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A European tour to see ballet

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One of my daughter's teachers recently planted the seed of a very dangerous thought in our heads: to spend a month or two zipping around Europe (we're US-based), partaking of all the culture to be had and structuring the trip around seeing various ballet companies perform. And we're just crazy enough to take the bait.

So, realistically, I don't see this happening until the school year of 2006-07. That gives us enough time to save up the cash, and both kids would be old enough to participate in it all. And it gives me enough time to research the living daylights out of this.

So I'd like to toss this idea to the masses here, and see if people can provide any useful insights. I suspect that this trip would have to occur during the school year since most companies would not be performing in the summers. Are there certain months that are more packed than others with a variety of performances (meaning we are not interested in doing a December Nutcracker tour!)

Also, I'm thinking of aiming for 5 big companies -- Royal Ballet, POB, Royal Danish, Stuttgart and Het Nationale -- and tacking on others if they fit the schedule. Are these 5 worth structuring such a tour around? Or are there better candidates nowadays?

thanks for any and all thoughts!

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Chauffeur, I'm sure you are the envy of everyone on this site! I can think of few things I'd rather do than tour Europe to see ballet and other cultural events.

Details of the 2006-7 season for the companies you mentioned will probably be released around early spring of 2006 (it will vary from company to company). If you go to the forums dedicated to the Royal, POB, and RDB on this site you will see a sticky at the top of each page giving useful links, including their home theaters and booking information.

As for your list, I would definitely include the first three. I haven't seen either the Stuttgart or the Dutch National Ballet in so long I can't say whether they are worth visiting, but others will be able to tell you much more. If you could arrange your trip to London at a time when both the Royal and the English National are performing, so much the better. It would also be a good idea to keep an eye out for tours to European cities by other big companies, especially the Russians. Both the Kirov and the Bolshoi often visit Paris during the school year. (Their seasons in London always seem to be in the summer.)

One difficulty you'll have is that all of these companies share their home theaters with opera companies, and, unlike in North America, they perform at the same time. That is, the opera may perform on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights and the ballet may perform on Tuesday and Thursday nights and the Saturday matinee (the opera companies always seem to get more performances :( ). And all European ballet troupes operate on the "stagione" system, whereby they give a series of performances of one ballet or program, rather than offering a mixed repertory. So you'll probably be able to see only one program by each company, unless you're lucky. (POB, for instance, splits its large company into two and sometimes offers different programs at its two theaters.)

Be sure to keep us posted on your plans. We'll all enjoy living vicariously through you! :party-smiley-017:

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The Mariinsky Theater will be shut down for a couple of years after next season for extensive renovations. The Kirov-Mariinsky ballet will tour and perform in a theater in Helsinki. I don't know if the Company is going to perform its Mariinsky Festival there, but if you haven't seen Natalia's thread on 2005 Mariinsky Festival, I'd encourage you to read it, as the Festival is a repertory festival by one of the great companies in the world. It would be great if it would fit into your schedule. Also, the Bolshoi tours extensively, and you might be able to catch a performance by the Company in Europe.

If you add Helsinki to your list, you might want to check out the Estonia National Ballet. Tallinn is less than 2 hours by fast ferry (perhaps hydrofoil?), and both the theater and the city, particularly the old medieval city, are beautiful. If you are lucky, the medieval musical group Hortus Musicus will also be playing in a small church in the medieval city. (Wear strong shoes, though -- the cobblestones almost did me in after three days of non-stop walking!)

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If you add Helsinki to your list, you might want to check out the Estonia National Ballet.  Tallinn is less than 2 hours by fast ferry (perhaps hydrofoil?), and both the theater and the city, particularly the old medieval city, are beautiful. 

Helsinki is a good choice, not only for seeing visiting companies but for the Finnish National Ballet! It is truly a hop, skip, and a jump to Tallinn. My daughter dances with the Estonian National Ballet, so I naturally second that suggestion. :( Their season begins in October and ends in early June, and alternates evenings with the opera. Repertoire is both classical (Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Nutcracker) and contemporary (Mauro Bigonzetti's contemporary Coppelia, Attila Egerházi's Firebird, Jorma Elo's Red With Me, Luciano Cannito's Cassandra) and, as elsewhere, the same ballet is presented for a period of time before going on to the next, but sometimes different ones are thrown into the mix mid-month. Oh, and the cobblestones are only in the Old Town, not all over the city!

Both Stuttgart and Het National are excellent choices as the companies are very strong right now. They are both large and international in composition. I'd love to go and see Larissa Lezhnina at the Het! Their website has video clips of the principals and soloists. You'll see how worth it a visit to the Netherlands would be. I'd love to be in your shoes!

At Stuttgart you have the wonderful Alicia Amatriain and Friedemann Vogel to look forward to as well as an incredibly beautiful, extremely talented troupe of dancers from everywhere. Their season runs from October through July and includes Balanchine, classics like Giselle, Romeo & Juliet, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and varied contemporary ballets by different choreographers. It's a world-class company.

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Thanks for the responses: These are already very useful ideas! I hope people won't mind if I occasionally pop up with queries as we refine our plans. And I hope others don't hesitate to post any helpful hints -- about both the ballet and the travel - as they discover this thread!

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I've not seen them dance, but I would think Berlin Opera Ballet would be a good one to see. I know a few dancers there(wonderful) and you could try and see the lovely Polina Semoniva(sp?) I mean if you're in Germany see what you can! Best of luck with such an amazing trip! I'm sooooo jealous!!!

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In the summer many companies are touring and you may find great (or interesting) companies performing in cities not traditionally associated with ballet.

If your trip takes you to Greece try to plan a night at the Herod Atticus theater. It is an ancient theater, in the shade of the Acropolis and the ambience on summer nights is magical. On some years the visiting companies are very good, on others not so good, but it's worth checking out if you plan to visit Athens.

The program is generally anounced around February. You can find it in this site:


Among the performers this year are the Cloud Gate Dance theater of Taiwan, the Cullberg ballet and the English National Ballet. You can browse through the program of the last couple of years to get an idea.

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