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Ballet Rage

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What irritates you most about audiences at a performance? The usual rustling of sweet wrappers, talking, humming are a normal hazard but I attended two performances by the Kirov last week and was driven to distraction and felt real 'ballet rage'.

The first night I had a bobber and weaver in the seat in front. Eventually I had to ask her to choose one side or the other because with her constant movement following the dancers I was seeing nothing. She smiled sweetly and said yes she thought that might be the case! I just wanted to strangle her, but at least she did sit still for the rest of the programme.

The next night, two rows in front of me, a man enjoyed the music (Swan Lake) so much that he 'conducted' the orchestra but moving his head from side to side constantly. There was nothing I could do to stop him but I was filled with 'ballet rage'

Any other fans had similar or worse occurences?

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I agree with you absolutely. There's a woman sitting 2 seats behind me (at ABT's R&J) constantly looking for something in a plastic bag, the rustling was even worse than that from a candy wrapper. She finally stopped when a guy sitting in front of her asked her to.

Another irritant is people using flash camera during performances dispite signs posted outside the auditorium and public announcement during intermissions.

[This message has been edited by mussel (edited June 25, 2000).]

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When I was watching Bolshoy's D.Q. in Chicago flash cameras were going off constantly - it was very annoying.

A man was so much into the music that he was injoying it by steping the beat with his foot.

When the peformance was over and the dancers and choreographers came on the stage to bow, some of the viewers desided to skip the duty of giving the gratitude to the people who for 3 hours gave them theirs talents, strength, and sole. That was unspeakably rude.

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The flash cameras going on at the Kirov performance brought the stage manager out before the curtain went up on the second act to appeal to the audience to stop since it was a danger to the dancers concentration. Offenders should be ejected.

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At yesterday's Kirov matinee of Bayadere at the ROH mobile phones went off three times! I cannot understand why a very firm 'request' for mobile phones to be switched off is not made before the performance starts. This is common practice in other theatres. Also, horrors, some of the audience started clapping while dancers were still finishing their more showy steps, as if at an ice show or a circus.

Why do they let these people in? Why do these people want to go to a ballet in the first place? Have they no taste, no manners, no CLASS, dammit?

Sorry, just going to lie down with a wet towel on my head.....

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Sometimes, I get mad at MYSELF! I tend to behave as though I were at a football game when I'm watching a ballet, especially (but not exclusively, alas) when there are people I know dancing. The bouncing, weaving me must be no fun at all to sit next to when I get worked up, and the barely-muffled cries of "Good girl!" "Attaboy!" "YES!!!" can't make the experience any more pleasant. Down, boy, DOWN!

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At the final evening performance of "Suzanne Farrell Stages Balanchine at the Kennedy Center in 95(?), a woman near the back of the main floor brought a baby in with her. Of course it started crying -- I remember an enraged woman hissing "get that baby out of here!" But mother and child stayed put. Someone complained to an usher during intermission, but at the end of the intermission she snuck into a seat further down. This time, I went for an usher.

I wish theaters would get tough -- if a cell phone goes off during a performance and an ussher can see whose it is, toss the bum out during the break. But I suppose it'll never happen.

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Guest JaneLondon

My bugbear used to be watches that chimed on the hour, especially as they always go off at slightly different times. I remember counting 14 separate ones during the big pas de deux in Romeo and Juliet.

I remember one occasion at the ROH when, despite requests from the House Manager, someone insisted on taking flash photos. Eventually, before the final act, the HM appealed to "anyone sitting next to this idiot" to take the camera from them, put it on the floor, and "KEEP YOUR FOOT ON IT FOR THE REST OF THE PERFORMANCE". This wasn't long after Wendy Ellis (I think) had broken both wrists when she fell during The Two Pigeons when someone "flashed" her.


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I have to go with Ken on the young children. I went to a Washington Ballet performance a few years ago where the program was mixed rep, definitely NOT aimed at children, but the woman next to me brought her four-year old. Throughout the ENTIRE performance, I had to listen to running commentary from this annoying child and her irresponsible mother: "Is she dead?" (there was a lot of lying around and dragging on the floor that day) "No, honey, she's just pretending." "Is he dead?" "Why are they all running around like that?" "I don't know, honey." "What's happening now?" and on and on. And on. I did NOT appreciate having spent half a day's pay to listen to these people. After the performance, the woman smiled apologetically at me and shrugged. I was so irate that I just glared at her and walked out in the opposite direction.

