Anglophile, but I've adopted their style in this respect

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