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How did you come to be a ballet watcher?


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My Mum and Dad weren't really theatre goers so I fell into regular theatre going almost by accident. I started off at the Liverpool Playhouse and, in around 1976, saw the still-lamented London Contemporary Dance Theatre at the Southport Arts Centre because something we wanted to see at the Playhouse was sold out and there were no bands on that night.

 

So I started watching contemporary dance - any contemporary dance that came to Liverpool or Southport. During those early years I must have gone to the odd ballet mixed programme because sometimes when I see something I have seen it before without realising.

 

I read an article about Vaslav Nijinsky in the Daily Mail because there was a biographical film coming out. I happened to notice the biography by his wife and read it. I should say that I read the article because In my horsey phase my favourite horses had been Sir Ivor and Nijinsky!!

 

In 1982, a friend and I went on a theatre break to London and the included tickets were for a musical and one of Nureyev's legendary seasons at the Coli. It happened to be a Diaghilev programme, and included Spectre and Petrouchka - associated with Nijinsky.

 

In 1984 London Festival Ballet were in Liverpool and had a mixed programme that included Scheherazade so we went to see it.

 

A couple of months later we were in London for the night (26 May 1984) and went to see LFB performing Onegin at the Coli. The rest, as they say, is history. As my interest grew I started going to see any ballet performances in Liverpool and, if I was in London for meetings or courses, I would go to ROH or Sadler's Wells and would make special trips for LFB's seasons at the Coli and RFH.

 

My obsession continued to grow and the more I see the more I want to see. Gradually I started going sleep to London and more to other cities in the UK - mainly because the costs of going to London were increasing and I didn't have the need to go for work.

 

I soon realised that, although the "war horses" were toured by all the British companies I was seeing (Scottish Ballet, Northern Ballet, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet and London Festival Ballet) they were all very different productions and worth seeing in their own right. At some stage, I also started to realise the joy of seeing different casts in the same production.

 

By this time, I was mostly going on my own as my interest had outgrown that of any of my friends.

 

I joined various Friends' organisations and started to meet other like-minded people. I have made some wonderful friends over the years.

 

I bumped into a colleague one day on the train to Birmingham. I had no idea she was a ballet fan and had been since she was a teenager in the 1950s. Her recollections of dancers and performances she had seen kept us all entertained till she died a couple of years ago.

 

I have had so many wonderful times over the last 29 years - and all through my discovery of ballet!

 

I have started this thread not only because I am interested in other people's experiences but to try and show that the companies in this country ALL have their own identities and are all worth seeing.

 

The one thing we all share on this site is a love of ballet!

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Hi Janet, great thread idea and an interesting post. I’m at the other end of the scale to you. I bought a Blu Ray ballet/opera sampler a couple of years back, liked the ballet (not sure about the opera…) and started buying ballet Blu Rays. This year I decided I should go to some live performances, but thought they must be expensive. Had a look at the ROH website and found they are quite reasonable.

 

So far I’ve been to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, La Bayadere twice and have tickets for several more at ROH (couldn’t resist the Bolshoi) plus a Swan Lake at Milton Keynes.

 

I think I may have an addiction though as my next ticket is for 24th May but I keep trying to find something between then and now.

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Northern Ballet are on at the Wells in a couple of weeks, performing Great Gatsby. There are very few tickets left but your best chance are the matinees.

 

Even videos weren't around when I started watching and I don't think you can beat the thrill of a live performance!

 

Thanks for sharing Timmie!

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Well, the first ballet I ever saw was Raymonda when I was eight. I don't remember much of the dancing except for the duel near the end when I had to cover my eyes because I could tell that the Turkish sultan (as he was called in the programme) was going to get killed :( I felt sad for him because we were obviously meant to dislike him and I've always had a natural sympathy for outsiders. He also had cool clothes and a very dashing villain's moustache. Actually, it's possible that he may also have had more stage presence than the other dancers, thinking about it now. The only other thing I really remember was Raymonda's big frothy white dress.

 

Then I saw a triple bill with Les Sylphides, La Sylphide and something else. The other two pieces made no lasting impression on me but I was completely entranced by Les Sylphides and its beautiful music and dreamy atmosphere. I still think it's utterly gorgeous now although I've only seen it on screen since then. I would absolutely love to be able to see it live again sometime.

