Audience, Behave Yourselves!

As you may know, the Adult Beginner has recently seen two whole ballets, this one and this one, and therefor is accepting the self-appointed title of Extremely Important Expert Ballet Watching Expert, Esquire, Emeritus, Etc!
And have I got some expert opinions?
(um, yes. That’s a yes. Yes I do have some opinions)
Ok, here are:
Things I Don’t Wanna See No More Of At The Ballet!
Otherwise known as:
Audience, Behave Yourselves!
Thing #1. Counting
Yes, fouettés en pointe are really really cool. The Adult Beginner cannot even do one. Therefor, I am already totally impressed before the second fouetté even happens. I don’t need to hear strangers counting out two!three!four! I mean really, are you practicing for your audition with Sesame Street? ‘Cause last time I saw The Count at our union meeting he said he’s got a few more years before he’s up for contract renewal.
And more importantly, are you people who are busy counting out loud Not impressed with one fouetté? Is there a number at which you suddenly will be impressed? Is that number thirty-two?
If so, please get with it!
Get with the fact that thirty-two fouettés is associated with Swan Lake specifically, and not with all fouettés in all ballets at all times! If you are watching something else, don’t go counting for thirty-two!
Not to mention, from what I’ve heard, the thirty-two are famous because it was quite a feat way way way back in the day. Now, ask any ballet student and she’ll whirl off thirty-three or thirty-four for ya, just for the heck of it. At least that’s what I hear. Don’t ask me, I already said I can’t even do one.
And another thing! Isn’t ballet about quality? Not quantity? Wouldn’t it be more clever to say, “omg Mabel! Did you see those fouettés? She did them for sixteen bars of music! Hot dang!”
I mean what, do you think the ballerina’s going to lose count?
Ok, moving on.
Thing #2 Having The Plague
People. Please do not attend the ballet when you have the plague. The noise of your imminent death interrupts my enjoyment of the orchestra. Please place your program firmly over your face, exit to the lobby, and do your expiring out of my earshot.
Thank you!
Thing #3 A Bunch Of Other Things!
Perfume! Are you trying to kill me?
Cell phones! You are try to kill me, aren’t you?
Explaining the plot during the show! Whaddaya think this is, Scream 2 at your local dollar theater? No! It’s the freaking ballet! Tell your dumb friend to read the plot synopsis in the program during intermission! That’s what it’s there for!
Blue jeans and sneakers! Why are you trying to make the Adult Beginner cry?!
Harumph I say!
Ok. Some things that are Adult Beginner Approved Audience Behaviors:
Everything else!
I mean, I don’t wanna tell you your business or anything.

Oh and PS Gentle Reader: if you are a performer, and you disagree, please voice your desent! I want to be a good audience member! If hearing the marimba from someone’s iPhone mid-pirouette helps you maintain balance, I’ll be glad to return mine to it’s default setting and leave it on!

Very post script:
The Standing O
Man, people are just friking giving those away!
It used to say, “I must leap out of my chair, as I have just witness the sublime.”
Now it says, “Oh yes, I quite liked that, plus my butt is sore.”
Except children’s recitals, of course. The entire audience should stand up and frikin cheer their hearts out for that mess.

Even more post post script-ish:
This is the Mr. Adult Beginner edit. He sez it’s not so much, “oh, I quite liked that,” it’s more like, “WOOOOOOOO! YOU WERE IN A SHOWWWWWWWW!”
Also, he disagrees with Automatic Standing O for the kiddos, as this just trains them to expect it every time forever.
He is a Hard Man, Gentle Reader. A Hard Man.

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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32 Responses to Audience, Behave Yourselves!

  1. Andre says:

    In general, I agree with you, and I came to ballet-watching from the classical music world where people are even more uptight (and not unjustifiably so for things like extraneous noise since that interferes with the music), but I give dance-goers way more latitude. If you get a chance to watch a dance rehearsal, more often than not, there are noisy and distracting things going on in the same studio as the rehearsal, so it seems to me to be a normal part of the process. Sure, I’d like it to be quiet, but perhaps my brain’s learned to tune that stuff out when dance is going on.

    Same thing with dressing up. I generally dress up, but there are times when I can’t, and perhaps watching sweaty dancers in raggedy clothing during rehearsals have also inured me to these things. One time I spent the whole day walking about DC in the middle of summer working up a sweat before attending a Royal Ballet performance at the Kennedy Center without having a chance to go to my hotel to cleanup beforehand. Obviously that’s not something I’d like to repeat, but not uncommon either as I know teachers and students who rush to their main company’s performances straight after class. Many dancers I know have mastered the art of stealth-freshenening so they don’t seem as ripe right after class.

