Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Barbarians at the Ballet

Just got back from seeing the Nutcracker at Festival Ballet Providence. Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric is a former first soloist with the National Ballet Theatre in Belgrade -- which the program was careful to note as "Belgrade Yugoslavia" because he left in 1991. Actually about half the principal dancers are from other countries, including several each of Lithuanians, Russians and Venezuelans.

They were all fantastic, and the child dancers were, as always, terribly charming. There's even a company dog who appears on stage for the start of the first act; he did a great job but then this is his 31st Nutcracker performance since he joined in 2000, so he's had plenty of practice. The sets were also truly magical.

The audience wasn't. As you would expect, the theatre was jammed with children. I expected small noises and rustlings from them. What I didn't expect were the sheer bad manners of many parents. Mothers sitting all around us continually spoke with their children throughout the show. Also, instead of waiting for intermission, they dug into their purses bringing out snacks during the performance... the sound of plastic wrappers being taken off of sandwiches all around you is quite distracting. Then there were the parents who brought children far, far too young to be in a theatre. What stunned me the most was they seemed to think of it as if they were trapped in a 747 jet instead of a room with doors. Babies would start screaming and parents would continue to sit there. Mister, don't shush your child here, get up and go to the hallway outside already!

Finally, as the company prepared to take their bows, instead of clapping, many of the parents in the audience stood up, slapped their jackets on and hustled their children up the aisle to the exits. Hey, it's not a movie theatre! There are live people bowing on the stage! I clapped extra loudly to make up for it, but so many families were leaving early that the stage manager brought down the curtain abruptly far earlier than I've ever seen before.

The Providence Ballet is to be commended. They did a fine job and didn't deserve their audience.

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