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First contact with ballet

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I'd like to hear how people first became hooked on, or just interested in, ballet -- was it a performance? a book? a movie? through lessons?

I saw my first ballerina in a book, "The Book of Dance," by Agnes de Mille. I read the book cover to cover with particular attention to the many good pictures. Not too long afterwards I badgered my mother into taking me to a performance, and the rest is history. :D

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My mother had a lot of books,dating from the thirties and forties, about the early days of British ballet and ballet in general, so I fell in love with photographs. I can't remember ever not knowing about Pavlova, Nijinsky, Karsavina, Diaghilev, Fonteyn. I went to my first ballet when I was five. When I was 9 I started serious ballet lessons, as opposed to just "dancing" lessons. I was hooked almost from birth!

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I was nine when I had my first lessons because a friend of my father suggested ballet. In my case I think ballet classes were a substitute for Ritalin.

At first I had a take it or leave attitude toward the classes, but one day my teacher invited me to watch a studio run of LES SYLPHIDES.

I was affected by LES SYLPHIDES the way James was affected by his Sylph in LA SYLPHIDE. The musicality, movement and symmetry were more beautiful than anything I had ever imagined.

From that moment I worked my hardest to become a dancer some day.

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In 1980 at the age of thirteen, I saw a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast of ABT's 'The Sleeping Beauty' starring Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones. I was captivated by Tchaikovsky's sublime score and Cynthia Gregory's marvelous Aurora. It was a life-altering experience and I've adored ballet ever since.

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My wife took ballet class for many years and danced in the chorus of two Broadway shows. She dragged me to NYCB subscriptions for several years. Then I discovered that I really liked it and became an enthusiast. Now I go as often as I can, and buy a shelf-full of videos.

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My mother wanted me to see Nureyev in 1973. I

was not interested in "seeing a fag dancing".

A typical response from a boy of 16 at the

time! In 1974, I saw pictures of Rudi in a

Life mag. from the mid-60's. I was amazed by

the elevation of his leaps. I then asked my

mother if he used a trampoline! She said, "No

dummy, that is the guy I wanted to take you to see dance last year. I saw him in "Sleeping Beauty" with the National Ballet of

Canada. I never looked back!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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I started taking ballet classes at a very young age when my family was living in Japan. It is just something I have always done. However, I remember being transported by dance fairly early on as well. The first magical performance for me was seeing Alvin Ailey perform. The whole evening was amazing but Revelations was the most electrifying thing I had ever seen. I also remember seeing the Royal Ballet do Manon when I was very young. The emotional content really moved me.

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I have a vague pre-school memory of seeing ballet on the Ed Sullivan Show and of thinking that ballet dancers couldn't be real because of the way they moved, the outfits they wore, and the ballerina's make-up. Something must have stuck with me though, because in elementary school when we were exposed to classical music, I knew that Tchaikovsky's score belonged to the 'Swan Lake Ballet' and I was the only kid in class that knew this. Even my teacher seemed surprised at my knowing this but pleased also.

Later on when my cousins took ballet my Mom asked me if I wanted to join them but, much to my regret now, I preferred to play baseball with my brother and his friends! My Mom did love dance but mainly Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Donald O'Connor so my love of ballet probably stemmed from her. I will confess on this board that my father thought Groucho Marx was a very good dancer!

It wasn't until after I'd married and moved away to the area where I now live that I saw a 'Swan Lake' on PBS, thought it was beautiful but also thought you had to go to New York City to see that caliber of ballet. My sweet husband, bless his heart, informed his hillbilly wife that dance such as I saw on PBS was available at the Kennedy Center. About 20 years ago for Christmas he gave me a string of pearls and tickets for ABT and it's been love ever since!

I count ballet as one of those essential things that makes life worthwhile now. (And in a nod to my Dad, I love the Marx Brothers too, but I don't think Groucho's dancing is quite up to ballet standards!)

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I wanted to bump this up. We have raised this question before, but I think it's a good one to bring up every six months, or even more frequently, as there are so many new people. Come on -- everybody can answer this one :) So, especially if you haven't already, please do.

I came to ballet at the advanced age of 26! I had taken modern dance in college, but never had the opportunity to SEE anything and hated the teacher, so I didn't go to dance performances. I was intimidated by ballet -- like opera, it seemed something you had to know something about to see and enjoy. (Yes, stupid.) Then I went with a group of friends to see a Nureyev and Friends program and was Hooked for Life. I've thought about dancing every day since.

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My mother taught ballet in our home when I was young, so it was always been part of the background for me. Her classes were strictly girls-only, though, and I wasn't interested then anyway. Realizing that ballet was something worth watching closely and doing was a gradual process, and it's difficult to pick a particular event that triggered my fascination with the art. In my early twenties I saw the Nutcracker and Don Quixote on television, both with Baryshnikov, and realized that here was eloquence in a language I didn't understand. To learn that language, I began going to every ballet performance in Wichita and eventually began taking class.

