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Ballet for Dummies: How to Appreciate the Art of Dancing

Fear not, ballet newbies!
Ballet for Dummies: How to Appreciate the Art of Dancing
IMAGE Courtesy of Ballet Philippines
Fear not, ballet newbies!

Classical ballet is, quite literally, poetry in motion. Why? There are no speaking lines nor any music with accompanying vocals during a show, and because of that things can get lost in translation if you don’t know what’s going on. Here’s how you can prepare yourself before watching your first ballet:

Know the Plot

Not all ballets are created equally. Some ballets like Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Don Quixote can be pretty straightforward since all of them have plots. Meanwhile, ballets by George Balanchine, such as Jewels, Themes and Variations and Serenade, are more abstract and will require you to focus more on the theme and music. This way, you’ll know what to expect and be able to have a good idea where the story is heading. 

Read Up on the Dancers

Acknowledge the hard work and devotion invested by the dancers by reading up on their training background, achievements, as well as their current repertoire. Knowing more about them is a great way of appreciating their performances.

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Research on the Music

Ballet music is composed by some of history’s best musicians, like Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Minkus, and so many more. It would be an added bonus for you to know tidbits about the music arrangement since it clues you in on the tone and theme of the storyline. For example, Tchaikovsky’s composition to Swan Lake is written in B minor—lending a somber, dramatic mood for the entire ballet as well as its tragic end. 

Learn a Bit of Mime

In ballets, mime scenes are added in and out of dancing sequences. It expresses the meanings that dancing cannot convey alone. 

Common mimes are: 

Love - It’s conveyed when a dancer crosses their hands over their hearts.

Dancing - You’ll know when a dance invitation is made when the dancer raises their arms over their heads and makes a rounding motion with the hands circling each other. 

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Death - Death is mimed by a dancer by bending their arms and crossing their wrists over each other with the fists closed. 

Figure out the Bravura Moments

Nothing is worse than feeling left out while watching a ballet. Everyone is bursting into thunderous applause while you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about. For one thing, the prima ballerina or danseur must have just accomplished a big feat, and you probably didn’t realize it.

Grand leaps, multiple turns and high leg extensions are all mean feats, but there are legendary feats you need to know about. Examples include the dizzying 32 fouettés of the Black Swan in Swan Lake, the excruciatingly physically demanding Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty and the energetic variation of Kitri in Don Quixote, wherein she does amazing grand jetés with a backbend. 

Catch a Ballet

From February 9-18 at the CCP Main Theater, Ballet Philippines will be staging Don Quixote. Taken from an episode of Miguel de Cervantes’s tale, it follows the gentleman from La Mancha as he goes off to Barcelona seeking adventure. The production will be featuring Joseph Gatti, former principal dancer of the Cincinnati Ballet and guest artist at Corella Ballet, as well as our very own award-winning ballerina, Candice Adea in the lead roles. Festive and fun, Don Quixote is a non-intimidating romantic comedy that even first-timers can enjoy. 

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For tickets, call Ballet Philippines at (+632) 551-1003, the CCP Box Office at (+632) 832-3704, or Ticketworld at (+632) 891-9999 or click here to visit their website. You can also connect to Ballet Philippines online through Facebook or Instagram.

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