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It's the Perfection, Stupid.

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Well, I say, good for Euan Ferguson! Although I didn't always "get" his British analogies, I think I caught the gist. And I think he has "gotten" a really great start on becoming a regular ballet goer.

My favorite part is when he is in the pub, afterwards, drinking his imperfect lager, and he is chatting with the recently showered ballet dancers:

What did they get from it? 'My father describes ballet as a painting in movement, and I often think he's right,' explains the American. 'Your every movement, every muscle, is part of a painting unfolding in front of the audience. And every night is different, no two performances the same, but sometimes you do know; sometimes you have, in fact, hit perfection.'  

And his reminiscences of the night...

I can still glimpse, in my mind, the geometric perfection of Ashton's 'Scenes de Ballet', brilliantly designed to present a different ballet from every angle, and the precise beauty of an entire chorus lineup, all en pointe, moving inch-perfectly as one, rescuing me from my philistinism.

Even though his last remark, "Though I do still wonder why they don't just get taller dancers.", which struck me as really quite funny, shows he's still got one foot in the imperfect world, I quite enjoyed this piece.

Thanks Leigh, I hadn't seen this article. I hope others will post. I'm sure there's more to it than what I've mentioned, but it's time to get a move on this morning, for me. Oh yes, at one point when Ferguson mentions the beauty of two dancers, and says he thinks that is another reason why some of the men in the audience attend - well, I think quite a few of us womenfolk appreciate that kind of perfection, too!

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I think that for a first-timer, he demonstrated an incredibly steep learning curve, far sharper than others in his situation. By the next time he goes, and it sounds as if there will definitely be a next time, he'll have mulled over what he observed this time out, and we've got another friendly face in the audience. Which is what we need, after all. And on that next occasion, he will see more and better, and be even more into the participation in the art. After all, even his observations on the audience members is valid. It takes two sides to tango, if a morris dance metaphor may be mixed with the Argentine;), the performers and the audience! Shucks, this time, he even had a management suggestion: Hire taller dancers! He's hooked!:)

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Some of that is very lovely -- oh, he'd hate that word, I bet! But he's still uncomfortable going there, still has to let you know at the end that he's a real guy.

The thing that struck me as sad about this article -- and the many other mentions I've read in the British press the past two weeks -- is how important it was that "Becks" (I've never heard of him, but I gather he's a famous football star there) went to the ballet.


Stop courting the old widows for their money. Put all your energies into getting Michael Jordan to come to the ballet. He's tall -- he'll stand out. People will notice him. And then everybody will go, in the spirit of the "I want to be like Mike!" commercials.

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It's refreshing and unusual, I think, that his loss of ballet virginity came about at a mixed program rather than at Swan Lake. I think more first-timers would enjoy that experience too. But I found the overall tone extremely annoying. Is "the whole edifice" of ballet really founded on "snobbery and daftness"? It's his own preoccupation with fellow audience members that strikes me as snobbish and daft. And that ending about hiring taller dancers...really! I first heard that remark in Italian about 1832, I think it was, after an amazing performance by la Taglioni.

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I've always thought that a good marketing tip for the Ballet de Marseille would be to send free tickets to Mrs Zidane: her husband, the soccer player Zinedine Zidane, who was born in Marseille, is extremely popular in France, and especially in Marseille, and I remember reading an interview in which he said that he first met her when, as a teen-ager, he went to his soccer training and crosser her when she went to her ballet classes (and, as he was shy, it took him several months to dare talk to her). Probably she doesn't take ballet classes any longer (and now they live in Spain, as he plays in the Real Madrid team), but when they come to Marseille visit their families, who knows?

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I think he didn't do at all badly for a first timer, and one who came a bit wary. It seems to me there's significant differences between the USA and England on social issues that account for the great detail given of the audience profile. Almost all the attacks on the Royal Opera House have been over elitism, the high cost of tickets and that the place is a refuge for the wealthy funded by the state. He's trying to state from his observation who actually was going and how it diverged from the conventional wisdom there.

I may be wrong, but I think Becks is in fact David rather than Victoria Beckham, so as a couple, they're "Posh and Becks". Which makes me think of Bubble and Squeak. . .(a dish of cabbage and mashed potatoes, isn't it?)

To me, it says something about the duties of celebrity that many have forgotten. If you're a public figure, it isn't just about being famous. You're supposed to set an example. Whatever else Oprah Winfrey has done, she's taken literacy as her cause and done everything in her power to use her fame for that cause. If Posh and Becks would like to adopt fine art as their cause, I'll be happy to buy a ticket to a game of whatever the heck sport it is he plays (rugby, is it?) I'll even buy an album of hers. I'm happy to see celebrity achieve a positive result.

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He's a soccer player, not a rugby player.

I agree that it's positive that celebrities set a good example. But I also think, like Farrell Fan, that some of his comments about the audience were quite nasty or despising (and who is Penelope Wilton, by the way?), and also his joke about Jiri Kylian's name was plainly stupid (there are plenty of vowels in his name...) But well, if it makes more people go to the ballet...

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I'm glad you said that about the audience comments, Estelle. I found that quite distasteful. But fitting with the whole tone of "real people don't go to the ballet, and isn't it comforting to know that they all have dandruff"?????? I love the image -- the entire English audience is ugly and dowdy, sucked in by dreams, and surrounded by elegant Japanese. Oh, and the cool cool young, of course. To me, this would be insulting to half the readership and condescending to the other half.