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My first contacts with ballet were an extension of my early exploration of classical music. While I got some pleasure from some of the symphonic repertory, I liked some ballet scores more, so that I wanted to see the ballets when I had the opportunity. When I was sixteen and seventeen, I think, I saw the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo do "Petrushka" and NYCB "Firebird" (with Tallchief!), among others, and I still remember some bits. Unimportant bits, as it happened, because I lacked the maturity to take in the best of it. It didn't "take", and I didn't see any more ballet for about twelve years. By that time, though, I must have been ready, because when I saw McBride and Villella with NYCB in "Rubies", I was hooked, and a few years later, the company no longer visiting Chicago, I began visiting New York to see forty or fifty performances a year (not quite all NYCB, incidentally).

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Guest mod-squad


My first contact with ballet happened at age 6. I was in the school library and came across a book called "The How and Why wonder book of Ballet" (I found a copy of this a few years ago in a thrift store).

Not wanting my friends see me reading this ( because I'm sure I - a young boy, would have been ridiculed for being interested in ballet), I would periodically sneak a peak or two at this book. It had these typical illustrations and photos in it. On the cover was this picture of a beautiful ballerina and her partner. How lucky for him. Everytime I would see a ballet performance on TV or at the talent show at school, I would always think about this book. God how I wanted to take ballet soo very bad!

Unfortunately, my parents would not hear anything of it.

It wasn't until I moved out of the house at age 20 did I start taking ballet class and have ever since.

(sigh) All those wasted years!-Peter

[ 09-04-2001: Message edited by: mod-squad ]

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Following is an edited version of what I provided in my introduction:

I have enjoyed the arts for more than half a century and once believed that ballet is an affected art form that merely supplemented music. My transformation to a ballet lover occurred at the ripe old age of 60+ years. As my log-in name might suggest, that transformation was a result of viewing a Fonteyn video (With Nureyev in Swan Lake)in which I came to appreciate grace, elegance, and the beauty of classical ballet.I really do adore Fonteyn. She's not dead--she merely returned to Olympus after gracing the earth for ~70 years.

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I took ballet lessons for two years back when I was six and seven - from a nun! She was the only person who ever slapped me across the face and that was in response to my missing an entrance (stage fright) when I was supposed to lead the group out doing "ballet walks".

Needless to say, when our 3 year old daughter wanted ballet lessons, I said no. Told her it wasn't allowed till the age of 5. One and a half years later, she came out of nursery school with her eyes blazing because she discovered that a 4 year old friend took ballet lessons. My lie was now obvious. I signed her up thinking it would be an asset to her Irish dancing (we own a studio). It's 11 years later, she's taken lessons at the same pre-professional school all these years, (quit Irish dance) and taught me volumes about ballet. I couldn't imagine life without it. We're just far enough away from NY to make it difficult to attend ballets but we manage 3 or 4 a year (ABT and NYCB). We used to see the Hartford Ballet regularly (I'm still mourning their demise - it's just not the same). So, most of the ballet I see live is in the form of student productions. But that, too, has its appeal since I've watched so many of these youngsters grow up and go on to ballet careers. And every now and then we get to see them dance professionally.

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My father introduced the music of Swan Lake to me when I was seven. After he told me the story of Odette and her Prince, I imagined myself a Swan Queen. Ten years later my sister brought home a video Bolshoi's Swan Lake (can't remember who danced it). It's my first time watching the ballet. But I became hooked on classical ballet when I first saw live performance of the Kirov.

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It was a 1973 special on PBS entitled 3 BY BALANCHINE. The three ballets were SERENADE, TARANTELLA, and DUO CONCERTANT. I watched every repeat. Following that, I borrowed Lincoln Kirstein's lavishly illustrated history of New York City Ballet from the library so many times that my Mom eventually bought my own copy! That December I saw NYCB's NUTCRACKER for the first time. After JEWELS I knew this was for real. Ballet lessons soon followed... and continue!

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My first contact with ballet was a book which was given to me when I was 9 by an old lady my mother had invited for dinner: it was written by the French critic Gilberte Cournand, and its title was "Beauté de la danse". It included a few nice photographs, and excerpts of various books and texts about dance (Noverre's "Lettres sur la danse", some biography of Pavlova, a text about Nijinsky's falling into madness, a text about Martha Graham by Bethsabee de Rotschild, an excerpt of the memoirs of Marie-Louise Didion, dealing with her childhood years at the POB school and her encounters with Lifar and Spessivtseva, etc) I read it almost extensively, didn't understand most of it but found some parts fascinating (perhaps even more because I didn't understand many words! For example the Nijinsky text ended with somthing like "a few days later I learnt that Nijinsky had been _interné_ (sent to a psychiatric hospital)" I had no idea what "interné" meant, but surely it looked like something dark and frightening. But there was no ballet in my home town of Grenoble, and I quickly forgot that book.

