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Barbara

Theatre Binoculars

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I find that without binocs and sitting back, I cannot read facial expressions and this is something I realize I don't want to miss in some ballets... such as Manon or R+J... other ballets the binocs provide way too narrow a view and I feel you miss the big picture like the wonderful corps work in Giselle or Swan Lake.

Which ballets do you feel binocs make a real difference to the experience and which ones can you do without them?

A good point. Facial expression (and its relation to upper body generally) has become more and more important to me -- especially since it seems that so many dancers don't seem to have a clue about how to integrate it into a sustained performance. I've just observed an Act III Aurora who never similed (and who, indeed, wore a kind of tragic mask during the pas de deux and finale) -- and whose facial expression was actually mirrored in a certain tension and over-control in her upper body which worked against the choreography and music.

I pick up the binoculars (cheapos) selectively throughout almost every performance. I'm now in the middle of watching a run of La Valse. With the three Fate-like women at the start, I really resist the temptation to look at an individual -- it's the interaction of the three, their strange port de bras, that are important. Same with the corp's frenzied circling of the dead girl at the end. With the brief individual pas's, however -- and with those frequent dartings of individuals across the stage -- I enjoy focusing on detail, even if it means cutting something else out.

It helps, of course, to go to multiple performances if at all possible, so that -- eventually -- you get to see the whole thing, piecing it together in your visual memory later on.

Edited to add: With much contemporary choreography, there is really no sense of "ensemble" patterning in the Petipa or Balanchine sense. Individuals, couples, etc., tend to doodle around the stage doing their own thing. That's a great time to take out the binocs. And, when you're really bored, it's amazing how concentrating on a hair style, a body part, or a costume detail makes the time fly.

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Sometimes I like to take time out from the overall scene to look at the stage business on the sidelines with binocs. Last ABT Met season I had fun watching David Hallberg in Swan Lake interacting with the Princesses as each national dance was underway. I don't know if it's particular to him but I enjoyed the way he seemed to be realistically engaging in conversation with the Princess of the moment. In the past I've been riveted watching Nureyev on the sidelines thru binocs - a show of it's own! I also like to look at costume details. Now that I have my new binocs with a wide view I wonder if I'll watch more of the performance through them. Sandy, I'll try watching a full PdD through them and see how that is.

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Sometimes I like to take time out from the overall scene to look at the stage business on the sidelines with binocs. Last ABT Met season I had fun watching David Hallberg in Swan Lake interacting with the Princesses as each national dance was underway. I don't know if it's particular to him but I enjoyed the way he seemed to be realistically engaging in conversation with the Princess of the moment. In the past I've been riveted watching Nureyev on the sidelines thru binocs - a show of it's own! I also like to look at costume details. Now that I have my new binocs with a wide view I wonder if I'll watch more of the performance through them. Sandy, I'll try watching a full PdD through them and see how that is.

Usually the dancers are on stage making dinner plans, gossiping and having a grand ole time :smilie_mondieu:

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Usually the dancers are on stage making dinner plans, gossiping and having a grand ole time :smilie_mondieu:

That's an uninspiring thought. You want to believe that they are really into the emotion of what they are doing... even it is very esoteric movement aesthetics... and not characters interacting.

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I have often pondered the implications of a dinner reservation held by a NYCB conductor when taking the evening's tempi.

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I have often pondered the implications of a dinner reservation held by a NYCB conductor when taking the evening's tempi.

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Or--most discreetly, as if in a 19c novel--on some member of the audience across the way.

Or nothing discreete, as in a XXI Century TV show-( Carrie spotting Mr. Big at the Met in "Sex and the City" :smilie_mondieu: )

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On the broader topic of the use of binocs, what are other "looking at" with the increased magnification of vision?

SanderO,

I've already given some idea of my answer to your question, but since you asked, I will expand.

First, it seems to me that users of binos must be considered in at least 2 groups: one, those who typically go only to a single performance; and two, those who typical go to the same performance multiple times. As I've indicated before, I fall into the 2nd group. As such I use my binos in a very different manner compared to those in the first group, I would think. If I only saw a performance once, I would be very relunctant to spend much time looking thru the binos for fear of missing the very essence of ballet. There is no question that looking thru binos greatly restricts one's ability to "get" what's happening on stage. Obviously you lose the width of the stage so you only see part of the action, but as someone else said, binos foreshorten everything, so you also lose the depth of the stage. Being in the 2nd group, I never worry about these things. I've either already seen that portion of the ballet, or I will next time. I love the freedom to use my binos as much as I like, for as long as I like. (And since I do view thru them so often, and for so long, that explains why I am probably more particular about the quality of my binos than most.)