    What really gets my goat however is people leaving in the middle of shows! Especially if they stand up and stay there as they try to figure out what they’re going to do, all the while blocking my view. People arriving late are also bad, but in that case I blame bad ushering for letting them sit down at an inopportune moment.

    • Are you calling the Adult Beginner uptight?
      Ha! Just kidding.
      Anyway, yes agreed, rehearsals are a different animal. After years of working at a summer theater and attending all dress rehearsals, because, you know, I had to be there to take notes, I finally went to see a regular performance and was horrified to find that I couldn’t stretch out across three benches, talk, eat and share snacks, or run up on stage to straighten a hem. There were all these, like, people! Filling up the theater! Staring attentively at the stage! Weird!
      And, you know, I gotta say there is a discernible yet undefinable difference between the eager-if-sweaty ballet-goer, running to the theater in what they were wearing already that day, and the tourist who is wearing their good jeans and fanny-pack and sweatshirt. I get the feeling that people who refuse to dress nicely are almost being aggressive with it, like they’re trying to make a statement against elite-ism, but it’s like, dude, no one made you buy tickets to the ballet, you did that to yourself, now follow through, dammit! Similarly, Mr. Adult Beginner and I go to check out St. Pauls Cathedral in London, right? He wears a suit, I wear a dress. Because it’s a frikin cathedral! What do the other Americans who end up in our guided tour wear? Jeans and sneaker and sweatshirts. Like, what, are you guys going to a barn raising after this?

  2. Janet says:

    Pet Peeves:
    The Farting Guy. You know who you are. I finally changed my season seats a few years ago and am SO HAPPY that the audio and olfactory experience did not follow me.

    The Hat/Ginormous Hair Folk. Do you think that there is no one behind you who is trying to see?

    Little Kids at Ballet that is not the Nutcracker. Parents – do you really think that Neumier’s Little Mermaid is appropriate for you four year old? Or, that a screaming kid who should be in bed is enjoying a repertory performance that ends at 10 PM?

    Idiots in the Parking Garage. Yeah, you might have a really spiffy giant SUV, but that does not mean you can park in two or three spaces at the same time which are marked “compact” in bright white paint.

    Cell Phones. There is a very nice announcement before each performance that asks EVERYONE to turn their phones/pagers/etc OFF or to silent mode. You are not a special exception. Chatting during the second act of Giselle does ruin the mood for everyone in the orchestra section.

    Pushy in the Ladies Room. I know the cleaner retired a few years ago. She was a good crowd controller even though she spoke no English. But, there is one set to the right of the entrance, and THREE sections to the left. So, stand in the line for the two sections in the back, and don’t pile up at the door.

    Changing seats. You paid for a seat or standing room. Stay there. Running around to find a “better” seat is distracting.

    Leaving early. If you want to leave at intermission, fine. But jumping up in the middle of the last piece, making all of your neighbors move, then running up the aisle blocking the view of the patrons who are staying is RUDE. Is there a fire? Have a hot date at Jardinere? Trying to beat the crowd out of the garage? Think about the dancers that you are being rude too.

    • You guys! I have never even heard of leaving during a show! That is bad! Really bad! What in the world?! Like, did something suddenly come up? How would they even know? Their cell-phones are turned off, right? Omg their cell-phones must not have been turned off!
      Touché on the gassy guy, that is waaaay worse than heavy perfume.

  3. Stella says:

    I have a couple:
    People not putting their coats in the cloak room. What do you think it’s there for? I don’t want my own coat/bags under my feet, let alone anyone else’s.

    Parents bringing their children to the ballet (yes, even Nutcracker) if said child/ren cannot sit quietly through it. I had a small child (she would have been about 3 or 4) sitting next to me with her mum at The Nutcracker lastt year, and the kid talked and asked questions through the WHOLE first act, and her mum would always answer/reply. After interval I sat at the other end my group (four seats away), but could still here the kid when the music was quiet. It really did ruin the whole first act for me, but enough ranting. If the kid can’t sit still and be quiet, then they shouldn’t come.

    I also agree with the comments on mobile phones and big hair.

    But I have always found Australian Ballet (female) patrons very good when it comes to lining up for the lady’s and I’ve never seen anyone leave early :) And I’ve also found that people have been dressing outstandingly for the 2011 season (it was lacking a bit in previous years).

