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About the Change

First Ballets

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Swan Lake

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Sleeping Beauty

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Nutcracker

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Giselle

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Romeo & Juliet

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Manon

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   La Fille mal Gardee

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Cinderella

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Hobsons Choice

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Don Quixote

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Still Life at the Penguin Cafe

Some useful background stuff....

It is worth noting that for many of the great ballets there is no standard version - Swan Lakes and Romeo and Juliets do vary and it is sometimes useful to talk about the choreographer of the production as well as the company.

To give ballet a fair try I often think people ought to see two or three pieces; the styles can be so different and I would hate to think that all ballet was condemned on a single make or break visit. In an ideal world you should see a traditional 19th century ballet (Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty etc see below) and something from this century like Romeo and Juliet.

The styles are vastly different with the newer ballets telling the story in a continual flow and the older a much more stop go affair where part of the story is told, then everybody has a bit of a dance, followed by a bit more telling of the story etc. Finally there are also a lot of plotless ballets around; again styles vary tremendously and it all centres on the choreographer and the music chosen.

While choreographers have their good days and less good days here are some of the names worth looking out for; Petipa (he did Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty etc etc), Ashton ( first great British choreographer); MacMillan (great British Choreographer), Balanchine (Russian who went to the USA and produced many great ballets).

If you have not been to ballet before it can take a while to get used to understanding the plot. Its best to buy the programme and read the synopsis of each act before the curtain goes up. One other thing that might come as a surprise is the noise made by the corps de ballets feet all hitting the stage in unison. Not much can be done about this and as time goes by one ceases to notice it.

If you are taking children do try and get your tickets as soon as possible - if you can get them in the front row they will have a view unencumbered by the people in front.

OK; here are the ballets......

Swan Lake

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Swan Lake Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Swan Lake Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Swan' in Postings

The ballet that everybody has heard of. Great music and a core of choreography that shines thorough whatever people do with the designs. The story is pretty silly, but the white acts (ii and iv), are just fabulous when delivered by a good corps. A long ballet (usually 3+ hours with the intervals) and perhaps not the best starting point for kids. Not a particularly happy ending (though I gather some Russian versions do have a happy ending. The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet have good versions. {top}


Sleeping Beauty

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Sleeping Beauty Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Sleeping Beauty Perform

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Sleeping' in Postings

Another classic from the 19th century with an easy to understand plot, happy ending and well known music. A real toughie for the principal ballerina who comes on and immediately has to deliver some pretty devastating dance. Not short as ballets go but a good one for kids. Some people think this is the best ballet ever and it is the piece that made the Royal Ballets name. {top}



dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Nutcracker Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Nutcracker Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Nutcracker' in Postings

A traditional Christmas ballet for the family. Unfortunately many companies put it on at the same time - it would be nice to have some more alternatives. Yet "another classic from the 19th century" with well known music. A 'nice' ballet but not particularly difficult or flash for the principles involved. Good for kids. For more visit our separate Nutcracker Page. {top}



dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Giselle Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Giselle Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Giselle' in Postings

Short and sweet ballet, the second act featuring traditional white ballet dresses. Despite the pretty preposterous story this has grown to become one of our favourite ballets and the mad scene is a real test for the principle ballerina. {top}


Romeo and Juliet

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   R&J Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   R&J Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Juliet' in Postings

A strong story and score (by Prokofiev). The Royal Ballet and BRB have the best version by the choreographer MacMillan with some truly wonderful pas de deux. A totally different style of ballet from the traditional ones above. English National Ballet has a version by Nureyev and an earlier one by Ashton (which will hopefully come back at some time) and are doing another version at the Albert Hall in Spring 1998). Northern Ballet Theatre also have a version. All are good - but the MacMillan remains best!. {top}



dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Manon Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Manon Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Manon' in Postings

Another piece by MacMillan and a favourite ballet of all time for many. The pas de deux are absolutely stunning and the wide variety of senior roles make this a real joy (...if that's the right word given the sad ending). Not one for the kids or prudes - there is a brothel scene and sex rears its head at other times as well. {top}


La Fille mal Gardee

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Fille Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Fille Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Fille' in Postings

About as far away from Manon as you can get. A light, amusing and happy ballet where true and simple 18th century love conquers all. THE ballet for kids - (the Ashton version performed by the Royal companies) features a small (and real) pony on stage. This version also has charming designs by Osbert Lancaster. In a crazy modern world this is lovely escapist stuff. A great Ballet to take your mum to as well!. But don't let the charm and the happy ending blind you to the fact that this is also a balletic masterpiece - perfectly structured and with enough brilliant choreography to keep even the most grown-up of balletomanes happy for dozens of performances! For more visit our separate Fille mal Gardee page. {top}



dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Cinderella Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Cinderella Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Cinder' in Postings

The advantage of a well known story and good music from Prokofiev. For years the only version in the UK was Ashton's for the Royal Ballet and this is still reckoned to be the best. Gets the seal of approval for kids. There is so much to say about Ashton's Cinderella that we now have a separate Cinderella Page.

Other productions now includes Northern Ballet Theatres (which accentuates the dark side of the story) and London City Ballets version by the young choreographer Matthew Hart (though alas this may have been lost to us now). Both are enjoyable, neither is a knockout. Finally there is English National Ballet version my Michael Corder; it's won a number of awards and it it highly rated by a number of the critics (but unfortunately we have yet to see it). {top}


Hobsons Choice

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Hobsons Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Hobson Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Hobson' in Postings

A Birmingham Royal Ballet piece that I am not that keen on but it does well at the box office and keeps coming back time and time again. Here is what one fan says....

"The characters actually dance with each other with such grace, romance, and beauty not to mention humour and skill. I personally enjoy it far more than the classic 19th century stuff where the men seem to be just props for the ballerinas. The dancing seems to be part of the story rather than just an interruption." (thanks Kim and co) {top}


Don Quixote

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Quixote Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Quixote Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Quixote' in Postings

An odd ballet in that it mainly concentrates on two lovers with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza being rather incidental. Not a deep ballet and some great bits of flash. The Royal Ballet version was choreographed by Baryshnikov (in this US) and is not rated as highly as the Nureyev version (which is performed by Paris Opera Ballet). The reviewers have all put the boot in however a great many like the Royal's Don Q. {top}


Still Life at the Penguin Cafe

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Penquin Reviews

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Penquin Performances

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   'Penquin' in Postings

dancer_contexts.gif - 6.6 K   Penquin Cafe Orchestra site

Everybody, but everybody, should see this once in their life. A witty and perceptive piece on animals and the environment - which makes it sound far too boring!. Not long and often performed as part of a triple bill. The music is a piece by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra - which means that it is catchy and offbeat. A joy of a ballet. {top}


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