BEER, NACHOS AND BALLET The Royal Ballet at the O2 Arena – Good or Bad?

10 Jul
Self made replica of the Royal Ballet Logo

I’ve been thinking a lot about last month’s performances of the Royal Ballet at London’s 02 Arena, which seats five times the crowd as the 2200 seats at the Royal Opera House.

On June 19, Sarah Lyall of the NY Times wrote, “In an attempt to bring ‘ballet to the masses,’ the Royal’s performance of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet was “a way for ballet to break free from its rarefied, elitist image” and attract younger and larger audiences. Here was big time ballet, in a venue usually reserved for rock concerts and pop stars. Is this a good thing?”

In general, the event reviews were good, although most note that the big screens only focus on specific body parts, rather than the entire picture.

According to Mark Monahan of The (London) Telegraph, “Even sitting relatively near the stage, your eyes generally went up to the middle screen, which, given all the camera pans, meant you were in fact looking at a selectively edited version of what was happening on the stage.” But, he went on to say, “Overall, the Royal Ballet performed with grace, grandeur and finesse, and to the thunderous approval of the vast, unusually varied audience. Who could possibly object to such rousing, heartening proof of the art form’s broad appeal and complete accessibility… the conclusion that this was largely high art as rock gig proved inescapable.”

And note that according to Maev Kennedy of The Guardian (London), “some of its more highbrow critics are bound to think, downmarket.”

So here’s the question: is ballet as “rock gig” a good thing? Does ballet really need to be regarded as “elitist?”

Personally, I think “mass market” ballet is a good thing – I find there is an awful lot of ignorance out there. How disturbing it is when I tell someone I take ballet class and they respond, “Wow – do you work up a sweat doing that?” or “Really? Do you wear a tutu? Put on a recital?” Why do I so often hear, “ballet – ick!”? And then when I ask, “when have you last been to a ballet?” the answer is most likely, “Never!”

When you remove yourself from the artistic community you inevitably find people are ignorant when it comes to ballet and rush to judgment without ever having had exposure. It’s sad. Maybe it’s “downmarket” to present the ballet classics in an arena with beer and nachos, but I think creating excitement for this beautiful and amazing art form is a good thing. Exposure and education are paramount.

Big time ballet as big time rock and roll – I think we should do what it takes. For me, an arena filled with balletomanes is happily upmarket!

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One Response to “BEER, NACHOS AND BALLET The Royal Ballet at the O2 Arena – Good or Bad?”

  1. AdriaBalletBeat August 7, 2011 at 10:52 AM #

    Please note via “The Ballet Bag” – Ballet is returning to London’s O2 arena this December. http://bit.ly/qGTsA1 Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker at The O2

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