Welcome to the third and final part of my Ballet Basics series! I know that ballet can often feel high brow and difficult to relate to, but I think that a lot of that changes once you can actually see the ballet and have a chance to connect with it. Dance is the universal language, we can all understand movement; you’ve just got to let yourself go and be open to the experience. Today I’ve gathered some performances that are available online so that you can experience some of the great ballets from the comfort of your home!
The Nutcracker is one of the true classic ballets, and although it did not perform well in its premiere, it eventually became a Christmas tradition in North America that many of us love and enjoy it every holiday season! For those of you who are new to it, this is from my original post on the Nutcracker:
Originally written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffman, the Nutcracker was adapted to ballet by Tchaikovsky in 1891 (opening 1892). It didn’t become popular outside of Russia until the 1940s, when it was performed in England. It truly took off in 1954 when George Balanchine staged it in New York. (Found on 159 of The World Encyclopedia of Christmas) The story? Clara (also referred to as Marie) is a young girl celebrating Christmas with her family. Her god-father Drosselmeyer gives her the famed Nutcracker, her brother breaks it. Drosselmeyer fixes it! Yay! She falls asleep, and dreams of a battle between the Nutcracker and his men, and the Mouse King and his army. The Nutcracker wins! Yay! Clara and her Nutcracker prince are transported to the Magic Kingdom where they see all of the people of his kingdom perfume. You have the Spanish dance (aka hot chocolate), the Chinese dance (aka tea), the Russian dance (aka coffee), and the Sugarplum Fairy! She wakes up in her bed on Christmas morning.
Jewels is a very different style of ballet, but I think that if you find story ballets aren’t to your liking it will give you something different. Choreographed by “the father of American ballet”, George Balanchine, for the New York City Ballet in the late 1960s, Jewels is an abstract full length, three act ballet. There is no story and the dancers are simply dressed like Jewels- Emeralds is performed to Gabriel Fauré, Rubies to Igor Stravinsky, and Diamonds to Tchaikovsky. Each act is unique and is choreographed completely on it’s own. I personally am not the biggest fan of Balanchine- it’s a fairly forceful style of ballet overall but I do love Jewels and the pairing with the music!
Sleeping Beauty is another of the old classic story ballets- it premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1890 and although it wasn’t received entirely positively initially, it was loved and promoted by various choreographers throughout the twentieth century and is now a crowd favourite. Aurora (the Princess) is cursed to prick her thumb and die on her sixteenth birthday by Carabosse, the evil fairy. The Lilac Fairy ensures that she will only sleep for a hundred years instead of dying. Now the Prince comes in- while he is hunting he discovers the Princess and awakens her with a kiss. The third act is their wedding, complete with countless fairy tale characters!
I was able to see the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Peter Pan last May, and it was possibly one of my favourite ballets that I’ve seen! Peter Pan is such a classic childhood story, and it works so well as a ballet. The action, the magic, the sass, the wonder- it all leads to an exciting and touching ballet that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. For anyone who hasn’t spent an afternoon with Peter, Peter Pan follows the story of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling as they are whisked away by Peter and Tinkerbell to go on adventures with the Lost Boys! (Conveniently, they also avoid growing up, which doesn’t seem the worst some days.)
If you are interested in seeing a ballet, local ballet companies (especially amateur and pre-professional companies) often offer discounts to new subscribers and unsold tickets if you aren’t choosy on where you are sitting. There are also performances that are broadcast in movie theatres and on stations like PBS! Ballet companies are doing their best to connect with their audiences in any way possible, and want you to see their work!
What ballets have you seen? Which were your favourites?