Ballet requires years of training. The dance style has its origins in the Italian Renaissance of the 1400s, from which it expanded to Russia and France, and became a form of concert dance. Since that time, ballet has spread throughout the world, and influenced a number of other dance categories. Some ballets have grown into complete productions, including elaborate choreography, music and full story lines. "The Nutcracker," a classic two-act ballet typically performed during the Christmas season, is perhaps the best-known ballet.
The Ballet Company Season
The ballet season for most companies runs throughout the year, with emphasis on special performances such as the Houston Ballet's staging of, "Jubilee of Dance." Traditional ballet favourites, such as performances of "The Nutcracker," generally run from the end of November through the end of December.
More About Ballet Companies
In its traditional form, ballet is accompanied by classical music and includes ornate costumes and elaborate staging. In contrast, modern ballets, such as those developed by American George Balanchine, typically have simple costumes and are bereft of extensive scenery. Some of the higher profile companies performing in the U.K. have included the Houston Ballet, which is the fourth biggest ballet company in America. It has an incredible endowment of more than US$55 million, believed to be the largest endowment for a ballet company in the U.S.
The New York City Ballet, which was founded by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine in 1948, is another famed ballet company. It is the offspring of earlier organizations such as the American Ballet, the Ballet Caravan and The Ballet Society. The Gwinnett Ballet Theatre is a lesser-known but fast-growing company: It began in Atlanta's suburbs in 1977 and is now considered one of Atlanta's cultural jewels since. Ballets performed in the U.K. by these companies have included "Madame Butterfly," "Choreographers in the 21st Century," "Glass Pieces," "Balanchine in Black and White" and "Classic NYCB."
The Ballet Experience
When attending a classical ballet, you are nearly guaranteed a good performance because the shows have been performed many times over. If you are unsure as to which ballet to attend, ring up your favourite ballet and ask for recommendations. The ballet company will be happy to help you, as they want to encourage new attendees. It may be easier to begin with classics such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Swan Lake" or, as mentioned previously, "The Nutcracker."
The audience at many ballet performances is filled with older patrons, many of whom have supported ballet for years, as well as an enthusiastic cadre of young ballet fans who follow their favourite performers, choreographers and musical arrangers. Many of the budget seats are taken by students and younger patrons. Weekend matinees and week nights are generally more casual and less crowded. Even moderately priced tickets have good views of the stage, as the venues are arranged to have excellent viewing for ballet, opera and related entertainment.
Be sure to get a program to make it easier to follow the scenes and understand what is going on. Or just sit back and enjoy the athleticism and grace of the performers, combined with the soaring music and beautiful stagecraft.