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Ballet Rage

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Good news! In the Bolshoi program booklet last night there WAS an announcement asking patrons in the balcony to please not sit forward as they will block the view of those behind them. Bad news! It was on the last page, hidden among the "For Your Information" tidbits. But it's progress.


[This message has been edited by Giannina Mooney (edited June 28, 2000).]

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Do you think you could fax a copy of that page to The New York State Theater, The Metropolitan Opera House, and City Center?

Seriously, I'm glad that this at least has shown up on the radar screen. I don't even take my seat anymore at NYCB unless I go with someone. When I'm alone, I buy my seat through my Fourth Ring Society membership (cheaper than standing room) and grab one of the seats at the very top (the last few rows are usually empty), partly to avoid this problem. If I do have to sit in the seat I bought because the theater is sold out, and I get a leaner in front of me, I ask them politely to sit back in their seat. But I'd rather avoid the situation entirely.

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The recent worst, for me, was sitting next to an englishman in the front row of the orchestra for Dvorovenko's Swan Lake, and the guy had a fancy little camera with one of those self focusing lenses, and he literally shot five roles of film during the performance. Every time Irina would do anything, "whirr-sha-dup," "whirr-sha-dup," "whirr-sha-dup" -- It was continuous. I mean, in one variation he would shoot ten shots.

Of course, ingrained New Yorker that I am, I suffered in silence. Groaning and fantasizing about tearing him limb from limb, or stamping on that camera.

Finally, at the curtain calls, when ABT's ushers all crowded down to shout and throw roses, they spotted him doing the same thing for the bows and told him, "no cameras, please." And he still didn't stop.

Shameless guy.

[This message has been edited by Michael1 (edited June 28, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by Michael1 (edited June 28, 2000).]

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Guest DancingQueen

when im performing and i look out into the audience and all i see is EVERYONE fanning themselves with the WHITE program. Such a rude distraction for the performer.



"Whatever you feel, just dance it." -Charlie, Center Stage

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Guest dancewriter

I can wholeheartedly agree with everyone who's commented thus far: I attended a performance of Stomp in May and I counted half a dozen people showing up late or leaving early, a small child talking incessantly, two cell phones going off, and two flash photographs being taken from BEHIND me in the balcony! This after the audience was told to "please turn off all cell phones and children under the age of 4". What is this world coming to that people cannot respect the work of great artists?

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I thoroughly agree that adults can be just as irritating as unruly children. Even more so, IMO, since the adults should (should being the operative word....) know better.

Children should certainly be exposed to high art at a young age, but the parents should be firm in enforcing their children's adherance to the rules of "audience etiquette". I'm sure many a student (myself included) was inspired to begin ballet training after attending his/her first ballet performance. Mine was a "post-nap time" Nutcracker matinee at the age of five. I attended with my parents and great-grandmother (an avid ballet fan....I used to sit in her house and endlessly leaf through her programs). My one-year-old sister was left at home. Much to my mother's delight (and in accordance with her master-plan), I begged for classes after the performance. However, my parents hold PhDs in Emily Post smile.gif and I can still hear my mother's voice instructing me to "behave like a proper young lady"....or else!!

Forgive the autobiography, but though I thought my parents to be terribly strict when I was younger, I now thank them for the knowledge and exposure to the arts they've given me. Not having children myself, I only have my childhood memories to refer to on this topic wink.gif. It seems to be somewhat common for people to be rather intimidated when attending cultural performances in their adult years if they were not exposed as a child....this intimidation is oftentimes projected in the form of complaining, trying to be funny, or attempting to appear knowledgeable by commenting endlessly on the events on stage. It seems these people have tried to "broaden their horizons", but only halfheartedly without doing some research beforehand to familiarize themselves with what to expect. An example would be my DISASTROUS date to last year's HB performance of Sleeping Beauty! Comments from neighboring audience members are one thing, but when your date (who purchased the tickets to surprise you) complains about being there through the whole performance in an effort to be funny.....asking you to wake him at intermission...... Ooooohhhh...I shudder at the memory. I was so embarrassed! My "shushes" only encouraged him. Needless to say, the relationship was short-lived. It ended when he dropped me off at my house post-performance. I politely requested he not even bother walking me to the door.....

