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Subject: "How did you discover ballet?" Archived thread - Read only
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06-09-00, 12:30 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Helen Click to send private message to Helen Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
"How did you discover ballet?"
   On the Dancers of the 70s and 80s thread, Ann Williams describes how, in middle age, she discovered ballet by a chance viewing of Still Life at the Penguin Cafe on television. She asks me how ballet was "handed on a plate" to me, as I had said, so I thought I would start a new thread about how Ballet.co readers came to be ballet fans. I know there was a poll about this some time ago, so if the topic has already been covered, I apologise. Ann's story is much more interesting than mine, but she asked me, so here goes!

It's nothing very dramatic - I wasn't the daughter of a famous ballerina or anything. It was just that my mother loved ballet, and our house was full of books, plenty of ballet books among them. I can't remember a time when I didn't know the names, and faces, of Nijinsky, Karsavina, Pavlova, Diaghilev, as well as the then very young dancers Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes, Pamela May. They came along with Winnie the Pooh and Hansel and Gretel in my childhood. From the age of about 5 my mother took me to every available performance at our local theatres (in Liverpool) - I saw Markova, Dolin, Massine, Ballet Rambert and International Ballet. She tried it with my brother, too, but it didn't work. When I was ten, she took me to Covent Garden, and also to the Edinburgh Festival to see the New York City Ballet. A year later, in 1951, Fonteyn came to Liverpool, and my mother queued for six hours to get tickets (she had seen Fonteyn from her earliest performances). It was Tiresias and de Valois's Don Quixote, so a bit hard for an eleven year old, but enthralling all the same.

I took ballet classes for about eight years, until at 15 or so it became obvious that I was a) too tall and b) didn't have enough talent. But the love of ballet has never left me, and I managed to be a postgraduate student in London at the height of the Fonteyn/Nureyev/Sibley/Dowell/Gable/Park/Seymour golden age. Since then, with some breaks to bring up children and so on, I have continued to go to ballet as much as possible.

Oh, the self-indulgence of writing about oneself! Other people's stories, please.

I seem to be having some trouble editing this. It's coming out wrong, with spaces in the wrong place.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: How did you discover ballet? Caz 06-09-00 1
  RE: How did you discover ballet? Karen 06-09-00 2
  RE: How did you discover ballet? alison 07-09-00 3
     RE: How did you discover ballet? Ann Welsh 07-09-00 4
  RE: How did you discover ballet? Nicola 07-09-00 5
     RE: How did you discover ballet? Carly Gillies 08-09-00 6
         RE: How did you discover ballet? Richard J 10-09-00 7
             RE: How did you discover ballet? trog woolley 11-09-00 8
  RE: How did you discover ballet? Robert 12-09-00 9

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06-09-00, 04:48 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Caz Click to send private message to Caz Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I was sent to ballet classes from age three by my mum who thought it might help to get me to grow up a bit more 'ladylike' or something. I really loved it and stuck with it about 'til I left school - I've now gone back to it again. I've always preferred doing ballet to going to see it, but I used to go about twice a year to see Sadlers Wells/BRB at Plymouth so I used to know the SW/BRB dancers much better than the RB who I rarely saw. I still see ballet about twice a year and a few more performances from small touring companies. I don't really like the classics very much - apart from Swan Lake, I mainly prefer modern ballet or modern interpretations. Funny that, 'coz I'm actually better at classical ballet myself.

So there y'go!

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06-09-00, 04:52 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Karen%20 Click to send private message to Karen%20 Click to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I suppose my story is pretty mundane but for me it started with being sent to ballet lessons as a very young child. Apparently I was pigeon toed and my parents hoped ballet would cure it (it must have done!) The unfortunate older friend who was coersed into looking after me was Nikola Katrak. My ballet career ended after a few months but some of you may remember that hers was rather longer. I followed her career with great interest as she progressed from White Lodge to Sadlers Wells and was thrilled to be able to see her dance a number of times. My interest since then had been sporadic but I have always enjoyed dance. All that changed earlier this year when I saw Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, Okay not ballet I know but it has woken a sleeping giant and now I can't get enough, ballet, contemporary I want to see it all. Living in Oxford we do get a few touring companies and I am there! And yes I will be at the Old Vic on Saturday and I plan several visits to Sadlers Wells later in the year.