I became interested in dance years later, when I was about 16-17, when I saw a TV program about Nijinsky, which included a video of his "Afternoon of a faun". Then I read again "Beauté de la danse", started browsing all the dance-related books I could find in libraries (my high school had only two, the most recent being from the early 1960s) and bookstores and thought that something which looked to fascinating and beautiful on photographs could only look better on stage. I finally saw my first ballet performance in september 1992- but actually, bizarrely I was already hooked before seeing it!

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My first ballet was NYCB's Nutcracker, when I was four or five. This was followed by ballet lessons (that didn't last long as I had little flexibility) and a visit to ABT or NYCB every year or so throughout my childhood. Although I liked the ballet, I never really fell passionately in love with it during my childhood. I think I didn't like some of the full-length ballets (at the time, I found Giselle and the non-NYCB Nutcracker's quite boring.)

When I was in college, I started to go to a lot of modern dance. Indeed, I thought of myself as liking dance, not necessarily ballet. So I went to all sorts of dance performances. After a few years of this, however, I started to get a little cynical. So much of modern dance is of uneven quality -- both in performance and choreography.

Readers of this board might be horrified to learn of what turned me into a ballet fanatic. It was NYCB's American Music Festival in the 80s, which was a critical disaster. Seeing that Ray Charles was performing with the ballet, I saw an opportunity to take my then boyfriend to a dance performance that he might enjoy. I don't remember much of the performance, other Charles, and that it was mobbed. But I do remember thinking "these people can really dance -- they are far better than what I have been seeing."

So I decided to get a subscription to the ballet. I didn't fall passionately in love with the ballet until some time later, when I was transported by Darci Kistler in Duo Concertant. Since that time, I not only have retained my subscription to NYCB, but I now have a new appreciation for Giselle and full length ballets.

Martins has really been criticized for things like the American Music Festival by traditonal balletomanes, and I can understand why. Nevertheless, when I go to a performance of something like NYCB with Wynton Marsalis, and see an entirely different audience than is normal, I am heartened by the fact that the audience for ballet is being broadened -- and maybe not for just one night.

[ 09-05-2001: Message edited by: justafan ]

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I have been a ballet fan for over 50 years. My introduction was aged 7 when my mother took me to a performance of The Sleeping Beauty. I am not sure which company it was, but we did see the International Ballet and the then Sadlers Wells Ballet - we lived in the UK in the midlands. I had never seen anything like it before and was really hooked and went to classes on and off for many years.

In the years since then I have seen many performances and many dancers and companies. One memorable occasion was a performance of Marguerite and Armand in 1965 with Fonteyn and Nureyev which was wonderful. Only this year I was lucky enough to see a superb debut - Alina Cojocaru in Giselle. I am now looking forward to seeing her in other roles.

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Guest sparklez109

I took ballet for a month at age 7, but terrified of my teacher, I quit. Then when I was 9, and a complete tomboy, since I refused to take ballet (because ballet is for sissies I used to say) my mom forced me to take a jazz class. I found out I was pretty good at it and grew to love it. The next year I was asked if I wanted to join their jazz junior company, but I had to take a ballet class. So halfway through the year I enrolled in a ballet class. But ballet at this studio was sort of a joke. anyways, I danced in the company the next year and took one ballet class and decided I liked it just as much if not more than jazz. So I went to a ballet studios summer program and switched to their studio last year. But it was over 30 minutes away (too far for my mom to drive) so this year I'm going to another studio, one that I'm sure I'll be with for a while. It was a very bumpy start, but at least I know where I'm going now. :D:)

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I was aware of ballet at an early age because our local dance school was run by an aunt who was very close to us, and my mother played the piano for the shows. I can still see them marching onto the stage to 'Anchors aweigh' - hordes of girls (including my sister) doing ballet, tap and acrobatics; very 1950's. I resisted being taken to watch Sadler's Wells on tour (in Norwich); music was my thing, and when the opera arrived I had to be there! All this despite the fact that I really enjoyed doing ballroom dancing.

What converted me to watching ballet was MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, which I drifted along to watch when I was a student. I knew the play and the music; I was amazed at how ballet could convey the detail of Shakespeare's drama. Juliet was Antoinette Sibley (gorgeous!) and Romeo Anthony Dowell - but the star for me that evening was David Blair, for whom the part of Mercutio was made. I didn't think that a guy would look so virile on the ballet stage!

From then on I had to see more, but only 20th century ballet. It was years before I wanted to see Swan Lake and the other 19th century classics.

[ 09-10-2001: Message edited by: Richard Jones ]

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