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For the non dancers out there: What hooked you on ballet?

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I was just thinking about that other thread that asks why people dance... Since I am not a dancer I couldn't really answer it ...I said that thanks to my daughter, we now try to go to the ballet as often as possible. What if she'd gotten hooked on gymnastics, or amphibians...or ? Would I have taken up "the cause" no matter what, just to be a good parent?

I'm not sure about that...I'm not really a lover of amphibians. :)

In trying to remember what it was I first saw, I'm stumped. I just know that it seemed to me to be the best of everything - to see these phenominal dancers on stage with some of the greatest music! What more could a person ask for?

But I guess I'm preaching to the choir, as they say.... How do you think it is that there are people who can actually fall sound asleep while sitting there?!

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Guest BA2's Mom

I was not a dancer. I took a few classes but to supplement the gymanast in me. Although I've been told by my daughter that I have great feet and that maybe if I had had the right training......but anyway that's a different story!

We live in a rather small town and my girls started taking dance class at an early age. My oldest has said since she was able to speak that she wanted to "dance ballet". Where she heard that from, I haven't a clue. So I signed her up, thinking pinks tights and a pair of ballet shoes every now and then, this is doable!For several years I paid for what I thought were ballet lessons, which in retospect was just a complete waste of money!Then we went to the ballet, a regional ballet, but none the less spectaular for a 1st Nutcracker experience. I was mezmorized and hooked, I had fell in love with" Waltz "and "Snow". Now this was dance! At the intermission I couln't get up those stairs fast enought to get information to sign up my girls for REAL ballet lessons, as this was the way it was suppose to look---and it wasn't! That night I couldn't even sleep. I was envisioning my daughters dancing those covented roles someday and OH! that snow falling as they danced! This is when I fell in love with the ballet.

As a child and even in my young adulthood I had never been to the ballet. Now my live is planned around ballet classes, Family vacation time, performances, auditions etc. It dictates everything in my live. My work schedual, pocketbook, meal times-you name it.I never dreamed I 'd be buying a $50 pair of shoes nearly every week and I now I wonder what happend to my little girls all dressed in pink.

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Well, I took Jazz as a kid, but never really had the body type to feel comfortable in tights. I enjoyed watching ballet, but did not love it.

When my son's best friend started dancing, I went to see is shows and discovered I really enjoyed it. Once my son started, I was hooked! The music and magic of ballet have really enhanced my life. I think after watching the behind the scenes work that goes on in ballet, I have a greater appeciation of the final product. I used to just want to see big male variations with lots of jumps and turns. But, once my son started taking partnering classes and I could see what it really takes to make this look easy, I enjoy a wonderful Pas de Deux more than ever. Although I will confess, I still love to watch the big male variations.

Unfortunately, I have not converted my husband yet. Although he dutifully attends all of our son's shows, he does not enjoy it like I do. He would rather just "listen to the music and not have it cluttered up with all the dancers"


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I certainly didn't want my brief answer to preclude further stories! I've posted several times about this in the past and wanted to let others have a turn. (I saw a "Nureyev and Friends" program out of curiosity on Bastille Day in 1975, and have never gone a day without thinking of ballet since.)

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I'm a life-long ballet lover but I did introduce a friend to the art. I had an extra ticket and invited her to come. She was hooked. She even got her own subscription and we have shared many ballet dinners and performances ever since.

Then there's my husband who went kicking and screaming. It took me 15 years but finally...........


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I saw a documentary about ABT on PBS, liked what I saw, and bought a couple of tickets to NYCB, the first ballet season available after the telecast. It was also a PBS broadcast that enticed me into seeing my first opera as an adult. Television has such great potential for developing audiences—I wish there were more programs about all the "high arts."

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I saw Coppelia--when I was in grade 7 (mid 70s)--in NYC--not sure which company--I was completely hooked--listened to the music over and over and danced in my room. Reinforced by other trips to see ballet (was lucky to live a quick train ride from NYC)--particularly seeing the Joffrey as a freshmen in highschool--went in on the train with a friend (a first)--remember a woman dancing with long hair worn free--wow! I love being dazzled by dance still and love sharing it with my daughter--other daughter and husband are not quite as enamoured!