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How about latecomers? This varies from theater to theater (the Kennedy Center is merciless, forcing you to stand in the back if you miss the curtain, but others around here are much more lenient). I attended several performances this past season where there was an incessant stream of latecomers, through the entire first piece. Since the theater is pitch black, they can't find their seats, so there's a lot of "Is this Row X?" "No, we're L," as well as "Maude, is that you?" or simply standing in the aisle, and thus blocking the view of everyone in the vicinity, etc.

As a viewer, it annoys me. As a critic, it panics me because they just may be blocking the most crucial two or three minutes of the ballet.

On printing behavior tips in the program book, one local school-and-company, in its annual Nutcracker program, prints a page, in simple language and large type, of how to behave in the theater. Ten simple rules.

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Alexandra, since I started this topic I am amazed at the wide range of annoying items, so will you please post the 10 'rules' of good behaviour. I would like to be able to pass them on to some members of the audience. It really surprises me that people will spend large sums of money to get good seats at a performance and then behave so badly as some of the comments on this topic.

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Well, I see that Russia still has some advantages. Orchestra's doors close with ouverture, so, latecomers will climb on balcony, after intermission they can take their seats. No children under 10 years old allow to go to evening performances, for matinee limit is 5 years old, but I'm not sure, may be even 7.

The most annoying things for me in St.Petersburg are clackers, fans of some particular dancer who applaud, shout doesn't matter how this dancer did his/her job tonight.


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Colwill, if I ever find that program again, I'll be glad to post the Rules. If anyone here is from the Maryland Youth Ballet and still has a program handy, perhaps you could post them?

Andrei, three cheers for Russia!!! All sensible rules. A very politically incorrect story. I can either say this company was from a land that we American capitalists in our benighted way feel is a wee bit repressive, or I can say it was a Chinese company that visited DC during the reign of the Gang of Four. Whatever. The preperformance announcement is always given by the visiting company's people. And this was an announcement that would strike terror into the hearts of men. Not just the words, but the tone. It was not your "We ask that patrons please refrain from..." It was "GOOD EVENING. THE TAKING OF PHOTOGRAPHS DURING THIS PERFORMANCE IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN." There were other things that were forbidden, but I was too frightened to hear them. Actually, our audience is very well-trained in this way, from years of sharp-eyed and aggressive ushers who seemed to be on a quota ticketing system smile.gif

One good story about a child, since children have figured so much in this thread. One night at a performance of the Chinese Acrobats of Taiwan (yes, I know it's not a ballet) there was a tiny boy, no more than four. A little Chinese, or Chinese-American, boy dressed in a sailor suit and carrying a teddy bear. I didn't notice him until I was leaving, although he was only two rows behind me, testament to his exemplary behavior. But now he was sobbing as only a very young child can -- forget Lady Capulet and Tybalt, this was Grief. The reason? Because he didn't want it to be over. I will never forget that. It must be the most wonderful compliment anyone ever paid an artist (and these acrobats were artists).

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eWolf, I'm also rather easily embarrassed if I find myself with someone who just doesn't know how to behave in public! I would have loved to leave my disastrous date snoring at intermission, but then I would have had to miss the second act smile.gif!

I'm surprised to learn that rules on late arrivals are so lenient in many places. At the Wortham Center, you are absolutely forbidden to enter the theatre after the lights go down...not even to watch from the balcony or the back of the theatre. Ticket holders are reminded repeatedly that late arrivals may watch the beginning of the performance on monitors located in the Green Room and claim their seats at intermission. Additionally, there is an announcement at the beginning of the performance that flash-photography is forbidden, "for the safety of the dancers and by law." Thankfully, I've never once seen a flash go off during a performance. How distracting! We also have the usual reminder to turn phones and pagers off or to silent mode (although some still manage to overlook this instruction). I could swear that there used to be a section on "audience etiquette" printed in the programs, but I couldn't seem to find it in my recent R&J program. It may be Houston Grand Opera who politely reminds its audience members that "lovebirds should refrain from leaning against each other as it obstructs the view of audience members in the rows behind."