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Bard's Ballerina, your post reminded me of one of my first evenings at the Opera Garnier- with two very noisy children and their parents, just near my father and I,

who spent all the evening asking loud questions, making noise and complaining ("Mum, I'm tired. Is it finished soon?") I don't blame much the children,

but the parents really should have thought twice before bringing 7-year old children to ballets such as "Lilac Garden" or Taylor's "Speaking in tongues"!

Well, not all children behave badly at the ballet; one of my little cousins attended "Giselle" with me when she was 8, and she was very calm (but she was taking dance classes, and so quite motivated to attend it,

also I had told her about the plot before...)

I also have a bad memory of a "Romeo and Juliet" in Marseille last season, because

of the extremely noisy two gentlemen who were sitted behind a friend and I. They spent the whole first part doing silly comments about the dancers and the costumes,

laughing rather stupidly, and having some of the most noisy kisses I've ever heard. Fortunately, they left at the intermission.

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I went to a NYCB performence of Sleeping Beauty. In my row(row B)there were a bunch of kids aged 3-5. How annoying they were. Going on like everybody else has said kids do. I think, even once, one of them started to cry!

[This message has been edited by sarez (edited June 26, 2000).]

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Regarding children at the ballet or opera—it is true that one cannot blame the kids, since it is too much to expect that they have the attention span to sit through an extended work with which they are not familiar. There are a few exceptions, such as “Hansel and Gretel” and (occasionally) “The Magic Flute” and, of course, the “Nutcracker”, but I whenever I see children at a performance I hope they are not seated near me.

I am generally able to tune out some of the boorish behavior that has become endemic in audiences, although my wife tends to suffer fools much less gladly. She has a glare that lowers the temperature of the immediate area by about ten degrees which is generally enough to silence all but the most dense malefactors.


Once during a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the Ballet de Monte Carlo at the Detroit Opera House, there were two young women seated next to us who just refused to be quiet. We were in the front row the Trustee’s Circle, the equivalent of the front row of the Grand Tier at the Met but much closer—the best seats for ballet, other than the front row of the orchestra. Seated next to us were two young women who would not keep quiet during the performance. I couldn’t really hear them, but by wife, who was seated next to them, got the full benefit of their yakking away: comments on the costumes, comments on which of their friends individual dancers looked like, that type of thing. Finally after about fifteen minutes of this, my wife turned to them and said “Ladies, you really MUST be quiet during the performance.” They were shocked and a bit hurt but kept silent, which was the point.

In 1985 we were in Windsor, Ontario for the National Ballet of Canada doing “Don Q” with Karen Kain. Shortly before the conductor gave the downbeat a woman took the seat next to us. She had more dangly bracelets and other potential noisemaking jewelry than I had ever seen on one person. I feared the worst—an orchestra accompanied by a constant jingling. As it turned out she as a perfect seatmate for this performance, because the people seated directly behind us apparently were HUGE Karen Kain fans. They started talking about her as soon as she entered: “Oh she has lost weight.” “That color is not right for her.” The woman with the bracelets turned completely in her seat (with nary a jingle) and gave them the most terrifying “SHUSH” I have ever heard. Not a word from them for the rest of the night.


"The great pleasure in hearing vocal music arises from the

association of ideas raised at the same time by the expressions

and sound."

Joseph Addison, "The Spectator", 21 March 1711.

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Every year all the women in my family climb in the car and head down to the Detroit Opera House for the production of the Nutcracker. We have been doing this for about 15 years now, and I have seen some of the worst behavior! First there was to one year that the couple in front of us kissed during the entire performance, then there was the woman behind us who just couldn't seem to manage to stop burping...it went on through the whole show...plus it always seems that the woman with the largest hair gets seated in front of me, and then I am resorted to becoming the annoying person that cannot keep their head in one place smile.gif

Beth smile.gif

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I just took a group of 20 along with three young ladies (about 9 years old) to the ballet. They were all well behaved, but my heart sank for a moment when I was seated next to one of them, childless as I am, I'm just not used to it.

