5 Tips for Watching Your First Ballet Performance
Last week I saw a Ballet performance for the second time in my life. The 1st ballet was over 10 years ago at the Boston Ballet for the Nutcracker show. I wanted to go in there and learn as much as I could, but I didn’t have the experience to know what to do. I asked around and got some vague answers. For example, I asked the ticket seller “which seat would you recommend” – the answer: “it depends on your preference…”
Today I am going to share My Top 5 Tips for Watching Your First Ballet so hopefully you can get the most out of it.
- Get Seats at the Dress Circle/Orchestra Level (below is the seating chart from PNB) or Bring Binoculars lol – OK I don’t know if binoculars are allowed, but get good seats. I got a seat at the first tier which cost about ~$80. The problem with the first tier is it still wasn’t close enough for me to see the details. I couldn’t see the expressions on the dancers faces (e.g. the weird faces the dancers make at you in the beginning of Six Dances). It was difficult to see the fig leaf on the guy’s you know what – so it was easy to miss the jokes. For another $20 I could have gotten seats at the Dress Circle and I think that would have been worth it. The challenge for me was I wanted to bring friends there so I couldn’t just buy super expensive seats
- Go to any Extra Pre/Post Performances for the Show – The Pacific Northwest Ballet hosts events called “Audience Education” to help facilitate the education of Ballet to the community and it is the best thing since sliced cheese! You cannot go wrong attending these types of events. I went to the Friday Dance Preview and the Post Performance Q&A, and it is the best opportunity for any aspiring dancer to learn about the piece and dancing in general.
We got a chance to ask Peter Boal, director of PNB, and Kiyon Gaines, a Corps de Ballet dancer from PNB questions. Before I go on, I have to say Kiyon Gaines is FREAKING AWESOME as a dancer and as a person. He indulged me after the Q&A and answered a few of my questions. I hope he gets promoted soon and his career goes well.
Here are a few questions and answers from the event that I liked:
Question for Kiyon: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten and what kind of advice would you give to newbie adult dancers?
For the best advice, Kiyon suggested making sure to infuse all your dances with yourself and your own personality so your audience can follow you the “individual” throughout your performances. And not to sweat the small stuff.
Question: How do you train? What’s the cross training?
Kiyon does about 1.5 hours of cardio every day (with an interval training plan – including the user of different machines. An hour in the morning and 30 minutes before a performances. He also stretches throughout the day rather than a super long stretching session.
Bonnie’s note: I think I’m still going to do 1 day of a focused stretching session a week but also combine it with this stretching throughout the day idea. Since my injury, I’ve been doing a stretch in the morning, afternoon, after work, and before bed and I really like it.
Question: Every teacher seems to count a little differently in ballet class. Why is that and how do you figure it out with the dance?
The meter/tempo is the same, but the way it’s counted helps identify where the teacher wants the accent to be for the exercise.
Question: How did you recover from your injury? Based on what I heard, it sounds like injury is a common issue for dancers (myself included ) Always take care of your body and don’t push yourself too much! I know.. I don’t do a good job of following that rule either. Kiyon had to have injury about a year ago and only 6 weeks ago was he able to return fully from dancing. He talked about how it was weird at first to come back to ballet and how difficult it was to relearn to dance.
Question: Out of the pieces tonight Petit Mort, Six Dances, Jardi Tancat, and Glass pieces, which was the most challenging?
He thought probably Jardi Tancat because it is such an emotional piece. Jardi Tancat is a piece about farmers who worked the land and had to pray to the Gods for water for their survival.
The tickets are still very costly but well worth it. PNB goes extra lengths to help the audience get the most out of the performance. I want to say: THANK YOU PNB FOR PROVIDING THESE EVENTS FOR THE COMMUNITY!
- Read the Brochure and Visit the Company’s Website to Get Context about the Performance
You can get a lot more details about the piece for example here is the music and premier date that goes with each of the dances
Petit Mort: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Piano Concerto in A Major [Adagio] KV 488, Piano Concerto in C Major [Andante] KV 467), Premiere: August 23, 1991: Nederlands Dans Theater
Sechs Tanze (Six Dances): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Sechs Deutsche Tänze [Six German Dances], KV 571, 1789), Premiere: August 24, 1986; Nederlands Dans Theater (Amsterdam)
Jardi Tancat: Songs based on Catalonian folk tales, composed and sung by Maria del Mar Bonet (1981), Premiere: December 19, 1983; Nederlands Dans Theater
Glass Pieces: Philip Glass ("Rubric" and "Façades" from Glassworks, 1981; "Funeral" from Akhnaten, 1983), Premiere: May 12, 1983; New York City Ballet
- Try to Watch the Piece and Listen to the Music on Youtube First – Watching the Ballet is like unfolding an onion. Every time you watch you unpeel a new layer you didn’t first discover, so the more you watch it the more you’ll get out of it! I watched the performance first at the Friday Dance Preview. At that time I didn’t get the jokes, but this time around I got a lot more and I was able to pay attention to the dancing more.
- And the rest…
Dresswear: You don’t have to dress up, but for me it makes it more fun. There were people who did dress up and there were people who didn’t.
Timing: Of course arrive early! I would say try 30 minutes earlier than you’d plan. Between parking and finding the place, it will always take longer than you think and you don’t want to miss the opening.
Deals: Look for deals the week of the performance. PNB had a 20% discount the week of the performance which I couldn’t take advantage because I bought mine early. Of course there’s a trade off because if you wait until the last minute you may not be able to get the seats you want. Also there’s usually some sort of subscription package so look for that as well!
I can’t wait to go to the next performance and learn more! Hopefully by then my knees will be better because it does kill me to watch other people dance and me to sit on the sideline. Do you guys have any tips you want to share about your experiences with Ballet performances?
Please share in the comments section!
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