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Guest meowmix

re: children at the ballet

I think that children who have studied ballet know better how to behave in the theatre, when it is appropriate to clap, etc. However, it really is an individual thing. If a group of kids is taken to a performance, I sit among them, or seperate the close friends. This usually stops any conversation, giggling, etc. However, before we go, I tell them a little bit about what they will see and explain the etiquette of attending a live performance. If we were to attend a live music concert, I would do the same thing. They need to understand when to clap and when not to, when to stop talking following intermission, etc.

If I have a problem with somebody behind me, and I paid for my ticket, I speak to them. If they are not respectful, I assure them that I will not hesitate to advise the usher of my concerns. If it is a small child, I speak to the adult with them. You can be sure that other people in the area are feeling the same frustration and are glad you are saying something.

I think that children SHOULD be in the theatres as much as possible, but should attend performances with subject matter and content suitable for their age and maturity level. Parents should be making smart choices.

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I've got a "top this one" story. At Paul Taylor in D.C. last Friday, a tiny tot (no more than 3) with her mother (presumably) and grandmother (presumably) caused a ruckus the likes of which I haven't seen in 25 years of dancegoing.


This was during "The Word," one of Taylor's less sunny pieces.

During the intermission, I saw several irate patrons who had had the misfortune to sit behind the child -- who said they couldn't see a thing, in addition to being disturbed by her talking -- go to an usher, who apparently had not realized she was expected to intervene. (A friend who'd turned around and glared more than I had said that the mother had seemed completely oblivious to the child's behavior.)

Further during the intermission, the mother and daughter sat on a bench -- apparently determined to go in for the finale. The mother was feeding the child something -- pudding, perhaps? ("Oh, good. More sugar," a friend observed.) We were told several patrons had asked for their money back. The house manager was talking to the mother for a l-o-n-g time. The mother/daughter did not return. The other woman did.

I was about three rows in front of them, across an aisle. Several people around me decided that if it happened again, we'd intervene. "If the stewardesses won't do anything, then it's up to the passengers," I said, volunteering to throw a blanket over the mother and drag her up the aisle. The very nice man sitting next to me offered to go for the pudding.

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Wow, Alexandra, that's really something. I can't say I've experienced anything like that (yet)! I just wanted to put in a word about the whole cell phone ringing bit. I know it's really annoying, but I'm sure some well-meaning people simply forget once or twice in their lives to turn off their phone before the performance. I usually have subscription tickets, so the crew of performance attenders is generally the same. If they like ballet enough to get a subscription, I would hope they wouldn't mean to leave their ringers on!

By the same token, I have a little story to tell, too. It was a symphony concert, actually, and during the piano concerto the pianist was starting the most lyrical and emotional part of his cadenza. The symphony had totally dropped out, so it was just the soloist. Right as there was a pause in the melody, someone's phone went off with "Toreador" from Carmen! I felt so sorry for the pianist (who went through beautifully)! But for some reason it was so very funny. Many of the patrons near me smiled and grinned, but of course kept quiet and enjoyed the rest of the piece. smile.gif

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I think people are just getting more and more inconsiderate frown.gif They talk and get too rowdy during performances, especially amateur types (like recitals and comps). People don't remove their loud children either, and that really bugs me. If a baby is crying, they need to leave (too bad if they paid $$ for the show).

A really annoying thing about recitals is when people get up and leave after their own kid has finished performing, how rude is that? Anyway, I'm sure I'm repeating lots of what has already been said but I think sometimes adults are more annoying than the kids . During my last recital I was totally disgusted with the talking and people moving around, especially when the little kids performed-like they weren't worthy of the same consideration the older performers get. How bout this? If the rule is no flash photos or use of video cams during the performance and the announcement is made right before the performance and it's noted on the program, is it okay to still do it? Ummm nooo..... but they still do, you can bet on it and I've almost fallen off a stage from being disoriented from flashes. Don't even let me get going on sporting events and how the parents swear and scream at everyone, grrrrr. Oh wait, let me throw in how people get up and talk and stuff during the National Anthem...flag, what flag? Aakkkkkkkkkkkk!!! Sigh...

