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Is it better to know more or less about ballet?

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Hello all, I was introduced to ballet on a trip to America the other year and got very much hooked, since then however I have only had youtube and performances on tv to keep me going until now. I have just learnt work will be transferring me to London next year so I can finally go see the royal ballet!

My question is this, when I informed some more knowledgeable friends of my plans and the fact that I was planning on looking up more on the history/ techniques etc before I went, my friends told me not to. That I would get much more enjoyment if I keep my knowledge lower so that the little issues wouldn't bother me as much. Can I ask what others think? Is less better?

I thought knowing more would be better- when I saw the performance in America I told a group at intermission how I thought a particular dancer was great at what I now know is a jete but I did not have the term at the time. I was informed I really couldn't appreciate or comment on how good she was until I learnt more.

So is it better to know more or less about ballet?

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I don't see how learning more of the history and background wouldn't enhance your experience...

However, there is a tendency of serious ballet students to be hypersensitve to every technical flaw and miss the larger picture... and I think that might be what your friends are warning you of. In a ballet class so much is focused on error correction that it can train the eye so that these jump out at one. While you might enjoy dancing in ballet class yourself, it might change your impression of what you are seeing... On the other hand, assuming you are starting as an adult, it may even increase your appreciation of the technical prowess of the professionals.

The Royal Ballet's youtube site has some wonderful dance appreciation educational videos. Learning the mime language of some of the classical ballets might help you learn more. I also find a good dance critic can teach one what to look for, and wake me up to aspects of the dance I missed the first time around...

Also, there is more to a dancer than mere technique... you are quite competent to comment on the impression a dancer made on you, even if their technique were not as advanced as some other dancer...

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What she said.

Firstly, congratulations on the transfer -- you're heading to a wonderful city, and you'll have some great adventures. And yes, being in the same town with multiple companies will really jump start your dance education. The most thrilling way to learn about the art form is to watch it live. Having said that, though, I really wouldn't encourage you to disdain the rest of the material that's increasingly available to you through your library and the internet.

The essential facts are that we are all learning, all the time, with every experience we have. Keeping yourself innocent isn't so much a matter of not learning or experiencing as it is not looking for flaws first, but instead trying to see whatever might be thrilling, or beautiful, or disturbing, or soothing, or any of the other wonderful responses that we all have to a dance event, however long we've been watching and however knowledgeable we may be.

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I realised a few weeks ago that I have been watching ballet for 30 years. I have no technical knowledge whatsoever but I look at performances and I enjoy them or I don't. I make a point of never counting the number of fouettes because I think that is rude. For me, although I like great dancers, it is always the overall performance and impression it leaves with me.

I read quite a few books about the history of ballet and I found that enhanced my pleasure too. Of course the online resources that we have now weren't available in the mid-80s!

I'm based in Liverpool and don't go to London that much these days as I can see so much ballet outside of the South East but as well as ROH you will love the offerings at Sadler's Wells and also the Coliseum, where ENB usually performs.

Good luck with your move to London and enjoy!

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