Bow Wow

Doing a more elaborate reverénce at the end of class these days. Here’s how it goes:
“face front, honor the entire theater”
(we make a big waving gesture from the left side of the mirror to the right while doing a little dip with left leg back)
“the curtain is closing…”
(we take four slow, beautiful ballerina steps back, with our hands resting at the edge of our imaginary tutu)
“curtain is opening again”
(four slow beautiful steps forward)
“honor the house right balcony”
(face left front corner where studio wall meets the mirror, wave, dip)
“honor the house left balcony”
(same thing to the right front corner of the room)
“and now, you must honor the people in the front of the house. They have spent a lot of money to see you here tonight. Two-thousand dollars per ticket!”
(we face front, keep our left hand out to the side in second position, make a horizontal welcoming gesture with the right arm, from left to right, then bring the right hand to our heart while we slowly sink into a kneel)
“very good. Bow your head to gaze at your hand on your heart, but do not bow your body.”
And then the imaginary audience goes wild and starts breaking chairs and flinging roses and stuff.
Reminds me of the last Nutcracker I went to see. The one with A Real Horse on stage, not the one where the Sugar Plum Fairy got dropped on her butt.
Mr. Adult Beginner was beyond annoyed at all the bowing. He was all, “Oh for fucks sake, they’re bowing Again?!?! But there was a bow built in to the last act!!! They just bowed!!! Why are they bowing again?!”
And I had no explanation other than it’s tradition.
But now the Adult Beginner has extensive experience in bowing to imaginary audiences, so here’s my theory:
Read somewhere that The Sun King, ya know, Louis XIV, popularized ballet because he wanted to show off his legs, which were apparently OMG Amazing. He was just trying to make the world a more beautiful place, right? Would be selfish to hide such a good set of stems.
Whether this is strictly true or not, it does kind of back up the idea that he was on stage in some of these early ballets, performing with and for buddies in his entourage.
Funny to think that a king of France’s vanity project brought us ballet, while a king of England’s vanity project brought us feet and inches and yards, which we seem to be stuck with here in the US despite the Obvious Superiority of metric.
But anyway.
So back when ballet was young, it was a Big Hot Celebrity Mess! There might be royalty on stage! Or in the audience! Quick, get my canvas so that I might make a paparazzi oil portrait! And did you get a load of His Royal Highnesses calves?! Hot-cha!
So the bow was not just saying, ‘Attention Little People, you may lavish me with adoration now’, it was also saying, ‘Omg, you guys, forget what’s going on up here, there’s freakin Royalty in the house tonight!!!’
Of course, that feeling is completely lost in a theater full of bored dads and toddlers on the verge of ate-cotton-candy-during-intermission-and-missed-my-bedtime meltdowns.
The Adult Beginner has never seen ballet in a theater with working balconies, let alone balconies with royalty in them. Maybe someday.
Wonder if it would improve the Bow Experience?


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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7 Responses to Bow Wow

  1. Laura says:

    We sometimes also “honor the orchestra” in our reverences. :-)

    Have you read/are you reading Jennifer Homans’s book?

    I loooooooove your blog.

    • Honoring the orchestra is a great idea. My imaginary orchestra is working overtime, I tell you what. Woooooo doggies.
      I have not read Apollo’s Angels, but I want to. Very much! Looking forward to getting around to that.
      And thank you!

  2. Jen says:

    I love your blog toooo! Oh god, I laughed so hard. Your theory, and how you express it, is ACE.

  3. odile says:

    Loved the reference to the Nutcracker with A Real Horse onstage! Hope there wasn’t any real “merde” left after his appearance; it’d be tough to work in pooper-scooper choreo.

  4. Rebecca says:

    (Just back from a New Class where we were given free rein for our final reverence, I HAD to see what you said about them.
    After the teacher-directed ‘step left, open left arm; foot behind, open right arm’, some people just closed and called it a day, or bobbed to demi-plie. Conditioned by Hard Class, I did a Two Thousand Dollar Reverence and MAN it is a good way to end a class.
    Thanks, AB, for giving it a name!)

  5. Rebecca says:

    oh, and real-life balconies DO change your perspective – the audience surrounds you in so many directions – above, below, forward, left AND right. Here’s the view from the stage of the Coliseum in London.

    The ballets I saw as a child were from seats with a view like this

    and we were always blown away if the prinicples came right downstage and included us in their reverence.

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