Your wife walks into the room and announces, “I got us tickets to the ballet!” Or maybe your boyfriend surprises you with a romantic date to see the Nutcracker. Either way, your heart starts jumping a little faster when you hear this news, not just because you’re excited to spend time with your significant other, but also because you’ve never been to a ballet before.
Maybe you think dance is weird. Maybe you think ballet is only for stodgy patrons who can rattle off wine characteristics just as easily as a list of Puccini operas. However, ballet is for everyone, and there’s no need to be nervous about watching a performance of this beautiful, inspiring, and even provocative art form.
The first thing you need to know about going to the ballet for the first time is that, aside from story ballets like Swan Lake and Nutcracker, there are often several different sections of one program. The individual ballets can be referred to as “works” or “pieces,” but they are rarely called “dances.” The person who put together the steps is the choreographer, and the dancers in the company are the artists.
It might be helpful to do a little bit of research online about the ballet you’re seeing, just to get acquainted with some of the faces and the style of the repertory that’s being performed. At the least you’ll want to know if it’s a contemporary or classical work, so that you don’t sit down expecting Sleeping Beauty when out dash half-clad dancers with strips of mesh for a modern premiere.
Now, when the big night arrives, be sure to dress appropriately. Ballet is nowhere near as formal as opera, but it does demand a certain level of attire. Regular jeans will turn heads, but so will a lavish ball gown. Settle for something in-between, like what you might wear to a church service, but feel free to go more glamorous if you can pull it off elegantly. Heels trump Birkenstocks every time.
When you get to the theatre, provided that you’ve left enough time, wander around and take in the sights. Part of going to the ballet is the atmosphere, and that includes people-watching. There may be some sort of food and drink enterprise that’s owned by the theatre (usually with wine and cookies) so don’t try to bring your own refreshments. An opera house should not be treated the same as a movie theatre.