 

After that, I lost all interest in ballet until a few years ago when my mum asked if I wanted to go and see BRB doing Romeo and Juliet as she had a spare ticket due to her friend not being able to make it. I went because I didn't want her to have to go on her own. I wasn't expecting to particularly enjoy the dancing but I do love the Prokofiev score so was looking forward to hearing that. Anyway, I ended up being completely blown away by the ballet itself and found it incredibly involving and moving. It was so, so beautiful.

 

Since then, I still haven't managed to see that much live ballet but have seen BRB again when they tour down this way and have started venturing up to London to see the RB from time to time. Next time is the Mayerling matinee on 1st June - VERY excited about that one!! Have also really enjoyed seeing Ballet Theatre UK when they toured last December and am seeing Ballet Black in a couple of weeks time and am going to see ENB's La Corsaire in November. I do envy people who live in London and can just pop over to the ROH on the tube and see as many performances as they like but I'm grateful for the live cinema screenings and am delighted that there are going to be five of them next season :)

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think i got in to ballet in 2006 when i got a dvd of swanlake then went to see the bolshoi later that year when thay came to nottingham been to see the rb about 50 times since 2006 plus brb in birmingham many a time & the rest is history as thay would say

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I started ballet at 3 years old and my parents were determined that their budding ballerina would get to see as many live ballet performances as they could afford.  It therefore probably wasn't my first performance, but my Dad managed to get tickets for us to three performances of the Bolshoi's first visit to London in 1956 when they performed at Covent Garden.  He queued up for hours to get the tickets and when he got to the box office he was informed that he would only be allowed to buy two tickets per performance.  I have no idea how, but my darling Dad managed to charm the guy in the box office into selling him three, so that he could take me too.  I was so thrilled with it all and in particular Galina Ulanova, of course, that I wrote to her to tell her and to invite her to tea!  I got a sweet letter back from her secretary and a signed photograph, which I still have by my bed.  There is also a newspaper cutting from the local "News" showing a photo of me resplendant in tutu under the title - The girl who invited ballerina Ulanova to tea!!!

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My first three visits to the ballet were all quite different and important for different reasons . I started ballet at 7 but first visit to the theatre was not till I was about 12 in the late 50's to London to see a gala in which many notable dancers of the era were taking part including Fonteyn in the Firebird. Gilpin was still dancing and I got his autograph and Maria Tallchief was another. This trip made me decide I really wanted to,be a dancer however gave it all up when I was 15. My next trip to,the ballet was in 1969 just before I left College to the Oxford Playhouse where I saw Monotones...immediately fell in love with the music and ballet all over again and determined to pick up again.....which I did in Liverpool where I worked for next three years. I started classes at the Elliot-Clarke school there. The third trip was to see Northern Ballet Theatre at the very beginning of the company I think....about 1971-2. This was a performance at Sunlight Hall on the Wirral and I had my school ballet club girls with me....a great adventurous night out for them running across some playing fields doing ballet steps all the way home!! But shortly after this I decided that London was the place to be to both see and do ballet so off I went there for the next 30 years. All my subsequent ballet going has really been in London ever since and was lucky enough to see Fonteyn and Nureyev dance together and many wonderful dancers like Markarova, Baryshnikov and companies like Bejart over the years. I remember then queuing at Covent Garden (once for 13 hours) while the market was still there and on occasions being part of a group who organised the flower throwing after performances....heady days!

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channel hopping on the TV, whilst rest of family downstairs watching Endybenders. Was transfixed by her Sugar Plum, so had jotted down her name in the back of an address book (or diary). A couple of years later, had thought about seeing Bjork at the ROH - a) cos I like Bjork, and B) cos I'd not been to ROH in all the time I'd been in London. Failed at that though, but then remembered the name in the back of the book - so when the opportunity arose to see her live (in Giselle), I went, and was utterly gobsmacked. Then its the usual story - went to see her in something else but she was injured, so saw someone else who I also liked, then the marketing dept got me with some cheap tickets for a triple bill, and before I knew it, I was seeing every production, then several casts, then at least one show from every cast, then almost every show! Which is probably a familiar story to most of us on here!  :-)

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After over a year of simply reading, decided to finally write something on here!
 