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Yes, Becks is David and Posh is Victoria Beckham. Tabloid newspapers and things like "Hello" are big here so that is why the fact that they were at the ballet was more important than the ballet itself. It is a strange world! (Or maybe it is just strange here - I am not sure!)

I don't think ROH is elitist. It is only expensive if you sit in the expensive seats! People don't really dress up anymore (I mean obviously dress up - they could all be in outrageously expensive jeans or something) and that has changed from a couple of years ago when it was a lot dressier I think. But the writer painted a funny picture of the audience! I suppose quite accurate though. Sadler's Wells has a much younger and trendier audience.

I am glad that the writer seemed to appreciate that ballet is really hard work and that he thought the end product was perfect. But I think people are more likely to go and watch Becks in a football match as a consequence of him going to the ballet, than going to the ballet themselves.

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Though I didn't comment on the descriptions of the audience, I agree that they were not the most polite. I do, however, think Leigh is right about the differences in British and American cultural tendencies - the Brits have always been much more class conscious than the Yanks....although we, in the US, pride ourselves on not being aware of "class", we all know that this is not quite the truth for everyone. Nevertheless, his way of describing the audience was rather unflattering and, yet, I thought his mentioning the soccer player and his ex-pop star wife were also quite humorous. Perhaps, we Americans are taking Mr. Ferguson's comments to heart, too much.

It will be interesting to see if he writes about the ballet, again... that way we'll know if he is truly a convert, or not. His realization of the "perfection" and athelticism required are a good start to conversion, anyway. I also can't help but think his, supposedly happenstance, meeting with the two male dancers at the pub was written about, possibly, to make a point that not all male dancers are necessarily gay...after all, real men don't drink lager, do they? ;) :) :rolleyes:

The fact that Ferguson wrote the piece the way he did is certainly yards beyond Dave Barry's piece about being forced to go to his daughter's recital!

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I make such a different read of it! Here's a guy who starts out with the question "Who goes to the ballet these days?" and ends up falling in love with the art form.

Ferguson's main intent was to study the crowd, and he did a pretty good job of it. He's an astute observer. I think his main point is that people don't go to the ballet to be seen. They go to watch the ballet. Ergo, they don't spend a lot of time, money, or thought on clothing and pretension. This is a compliment, not a putdown.

(Parenthetically, that's why he was so put off by the people who did act anti-socially; I think he had come to expect better.)

Having discovered that people come to watch the ballet, that's what he did too. He clearly became captivated. How else can one explain this delightful passage:

Not a sound, not a cough or snuffle, from when the lights went down until the end of the first movement, when the place erupted with knowing delight; and later, after the long wispy brilliance of Bussell's pas de deux at the end of 'Winter Dreams', I was cheering along with them. And I realised: it's the perfect art form because the artists cannot escape with anything less than perfection.

"Long wispy brilliance"? This is a man who was paying attention, who loved what he saw and tried to articulate it for the rest of us. I thought he did rather brilliantly himself.

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Good for you Treefrog! :) I think there are some here who felt that he was captivated as well... I agree that not wanting or needing to "be seen" is a compliment, as well! The good news is that he obviously liked what he saw on stage!

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Another article was written in the Sunday Express "Posh and Becks at the ballet? It must be cool". There's no link yet but the critic Jeffrey Taylor goes on to say that "classical dance is the height of trendy chic." It goes on to mention other Spice Girls, Madonna and Princess Di who loved the ballet and goes on about other cool associations with the ballet, fashion designers, and dance training incorporated into football. It's not an article of any substance but it's quite nice that space was given to write it. The Sunday Express is the only non-broadsheet/tabloidish newspaper to write regular dance reviews I think. I've seen mentions in the really trashy tabloids too. Victoria and especially David Beckham exert huge influence in the UK on what's fashionable and what's not and I'm all for making a visit to the ballet more socially acceptable. :) The characterisations of the audience in the Fergusan article were very funny I thought because they are so recognizable (though I don't think I fit into any of his categories). Plus it's great that he actually says the RB's public subsidy of 10 million pounds is "astoundingly little" given the terrible press and heckling the ROH took over money while it was closed.

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There are pro footballers, pro dancers, and also, pro writers. Fergusson writes for his living. As one who writes for a livin' meself, I think the fellow had a paper to write, and space to fill. Which he did, very amusingly.

But he was also taken with what he saw, and he's put that across better than most. Better than many dance writers, actually. And more power to him.

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I thought this article was brilliant - even as one who could see a few uncomfortable parallels with my own dress sense when I attend ballet at the ROH! And I also agree that he wasn't criticising the audience but praising them for the fact that they were genuinely there to watch the performance rather than display how wealthy and educated they are to be there atall.

I read the article with particular interest because my daughter and many other students from her ballet school, including several Japanese girls, were in the audience that night and I did wonder whether they might have been meant by:

But there were also a surprising number of foxy young London things, giggling in cashmere; and exquisitely dressed Japanese.

I'm sure the final comment about taller dancers was intended as a quote of a much loved "ignorant remark" and was aimed at the non-ballet readers!

And as for the disappointment that the attendance of Posh and Becks was so important surely this has to be a good thing if it persuades anyone to try ballet for the first time. My daughter has an enormous poster of David Beckham on her wall at her ballet school hostel. And I regret to say that if she had to choose which performance to attend based on the cast members versus the presence of certain celebrities in the audience it would definitely be Posh and Becks every time!

The truly encouraging thing was his own enthusiasm for the performance when his initial purpose in attending seemed to have been to review the audience.

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