Monday, January 16, 2012: The Who, What, When

Nikola Marová portrays the death of the swan in the classic ballet Swan Lake

Balletmania: The Who, What, Where, When, Why of Ballet

The death of the swan is one of the most dramatic and classic moments in the traditional ballet repertoire. The story of the “black swan” and the “white swan” was even made into a popular movie recently.

But do you know why this is a Top 10 Moment in ballet?

Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t; ballet history is not usually a hot topic in school, around the dinner table, or at the club these days.

But there’s a quick, easy way for you to find out: at the Balletmania (Czech, Baletomanie) performance Jan 26 at the Theatre of the Estates. It presents everything you need to know about ballet in one painless – and actually entertaining and enjoyable – performance.

Dance master Augustin Berger (right) and National Theatre dancers, late 19th century

Three special guides take you metaphorically “backstage” to examine how dancers prepare for a performance, interpret meaning, and execute the classic forms which make ballet … well, ballet.

The guides also introduce National Theatre dancers who present scenes from classic ballets, so you can see the theory put into practice, and learn a bit about the major historic periods of the dance. And the really good news: the guides’ dialogue is also presented with English surtitles.

This format has worked so well and become so popular that it has essentially remained the same for every annual Balletmania since its premiere in 2005, according to Dr Václav Janeček, dramaturg and pedagogue for the National Theatre Ballet.

And not only that: Fans keep coming back every year. “According to audience feedback, some viewers have seen our ‘light educational’ performance several times,” he tells Opus Osm. “They just enjoy the special combination of seeing the best of live ballet and its interpretation, plus the entertainment, and the pleasant understanding of the world of ballet.”

So if you’ve had nagging questions about ballet niggling at your brain, you want to impress your friends with your cultural expertise, or you just would like to know something about dance in general, Balletmania is a user-friendly way to do it.

You may even find yourself part of the performance’s returning annual fan club. — oo

Balletmania is at the Theatre of the Estates at 7 pm Jan 26, with a repeat performance slated for Feb 22.

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Top: Roman Sejkot; bottom, National Theatre archives

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