When I was growing up, my Mum would record on tape any ballet productions and I would constantly watch them, and try and dance along. My favourite as a child was probably Viviana Durante and Zoltan Solymosi in Sleeping Beauty. Then when I was old enough (probably about 7), I remember being taken to a production of Swan Lake at Sadler's Wells, though the only thing I remember from the performance was that the prologue was performed (unlike my video of the RB from 1982) and a very tall man was sitting in front of me. 

Since then, seeing a performance has always been a treat, but I try to go to the ROH at least once a season. Can't wait to see Mayerling June 5th!!

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My parents used to take my brother and I to see a theatre production of our choice as a birthday treat. The year I was 5, my brother chose "Jesus Christ Superstar" (all I remember is crying at the end because "the music was so sad"), and I chose Swan Lake, which I *think* could have been performed by London Festival Ballet.

 

I remember being enchanted by the music and the patterns made by the swans. I would listen to the music as often as I could, and spent hours dancing around the living room. I was fascinated by the lines and shapes of ballet dancers' bodies, and Mum must have hundreds of my childhood drawings of ballet dancers!

 

I only took ballet classes until I was 6, then got dragged into the world of competitive sailing for the next 10 years!

 

I don't remember seeing another ballet until dd was 3 and asked for ballet lessons (having been given a video called "How to be a ballet dancer"). She started class and absolutely loved ballet. Just before her 4th birthday she asked to see a ballet, so we took her to see ENB's Nutcracker (the one with designs by Gerald Scarfe). She didn't move a muscle throughout the whole performance and was utterly enchanted. Taking her to ballets over the years has really rekindled my love of watching ballet, so now we go as often as I can afford - which isn't often, so thank goodness for DVDs!

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I first went to the ballet because I could, I'm generally rather curious, and when it comes to culture, lucky enough to live in London where so much is available, I just figured I'd give it a try. I was already into opera, so the Royal Ballet it was.

 

The spark started with Chroma in 2008 in a triple bill with Different Drummer and the Rite of Spring. It wasn't my first ballet (Sleeping Beauty by La Scala Ballet the previous summer which I already really liked) but it's the one that made really me pay attention; it was like nothing I had ever seen before and I was utterly transfixed for the whole ballet, I loved the Rite of Spring, I'd probably appreciate Different Drummer more today.

 

For a couple more years I would mostly go to triple bills (more variety which was great for a newbie, cheaper, and easier to get tickets) and didn't really try to know much more or read on the topic, when the RB had their recent-ish MacMillan bill with The Judas Tree, I managed to take a friend who I knew was rather into classical, pretty, and nice thinking that as he had been resident choreographer surely it would be fine...

 

Little by little I went to more productions, see more companies, catch different casts, see shows abroad; and when I changed job earlier this year, my card was a picture of me photoshopped on stage in Swan Lake.

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Well after many years of following this forum, I loat my usual reticence and finally jumped in and said something on a couple of other threads so I may as well continue trying to be an active participant :).

 

I've always had a thing for dancing. As a child growing up in a musical household, I was the dancer of the family. Although I was involved in dance before that I didn't start formal training until I went to New York University where I was studying Computer Science. It was too late at 17 to be a dancer and there was no way my parents would have supported that so I did the sensible thing...

After university I continued my training in jazz and modern and then started ballet training as a suggestion from a teacher to help my jazz. I'd always liked ballet before that but when I started the training I fell in love completely. My teachers were quite patient because at 6'2" with long limbs I had to be taught differently - 'how to unfold my wingspan'. I made great strides but gave it all up because although I had great encouragement I couldn't see why I'd give up a good job as a computer programmer to pursue dancing at such a late stage.

I've been watching ballet ever since... Have taken the occasional class when I was younger and living in different countries but wouldn't dare do that today.

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I understand the fascination with the music as a child Spannerandpony.... it was hearing my mums old 78 recording of Chopins Les Sylphides that was the reason I started ballet in the first place! I used to get out of bed and sit at the top of the stairs if she had it on in the evening. She found a local class for me(same one as Paul Clarke late of Festival Ballet....we went to same primary school as well) but was never a "ballet mum" so to speak...she really wanted me to learn the piano!! Talking of the old Festival Ballet too I can't remember how many times went to see them perform Nutcracker when they used to use Festival Hall(awful conditions for dancers) had to stop seeing Nutcracker for a few years in the end as thought if I hear that overture one more time.........But still go and see it from time to time.....last year English National Ballets Wayne Eagling production.

