Growing up, my parents loved taking us to different cultural events making sure we saw everything out there and establishing a love for the arts. I remember going to an opera at a young age and thinking I would never be interested in going to that again. I know that twenty years can change our interests and I’d love to give it another try coming from a more mature self. I also remember going to the ballet (Ballet West to be exact) and seeing The Nutcracker. It was unlike anything I had been to before, but I know I enjoyed it. I remember being completely mesmerized, watching them all on stage dancing.
Recently, Ballet West here in Salt Lake City reached out to me and invited me to watch a practice for an upcoming ballet they were working on. It’s always nice to try new things and my wife and I were able to get out of the house to enjoy something new together. I decided it would be fun and interesting but I wasn’t prepared to be completely blown away. Let me just say, I am so glad I decided to go because it was the coolest experience I had ever been involved in. We sat directly in front of the mirrors just feet away from the dancers. Watching a performance in a theater makes them appear super human, flawless almost as if they were dancing on air but being in the studio we could literally see them controlling their breathing, sweat, stretch between numbers and show a complete scale of emotion for the numbers they were performing. I felt like I was a part of it yet had nothing to do with it but smile and generate thousands of questions.
A cousin of mine did point growing up and I remember seeing her feet thinking, wow! That must be a lot of work, painful, but really how hard could it be? As I sat in the room with dancers leaping just feet in front of me and standing on point for what seemed to be forever I finally got it. These dancers where breathing heavy, exhausted, but still keeping their perfect form that ballet instills into these professionals. The poise and professionalism that radiated from the room was absolutely breathtaking. I honestly sat there with these dancers just feet away from me with my mouth wide open thinking how crazy this was.
Did you know that they learn an entire ballet in the time span of two weeks to a month? I guess it makes sense when they put in 8 plus hour days. They learn all the ballets that they are going to do for the year at the beginning of the year because they will be touring and don’t have tons of time to learn everything just before it goes on. I was floored at this! No wonder it was so exhausting.
We then were privileged with opportunity to meet two of the dancers and really ask them anything we wanted. I of course jumped at this opportunity and asked what was it about ballet that drew them in? The music- being entranced by the music and feeling the notes beat through your body was the greatest feeling ever. One of them, the male dancer, had grown up in the ballet, but had originally gone to school for something different. He missed it too much and had to come back. It was great actually talking to them because I have always just thought of ballet dancers to be like those from Center Stage and Black Swan, crazy, obsessive and unhealthy. They both were completely normal.
I decided that it would be a fun experience to actually see the ballet that we saw them practice on the actual stage. We worried about the time away from the kids, especially the baby, and decided that I would take our niece who does ballet and experience it together. I had no idea what the crowd would be like. Looking around I noticed all different types of people: families with their little girls, older couples dressed up for the evening and even people being alone just to enjoy the art of ballet.
I don’t think words can express how blown away I was by the amazing performances I viewed. Having been able to sit feet away from these hard working artist to being in an audience and seeing the final production was phenomenal. It was also fun to sit there with my niece and see her eyes light up as she saw the dancers enter the stage for each of the different ballets that were performed.
What I gained from this experience is that I can’t ever close a door on something I have experienced before. Just because I had seen a ballet as a child didn’t mean that I should never see one again. After this experience I feel like the ballet is something I am going to be enjoying much more frequently. I also realized that with frequent exposure it’s something that my children will grow to love. I recently took my son to a two and a half hour musical performance that I thought was going to be a complete nightmare keeping him under control. To my surprise he sat there, staring at the performers the entire time, completely mesmerized by what was happening on the stage in front of him. I know that he would love watching these dancers perform and thankfully Ballet West has some great performances coming up that would be great for kids: The Nutcracker (Dec 10-27). Beauty and the Beast could be fun (Mar 31-Apr 3) and they even do shows that are specifically done for children to come to and enjoy.
It’s time to head back to the ballet! Ballet West will be doing the ballet we watched (Iconic Classics | Fancy Free, Overgrown Path and Symphony in C) until November 14th (tomorrow). But if you have a local ballet company maybe it’s time to go and see this art and try something new.