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Tips for seeing Pennsylvania Ballet


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I am planing to attend the Pennsylvania Ballet in March and another dance event at the Music Academy in April. I wanted to know if there are tips for things to avoid or look for when purchasing tickets. I tend to sit upstairs, in the less expensive seats, but I might to decide to splug to sit closer. Are there any sections to avoid (particial viewing etc...) and are there must-go-tos as far as gift shops or restaurants?

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Dale, there are some areas in the Academy of Music with obstructed views -- they don't sell the ones directly behind the poles, but there are a few where you might have to lean over your seat mate to get a good view of the entire stage. Best bet would be center parquet, or balcony. I've sat in the cheap seats (most upper level)too with my handy binoculars and as long as you make sure you're in the first few rows you'll be fine. Actually although it goes up pretty high, its not a deep theater if you are not behind a pole (or a lady with really large hair) you can see quite well. Go to PA Ballet's website for a link to both the Academy of Music and the Merriam (their other venue) and you can pull up seating charts.

If you're driving, plan on using a parking garage. There are several self-park and also valet available on The Avenue of the Arts. Trying to find onstreet parking will just frustrate you.

The theater doesn't have a gift shop, but the Ballet runs a lttle boutique with PA Ballet logo items, and some ballet related merchandise for sale in the lobby. A REALLY NICE gift shop is in the Kimmel, just about a block south of the Academy. Take the time to visit it while you're there. You can find some unique and very nice items there.

As far as food is concerned, again, not a problem. Jack's the bar off the lobby of the Double Tree has good American Fair -- hamburgers, chicken salad, etc. and its a nice atmosphere. There's also the Italian Bistro just up the street, and they always have a 20% off coupon in the Playbill. There are many, many places to eat -- it depends on what you want and how much you want to spend. There is a fabulous Mexican restaurant nearby, Tequillas, Ruth Chris is right down the street, Bookbinders is closeby. Its all a matter of what you want.

Enjoy your visit!

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Sorry to have missed this earlier, but maybe I can still help. The Merriam has somewhat tight seating on every floor (there are 3) but pretty clear sightlines from everywhere, so it's probably not worth splurging for the orchestra. The top balcony is pretty high, though, so your best bet might be the middle floor (the balcony) which is divided into 3 price ranges, I think, with the most expensive seats being up front.

As for the Academy, it is riddled with obstructed view seats but the people at Ticket Philadelphia are genrally honest about what you're getting. On the higher floors, try to be as centered as possible. Also, if this is for Miami City Ballet, odds are good that you'll get good seats because that show hasn't been very well publicized around here yet.

I second Doris on the Kimmel Center gift shop; it's excellent, if a bit pricey and will give you an excuse to gawk at the glass vault ceiling.

Restaurants- there are several cute Italian byob's in the immediate vicinty of the theaters (Bellini Grill, La Viola, Ernesto's 1521 Cafe.) Another restaurant I really like is Valanni (sort of meditteranean latin fusion) behind the Wilma Theater on Spruce Street. Oh, and Effie's on Pine Street (inexpensive Greek food in a cute setting.)

Also, FYI, I heard through the grapevine that whatever Balanchine piece is on the March program (Sonatine?) may have been replaced with a Kevin O'Day piece. That is hearsay, however.

Have fun in Philly and let us know what you think of the March program!

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I've done the back row of the Merriam seats. It's a good bargain, but the sightlines don't feel very good - it's a very steep rake in the audience. I think seats in the front of the balcony wouldn't be as bad.

Philadelphia is a great food town, though my favorite eating places aren't near the theater. I took a group to one of the Italian places nearby (but which? It was "Upstairs at Somethingorother") and people seemed to like it. All told, I'd rather go to Philadelphia's Chinatown, which is wonderful, but it's a bit too far to walk.

The best tip for New Yorkers I can give about getting to Philadelphia is take forego Amtrak and take NJ transit to Trenton and SEPTA to Philadelphia. The connection is very easily made at the station, it takes about 2.5 hours total and it costs under $30 roundtrip, a huge savings off of Amtrak for not that much extra time.

