Ballet is “like the English language, which can be used by Shakespeare and by Emily Dickinson and by Ernest Hemingway, but also by MAD Magazine and ‘Family Guy,’ ” says Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre. “It’s very pliable.”
If you’re still not swayed, there are at least four chances in the coming weeks to be convinced. American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Russian National Ballet Theatre are all coming to town. And our acclaimed resident company, the Washington Ballet, also takes the stage, bringing back an old favorite and presenting a world premiere.
So step away from the stereotypes and read on for solid evidence of why the common misconceptions about ballet are bunk.
Even dancers who retired their pink slippers at age 7 know that ballet isn’t just an art form, but also a sport. Ballet dancers need to leap like LeBron and spin like Ronaldo while also keeping rhythm, telling stories and conveying emotion. Those men in tights? The sartorial choice only highlights their extreme athleticism and eye-popping quadriceps.
A pro’s schedule is grueling. Between class and rehearsals, dancers spend upward of 35 hours a week working on such steps as pirouettes (spins) and jetes (jumps), and that schedule doesn’t include performances. They also cross-train, pumping iron to prepare for lifting, throwing and catching other dancers, and do cardio to keep from losing their breath under the hot stage lights.
“We’re sprinters,” Webre says. “We do solos that are a minute and a half long, duets that are two to six minutes long. . . . We’re doing very big bursts of energy.”
What to see:
Those in search of feats of physicality should get tickets to the
New York City Ballet’s performance
of “Glass Pieces,” part of one of the company’s mixed-repertory programs (a sampling of shorter works). Set to a repetitive and minimalist yet haunting score by contemporary composer Philip Glass, the 1983 piece by choreographer Jerome Robbins is “for somebody that’s not going to be so much into romantic ballet — or, you know, tutus and swans,” says NYCB principal dancer Jared Angle.
The costumes are contemporary, the setting is urban and there are some captivating scenes, including a stunning pas de deux (a type of duet) that unfolds in front of a backdrop of silhouetted dancers moving in unison.
“It has a very sort of New York energy to it,” Angle says. “The last movement of that ballet just builds and builds and builds, and it’s so exciting. For a first-timer, or for somebody you want to introduce to the ballet that might want something with a little more edge, that would be a great piece.”
New York City Ballet, March 26-31 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600. www.kennedy-center.org. $25-$95.