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07-09-00, 05:59 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail alison Click to send private message to alison Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #0
   Well, my godmother took me on a couple of birthday treats to see the Nutcracker at the Festival Hall and Tales of Beatrix Potter at some cinema when I was young. Then there was a bit of a gap, until I saw NBT (in their classical days), London City Ballet and London Festival Ballet in the mid-80's, when I was going maybe twice a year at most. But there were really two things that sealed my fate:

1. Quite by chance, I was walking through Covent Garden and discovered what I thought was just a ticket agency called Youth and Music. Then I looked more closely, and found that they were actually offering *discounted* tickets for ballet etc, including standby at the ROH for a tenner. Never being one to resist a bargain, I joined up, and that was really what started it all. From about a dozen ballets the first year, it's gradually increased to maybe 30/40 dance performances a year. I even got really silly prices like 5 for front Dress Circle seats for AMP's Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells! (The scheme is still going, but is now called Stage Pass; if you're under 30 and want more details, drop me a line).

2. Ballet.co, which is pretty largely to blame for me going to more than one performance of each production, which I scarcely ever did before I started reading these pages. (It's all your fault, Bruce!)

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Ann Welsh

07-09-00, 06:56 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #3
   LAST EDITED ON 07-09-00 AT 07:03 PM (GMT)

This dates me, but when I was a sprog during the blitz and some time after the end of the second world war, the Royal Ballet decided it wasn't very keen on staying in London and took to touring the country. My aunt, a dedicated culture-vulture took me to every performance they did locally. I saw them all, Fonteyn, Sibley and Dowell, Markova, Grey, Grant, Somes, and lots of others, tho I didn't know their value at the time, and even I think Helpmann at one point. I bought Dance & Dancers but my interest gradually lapsed when I took to youth-hostelling and youths in general. It was only after early retirement and watching AMP's Swan Lake on telly that I took up the interest again and now I travel far and wide to see the shows I want to see. The next step of course is to start looking for certain dancers and refining your bookings. And we're lucky with touring companies here in the north-east. Trocks in Newcastle, SB's R&J at Edinburgh, BRB's Ashton programme at Sunderland, all in the diary so far, and Rambert early next year. And even little companies like Ballet Gwent and British Gas Central. AMP is also on the circuit. Saw The Car Man well before London. Here you have (a somewhat aged but young in heart) ballet groupie. My turn now to educate the young and with some success so far.

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07-09-00, 10:54 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Nicola Click to send private message to Nicola Click to add this user to your buddy list  
5. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I was sent to ballet classes as a child but all I had to show for it was a pre-bronze medal and a deep dislike for being dressed as a bunny - I left my ballet career behind age 7.

However when I was about 13-14 I decided to watch a video of La Fille mal gardee with Lesley Collier and Micheal Coleman - my mum had recorded it from the tv a few years before as she said it was the only ballet she liked. Despite having seen it a few times before, this time was special - it suddenly struck me that ballet was great! It wasn't long before I was going to ballet live and it has held a place in my heart every since.

I have since purchased my own copy of that performance of Fille - still my favourite- and it is much watched.

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Carly Gillies

08-09-00, 04:05 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #5
The only possesion I still have from my childhood is a battered cloth bag full of ballet certificates, programs and photos and autographs of dancers - all from the sixties. I suppose I must always have valued them.
As a child I rather badly wanted to be a dancer - specifically a member of the Royal Ballet. Well that ambition was thwarted ( wrong shape/meagre talent ) but I still managed to see a lot of ballet in the late 60s and early 70s by pestering my own or other peoples mothers to take us wherever in the midlands the RB or anyone else was appearing.
Best were the trips to London to see Fonteyn ( twice with Nureyev, once with Michael Somes ) Best memories - brief conversations with Fonteyn and Nureyev - both so gracious and charming.
From the mid 70s, due to study,career and family, I saw very little ballet for nearly 20 years. Then 4 or 5 years ago I saw Rambert ( a program including Swansong and Rooster ) and then AMPs Swan Lake, and that sparked the whole thing off again. ( I even joined a ballet class again wih dubious results )
Since then I've seen as much dance as possible, and although I don't miss a chance to get a fix of classical ballet, I now invest more in the way of money, time and effort to see contemporary dance.
The reason for my 'conversion' was demonstrated so eloquently by NDT last week. During the wonderful and exuberant finale of Arcimboldo they seemed to be saying " OK We can do the classical stuff, but just look at what we can do when we lose the inhibitions and restrictions of classical ballet."
Thanks Helen and Ann for the chance for some nostalgic indulgence.

