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Subject: "Where to sit for ballet?" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #178
Reading Topic #178
Eugene Merrett

25-07-99, 12:37 PM (GMT)
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"Where to sit for ballet?"
   For the very first time I purchase a seat which was only 4 rows back from the stage. To be honest I was rather disappointed with what I saw.

I think that with Balancine is far better to be further back and high up. The perspective is an absolutely critical to full appreciation of the ballet. When I saw Serenade in New York I preferred it much more simply because I was further back and high up . It is for the same reason why TV sport comentators sit higher up - they can see the big picture - (In US football they employ a second coach to sit high up and is constant radio contact with the Head Coach at Field level). Of course you loose the personal intimacy if you are too far back. But in Balanchine this not so important because personality is delibrately surpressed. Balanchine like Stravinksy did not like personal interpretation!

The problems were not so apparent with AShton's Rhapsody which is not so perpective orientated. But the other problem is that being so close the corp scenes tend to overload my vision. There is too much on stage to take in!

However with MacMillan ballets (and the new William Tucket Ballet) sitting close in has enormous benefits. These ballets are very personal with strongly developed characters. Moreover there is little corp work . Sitting very close has all the advantages with little of the disadvantages.

Also by being close in you can notice the secondary dancers far better. I can see the principal players through binoculars but I can never focus on the supporting performers. I have always envied the ability of Bruce and Jenny to comment on these dancers. Also the jumps seem much higher when you are lower down!

So when it comes down to it - there is no ideal place to sit. I think the most important aspect is the type of ballet you are seeing. I for one will not ever see a Balanchine work at stall level again. But I will always get stall seats for Macmillan.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Where to sit for ballet? Juliet Shore 26-07-99 1
  RE: Where to sit for ballet? Stuart Sweeney 26-07-99 2
  RE: Where to sit for ballet? Bruce Madmin 27-07-99 3
     RE: Where to sit for ballet? Eugene Merrett 27-07-99 4

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Juliet Shore

26-07-99, 08:11 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Where to sit for ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I agree with you, Eugene, in the programme criterion. But also very important is the house you are seeing it in...at NY State Theatre even the side seats are not bad, while at the Met it is another story entirely. I was very, very concerned about my seats for ENB's Swan Lake as I simply could not envision seeing this piece way up in a theatre this size, but at the same time I am not thrilled by getting hit with sweat flying off dancers. (I had a really nice box office person, went in the house and got to pick fantastic seats--about 4 rows up with great sight lines and not all that smelly smoke blinding me.) High marks for customer service at the Royal Albert Hall...

I very seldom sit in Orchestra for anything (unless someone buys my ticket and I am trying to be polite)...but I concede that it is also a matter of the programme--Nutcracker is not the same as Lilac Garden. So I think the house and the programme have to be considered equally.

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Stuart Sweeney

26-07-99, 08:31 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Where to sit for ballet?"
In response to message #0
   Some time ago, there was an interesting debate on Ballet Alert about whether readers would prefer to see Company A, of the best dancers in the world performing 2nd or 3rd rate work or Company B, performing top class work with adequate/good dancers. Yes, I know we, we all want the best dancers in the best ballets, but this was not a choice on offer.

I believe that this debate is relevant here. I suspect that those who favoured A above, would prefer the stalls and those for B would prefer the Circle, where you can see the shapes that the choreographer is creating.

Given that contemporary dance is primarily about choreography and ensemble dancing, I would always strongly recommend sitting far enough back and high enough so that you can see what the choreographer is getting at. Otherwise, one might miss the point entirely.

On a lighter note, I recently had a half-price ticket for 'Tango Pasion' with no choice of seat position and was given the front row. For mainly pdd work, I thought this would be OK. However, I could have leaned on the stage and the dancers used the front of the stage extensively. In some of the ensemble bits at the front, some of the kicks were actually going over my head. I retreated one row for the second half, which made a big difference.

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Bruce Madmin

27-07-99, 07:34 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Where to sit for ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I prefer to try and sit in the same place if I can and I always like to be as near to the stage as possible. I find it more difficult to compare and judge things if I move around.

Be it dramatic or abstract it's always amazing to see dancers close up. And in the dramatic pieces many of them are far better at acting then would be apparent from eleswhere in the theatre. But of course we all go for different reasons.

Final point - by and large critics don't move around. Again I expect it introduces complications in making comparisons. On the other hand it just might be that theatre managements have never asked them what they would like! Is there a critic in the house?

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Eugene Merrett

27-07-99, 04:29 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Where to sit for ballet?"
In response to message #3
   The Royal Ballet is arguably the best dramatic company in the world (not really arguable- only the BRB can rival it in this field) . So it is the best company to see from close up. Manon must be absolutely incredible 4 rows back!.

Also if you are seeing your favourite dancer then who cares about perspective, depth etc (particularly if it is familiar works!!).

But I will say that Seranade is a very different ballet from high up. At stall level you are seeing a 2 dimensional ballet - at circle level it comes a 3d ballet. The difference is huge Diaganal lines (which Balanchine likes) are lost at stall level.

So it is rather surprising that the New york State theatre has the upper levels recessed so far back. The first circle (called ring over there) starts at least 20 rows back!

I would think that contemporary dance would not suffer to much from stall level viewing. These works tend to be less symetrical and smaller in scale - you are not going see rows of ballerinas in contemporary dance. So maybe they are best viewed at stall level.

Perhaps the best solution is sit about 10 rows back and on a tennis umpire chair. You get the best of both worlds. The problem is that some members of the audience might object!

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