Jump to content

Booing at the Ballet


Recommended Posts

"The booing at the interval curtain was richly deserved."

 

These are the words of the Independent's dance critic Jenny Gilbert in her review of 'Midnight Express'.  I must say I was very disappointed to see a critic condone booing at a performance.  Of all people who should know how much work goes into putting on a piece of live theatre, be it dance, plays or concerts, it is the critics.  How does she think it makes the dancers (who by all accounts were doing their best with the choreography) feel to hear people booing?  Even if some members of the audience are booing the production, it is the dancers onstage who have to hear it, and who are never sure if it is them or the production getting booed. 

 

I can't stand booing, but I thought it would be interesting to ask all of you what you think.  Is it ever justified?  For example, if a dancer has an off night and doesn't complete the 32 fouettees, can't hold her balances, etc?  Or if an opera singer misses his/her high Cs, or goes off key a couple of times?  Do these artists deserve to get booed as the audience has paid lots of money to see a wonderful performance?  Or do we accept that they are human and sometimes the voice or body don't work as expected?  I must say I have seen booing at the opera a few times, but never at a dance performance.....are opera fans more demanding than dance fans?

 

A few questions to ponder on a Sunday....I'd be interested to hear your views!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apparently people were booing Roberta Marquez in La Bayadere the other day. I'd be mortified if I was on stage and someone was booing me, and I just can't comprehend ever doing it to someone else. It's so rude, and, in my opinion, never justified.

Edited by chrischris
  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't imagine why anyone would boo Roberta in this role.  Maybe an ardent Alina fan who would've booed anyone replacing her, no matter how good the performance!!  Let's just hope she didn't hear it.  It is so hurtful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understand your sentiment, Sim.  However, after having seen MIDNIGHT EXPRESS I can understand why some people's decorum might be pushed beyond any reasonable limit; yes, EVEN critics.  I agree with the Daily Telegraph critic when he said it was 'unendurable'.  What I CERTAINLY didn't understand was those who rose to give this an automatic standing ovation.  That is the other extreme, I think, and should perhaps be treated with equal concern if it is not be rendered meaningless as it is on Broadway.  (Such ovations were, I thought for example, deserved in the case of the O/V Don Q's.)  I, myself, left the Coliseum after ME in a state of depression.    

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I felt that strongly in a negative way about a performance, I can't imagine doing anything other than refusing to applaud.

 

As for people booing a dancer who has replaced an injured dancer, that's preposterous! What dreadful manners!

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

as the reviews for Midnight Express went pretty much as I had expected the piece to be from reading the blurb (even WITH Sergei Polunin), I did my 'booing' with my feet (as it were), and simply didn't buy a ticket. I mean - what were the boo-ers expecting?

 

As for booing generally, can't say I'm in favour, as its not always going to be clear at who or what you booing. Mind you, if you'd paid £200+ for an opera ticket and the singer you'd gone to see gave a duff showing, well, fair do I reckon to give them the 'bird'. If its the production - you only really get a chance to show disapproval on opening night, if the muppets are bold enough to show face at curtain call time...

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't imagine why anyone would boo Roberta in this role.  Maybe an ardent Alina fan who would've booed anyone replacing her, no matter how good the performance!!  Let's just hope she didn't hear it.  It is so hurtful.

 

I wasn't there, I just heard about it. I'm not sure why they were booing, as I hear she was excellent in the role. People are very strange.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing is, the plot of ME is well known, and even if one didn't know it, there must have been a synopsis in the programme. So if it was found to be squallid or shocking that was to be expected.  I remember the Bolshoi bringing the Rite of Spring to Calcutta eons ago and the audience being outraged. There it was a question of inadequate information, if people had known what it was about I don't think they would have gone to see it. I remember feeling very sorry for the ballerina who was brilliant and gave her all, I was too young to notice names then, alas. But the look on her face is one of the reasons why I would never boo a performance, I would limit myself to perfunctory applause for the dancers and not the production, or just not applaud at all.

Personally, I wouldn't go to see ME, just as I haven't been able to watch The Judas Tree, because I am squeamish. But if I did and then were to be disturbed by what goes on onstage, that would be a little silly, IMO.

 

I do wonder what the dancers feel when, for example, Carabosse is booed. Do they take it as a response to the character or are they upset by it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

As for people booing a dancer who has replaced an injured dancer, that's preposterous! What dreadful manners!