    • Glad to hear Australia is representing!
      The kid talking thing is a shame, in part because it would be so much more charming if the kid was so wrapped up in the ballet that she didn’t even want to talk to her mum. You’d be like, “that’s right! High-five, tiny ballerina!”
      Going to the ballet can be a really good experience in Being A Big Kid, if the kid is interested, and old enough to be up late, and maybe has been prepped properly, like maybe the parents have been reading the story book of the Nutcracker to them for the past month.
      Saw a lady in line for the ladies room at the Met with her two daughters. They were really excited, and kind of timid, like this was a Big Deal, and you could tell they had special hair-bows for the occasion, and everyone in the line totally fell in love with them.
      And I was like, “high-five, mother of tiny ballerinas! That’s right!”

  4. Eirin Adriane says:

    I totally agree with the no-go-out-thingy! It is so annoying especially if the one trying to get out sits in the middle of the row! This probably doesn’t count in ballet, but my dramateachers told me that if your watching a play thats suckish you are perfectly allowed to stand up and leave, even though it is in the middle of the play. You might not give applaus if you not like it, and even though the people around you are silly enough to do “the standing O” you don’t have to be a crowd follower.
    With that said, if you HAVE to leave – do it during intermission and leave the rest of the audience and the performers in peace to enjoy the entire performance!

    • Right! You don’t have to be a crowd follower. A lot of Standing Os are created via The Wave, like, people stand because they can’t see over the people standing and then the people behind them stand because they can’t see either… and then The Adult Beginner is sitting there applauding at someone’s rear end.
      I like your drama teacher! Sounds mean!

  5. Don says:

    All agreed. I had the opportunity to see Romeo and Juliet at the O2 theatre in London recently. The O2 is a giant stadium, and this was an attempt by the Royal Ballet to branch out a bit. It was an interesting experience, but very strange to be sitting with people eating hot dogs and drinking beer at the ballet.

    Tamara Rojo talked about it a bit a little while ago. She wasn’t too bothered by it, although, she probably wasn’t aware of it since she was on stage a million miles away.

    • Heather says:

      Argh! I couldn’t find cheap enough tickets except for the seats with the warning “Those with a fear of heights may wish to avoid these seats”

    • Like the idea of Ballet As Sporting Event, complete with stadium snacks. Never seen the Romeo and Juliet ballet though, seems odd to mix hot dogs and tragedy.
      Like, maybe a comedy for the big stadium show?
      Next time?
      There was a lot of whooping and hollering at the Bright Stream, and all that crazy was fun to be part of and totally appropriate for that particular show.

  6. lalatina says:

    Hahaha! You’re brilliant! :) What I hate the most is when people take pictures during a show (it’s forbidden btw!!) Grrrr.. I can’t stand it! I have two very good girfriends with whom I often go to the ballet, and there is not one show where at least one person takes a picture with flash.

    Another annoying one is when people eat or drink! You can hear the noise they make whent they try to open the wrapper (I think you say it like that in English? or paper? wrapping?) anyways, or they have a can of cola and you hear this sudden psst noise. The worst part is that because they don’t want to make noises, they do all of that slowly, which makes the noise last longer!

    I agree o the blue jeans and sneakers. I love sneakers and I love jeans, but when you go to see the ballet, or whatever it is in a theater/opera, you dress up! The last time we went, people came to us to contratulate us for our “outfits” :/ We were only wearing (elegant) dresses and everybody else was so casual… But it was worth it :) Going to the ballet IS a special occasion every time.

  7. kaija24 says:

    Amen, sister! I always feel like I’m getting old and grumpy (and I am neither!) or turning into my parents when I go to a ballet or classical concert and observe the same things…please, people, let’s keep a high level of civility and decorum SOMEWHERE in our culture. You can wear your grubby clothes and text on your iPhone everywhere else! I do think the standing O suffers from grade inflation (‘everyone is just so talented!’) or Lake Woebegon syndrome (every performance is above average) because it seems way too common and not a mark of excellence. I am also irritated by people who “dress up” but do not seem to understand that dressing up for a ballet performance is different than dressing up for da club…think of the performing arts hall like a place of worship..the “dress” that lets the bottom of your butt hang out and the 5-inch heels that you can barely shuffle in really aren’t appropriate!

    • Janet says:

      Love the Prairie Home Companion reference.
      I used to “dress up” for ballet season (a skirt or dress). Now I wear my nice black pants, comfortable flat shoes, and a nice twin set. I look acceptable while I am in charge of Mom, her walker and cane, jacket, programs, cast insert, and the sack with with her pillow so she can see over the top of the seat in front of her. I am also in charge of the purses.

