Back to the ballet!





By Caitlin Kelly

Aaaaaah, the glories of Lincoln Center!

Jose and I treated ourselves to tickets for the winter season, and what a joy it was to settle back into those red plush seats below that gorgeous floral-shaped ceiling.

The first evening offered three Balanchine pieces, the first, his first, from 1928, Apollo. It was…the work of a young choreographer. It felt very much of the period. I’m glad I saw it — what else (beyond some classical music) — of the 1920s are we still consuming culturally?

The second piece, Orpheus, which I loved, was from 1948. Like the others on the evening’s program, it’s a ballet with no sets and very simple costumes, to music by Stravinsky. The minimal set was by now legendary designer Isamu Noguchi.

Orpheus, as all you Greek myths geeks already know, is the heart-breaking story of Orpheus descending into Hades to reclaim Eurydice — only if he refuses to look at her until they are back in the earthly word. But he looks, killing her instantly, forever.

The third ballet, pure form, is from 1957, Agon. Loved it. It’s everyone’s first ballet class; the girls in black leotards with simple blacks, the boys (as adults are called throughout their ballet careers), in black tights and tight white T-shirts.

It demands the fiercest technique — no gorgeous costumes or tricky lighting or elaborate sets to distract the eye. There were some wobbly moments of partnering, which made it a bit more human.


The Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, one of my greatest pleasures of living in New York


We had terrific seats in the orchestra, ($79 each, to me an absolute bargain for the value) and had a great time people-watching; such elegance! Ladies in floor-length furs, young girls in sparkly shoes, a pair of stylish young Parisiennes in the row in front of us.

I came home so excited to be back in the world of ballet, a world I entered as a young girl, taking classes with vague and unrealizable hopes of joining more seriously; I tried out a few times for Toronto’s National Ballet School and lived a block away from it in my early 20s, watching the fortunate few enter and exit those hallowed halls, walking with the dancer’s distinctive head-erect, shoulders-back, feet-turned-out gait.

In my 20s, I was fortunate to become a regular reviewer of the National Ballet of Canada (free tickets!) and was even flown from Toronto to Newfoundland to write about their life on tour, to help me produce an essay for their 35th anniversary program. Later, thanks to their PR director, I performed as an extra in eight performances of Sleeping Beauty at Lincoln Center — and have even been in its rehearsal rooms.



The lights on the front of each balcony look like jewels and the gold is covered with a sort of netting effect. The proscenium looks like it’s made of thin gold chains laid together


Here’s a fantastic series of short films I found on Youtube about NYC Ballet, from 2014. If you love ballet, you will learn a lot about what happens everywhere but on-stage.

I now have a much better sense of NYCB dancers and some of their unlikely trajectories and backstories.

Interestingly, Peter Martins — subject of one of the videos and its long-time director — is gone, having retired in January 2018 after 24 allegations of bullying and sexual harassment by former dancers and dance students.



It is a brutal world.

It is a beautiful world.



21 thoughts on “Back to the ballet!

  1. this sounds like and utterly magical night of performance. for you, it must be even more wonderful, having a ballet background. i’ve never entered the world of dance other than as a member of an audience, but i am always held rapt by the dancers and their performances. definitely worth splurging on.

    1. I deliberately took a chance to see some works new to me…2019 is the year of trying new things!

      It was interesting for Jose to realize how much I know about ballet…and how differently I see it technically, as he does (having played French horn) when it comes to classical music, whose structures and techniques I don’t know much about.

      1. yes, we each view things through our own lens and personal experience. that is one thing that makes people so interesting when you really get to know them.

      2. I never thought I knew “everything” about Jose! Maybe being a more reticent/guarded/private person, I’m not a fan of “knowing everything.” I like the slow accumulation of knowledge!

  2. A great night out in the midst of this polar blast! I went to the ballet last weekend, but it was a bit different from the norm. Ferdinand the Bull (one of my favorite books as a child) was narrated, as the ballet danced the book and the symphony accompanied. I loved seeing all the little ones settle in with rapt attention . . .

  3. I’m going to be seeing Don Quixote in March with my mother. BalletMet’s been posting photos all over Facebook and Instagram, and it looks fantastic. And given the source material, I have a feeling I’m going to laugh quite a bit.
    You know, I’ve actually been making a list of ballets I’d like to see in the future, as well as stories I think would make good ballets. I’ve even come up with a few. Perhaps if my writing career goes somewhere after the book…who knows? Maybe BalletMet will want to collaborate with me.
    If they do, I’ll start praying Tiler Peck and Rebecca Alexandra Hadibroto can somehow have roles (those young ladies are amazing dancers).

    1. It’s very cool you know individual dancers now…their strengths and weaknesses. I am just slooooowly learning this at NYCB and ABT — you really have to watch them quite a bit and that gets expensive here.

      Have never seen Don Quixote and would like to. One of my favorites is Serenade; that opening chord — BOOM!!

      1. Serenade, huh? I’ll have to look that one up.

        There’s just one ballet I don’t want to see, and that’s The Talisman. The plot has not aged that well, and I’d probably feel uncomfortable going to a performance of it.

      2. References/styles to characters deemed too racist…don’t remember the exact details. I only went once to the Nutcracker here and didn’t enjoy their version. (not for that reason)

    1. It made me realize how very frustrated I am by everyone who now considers themselves a “writer” (because, hey, everyone’s a writer now!) but has no understanding of the fundamentals — nor has put in the many many hours of disciplined practice to acquire technique. I came home from the ballet with a clearer understanding of this, reminded of the daily plies and tendues and battements that allow these dancers — finally — to have earned the privilege of going on stage for us.

      It’s been great to get out and have some fun.

      1. I’m not fishing for compliments here but I hope I am not the cause of any of your frustration, as I do consider myself a writer. This, at least, in the manner of those Tibetan monks who create mandalas out of sand and then blow them away when they are finished. Since, as I said, I’m not fishing for compliments, you may pass this comment by with no hard feelings on my part and I will not presume that you have an opinion one way or the other.

      2. Nope. My frustration is with the 1000000s of wannabes who style themselves as “writers” then complain bitterly about the industry because they have no idea what they’re doing. Not here!

  4. Well that wouldn’t be me, at least for now. I may have need of an editor sometime and that could only be you but for now I’m completely non-industrial. When the manuscript goes to market and the rejections start rolling in, I will get you a bottle of top shelf bourbon and we can get drunk over the internet while complaining about the artless, money-grubbing Philistines. That sounds like some fun all on its own. Have a good one.

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