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Thread: Naive question from a ballet newbie: is it normal to hear the dancers?

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    Junior Member mchriste's Avatar
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    Default Naive question from a ballet newbie: is it normal to hear the dancers?

    I don't have much exposure to ballet, but I have seen ballet dancing on video.
    In particular I always watch the Vienna New Year's Concert and always enjoyed the dancing sequences.

    But last year I saw a ballet being performed live for the first time. Nothing extraordinary - the Nutcracker performed by a public theater. While overall it wasn't a bad experience, I was absolutely horrified to hear all the "stomping" over Tchaikovsky's beautiful music. It really distracted me!

    So here's my naive question to ballet lovers: do you normally hear the dancers?
    Was my "stomping" experience just due to the fact that the dancers were amateurs?
    Or is this something you just have to deal with in ballet, but are able to make abstraction of it?
    Does that mean all the "noise" is simply edited out from ballet video recordings?

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    Senior Member JCarmel's Avatar
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    I'm afraid the answer is 'yes'....the actual sound of the dancers movements as experienced when they are Live on-stage, are not reproduced realistically in recordings...thank goodness. You are right to feel put-off...it's not easy not to be. But I have found that a deepened knowledge of choreography...the ballet steps themselves & a heightened appreciation of the skill required, has helped me overcome it.
    But I do remember in particular a horrendously loud performance of Swan Lake by the Royal Ballet in the late 1960's, that I attended with a group of fellow students from a Teacher Training College in Warwickshire....most of which had never been to the Ballet before. We were situated up towards the rear of the upstairs gallery.....a blessing, in that the noise was so dreadfully clattery on the timbered stage of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon...that it was impossible not to laugh. We all sat there in fits of laughter from beginning to end....myself included I'm afraid.....the Cygnets sounding like a group of Bovver Boys in Builders boots.
    I think the wooden planked stage in this case was built in such a way that the sound was amplified to perfection. I imagine that the suitability of the dancing surface to keep the noise to a minimum, is vital in it's suppression.
    Last edited by JCarmel; Sep-05-2013 at 11:24.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    We have seen several ballets at our local theatre, the Lowestoft Marina, which began life as a Victorian rollerskating rink. I remember being surprised at the start of every production by the creaks & wooden landings you can hear, but five or ten minutes in, it really doesn't bother me. In a way, it is nice to be in touch with the physicality of it all!
    ~ Mollie ~
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    Senior Member deggial's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingenue View Post
    it is nice to be in touch with the physicality of it all!
    sorry to butt in, as my experience with ballet is very limited so far, this reminds me of live opera recordings on CD where you can hear "mysterious" bangs and running around without being able to know what's it all about - I've always liked those, as I feel they bring the thing to life as opposed to studio recordings where everything is a bit too neat and perfect.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deggial View Post
    sorry to butt in, as my experience with ballet is very limited so far, this reminds me of live opera recordings on CD where you can hear "mysterious" bangs and running around without being able to know what's it all about - I've always liked those, as I feel they bring the thing to life as opposed to studio recordings where everything is a bit too neat and perfect.
    Yes - when I was studying folk-song, I had some tapes of Irish travellers sent to me, and you could hear a baby crying in the background and people talking. It was so atmospheric!
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Junior Member Celesta's Avatar
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    My pet peeve about ballet, especially in live performances, is the inevitable clomping of pointe shoes on a stage. The toe box of a pointe shoe is made of very hard material and it's difficult to muffle that sound with fabric, tape, etc. The clomping is always most problematic when the corps de ballet is onstage. Some ballerinas succeed at making their shoes quiet. Ekaterina Maximova and Natalia Bessmertnova of the Bolshoi Ballet are just 2 examples.

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    Senior Member hreichgott's Avatar
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    So many variables: type of pointe shoe, dancer's preference as to how far to break in the shoe before performance, type of floor, what's under the floor (a proper "sprung" floor is louder since there is a drumlike hollow area under the floor), how close to the stage the audience member or microphone is located, volume of music and placement of musicians. Yes, less experienced dancers tend to be louder since they are less precise. Yes, video-recorded performances usually place the microphones far enough away from the stage that they don't pick up shoe noise.
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Senior Member trazom's Avatar
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    I was watching a video of one of my favorite Auroras and noticed this, too. It didn't detract from the performance, in my opinion. Though the video isn't the greatest quality since it's filmed by someone who snuck their camera in to the Royal Ballet, but the dancer's steps are audible at 1:49, and possibly earlier. I forgot.


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    Senior Member Couac Addict's Avatar
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    I'll add that some theatres are better than others. Theatres specifically designed for ballet have acoustics that are very good at muffling the steps. Problems arise when you don't have specialised theatres. This is often why opera always sounds terrible when performed in a theatre originally designed for ballet - forcing singers to desperately find that sweet spot on stage where they can be heard.
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