      Some of the memorable outfits I have seen walking towards the front of orchestra center (please bring money seats) include:
      MicroMicro mini dress 6inch heels and enough skin showing to see almost all of every tatoo. This includes the “tramp stamp”
      Ultra formal long dress with train and updo like Marie Antionette. It was not opening night. The people behind this person could not have seen around her.
      Little girl in her fanciest summer party dress, on a cold day in February. Staying warm with her jeans under the dress, a well worn sneakers. She was 6 or 7, not a two year old having a style fight with her parents.
      Two gentlemen wearing suits so tight they were painted on, paired with neon colored spike heels and matching handbags.
      Oh the adventures of living in a multicultural city!

      • kaija24 says:

        Yes! The micro-mini thing is tragic on EVERYONE, even those with alleged “perfect” bodies. The one that gets me even more is 13-year-olds in the micro-mini and 5-inch boobs or hips yet, but the tubetop dress and the stillettos that they walk in with very bent knees, like wading birds. Doesn’t anyone’s mother do the “You march yourself right back up the stairs, young lady, and change into something respectable or you will not leave this house!” thing anymore?!?

        I would have liked the gentlemen in the suits and matching heels and handbags…I would have wanted to sit next to THEM for sure :)

  8. roriroars says:

    Wow, I’m surprised at all these people who vacate ballets. Luckily I haven’t been present for that. I do rather dislike the late seaters, but as another person commented that’s more a sign of poor ushering. Hell, even at hockey games one is expected to wait for a stoppage in play before taking a seat and the ushers at the arenas enforce that. If they can manage audience etiquette at a game full of checking and hitting and fighting you think they could manage it at something as demure as ballet.

    Also someone else mentioned above the difference between classical music performance and dance performance and I have to say… as a former orchestra member I am very used to silence in between the different movements of a work (the audience is supposed to hold their applause until the entire piece is finished). So I get really unnerved at long applause in between sections of a ballet. I always feel bad, especially if people are stuck on stage in one position waiting for the next piece to start or if the orchestra is starting to play and no one can hear them for all the applause. I’m like, stop clapping people so they can get back to dancing! But like I said, I think that’s my own hang-up, not a legit breach of etiquette.

  9. chrisgo says:

    What if I wear my good flip-flops and iron my tuxedo t-shirt?

  10. Heather says:

    Being poor and lowly students, when my friends and I go to the ballet (read: me saying “[Insert touring company’s name here] is in town. Do you want to go to the ballet? Let’s go to the ballet. Won’t that be fun? Yeah! Ballet!” with a maniacal fervour in my eyes”) or even – gasp! – the opera, it is like a Massive Cultural Experience and we must dress accordingly.

  11. Reece says:

    I think the counting thing is because it’s something that non-dancers can appreciate. Even someone who can’t tell the difference between a fouetté and a tour jeté can appreciate 32 of them there thingies.

    I’m of two minds on attire. I enjoy dressing up for a special occasion, and having others show up in jeans takes some of the fun out of it. However, there’s something to be said for getting people to come out for and appreciate a ballet regardless of how they dress.

    • Oh, there you go, seeing The Big Picture. Yeah, true, the important thing is that people are going to see ballet, not that they meet The Adult Beginner’s rigorous sartorial guidelines.
      I might not like it! But you’re right.

  12. Blondie says:

    I agree about the Standing O. Every single theater performance, orchestral performance, concert, ballet, and opera I’ve ever been to has had them. Not all of them deserved them. I remember reading that it USED to be only for absolutely phenomenal, outstanding, amazing performances. I wouldn’t know, because they’ve happened at everything, including average run-of-the-mill performances. Ah, well.

  13. Polly says:

    I have a friend that ushers at a show in New York called Fuerzabruta, where the audience is standing and moving around. She breaks the style of the dressed into 3 categories. The ones who have seen it before show up in jeans and t-shirts and sneakers. Those who haven’t seen the show but read the warnings (this show involves lots of moving, you may get wet) show up in buttondowns and slacks, and the people who haven’t seen the show and didn’t read the warnings show up in heels and nice dresses and, “they’re the ones that we dump the most glitter on.”
    However, if the show doesn’t have any warnings on the ticket that suggest I would be in danger of glitterfication, I always dress up nicely. That’s part of the experience!

    • Right?!
      I mean, we have So Many opportunities in life to dress down.
      The Adult Beginner must wear flat, close-toed shoes to work, just as an example. Or else the feets will be too tired to relevé after a full day of standing at the drafting table. Plus, open toed shoes attract straight pins. And seam-rippers. Just sayin.
      So yeah, why not put on something completely impractical and non-functional when you can.
      I have heard tell of this Fuerzabruta. I simultaneously feel for and laugh at the dresser-uppers at that show.
      But mostly feel for.
      And mostly laugh at.

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