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I must have watched ballet on TV when I was growing up as I remember names like Christopher Soames and Nadia Nerina, but I didn't see Ballet "live" at a Theatre until my own children were grown up and I saw BRB's Nutcracker in Birmingham. After seeing this afew times I started to get "hooked" and my sister and I saw an advert in the programme for BRB Friends. We decided to join Friends and the first Studio Rehearsal we saw was "Hobson's Choice"; Christopher Larsen was rehearsing Will Mossop and we were totally enthralled. Then we watched a Mens Class one Saturday morning and started to appreciate the sheer effort and energy that goes in to being a Ballet Dancer. From then we were soon booking to see all BRB's productions in Birmingham,and like most people on this Forum soon wanted to see different Casts performing the same Ballet.The next stage was going to watch BRB perform on Tour, usually at the Lowry or Coliseum but once in Virginia, USA. It has been a wonderful 10 years or so when I have learned so much about Ballet and made lots of like minded friends along the way. It's an expensive hobby, but so worth it!

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My introduction dates from 1999, when I started seeing the lady, now my wife, who had been a dancer with the Opera Ballet at Covent Garden and then with the RB Touring Company, all a year or ten ago.  (My focus till then had largely been on choral music, from the 12th century and onwards.)  I think that the first production I saw was a Swan Lake during a Bolshoi visit, and then a tremendous San Francisco Ballet mixed bill at Sadler's Wells - the latter had a highly-charged pdd to Barber's Adagio that I particularly recall.

 

A bit later I was pointed at a website called ballet.co, lurked for a while till I finally dipped my toe in and it's all gone on from there!

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Thanks for starting such a great topic Janet and what an interesting selections of replies so far! 

 

I know I first became aware of ballet aged about 5 when my gran took me to see the film of RB's Tales of Beatrix Potter at the cinema (and I still have the souvenir programme!). I did a few ballet lessons around then but soon switched to other interests (I did a lot of music activities as a child and through school, as in singing and clarinet). I don't recall going to any live ballet performances as a child - I'm guessing it was because it was considered too expensive for my family so theatre was limited to local panto once a year (which incidentally I have ghastly memories of!!)

Then aged about 15, I won a competition in the local newspaper here in Nottingham to see Ballet Rambert. I didn't just win tickets - I also won a backstage tour and got to meet the then director, Robert North, and all the dancers plus the musicians. They were performing a triple bill which included Christopher Bruce's Ghost Dances set to amazing Andean pan pipe music. That was my 'transformational moment'  - it was such a fantastic overall experience and I was fascinated and hooked from then on about seeing dance performed live at the theatre. I became fascinated with the world of ballet and what it entails to be a dancer or make a performance happen (rehearsals and so on). From then on I went to whatever was on locally and got my Mum to take me to Covent Garden as a reward for passing my O Levels. Access to the ROH and ballet in London generally made me choose to go to university in London and I remember stretching my student grant and going without food in favour of an amphitheatre ticket for the ballet!!

 

There have been some 'gaps' in my theatre going, mainly due to me working abroad for 14 years, not always in countries where there was access to ballet or dance performances. But now I'm settled back in the UK, I go to as much as I can - financially and logistically (not living in London). 

 

I have a huge collection of ballet recording on VHS and DVD, but for me there is no substitute for going to a live performance of ballet. I do see other types of shows such as opera and musicals but nothing for me comes close to the buzz of seeing a ballet or dance performance. Every one is different, every one is memorable for some reason. And sometimes when you try to explain the feeling to someone who doesn't share your passion, it's very hard. Every single time the house lights go down, my brain just transports me into another world.........It's that fundamental beauty and marvel of expression through movement of the human body. 

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I started by dancing aroung the kitchen when my Mum had music on the radio.  We saw our first performance in Coventry - quite a distance by bus - with International Ballet in 1950 where they performed 'The Sleeping Princess'. I started taking lessons after this as it was such an enthralling occasion.  We went to a few other performances in later years both in Coventy and Leicester - one I remember very well was  a Festival of Ballet with many famous dancers - including Anton Dolin and Natalia Krassovska. 