I normally sit in the orchestra, maybe a third of the way back. This means that with 8x binos my field of view is very nearly head to toe of a PdD couple. I love to watch singles, duets, and triples this way. As I said before: it's like being in the studio with them. As others have said, I also like to watch the corps on the sidelines for stage business. If I happen to sit further back, I often need the binos to identify a dancer I am less familar with and can't recognize simply by how they dance. Sometimes I will pick a corps dancer who has "grabbed" me, and whose career I have become interested in, and watch just that single dancer for a large portion, of even all, of a single piece. Watching expressions is interesting; and in particular, I like to "get close" to watch a talented dramatic actor (like Carla Korbes, or Arianna Lallone here at PNB) pour as much into her acting as into her dancing. Sometimes I will even watch the conductor; or if I am sitting high enough, even a soloist in the orchestra (watching the piano soloist in Rubies was an unexpected treat last year). One thing I avoid is trying to keep up with fast movement......that will drive you crazy and end up being counterproductive.

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I am in both groups of Sandy. I take the binocs to all performances and rarely sit in the orchestra as I like somewhat of a bird's eye view of dance. I don't like the nose bleed seats at Lincoln center.

Binocs used in the Grand Tied or Dress Circle do not compress the field of view as much as they do when seated in the orchestra. Grand Tier or Parterre are, in my mind the optimal seats (first few rows), but these are very expensive seats.

From that far back you cannot read a facial expression without a binoc, you cannot see some of exquisite detail of the hands, or even some of the port du bras. With the unaided eye you do see the entire sweep of the choreography. It like looking at a forest or looking at the trees in the forest. Both are interesting and worthy of a look.

Since I return to see a performance several times, I do get to see the forest and all the varied trees in it.

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If I only saw a performance once, I would be very relunctant to spend much time looking thru the binos for fear of missing the very essence of ballet. There is no question that looking thru binos greatly restricts one's ability to "get" what's happening on stage.
I agree. I try to resist the temptation to use my binocs the first time I see something, to restrict their use to quick peeks.

In general, I use them less than I used to. I am usually in the Fourth Ring at NYCB, standing in the Met's Dress Circle (equivalent distance from the stage, as the binocs need no readjustment going from one to the other) or City Center's Rear Mezz. Sometimes I zero in for facial expression (especially during bows or curtain calls), but usually it's just to see the soloists in their entirety more clearly or to identify a new dancer in the corps.

Unfortunately, of late I find myself putting my binocs to my eyes to confirm that a dancer's feet are indeed less than fully pointed.

:) This happens more with women than men these days -- a reversal from when I started watching ballet.

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Sandy McKean:

If I only saw a performance once, I would be very relunctant to spend much time looking thru the binos for fear of missing the very essence of ballet. There is no question that looking thru binos greatly restricts one's ability to "get" what's happening on stage

Carbro:

I agree. I try to resist the temptation to use my binocs the first time I see something, to restrict their use to quick peeks.

...Unfortunately, of late I find myself putting my binocs to my eyes to confirm that a dancer's feet are indeed less than fully pointed.

I just bought a pair of Nikon 7x35 wide angle binoculars--9.3 degrees, 489 ft at 1,000 yards--and watched the San Francisco Nutcracker this year through them. I intended take sips only--as Carbro states above, use them for quick peeks--but had them glued to my eyes for almost the entire performance.

Dancers' performances that might have looked only so-so from a distance looked very refined close up. It was really a whole new world. But you do lose the overall choreography, and so I will refrain from using them for Balanchine or for intricate Petipa settings.

Also I noticed time was slightly different, the tempos seemed faster through binoculars and there was slightly less dramatic gravity to the dancers' work. There are really no entrances and exits in the world of binoculars.

What is good about the Nikons that the lenses are 5" apart, rather than the 2 1/2 to 3" of more compact binoculars and that helps preserve a very natural 3-dimensional quality. They're a bit large and totally unchic and the glass is not as contrasty and fine hued as Zeiss or Leica's, but they're sharp and take in a big chunk of the stage at once. Also they're only $55.00. A new drug I'm afraid.

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9.3° is a nice wide field.

My 5x15 Nikons have a 9° field and I find that wide enough for almost anywhere in the house -- I've been quite happy with that viewing angle for several years now. On top of that you will see that wide view at 7 power instead of my 5 power (altho mine have the compensating advantage of being quite small.....it's all a trade off). I love mine, but to satisfy my picky tastes I did have to spend almost 10x what you did :bow:.

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