It taught me a lot to be next to a child with whom I had an acquaintance. The ones who are most excited by it are often the ones you need to gently remind by your example to stay quiet. (Just smiling silently and not immediately answering her first whispered question worked. She got that we would talk later.) My new young friend was thrilled at her first ballet, and I made a point of being sure to discuss and answer her questions immediately during the intermission so she knew that was the right time to ask them.

Even a well-behaved child can be slightly fidgety, especially as the hour grows later. The young lady remained quiet, but shifted in her chair from sleepiness (and allergies). After a bit I realized that I was overconscious of what she was doing quietly and just paid attention to the ballet instead.

Inattentive parents and improperly behaved children are an annoyance and a distraction. Attending dance performances The New Victory Theater is certainly not a rarified event, but the theater is specifically meant for children and I try to remind myself of that. It's important for children to comprehend the difference in behavior between a live performance and the TV in the family's living room. At a young age, they don't yet see why they can't talk or move about, and need to be told that there are other people also trying to watch and it disturbs them. But I hope responsible parents will continue to think of the ballet as a place to bring children who are ready to socialize and educate them as well as inspire them, and that this should be a goal. If they don't, TV will win. And I'll try and be tolerant of them being there!


Leigh Witchel -dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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Guest Jerry

I want to chime in on this one. Regarding children at live performances- I have a six year old daughter who I take to plays and ballet. She's been to a number of Children's Theatre productions, and a couple of ballets. She loves these live events. I explained to her before the first play we attended that this is very different from going to a movie. People will not be eating popcorn and drinking pop. These are live actors (or dancers) on stage, and we can't distract them. We must be quiet. She understood this, and she is always very well behaved. I think most kids would do the same if appropriately instructed by their parents. These performances can be magical to a young child, they just need a little guidance from the adults.

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Let me just say that I have absolutely nothing against bringing children to ballets (or other cultural events) that are appropriate for their age and attention span. In fact, I think it's wonderful to expose children to the world of "high culture" at an early age (but only when they're old enough to have some understanding of what they're seeing). My problem is with the parents who (1) don't pre-assess the program for its child-appropriateness, and (2) don't instruct their children on proper etiquette. The mother I wrote of above did neither and, as a result, the child was bored and ill-behaved.

Changing the topic: another "ballet rage" pet peeve of mine would be the women (and men) who insist on dousing themselves with cologne until they absolutely reek.

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Most people know my pet peeve is applause during the performance. I won't even start on that subject; I'm tense just mentioning it. However, there are others. The people who lean forward in their seats; this blocks the view of those behind them for several rows. At one performance a man seated 2 rows ahead of me did this and I was so @#$%&!! angry that I told the person directly in front of me to ask the man to sit back, which she did (probably as annoyed as I) and it worked.

I've also had my come-uppance. A lady snuck into the seat in front of me, which irked me (OK, I've done it too). What made me angrier was that she wore a rather large hat. One insult was bad enough but 2 were more than I could handle so I politely asked her to remove her hat. She did, and unleashed the wildest, long bouffant head of hair I've ever seen...much larger than the hat! How I wished I had the nerve to ask her to put her hat back on.


[This message has been edited by Giannina Mooney (edited June 26, 2000).]

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My pet-peeve is not so obvious and, in fact, probably reflects an unfair intolerance of 'new audiences' on my part:

I tend to get upset when a fellow audience-member sitting near me (usually behind me...easier to hear) makes it known that s/he is in attendance only because of corporate or family obligations. Especially guilty in my mind are corporate big-wigs who are in attendance at a cultural event only because their corporation is a major sponsor & they "have to make an appearance." Case in point: at a recent ballet in a major European opera house, two Yankee male corporate big-shots sitting behind me kept asking each other what was going on in the Super Bowl back in the US! They couldn't wait to run back to their hotel rooms to turn on cable TV. It drives me nuts to think that those choice-location seats would be better-appreciated by more intelligent lovers of the art of ballet, who could never afford them.

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I had a great lough (though it is not funny when you are experiancing such distructios first hand) while reading the posts.

Ed, the way you have described the look your wife is capable of... I was loughing for 10 minutes. Great job!

Giannina, that hat story was very funny smile.gif!