 

After graduating, I got a job in London, so that I could continue dancing and also attending ballets.  This was the 1960s and I can still remember the thrill of seeing Fonteyn and Nureyev in Marguerite and Armand and a wonderful afternoon watching Fille.  Moving out of London and having a family meant there were less opportunities to attend performances in London, but I saw quite a few in Southampton.  Retirement has meant the opportunity to go to the Opera House and other venues regularly and I love seeing the dancers in the studio (when I can get a ticket).

 

Margaret

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I know I first became aware of ballet aged about 5 when my gran took me to see the film of RB's Tales of Beatrix Potter at the cinema (and I still have the souvenir programme!).

 

Snap!  Except it was my godmother, and I don't think I was 5 at the time.

 

In view of Ian's comment, it would be interesting to note (not in any self-congratulatory way :) ) how many people's ballet- and dance-going was influenced by the original Ballet.co site.  I know mine was.  Pre-Ballet.co (I can barely remember back that far), I was probably going to most RB bills, but probably never more than once.  I think it was only when people started discussing alternative casts that I started to go and see anything twice (or rather more than twice).

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Don't think my route to becoming a ballet watcher is particularly normal, but I've never been one to do things the usual way!

 

I decided to start taking ballet classes randomly at age 23 while living in the States and thought I should probably watch the pro's before giving it a go myself. I ordered the ABT Swan Lake DVD with Murphy/Corella and was enthralled. I then bought some cheap fourth ring tickets to see New York City Ballet in a triple bill. Before this, I think an ex had taken me to see a touring production (maybe Moscow State Ballet?) of Swan Lake whilst an undergrad at Oxford and whilst she had loved it I can remember not being hugely enthralled. Other than that I was a complete ballet-novice and so wasn't really sure what to expect from a Triple Bill. 

 

I completely lucked out with the bill - the opening piece was Serenade and I was immediately in love. It was a true revelatory moment - such fragility, strength, emotion and beauty all in one piece. I couldn't believe how much could be told through dance and it suddenly all made sense. I can't recall if I had started classes by this point (I think I had taken a couple) but my whole viewpoint on what ballet could (and should) be was irrevocably changed. The middle piece of the bill was Martin's Magic Flute (a bit 'meh') but the final piece was Stars and Stripes which was so joyous that I left the theater with a huge smile on my face!

 

I saw quite a bit of NYCB rep along with ABT's Giselle and Bright Stream before leaving the US. Moving to Bath, my first experience of the Royal Ballet was in Jewels with the incomparable Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares in the Diamonds PdD. I was hooked on Nuñez's dancing immediately and have since tried to catch her in as much as I can. As I have watched the Royal Ballet more and more I've found myself noticing dancers through all ranks and rooting for them as they get big breaks (e.g. Trzensimiech in La Sylphide, Cowley in Carbon Life, Gartside in Mayerling). 

 

Having only ever 'properly' watched ballet whilst dancing myself I wonder how it must be to watch ballet without being a dancer. Often I find myself concentrating on some of the technical details (especially during tricky partnering sections!) and wonder if this improves or detracts from the experience. I guess it doesn't matter either way!

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I first saw a live ballet while still at primary school. It was Sleeping Beauty and I remember being really captivated by what was unfolding on stage and even at quite a young age lamenting the fact that the theatre was half empty. 

 

I didn't however become an avid ballet watcher until I became a student and would regularly purchase student standbys at my local theatre of the touring ballet productions. The afternoon performances often fitted in with the long breaks I'd sometimes have between two seminars and it was a lovely distraction. It was a fantastic way to see a wide variety of companies and a wide variety of productions. What started as a simple way to pass the time has led to a real appreciation for the art form. I can't really comment on what really drew me in though, I think it was the unwaivering commitment I realised the dancers must have and perhaps part of me always thinks back to that half empty theatre and is of the mindset of "well at least if I'm there that's one seat filled." 

 

DavidW I think there must be some differences in watching a performance if you aren't a dancer yourself. I think it's the same with most situations in life, if we have some affinity to something then we will relate and view things slightly differently to those that perhaps don't. 

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This is a really interesting thread - well done for starting it Janet - and welcome to some of our "newbies".

 

I didn't dance as a child (quite fancied doing tap, but our local dance school would only let you do tap if you also did ballet, and the only ballet dancer I knew at school was rather "stuck up" which put me off!) - but I do remember going with a friend and her family to see a ballet when I was about 8 or 9.  Can't remember what it was but I do remember we were in the front row or two and it was far too close for my liking!  I went to see the odd musical, panto, and summer show on the pier with my parents, but no ballet.