 

Yes, this is really bad, even for those blinkered fans who only like certain dancers, or have they're fave replaced by one they particularly dislike. I'm sure they wouldn't approach said fave dancer and boo them for being injured or ill - so its not the fault of the replacement, who I'm sure would always do their very best and with minimal rehearsal time to aid them. There have been occasions when I've been disappointed one of my own personal faves hasn't danced, but then often pleasantly surprised to 'discover' a new dancer  - just have to relax your mind and give them a chance.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing is, the plot of ME is well known, and even if one didn't know it, there must have been a synopsis in the programme. So if it was found to be squallid or shocking that was to be expected.  I remember the Bolshoi bringing the Rite of Spring to Calcutta eons ago and the audience being outraged. There it was a question of inadequate information, if people had known what it was about I don't think they would have gone to see it. I remember feeling very sorry for the ballerina who was brilliant and gave her all, I was too young to notice names then, alas. But the look on her face is one of the reasons why I would never boo a performance, I would limit myself to perfunctory applause for the dancers and not the production, or just not applaud at all.

Personally, I wouldn't go to see ME, just as I haven't been able to watch The Judas Tree, because I am squeamish. But if I did and then were to be disturbed by what goes on onstage, that would be a little silly, IMO.

 

I do wonder what the dancers feel when, for example, Carabosse is booed. Do they take it as a response to the character or are they upset by it?

No....they don't get upset by it, they know it is a response to the character!  Some, like Gary Avis, even play along: when he does the red run after playing Von Rothbart and gets roundly booed, he sometimes makes a face at the audience, keeping in character.  I've seen other dancers ham it up also, by pointing a finger menacingly at the audience.  It usually ends in applause after the booing.

 

Like a couple of posters above, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like ME, so didn't buy a ticket.  If I'm really not enjoying something, I leave at the interval, but that hasn't happened too often.  However, if I'm still there at the end and I really didn't enjoy it, I just rush out immediately as the curtains go down.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is dreadfully bad manners to boo any performance, unless it is obvious that the performers could not give a hoot about what they are doing,  and are simply going through the motions.  The only time I can think of when this happened was when I went to see a friend of mine who was dancing in the Black and White Minstrel show about 15 years ago (?).  The songs were pre-recorded, for some reason, and some of the singers were making no attempt to even look as though they were miming.  Two were clearly having a private conversation and laughing during the songs.  I'm afraid on this occasion I joined the rest of the audience, and gave them the boos they richly deserved. 

 

The British do tend to boo the baddies, as mentioned above, and I hope foreign visitors are warned about this pantomime tradition in advance, because it could be a bit of a shock for the performer otherwise! I felt a bit apprehensive when I went to see the Mikhailovsky and this happened, as the dancer concerned didn't appear to be milking the applause in the way we have come to expect.  He didn't look too upset either, so I assume it was alright. 

 

But apart from the two examples I have given, it is just not acceptable.  To boo a dancer who misses a step, or fails to complete 32 fouettes or whatever, is shocking behaviour, and I would scowl at anyone around me who behaved like that.  I've never experienced it under those circumstances.  On the very rare occasion there has been an obvious mistake, the audience has given sympathetic applause.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do wonder what the dancers feel when, for example, Carabosse is booed. Do they take it as a response to the character or are they upset by it?

 

I have spoken to a few Carabosses and dancers portraying other baddies and they 'take' the boos as a real compliment. In fairness, there are often cheers for them as well.

 

Unfortunately the boos for Roberta could be heard near to the front of auditorium

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have read with open-mouthed disbelief that Roberta Marquez was booed.  Appalling, unwarranted behaviour.

 

I don't like the concept of booing.  I've seen lots of things I haven't liked but would never resort to booing when it is obvious that performers are giving 100% even if the material they are working with stinks.  As others have said, I would give minimal polite applause or not applaud at all.

 

I think dancer baddies seem to revel in the boos.  Certainly Iain Mackay fully milked the boos when appearing as the Mahgrib in Aladdin!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that booing is appalling. The only possible exception is where a performer is CLEARLY not bothering. It's incredible that Roberta Marquez was booed at her first performance of La Bayadere. Did this happen when the cast change was announced, during the performance or at curtain call? I really hope that she didn't hear it. I have heard some very audible mass expressions of disappointment at cast change announcements a couple of times at the ROH. I think that I read somewhere that booing at opera performances is not unusual, though.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am shocked to read Roberta Marquez was boo-ed. She's a lovely dancer and lovely person this is unbelievable for ROH. 