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Richard J

10-09-00, 09:27 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #6
   I always knew what ballet performances looked like; I had an aunt who ran our local dancing school (hoards of little girls doing ballet, tap and acrobatics - very 50's), and my mother played the piano for the end of term shows. But music was my thing, and it was opera rather ballet that I looked out for when Sadler's Wells visited the Theatre Royal in Norwich. Ballet seemed a very odd world, mainly concerned with fairy stories. Opera had real flesh and blood (I still watch a lot of opera).

Looking back, it is now possible to see what a shot in the arm Nureyev gave to British ballet in the 60's, and the image/expectations of the male dancer. MacMillan's R & J (1965)was my 'way in' - knowledge of the play and Prokofiev's music were the points of contact. From then on I wanted to see more, but mainly 20th century rep., especially when the music was by Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Prokofiev, etc., (i.e. any reputable name from the 20th century). It was years before I wanted to see a Swan Lake or Giselle. I now appreciate the honoured place Giselle has in the rep., and mourn for Tchaikovsky that his music for Swan Lake was so mangled after his death - true, it needed a bit of pruning, but not the treatment it received. However, Ivanov's poetry in the white acts will always be something to return to.

Stuff like Don Quixote doesn't grab me at all; the choreography is spectacular I know, but Minkus hardly makes the substitutes' bench for the composers' 3rd XI, and the drama is non-existent (or a laugh) with the dotty old Don relegated to a walk-on role.
It just shows what sort of attitudes Tchaikovsky was battling against (and why Fokine did what he did).

I'm always hopeful that ballet will find a new sense of direction, but I'm not looking for swan jamborees - contemporary dance is more adventurous, and often more rewarding in new work, I find.

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trog woolley

11-09-00, 03:23 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #7
   When I was at university in Oz, the Festival Theatre (Adelaide's biggest) used to offer a student rush, were half an hour before curtain up, unsold tickets were sold to students at ridiculously cheap prices. I used to go and see opera, ballet, drama, just about anything I could get in and see. If I didn't like it, then I was only out a dollar or two. Ballet quickly became my favourite, most likely 'cus it was full of very attactive and fairly scantily clad young ladies. (Well I was a uncouth uni student after all!! This was the late 70's; remember the punk era ?? Well I was there!) Somewhere along the way, I began to appreciate ballet for the technical skill (both at the dancing and narrative levels). So here I am, 20 years on, still watching ballet, only now being older and richer (not wiser though) I can afford to see much more.

I started taking lessons about 6 years ago. As you do, I decided to learn to walk the tightwire. I was getting pretty good at it, and I wanted to start getting into jumps and running. My wire teacher suggested I take a term or two of ballet lessons as it would be a big help in developing my wire technique. Something to do with finding my centre. She was right; after the first term my wire improved about 1000%. I decided to carry on with ballet class; I realised there wouldn't be another huge quantum leap in technique, but I figured it would help a bit. During the third term, it all started to make some sort of sense and I began to really enjoy class. It was still hard work, but some bits became easy(ish!) I could dance just like those chaps I seen on stage (Well maybe not). I get very euphoric during jumps.

As an added bonus I get to share a room with lots on scantily clad attractive women. (Yep I'm still uncouth!)

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12-09-00, 00:34 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Robert Click to send private message to Robert Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
9. "RE: How did you discover ballet?"
In response to message #0
   I was taken to the theatre regularly as a boy as my father was very keen. He did not like ballet much but I do remember seeing it during the war. At fifteen I went to the theatre every week with a schoolfriend and remember seeing Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin but not being too impressed as it was so classical. At art school in the fifties my brother took me to the opera at Sadlers Wells every week. When he found a girlfriend I started going to the ballet on Saturday afternoons. I saw such wonderful ballet, all the excitement and innovation of the old Ninette de Valour company.I became interested in expressionist art and saw the Ballet Joos and the Green Table and the Roland Pettit Company on their London visits.One summer holiday I got a tempory job painting scenery for the Walter Gore and Pamela Hinton Ballet company. After getting married I started going to theatre more than ballet although I do remember Helpman in The Rakes Progress just before he gave up. I was not too sympathetic with the return to pure classical ballet after Nuryev came over so went less often. In recent years I have become very interested again. Like others I may have been revitalised by AMP. I have enjoyed seeing the Macmillan ballets I missed, and I was very interested in seeing the Diaghelev ballets which we all missed.I am pleased Macmillan did so well, I remember him as a rather oversized dancer in his ballet of Sherlock Holmes.(Will they ever revive that?)

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