 

Anyway - nothing more to do with ballet until I had my daughter (who is now 18) and when she was three I thought I'd look into ballet classes for her as a nice activity.  My sister-in-law was an RAD teacher (not locally) so advised me to look for an RAD school and I was fortunate to find one less than a 10 minute walk from my house where she's been ever since (later joined by my sons).  I think I saw a Russian touring company at a local theatre at some point, who I wasn't really very impressed by but then I went to see Nutcracker at the ROH shortly after it re-opened, think my dd was about 7 then - we sat really high in the ampitheatre. I really enjoyed it, and loved the opera house. 

 

Still didn't become a regular ballet watcher until a couple of years later when my son, followed by my daughter, became Junior Associates of the Royal Ballet School (that's also when I found ballet.co).  We were going into Covent Garden every other weekend.  I soon discovered I could buy tickets for us on the day for the Upper Slips for about £6 each and then we started going every time we could (I always got irritated that there wasn't much ballet on a Saturday - it often seemed to be opera!).  So since that I've seen most "major" ballets by the RB with my children, then started going with friends  who I've met along the way through JAs etc, was fortunate to see my son dance (or just stand on stage sometimes) on several occasions with the RB, been to see BRB on a few occasions (again, to watch my son perform with them), and the odd gala at the Coliseum.  (I do occasionally go with my husband but he's not quite such a fan.)

 

I've found I really like very classical ballet but also that music plays a huge part in my enjoyment of a ballet, so I enjoy some contemporary depending on the music mainly!  I've really enjoyed some of the triple bills I've seen at the ROH and the galas, as I felt it gave me a chance to see more. 

 

So I feel like a relative newbie to ballet watching - I suppose it's been about 10 years now - and long may it continue (I'm jealous of a good friend who's a few years older than me and was introduced to ballet at an early age, and her tales of regularly watching Nureyev).  I'm lucky to only live about 40 mins away from Waterloo, but still get annoyed with the cost of trains!  Off to see Mayerling in a few weeks thanks to a fellow balletcoforum member - on my own, but that's fine my me :)

 

(Sorry - very rambling....)

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Like dollyry I was taken to watch ballet while at primary school, I went to the old Davis Theatre in Croydon (now demolished to make way for a much needed office block) and saw Festival Ballet in Pas de Quatre, Harlequinade and Graduation Ball.

 

I didn’t become an instant convert but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and a couple of years later I went to a lavish Robert Helpmann produced pantomime at the Coliseum that featured Anne Heaton as the ballerina, the only part of the show I remember.

 

Ballet going proper began when at sixteen I was taken to see the Royal Ballet at Drury Lane in a performance of Sleeping Beauty and to be honest I enjoyed the music as much as the dancing, but from then on I went as often as my salary as an office junior would allow and was lucky enough to see Fonteyn and Nureyev at the height of their fame, usually queuing all night for a standing place.

 

Having a passion for the nuts and bolts of how things work I spent a recovery period after a road accident watching professional classes at the old Dance Centre in Floral Street.  After that I was no longer entranced by everything I saw and became a lot more discriminating, but at the same time more appreciative of things done well.

 

I consider myself fortunate to have been around in the old days when top choreographers were all creating major works on a regular basis, there is still much new choreography to admire but less and less in the classical style and I miss that.

 

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Aged 4, I went to Covent Garden with my mother for a performance of Swan Lake. Beryl Grey was Odette / Odile and astonishly I can remember it very clearly, even down to what I wore and where we sat. I had already started ballet classes and I suspect my first ballet was the Nutcracker at the Fesitival Hall, but I don't remember that. Subsequently we went to the Nutcracker every year. 

 

Going to Covent Garden was a treat that was almost beyond unimaginable. My mother once got tickets over the phone for Fonteyn / Nureyev but they never arrived and I know she cursed herself for not going up to London to collect them, but that was a big consideration then, so she didn't go, and we never got to see them. 

 

I saw Giselle at the ROH (Merle Park) with my ballet school, and Coppelia at the Festival Hall (Lucette Aldous).  Then Monica Mason in Swan Lake at Leatherhead (school trip). I was really impressed.  Many many years later Monica mentioned that performance on a discussion on the Swan Lake DVD with Marianela. I could not believe it - I was there and I remember it. I think I was 11. The question is - will I ever rediscover the theatre programme which I know is secreted somewhere.

