What’s With All the Clapping?

Last night at the ballet I learned a valuable lesson. . .I’m more of a theater girl.

Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy the ballet. It’s just something I never go to on purpose. Concerts? Sure thing. Improv? You betcha. Theater? Totally. Museums? I’m game. Ballet? I’ll go if someone invites me. I enjoy supporting the arts and while I might not understand all of it, I can appreciate it.

It’s like sometimes when I go to the museum and there’s a painting. I stare at it. Contemplate it. Read about the artist. Maybe I’ll read about what the piece is trying to convey. Say it’s a piece of art intended to be a commentary on how the patriarchy aggressively divides men and women but all I see is a. . . banana. It’s a painting of a banana.

So yeah, sometimes subtext in art is lost on me. I’m not proud of it.

At last night’s performance there were four dance pieces total. The first was pretty in a classical way. The second was my favorite with fluid, funky moves and drumming. The third used sound and lighting in a unique way but maybe the dancers shouldn’t have worn costumes where we could see their sweat stains.  The fourth? Well, the fourth was a piece where 14 dancers performed on and around 20 metal tables set to the sounds of rumbling construction. It was billed as having “thrilled many, angered others, and, for some, called into question the definitions of ‘ballet’ and ‘dance’.” Oh! People might get angry at the ballet!

As the lights dimmed I leaned over to my sister and whispered, “I hope someone gets angry and storms out.” About five minutes into it, the elderly woman seated in the row ahead of us, who throughout the performances had been “whispering” to her husband, plugged her ears with her fingers. Soon after, her husband retrieved his walker and they left. I nudged my sister and raised my fist in a mock cry of anger. A few minutes after that another couple not quite as elderly grabbed their jackets and left. Again, I leaned over, motioned in their direction and gave the old-person-angry-fist gesture.

I amuse myself.

The performance was a bit grating but again, the subtext could have been lost on me. On our way to the car, I asked my sister about the piece and she said that the tables were supposed to be icebergs and that the dancers were supposed to be penguins and seals. I asked a bit incredulously, “Seriously?” She answered with a smile, “Yeah, didn’t you see how they waddled around?” (Way to pull my leg, sister. ) But yeah, the tables really were supposed to be icebergs. The whole thing was about an Artic expedition. If I hadn’t read about it I would have thought they were a bunch of hungry students angry about the lack of food in the cafeteria.

Like I said, some of the poignancy is lost on me. It didn’t stop me from having a good time though.


29 thoughts on “What’s With All the Clapping?

  1. I like the symphony, plays and occasionally a musical. My dad is on the board of a ballet company, it seems like this is the direction many of them are going, perhaps it has always been that way, I just never knew it.

    I love going to cultural events that I am not totally in love with. I feel like it’s good for me, like getting my teeth cleaned.

  2. I hear you. I think sometimes artists try to hard to shock and push the enveloppe. But if the point is lost on the masses — is what they hope to accomplish accomplished?

    My parents subscribe to many theatre series here in town. Even they admit that some plays are duds. But even they have their limits. I was supposed to go to a play with my mother. “Nat, I don’t think we’re going to like this.” She explained. “It’s supposed to be a commentary on the FLQ crisis in Quebec so they spend 30 minutes hucking paint at a canvas — with nothing else going on.”

    Yeah, I feel totally unhip and cool saying that.

  3. I’m with you…I’m not a ballet person. I just really don’t enjoy it. I think it has to do with the fact that I got kicked out of ballet at age 7 because I couldn’t do the splits.

  4. I am so glad it’s not just me! I do actually like ballet, but ballet where they tell a story with pretty costumes and beautiful music – a la The Nutcracker at Christmas. Icebergs? Penguins? I would have been at the bar after 5 minutes ;o)

  5. I like ballet, but I guess I like the old classical ballet, like Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. But icebergs you say? That would have been completely lost on me.

  6. I like to see a good dance troupe every once in a LONG while. Theater? I pay for subscriptions to ensure I go on a regular basis. To each their own though, right?!

  7. a lot of that would have been lost on me too! though, it also wouldn’t stop me from venturing out and trying out different stuff like that either.

  8. There’s not a lot culture for me to get lost down here in Floriduh. Orlando is an hour away so I don’t get the a ‘big city’ much.

    I would love to live in a city like NY, Chicago or Seattle to see the arts so I can get mad, shake my fists and storm out of places too.

  9. I’ve never considered not liking a form of art a bad thing. But then again, The Nutcracker is the extent of my ballet experience. Some things we just cannot get into. Which is probably why I’m not invited to things like this often.

  10. My brother is a ballet dancer. He has explained every ballet I have gone to and I can appreciate it but it still isn’t my favorite way to spend an evening. I’ll go support him and not have an awful time, but it is definitely not my first choice.

  11. I love ballet, but when I think of ballet I think of the Moscow Ballet doing Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. I’m kinda old school regarding ballet–like the angry old ladies. Hee. 🙂

  12. Dance, I understand…the movement of the body is something I can get behind, and I don’t need to understand the subtext to appreciate it.

    On the other hand, since going back to school for film studies, I have been exposed to more experimental films than I care to enumerate. Sometimes, I get it. Sometimes, I see what the filmmaker is trying to say, and I get kind of excited by some of the obvious techniques that get used to do it.

    BUT, having said that, a lot of it (particularly the stuff by “artists” as opposed to “filmmakers”–the distinction being one is just playing around with the medium, and the other actually conveys a truth) goes WAAAAYYY over my poor little melonhead.

  13. I’m definitely not into interpretive dance. I went a couple of times to the Cornell dance concert – my wife worked at the theater – and after the nude dance routine where the dancers walked around and broke the fourth wall (came out into the audience with their dicks and boobs flapping around), I was definitely done. Now I avoid dance as much as possible. I’ll go to the Nutcracker or some more typical ballets, but not anything bordering on interpretive.

  14. Penguins– heh! You totally made me laugh.
    I’m with you on the appreciating things, but subtext being lost on me. I think, if it is meant to be enjoyed, it will be. If not? Then they were being too obtuse in their offerings. It should be able to be grasped without work you know?? Otherwise, what it really is is a mental puzzle, and open to conjecture. If it is not able to be grasped, it is lost.

    There was a poem I read once that really amused me, about being in a painting. Clearly, I could tell he meant more, and was curious to see what it was. In cases like that, the reward of figuring it all out later only adds to our amusement!:-)

  15. The ballet is hard for me as well. Ted got tickets to one of the shows last year for free and it had three dances. I think we really liked the first one (it was a cute Gershwin number set in the 40s about sailors trying to pick up girls in NYC) but the other two were kind of bland. The first time I went to one in college, I hated it. I do want to see The Nutcracker at some point, though I think the ticket prices are outrageous.

    I’ve been wondering if the clapping is a Seattle-thing b/c people clap FOREVER at any show I’m at. And then the actors bow like four times to try to get more.

  16. Just who do those young whippersnappers think they are?

    Don’t tell anybody
    Don’t let ’em know
    There’s a secret

    I know the secret song now
    They wouldn’t tell me
    But somehow I found out

    Goddammit, I’m pissed off

    I didn’t get to
    play on it at all
    No way

    They kicked me out
    of the band

    Now I’m grumpy…

  17. You know what ballet needs to pull in more fans? The wave. No one ever does the wave at the ballet. And don’t get me started on trying to START a wave at the ballet. Sheesh, what an exercise in futility.

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