Now I participate in a ballet outreach program in an urban school system (I'm an academic teacher not a dance educator!)--and I just love seeing those kids dance as much as any professionals--often I get teary-eyed watching them!

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It's interesting to read about the different ways everyone was first exposed to the ballet.

Ba2'smom, I was not exposed to the ballet growing up because my parents were more into plays.. It wasn't until I graduated from college that someone I knew invited me to a ballet. I can't even recall where it was...could have been City Center. In my mind's eye, it was not a big place...but I do remember who was dancing: Natalia Makarova(I sure hope I spelled her name correctly!) - and it was a classical piece...an excerpt from something I believe.... I hate to say it, but I just don't remember what she danced only that she danced!

Miss, to me, it's very special to have a dancing son! I know their numbers are growing but still....it's not that common in this country. I, too, have succumbed to the magic myself through working behind the scenes and watching a piece come to fruition after hours upon hours of work - never would I have known how difficult it was to make it all appear so effortless!

Alexandra - were you in France on Bastille Day in 1975? You're awfully lucky to have seen Nureyev .... Come to think of it, I think my sister was "in love with him"...he was her only experience attending the in ballet.

Hey, Giannina, I'm glad your husband finally has converted! Fortunately mine has always enjoyed it which makes it something we can do with our daughter that we all like - so nobody's kicking or screaming! ;)

And Ari, how many other people do you think have been enticed into the arts through the auspices of PBS? Maybe we should start an email campaign to our own PBS stations to encourage them to do "more"! Around here, in the NY area, we have a program called Metro Arts that often has some good programs...though not well advertised at all - usually we just stumble upon it while clicking away...passing drivel after drivel...until..at last - something worth watching!

Say, Jbtlse, are you involved with that Lincoln Center program for teachers? When you say, "ballet outreach program" what exactly do you mean? Do you try to get professionals to come to the schools and work with these kids? It reminds me of the program Jack D'Amboise has... If you have time I'd love to hear about it - maybe you could start a new topic?:(

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Like Alexandra, I got hooked on ballet by attending one. It is a story that has been told here. To recount briefly:

"Swan Lake", American Ballet Theatre, Makarova and Nagy, the Auditorium Theater in Chicago.

A big night on the town to impress the woman who became and still is my wife. Mid-orchestra seats--first time ever in that expensive territory.

Have seen "Swan Lake" about 40 times since then, many of them wonderful, but there are moments from that production that I may recall on my deathbed.

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Have seen "Swan Lake" about 40 times since then, many of them wonderful, but there are moments from that production that I may recall on my deathbed.

Ed, now that is a tribute, if ever I read one:) I would surely rather see a good production, or wonderful moments thereof, than many other things that might flash by!

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I never saw a ballet until my daughters started taking ballet classes. I think seeing the work that they put into it and realizing the work , dedication, and commitment that it took to become a dancer made me appreciate ballet. Now that I have seen more ballet I am still amazed by the dancers and feel that I can appreciate those beautiful moments more because I have bandaged the feet and given the ibuprofen for the aching muscles. I enjoy seeing dancers who obviously enjoy dancing as well as dancers who have amazing technique--they are all beautiful. And I'm always glad that their moms took the time and effort to drive them to ballet classes and pay for classes so that we all in the audience can have a beautiful evening to remember. I never have had a ballet class and give them credit for even putting on a leotard and tights and standing there in front of the mirror. They all have my respect for all they do.

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I took "ballet lessons" for a couple years as a child. A nun taught the classes after school. After she smacked me across the face for my stage fright, I spent the next 30 years despising ballet. As fate would have it, my daughter decided at the age of 3 it was something she just had to do. My experience firmly etched in my brain, I put her off for almost two years but she ultimately wore me down.

I came to enjoy ballet in much the same way as many parents - from watching my own child move up through the ranks. As she's gained experience, so have I. Originally my love for ballet was contained within the realm of her ballet school - I loved watching the dancers grow up and into the roles every bit as much as I loved the dancing. Of course, it's now extended well outside the sphere of her school and I find myself craving it so much that I'll make the 2 and a half hour trek into NYC to see professional companies. Knowing the years and years of work makes me admire the dancing even more.

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These responses are fun to read. I suppose I should have realized, but I had no idea so many moms were introduced to ballet because of their dancing daughters and sons.