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Well, I have experienced many of the above distractions and, have to admit, that I'm the type that gets really annoyed. I always say something. My friend who attends the ballet with me always says, "Who are you going after tonight?" or "They always sit next to you." smile.gif

Just last week during of the first night of the new Mahdaviani at NYCB, two couples with two daughters were sitting behind me. During the first ballet, the teenage girls were laughing throughout. I tried to ignore it. From their conversations during the intermission, I gathered they were tourists who came to the ballet just so they could say, "Well, we saw something at Lincoln Center. We experienced culture." Nothing wrong with that but during the premiere, the girls started up again, and added sluping noises to their repertoire. I had thrown a few polite shhhes their way but finally during a break in the action turned around and said, "You might not be interested in what goes on stage but I am. Could you please tell your daughters to be quiet." Well, that was the kiss of death. Now all six of them were giggling and snickering and making comments. Happily, two ballets were enough culture for them and they left before Fearful Symmetries. The point is, if you forget yourself and somebody has to ask you to be quite, just do it. Everybody slips. But the comments and the fights are just irritating and make even more noise.

And I wish people would investigate before going to something like the ballet or opera. An evening of Episodes, Sonatas and Interludes, Summerspace, and Chaconne might not be the program to take very young children, or ballet neophytes.

Oh, I'd also like to add toe-tappers, whistlers, and hummers to my list of enemies at the ballet. Along with those who undo wrappers during the pas de deux (if they must, do it quickly and possibly during applause for a solo or something). And those who have a comment for every new tutu they see.

[This message has been edited by Dale (edited June 27, 2000).]

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Guest Gelsey

Some people at performances are so annoying!!!

It was my birthday and as a present from my parents i went to see ABT's world premiere of Swan Lake. I wanted my first performance from a big company to be perfect, but alas that was not the case. There was this guy sitting in front of me and his girlfriend kept getting upset like the ballet was hurting her or something and he kept talking to her to calm her down-- aaahhhhh it was sooo annoying! Then during intermission i really wanted to get a souvenir so i was looking at this book at the gift stand and this fat ugly guy came up to me and was like " Why dont you move other people want to buy stuff to so get out of the way" except it was much worse i cant remember exactly what he said--- my dad almost exploded he was so angry at the man-- and when i finally got back to the table after being pushed aside there were no books left.

But there is a happy ending!! i was sitting before act three and looking around when all of a sudden i recognized a face- that of former prima with the kirov Irina Kolpakova!! i got her autograph --- it totally made up for everything else.

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Guest BeastieGrrl

I think that there should be separate performances for serious ballet-goers and people who want to bring the family along. Or perhaps an age limit...nobody under 12 admitted without leash and muzzle... However, I would not take offense to Mel's "attaboy"s and such...I actually enjoy seeing (grown) people enjoying the experience to the point that they can't hold back their exclamations of joy!

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I'm very happy to see children at the right ballet, and quite enjoy schools matinees (except for the 2 teenage boys who talked all the way through Les Sylphides recently), and direct my rage at the parents of children who make a nuisance of themselves because they're too small to be there in the first place; but when it comes to those who are Old Enough To Know Better... one of these sat behind me at Ashton's Cinderella once (an evening performance) and insisted on telling her mother the story as it happened; I put up with this through one and a half acts till she started giving a running commentary on the big pas de deux, at which I turned round and gave her a Look. I heard no more from her till the interval, when she said to her mother 'Mummy, that lady has ruined my evening'. Did I feel guilty? No, I felt we were about quits.

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In my experience adults are by far the worse offenders. I can't think of one instance where my enjoyment of a performance was ruined, or anything even close to it, by a child talking. Talkative adults, on the other hand, are all too common. There was a cartoon in, I think, The New Yorker some time back that showed a couple leaving Avery Fisher Hall. The man says to the woman, "The music was so loud I could barely hear myself talk!" A lot of people who should know better go to performing arts events with just that attitude.

And I'm glad Giannina mentioned people who lean forward in their seats. Sitting properly is so important a part of theatre etiquette that I think it should be mentioned in the pre-performance announcement. Or maybe written on the back of the seats in really small print. Something like, "If you're close enough to read this, you're blocking the view of the person sitting behind you. Sit Back!"

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