 

I had a long gap during which I grew up, bought a property, could not afford anything until a colleague at work asked me to apply for Paul Hamlyn tickets as she couldn't, being a Friend already. I did, we went to Giselle and I was lost forever.  She showed me how to buy the cheaper tickets so I started to go again in the early 1990s.  The first visit was Mayerling. I had no idea what I was viewing having lost touch, although never the love of ballet ,  but it was stunning and I was hooked again. 

 

Then I discovered Sylvie Guillem and she became a must see. By this time I was in a much better position to attend more often and so it has blossomed over the last 20 years. Now I have an avid interest in each RB cast and the different interpretations these bring.

 

I've stuck to the RB as I love visiting the ROH and I've got to learn about all the dancers. Thank goodness though I went to see Carlos at the ENB when he danced Spartacus. I've dabbled with others, but never quite to same for me.

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I like to brag that I went to ballet school with the great ballerina Evelyn Hart.

Admittedly, the only thing we had in common was the bench in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School's changing room.

But I am thankful to the RWB and convinced it can be proud of us both (ok, maybe prouder of Evelyn than of me), for ballet transforms all of its students, professional and recreational, famous and anonymous,

I am grateful to the RWB for more besides. A subscription was my annual birthday present starting at age nine, and its eclectic mixed-bill repertoire launched my education as a serious balletomane (I also devoured ballet books).

For instance, at age 12 I was moved to tears by John Neumeier's Nutcracker. Mind you, I was crying because there were no snowflakes in it, like the ones I had seen at my first live ballet performance, London Festival Ballet's version in 1965. Before that I  have a memory of seeing The Dream on the BBC at about age 5.

I soon came to appreciate that Neumeier's gifts more than make up for such unconventional and (it seemed to me) unforgivable snowlessness. The National Ballet of Canada came through on tour with the big story ballets, and eventually I moved to Toronto. My big revelation was seeing Robert Tewsley in 1992, who embodied ideals of ballet I didn't even know I had. When he left for Stuttgart and subsequently other companies, I started travelling to see his performances wherever they were, and this exposed me to a much wider repertoire (and also, unbeknownst to me, trained me for my current occupation as a ballet holiday organizer).

As a child, I longed to do ballet, but at the ripe age of 13, I was convinced that I had missed the boat for starting classes, which for some reason I believed had to begin at age six. Seven was already over the hill.

Apprehensive at the prospect of a beginner class filled with six-year-olds, a friend and I arrived nonetheless at an "I'll do it if you do" pact, and off we set to the RWB's then unglamorous studios in a former furniture store above a drugstore.

Lo! The class was filled with... other 13-year-olds.

I remember how my first teacher insisted we finish our exercises with our heads properly poised and our arms and hands curved just so: "You never know. The audience might be watching you. Maybe that's the only time they'll be watching you!"

It must be said that no ballet audience has ever had the misfortune of having to watch me do anything.

“Your arms in pirouettes are like the flaps on the wings of a jumbo jet,” he used to say. “Let them drop and you will crash.” I probably looked more like a jumbo jet than I wished to acknowledge.

Many other teachers – and ballet pianists – have inspired me since then. Did Louis XIV ever think that a young girl on the frozen prairie would have something to thank him for? I thank the Sun King, but above all I thank the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School for allowing an unlikely swan – plump, bespectacled, uncoordinated, too old – to start ballet classes.

Forty years later, I'm still all of those things, yet I still squeeze myself into tights and leotard (for a laugh on special occasions a tutu and tiara) four or five days a week and head off to make like a ballerina.

Forty years from now, I hope I'll still be doing ballet.

And when I finish, I will poise my head and curve my arms and hands just so.

The audience might be watching.

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A few years ago, I was in my office in Chicago and I received an email advertising cheap flights to Toronto.  That’s great, but what am I going to do in Toronto?  So I surfed the internet and stumbled upon the National Ballet of Canada’s website.  Cinderella is on.  I’ve never been to a ballet, and it was about time that I broadened my horizons.  I checked to see if tickets were available ... Grand Ring, Center.  Nice.  So, on a whim, off I went to Toronto to see Cinderella.  Everything about the performance was marvelous ... the music, the dancing, the story.  That was the day I fell in love with ballet.
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