I recently attended the ballet for the first time. Specifically, an evening of Balanchine.
Although I am a devotee of the symphony, I had successfully avoided the ballet for 37 years. What forced my hand? My mother’s declaration that all she wanted for her birthday was to see the ballet.
So I found myself attending the New York City Ballet with my mother and wife.
Balanchine, for my fellow ballet rookies, is George Balanchine, a Russian who was a highly regarded choreographer and also one of the founders of the NYC Ballet. The soundtrack came from the NYC Ballet Orchestra, performing works by Gounod, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Bizet. I especially enjoyed the Ravel, which featured a grand piano that was wheeled on stage and a pair of dancers performing an intimate pas de deux.
On the whole, the ballet reminded me of a three-ring circus – there’s so much going on that it’s tough to know where to focus your attention. While the dancing is nearly silent, you can hear the scuffling of ballet slippers and even the “thump” of the male dancers landing on the floor after a leap. The men dance with more kinetic energy than the women, although all the dancers are obviously in phenomenal physical condition.
What’s also interesting is that unlike the symphony, which normally has one intermission, this ballet had two. Attendees spent the interludes circulating and drinking adult beverages. Surprisingly, to me at least, the hall was practically an art gallery, with paintings on the wall and even large sculptures that one could walk around, turning an evening at the ballet into a melange of artistic media.
Closing thoughts? Would I attend the ballet again? Err, I definitely enjoyed it a lot… but I doubt I’d go again. At least not until mom’s birthday rolls around again.
When not being a good son, Jonathan Ells lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
Lead-In Image Courtesy of lassedesignen / Shutterstock.com