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Oh dear. You've all reminded me of an event from around 8 years ago which I heard about, but luckily wasn't witness to. My daughter, at about age 9 or 10, went off to a Boston Ballet performance with her friend and her parents. These girls were thrilled to be in attendance and knew the Nutcracker intimately, having been in productions since they were 6. They were sitting directly behind Bruce Marks, then AD of BB. The two girls, according to the parents (who themselves are dancers and know Marks a little, thank goodness), critiqued the performance from start to finish, comparing it to their own pre-professional school's student production. Of course these loyal little girls found that Boston Ballet just didn't measure up whatsoever. I'd give anything to know the thoughts going through Marks' head throughout that performance. Wonder if it's too late to apologize?

[ November 02, 2001: Message edited by: vagansmom ]

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Yes, that gets high marks for rudeness (a score of 9 out of 10). That reminds me, I invited a teacher I knew from a different studio to watch our spring recital.. She brought along a student of hers to watch it with her as well. So afterwards I was talking to them and this teacher preceeded to tell me how poorly trained certain dancers were (mostly the soloists). I was like...shattered. I'll bet they both sat there and critiqued the whole performance, just like with your experience (vegansmom). I still don't think she realized how offensive she was to me and everyone I know who worked so hard.

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Guest dancin'g'al

but what if you whisper something ABOUT the ballet or dancers? I don't see how that if wrong-if you are not speaking too loudly!

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dancingal, I think it's only people who are LOUD that will annoy others. If you can really whisper softly, or hold your comments to the applause, that's fine. But -- re Andrew's comments above -- it's good to remember, when making comments about the dancers, that the dancer's mother may well be sitting in front of you! smile.gif

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My brother is fond of telling a story from years ago at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center where his enjoyment of Dances at a Gathering was marred thanks to the man sitting behind him who was making frequent and very uncomplimentary comments about how the dancers were doing.

This barrage of criticism finally ended not long before the curtain, when Jerome Robbins got up and ran backstage, doubtless to give the hapless performers the benefit of the observations he'd shared with those around him in the audience.

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I think I had my ultimate ballet rage at a POB performance of Bayadere at the Opera Bastile last week. Seated behind grandparents and two grandchildren who constantly questioned every action on stage. The bobbing of heads and the endless conversation nearly drove me to take physical action. However, since I can barely speak a word of French, their actions went unchallenged. The one redeaming feature was that the seating rake at the Opera Bastille is such that I had a comlpetely unobscured view of the whole of the stage and the dancing was superb, quite one of the best Bayadreres I have seen.

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OK, I guess I'll jump in here. My peeve has already been mentioned in the thread about NYCB's opening night last week. I thought I'd expand on it there, but this seems to be an appropriate place, so here goes.........

The "overwwrought" fan who shouted "bravo" during the arabesque promenade in the fourth movement of "Serenade" was no fan at all, IMHO. He (yes it was a male voice) was an obnoxious boor who had probably had a few too many at the bar beforehand.

Manhattanik and others who commented on his behavior were being most generous and kind. I have no such thoughts of kindness because he came perilously close to ruining the ballet for me.

When there is a moment of such supreme beauty on the stage, and it is accompanied by such exquisite sound from the pit, I have nothing good to say about the person who destroys it. What this guy did was so inappropriate, so absurd, so wrong...what on earth was he thinking?

We see this in Saratoga every single year at the gala. A few people who suit up in their tuxes and gowns, quaff a few at the Hall of Springs, and weave their way down the hill to show how cultured and classy they are.....well that was some neat move in "Apollo"--look at that she climbed on his back! Bravo! Bravo!


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