Like Ed Waffle, I've told this story here before, on a thread inspired by a silly Cosmopolitan article warning women not to ask their boyfriends to go to the ballet. In the early sixties, my future wife took me to see the Kirov dance Swan Lake at the old Metropolitan Opera House. It was mid-summer, the place was not air-conditioned, but nevertheless I loved what I saw. Soon thereafter, Alice took me to NYCB and I was hooked. So we got married. We continued to go to ballet together once or twice a week until she passed away in 1995. I go as much as ever now, alone or with a friend. Even when I go alone, I'm not lonely because there are many audience members I've gotten to know over the years thanks to the Promenade at the New York State Theater.

I don't think I can match Ed's 40 Swan Lakes, but I estimate I've seen Serenade at least that many times and probably more.

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In reading Treefrog's thread "various random thoughts" and, specifically, Alexandra's most recent post where she writes

If it's done well, and everyone onstage (and behind the scenes) understands what the production means, and the dancers are given enough information to put it over, then we'll enter into that magic world of suspension of belief, and we won't ask questions like that.

That's really what I attend the ballet for - so I can "enter into that magic world of supsension of belief"... And if it's not a story ballet, it's still a transport to the magic world.

Thank you Alexandra - very beautifully put.

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For me, it was through enjoyment of a certain kind of classical music.

In my second college I ran into someone who put me onto B. H. Haggin's writings, and with his help I got beyond the kind of music-listening I had learned in the movie theatre and in front of the TV: Music as an accompaniment to something else. Haggin had written "Music for the Man Who Enjoys Hamlet", which I had begun to become thanks to the superb sequence of undergraduate "humanities" courses Chicago had at that distant time, and pretty soon I developed the ability to be "moved" by the phrase-by-phrase development of a piece of music, as I had by the line-by-line development of a piece of literature such as the play of Haggin's title. Lighter pieces, too, witty and capricious. Stravinsky's "Capriccio" for piano and orchestra. Listening closely, note by note, to the excellent London recording with Magaloff playing and Ansermet conducting would always cheer me in answer to a felt need to hear it.

Haggin not only reviewed recordings and public performances of classical music, he reviewed ballet some, too. And in the mid-sixties, Balanchine's NYCB would visit the Chicago Symphony's summer season at suburban Ravinia. Haggin's reviews of the Winter and Spring seasons usually appeared after NYCB had come and gone, so I sometimes made less good choices of what to see than I might have, but one fateful day I saw a program called "Jewels". It began with a pretty ballet to music of Faure', whom I knew of, but whose music I didn't know, and that was nice enough. Then the amazing phenomenon, something I could never have imagined: While a creditable rendition of Stravinsky's fun music unrolled from the pit, dancers - including Patricia McBride and Edward Villella - moved in witty visual accompaniment. I saw steps and gestures in as indefatigable a flow of ideas as the one I heard and seemingly produced by it, riveting my attention. After it ended, leaving me with eyes and mouth wide, I gradually became aware of a noise - the rest of the audience was applauding. What a great idea! I joined in, the last to start and the last to stop.

Traveling home, I still couldn't quite believe I had seen what I had seen. After while I got used to this feeling, and indeed I thought it would be nice to have something like that again. But NYCB stopped coming to Ravinia, and after a while I realized I really missed it. Withdrawal symptoms, I now suppose: I was hooked! After a few years it was clear what I had to do, and I went to see them in New York: Five performances of "Jewels" in one weekend! And, with Haggin's reviews guiding me through the repertory, many weekends followed, many years. Some friends, not understanding my "addiction", thought I was nuts or, at least, extravagant, and I suppose they had some of the truth; but I'm not really sorry, especially because that particular miraculous phenomenon, Balanchine's ballets danced as he conceived them to be danced, once so reliably plentiful, is scarcely to be found anymore. But that's another story, for another thread, or several, some of which we've already written here.

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Thanks for that lovely essay, Jack. I have a book called "Ballet Chronicle," published in 1970, which is evenly divided between Haggin's "reports," as he called them, and performance photographs. You've inspired me to reread it.

In the Foreword, Haggin recalls meeting Balanchine: "I said to Balanchine I wasn't sure I had any business writing on a subject about which I had no technical knowledge; and he replied: 'Oh no: you look; you see; you write about what you see; and that's good.'"

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