 

I agree that the traditional baddies - Carabosse in particular and maybe Rothbart may get boo-ed and boos are testimony to their good portrayal of the role!

 

If a production is as bad as I am reading ME was, then I'd just leave at the first opportunity.......

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that booing is appalling. The only possible exception is where a performer is CLEARLY not bothering. It's incredible that Roberta Marquez was booed at her first performance of La Bayadere. Did this happen when the cast change was announced, during the performance or at curtain call? I really hope that she didn't hear it. I have heard some very audible mass expressions of disappointment at cast change announcements a couple of times at the ROH. I think that I read somewhere that booing at opera performances is not unusual, though.

 

Apparently it was at the curtain call, but as I wasn't there, i'm just going by what i've heard. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm one of those people that even if I hate something (a meal for example) i'll pretend I love it just to avoid making a scene, and I just can't comprehend booing someone. If you heard it you'd just want the ground to swallow you up.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Those are very detailed instructions for attending the ballet!

 

Looking at point 3, it has been a long time since I studied Italian, but shouldn't there be  "brave" in there as well?    Given that La Bayadere is on at the moment, we wouldn't want to audience to shout "bravi" by mistake after the Kingdom of the Shades, would we?  :rolleyes:

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing is, the plot of ME is well known, and even if one didn't know it, there must have been a synopsis in the programme. So if it was found to be squallid or shocking that was to be expected.  

 

Personally, I wouldn't go to see ME, just as I haven't been able to watch The Judas Tree, because I am squeamish. But if I did and then were to be disturbed by what goes on onstage, that would be a little silly, IMO.

Although I wasn't there (refunded my ticket), I believe the booing at ME was due to the quality of the production, rather than sensitivities about the material.

 

I'm assuming the ovation on the first night was a tribute to the young dancer who took the lead on at short notice, and a recognition of the difficulties in the run-up to the show, which must have put a lot of pressure on the dancers.

 

I don't think booing is ever appropriate (except for pantomime booing the baddie, as others have mentioned here).  The problem is that even if you're disappointed with one or a handful of performers, because they're not putting effort in, are under-rehearsed or whatever, a theatrical production has hundreds of people working on it, both on- and off-stage.  Those people might have done a fine job, and I hate to think how bad it would make them feel to hear something they've put so much work into get booed.

 

Disappointment with a performance is better signalled by lacklustre applause, or in extremes leaving at the interval or immediately the curtain comes down. 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Telegraph recently published an etiquette guide to ballet and opera for beginners, in which the subject of booing merits a paragraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/the-big-question/9922375/The-Big-Question-an-etiquette-guide-to-ballet-and-opera-for-beginners.html

That was a good article but some of the comments were even better LOL! Our audiences thread comes to mind.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone remember the early 90s, I think it was, when Berlin Ballett appeared at the Coliseum with Bill T. Jones' die Oeffnung?  I remember it received a very hostile reception, but can't remember whether it was actually booed.  I think someone shouted out "rubbish!" or something like that.

 

I'm afraid I've got very suspicious of standing ovations these days, particularly on first nights.  After all, you never know who the standers are and what their motivations may be.  Plus I think standing ovations have become so devalued these days: some people seem to stand for any old dross, not even well performed, while others seem to think it's a natural reaction to any performance.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only time I have heard serious booing was at ENO's production of Britten's Midsummer's Night Dream when the director, designer, etc., came on at the first night. I thought it was appalling. To boo an ill-prepared, badly performed or badly staged production is wrong but understandable. This was an artistic decision to stage the opera in a grim reproduction of Britten's own school. I found it one of the greatest opera productions I have seen, the gloominess of the setting emphasising the beauty of the music and the brashly colourful mechanicals, and was in the other half of the audience, cheering. I loved it so much I saw it again a couple of nights later.

 

There is too much playing safe as it is, e.g. RB's Swan Lake, and we should accept that some experiments will be failures. Even then, there is usually some aspect to enjoy (although the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre's production of Handel's sublime Julius Caesar was definitely more enjoyable with eyes closed). 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have a care when booing a villain, I heard of a singer in Hansel & Gretel reduced to tears after she was booed as the witch at Covent Garden.  On the other hand the Kirov's Islom Baimuradov told me he LOVES it when his Carabosse is booed.

