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First time at NYC Ballet - how to get the best seats for Swan Lake?

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Hello all,

I'm a newbie, who took ballet lessons as a child (briefly), and have always loved ballet, but have never gone to a performance in person.

And I want to treat my sweetie who I think would love it, and so it will be a treat for both of us, and I'm looking for the best possible seats at NYC Ballet's Swan Lake this September (the Saturday matinee performance).

I'm thinking for a special occasion we would want to be close, so I *think* orchestra level would be best.

For regular attendees of the NYC Ballet's Swan Lake (Martins)....are the subscribers likely to have all the best seats taken by the time regular tickets go on sale August 5th?

If so, I'm seriously considering a "Create Your Own Subscription", thus making me a new subscriber and which would be put me ahead of regular single ticket sales (I hope!)....

I'd create a request for Orchestra A, (and Orchestra B as backup, and would probably choose Coppelia in February and Midsummer Night's Dream in June as my other two ballets, but my quandary if I lay down this much money, I may not be able to go, or if I do, without my companion, and so I would have a wasted ticket (or two or more). (I am kind of annoyed that the Nutcracker can't be included in subscriptions).

But I really want Swan Lake most of all for my and his first experience.

What are the chances that there are good seats within 10 rows when single seats go on sale August 5th? Worried also that there will be too many tall heads in front of us. He's 5'9.


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I'm not a subscriber, so I will only respond to your last comment--if you are concerned about tall people sitting in front of you, then you should seriously consider getting tickets in one of the balconies. The sight lines are much better from there, and you are not that far from the stage. You can always bring opera glasses (small binoculars) to see faces. My wife, who is 5'2", hates orchestra seats, and always goes for the balcony.

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As an out-of-towner who visits NYC periodically, I never buy subscriptions, as I can't pick out my own seats, but I do pounce on single ticket sales as soon as they become available. Then you can pick out your own seat, which I much prefer. I've never had any trouble getting great seats that way.

I agree with your wife about orchestra -- it's a disaster and very risky for shorter people. I aim for First tier or first row-Second tier. Occasionally, I've gotten orchestra first row-side section and it's great fun to see it up close as a contrast to the tiers. Unlike some theaters (e.g., Vail!), you easily can see all their feet from the first row at the State Theater. (For anybody visiting Vail, avoid the first two rows, unless you enjoy dance only from the calf upwards...)

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I'm going to second RUKen: if you are concerned about sight lines, don't sit in the first 10 rows of the orchestra. Frankly, I only sit in the orchestra if I can't get a seat in the first or second ring, and even then I try to get no closer than row J. But opinions on this are mixed: some Ballet Alerters like to be up close, while some of us prefer to watch from further back. I prefer a higher vantage point so that I can better see the overall choreographic patterns: I use opera glasses if I want a closer look at a particular dancer. I happen to think the best seats in the house are in row A or B of the first or second rings, but I've sat in the "C" section of the first ring (the seats that go for $80 at the subscription price) and have seen everything just fine. Interestingly enough, rows A & B of the first ring never used to be available to subscribers: they were reserved as "house seats" and only released a week or two before the performance. If I wanted a shot at row A, I'd have to try to exchange my subscription tickets for them! perhaps that's changed now that they've tinkered with the pricing.

I also prefer not to sit dead center, but I'm probably in the minority here. I think the stage picture has more depth if viewed slightly off to one side. AND in State Theater in particular there's less of a chance that the head in front of you will block your view. (The seats don't seem to me to be effectively staggered in the center sections of the rings.)

You'll find out what you like best after you have a couple of performances under your belt.

My husband and I are subscribers, but nine times out of ten we end up exchanging our tickets -- either because of schedule conflicts, or because we don't like the program, or because we've seen something on the program just one time to many. We rarely have trouble getting what we want, although it does happen occasionally. There have been times when his schedule has made it absolutely impossible for him to attend any performances at all, and I've exchanged his tickets for a few extra performances myself. (Message: if your seat-mate can't go, you can always exchange his ticket for one for yourself to an entirely different performance. NYCB doesn't require you to exchange two tickets for one performance for two tickets to another performance: you can mix and match. Plus if you exchange your ticket for a cheaper seat, they credit the difference back to your account.)

If you think you'd like to see more than one NYCB performance, you may want to just go ahead and subscribe. The tickets will cost you less and you'll still have some flexibility to see what you want.

NYCB's Coppelia and (especially) Midsummer Night's Dream are well worth seeing, so I hope you do go to see them too! Enjoy the show!

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I second Kathleen's hope that you can see "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The last three times I've been in NYC during the NYCB season, that's what's been playing, and it's a great way to see so much of the company's talent featured in one evening.

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If you're still inclined to go for close-up orchestra seats, I'd point out that you don't want seats too far to the side. You'll miss a LOT of what's going on. On the other hand, dead center will have you directly below the conductor, who is probably not who you came to watch. The rear orchestra -- roughly around Row M, I think -- the floor is nicely raked, lessening the chances that the head in front of your will obstruct your view.

I'm with those who have been recommending seats that are elevated above stage level. If you're too close, it's like being at an opera and hearing only the lead singers, missing out on what the chorus and minor characters are up too. You'll want to be able to take in the whole stage. And a bit off to the side, too. Until you know the house, though, I'd advise against seats in any "AA" or "BB" row.

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A good discussion, especially the last post and Kathleen O'Connell's.

Back in the day, I used to pick a middle-orchestra or sometimes a front and center First Ring (balcony) seat depending on the repertory, as the main floor is a little flat to my taste. (SL sometimes has masses of dancers i.e. swans and sometimes intense involvement of the principal couple, though.) One thing I tried to avoid was to sit so far back in the Orchestra I was as far away as if I were in a Ring - for the same distance and angle, height definitely helps (and may save you money).

I tend to stick pretty close to the center line, though, because I like the effect of the performance to hit me right between the eyes - I've learned from experience that if I'm sitting to the side, they seem to be performing for those people "over there," in the center seats - but just slightly off-center, if you can get it, could help with perspective and with seeing between the heads i front of you; while the center Ring rows are not off-set, they are raked more than downstairs. (Maybe I should say here I think I'm about 5'10".)

A sometimes-useful compromise in any house on the flat side - and the Koch is not as bad IMO as the big place just next door! - is to pick a seat where you can look part way down an aisle toward the stage - there'll be nobody right in front of you.

And one or two early experiences using optical aid just showed me how exaggerated stage makeup can be to register at our normal distance. (If you try it, I hope a close-up view of Rothbart's face doesn't give your sweetie a fright!) And that also showed how little "acting" dancers do.

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