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Thanks for all the tips. So, its middle section at the Merriam and stay centered at the Academy. I planned on taking the PATH to Newark, NJT to Trenten and then the SEPTA to Phillie for about $25 round trip.

Unfortunately, if Penn Ballet is not doing Sonatine, I will probably only go see Miami City Ballet.

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How about suggestions of places to stay over night? I know I can do the whole hotel search thing but thought I'd see what some of you might have to say. I will be driving when we go and would love to stay in the city itself and, ideally, be able to walk to the performance. Am I correct that both venues are within a reasonable distance of each other?

Thanks in advance!

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You are in luck! The current issue of Arthur Frommer's Budget Traveler magazine has a whole article on the "Little wonder hotels of Philadelphia" (pleasant accomodations for under $100 in high season.) Unforturnately, I've misplaced it but I'm sure you can look at the article in your local Borders or Barnes & Noble.

Lots of people I know stay at the Warwick, which is now a Radisson hotel, just off Rittenhouse Square and walking distance from the theater. The DoubleTree Hotel is also directly across the street from both theaters- you are correct that the Merriam and Academy are more or less next door to each other. Another walkable option is the Marriott at the Convention Center. Loews and Ritz Carlton are an easy walk too- I'm not sure about your price range. The Four Seasons is a little further away, and wouldn't quite qualify as walking distance, imo.

When you look at the Arthur Frommer article, anything listed as being in Center City or Rittenhouse Square is a short distance from the theaters; Old City and Society Hill are a bit too far to qualify as walking distance, though they are a quick cab or subway ride from Broad Street where the theaters are.

Hope this helped!

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These are all lovely hotels -- and staying in Rittenhouse Square makes a trip to Philly even nicer. If you're looking for a nice, but cheap, option... my parents used to stay at the Holiday Inn Express at about 13th and Walnut. I assume it is still there.....

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BW- when are you planning to come up? We live right outside Phila. We're definitely doing the Wheeldon Swan Lake, but tend to go to NYC for other ballet (such snobs!). Phila is a wonderful town for walking and exploring- the Rittenhouse area, Society Hill, with its very old townhouses, Chinatown, South Philly (Italian Market), Art Museum area etc. No car needed (and it's a liability).

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Dufay....gee, I hope that you try and see one of PaBallet's mixed bill programs.....these dancers are so versital and it gives you a chance to really see many of these dancers shine in a variety of dance styles. The April program with the Trey McIntyre piece, "Blue until June", Martin's "Fearful Symmetries" and a TBA premiere sounds promising. They listed DeMille's "Rodeo" on this program for their touring schedule but it is not clear if they are doing this ballet at home as well.....hope so! I have heard that their production of "Dracula" is great also......and the Balanchine program is always wonderful.


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Thanks for the reply dufay, I'm not 100% sure when...I am an old Dracula lover from way back, so I think that might be fun...but I'm also interested in seeing them perform some of their Balanchine ballets and I really would like to see Wheeldon's "Swan Lake" too.

So many ballets in so many places! :) I'll keep you posted as time goes by.

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Socalgal, I don't think Rodeo is on the spring mixed bill in Philadelphia, though I would love to see it! Especially Christine Cox as the cowgirl, I think it's her best role. And now that Jodie Gates is gone, there's a spot for another cowgirl too! Maybe Tara Keating or Heidi Cruz? PA Ballet owns the Rodeo sets (I remember they got a large grant for it a while back) so I think that's why they take it on the road so often.

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Yes, she is (and still very fun to watch.) I'm not sure of her age, but she's hardly the company's most senior dancer. :blink: I sure hope to see her as the Cowgirl again!

Also, Christine started Phrenic New Ballet with Matt Neenan and Amanda Miller (who left PA Ballet last year) and she choreographs and performs with them a lot- they recently had their NYC debut, I think. I've actually never seen Phrenic (feeling sheepish) but I've heard good things...

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