 

Many years ago I booed a conductor who completely sabotaged a ballet performance, but that's it, though the most boo-worthy thing I ever saw was a Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne where the main design feature was a pile of excrement and the last act 'feast' was a dead horse whose innards were pulled out and eaten.  Lots of boos and cries of 'Shame', rather annoyingly I had a bad throat that day or I would have booed as loudly as possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

TBH I'm not sure it is ever acceptable. I've seen some dire performances but would not have booed. Just would seem rude. It is difficult though if one feels a whole company don't give a damn but still I wouldn't boo. My other hat is Arsenal supporter. There has been alot of booing this season but I can't even join in that.

 

Recently I saw a Gilbert and Sullivan evening. It was professional, 3 handed and was so awful it was beyond belief. In this instance I don't applaud. Actually we left at the interval and complained to the theatre. Lot of complaints and full refund!!!

 

 

So my protest is no applause and if it is justified a complaint to the theatre.

 

Oh should say does exclude the pantomime booing which is a great tradition, even in ballet.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone remember the booing at the early performances of Kenneth MacMillan's The Judas Tree? Those who booed were clearly shocked by the subject of the ballet. I was shocked by them and, as I recall, the dancers flinched at the sound and looked in bewilderment at one another.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

TBH I'm not sure it is ever acceptable. I've seen some dire performances but would not have booed. Just would seem rude. It is difficult though if one feels a whole company don't give a damn but still I wouldn't boo. My other hat is Arsenal supporter. There has been alot of booing this season but I can't even join in that.

 

Recently I saw a Gilbert and Sullivan evening. It was professional, 3 handed and was so awful it was beyond belief. In this instance I don't applaud. Actually we left at the interval and complained to the theatre. Lot of complaints and full refund!!!

 

 

So my protest is no applause and if it is justified a complaint to the theatre.

 

Oh should say does exclude the pantomime booing which is a great tradition, even in ballet.

Many years ago I saw a play at the Liverpool Playhouse (Fences by August Wilson) which, at that time, I thought was the worst thing I had ever seen in a theatre.  We left at the interval.  Our neighbours saw it a couple of nights later and thought it was the best thing they had seen in 30 years of play going.

 

Reading some of the reviews of ME, some of the audience are obviously enjoying it even though many others are just as obviously not!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The booing at the interval curtain was richly deserved."

 

These are the words of the Independent's dance critic Jenny Gilbert in her review of 'Midnight Express'.  I must say I was very disappointed to see a critic condone booing at a performance.  Of all people who should know how much work goes into putting on a piece of live theatre, be it dance, plays or concerts, it is the critics. 

 

Booing is pretty rare but I don't see why not if you see something really, really, dire on stage. I don't think we should ever concentrate on inputs - "Dancers are so dedicated, they work so hard..." etc (and ditto choreographers, designers etc) - it's the overall result, or output, that matters and what we should judge. Bad work, no matter how much loving effort has gone into it, is still bad work and people have paid as much to see it as good work.

 

Although booing is an extreme example of active feedback, at least it's feedback. I'm very against the notion of high praise if you like something and keeping totally quiet if you don't. It's why, overall, social media discussion on dance is so unrealistically happy-clappy. I don't think this helps the audience or the art much and if collectively everybody was more realistic those who deliver poor stuff would more likely appreciate they failed and those who delivered success would feel it more and be better encouraged.

 

Ultimately critics see good things and bad things and call it the way they see it. Long may they set a good example in doing that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see what you're saying, but if the dancers/singers/performers have done their best with really dire choreo/composition, then IMO it's very unfair to boo the performers.

 

Some of the new pieces performed at The Proms sound to me like an absolute load of tripe, where the composer has just written any old thing down regardless of how discordant the resulting racket is. But if the orchestra has played the piece to the best of its ability, is it really fair to boo? It's akin to shooting the messenger.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see what you're saying, but if the dancers/singers/performers have done their best with really dire choreo/composition, then IMO it's very unfair to boo the performers.

 

Some of the new pieces performed at The Proms sound to me like an absolute load of tripe, where the composer has just written any old thing down regardless of how discordant the resulting racket is. But if the orchestra has played the piece to the best of its ability, is it really fair to boo? It's akin to shooting the messenger.

 

It's difficult - I'd see it as booing at the end of the show about what you thought of the show overal. But its not a position anybody wishes to be in. Don't generally boo myself (but never say never) and anyway I look to say my (not happy) thing one place or another.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...