I love opera and ballet, but I didn't always. I remember very excitedly going to my first ballet in San Francisco and leaving with no idea what I just saw and having thought that maybe there was a better way I could have spent my time and money.
Opera wasn't much better. A lot of the music I listen to is classical, but whenever I was listening to a big playlist of Mozart music, I'd skip through the opera songs.
Now opera and ballet are my two of my favorite types of performances to go to. I prefer them to rap concerts, movies, and just about anything else. My favorite place to see these types of performances is Budapest, and I'll often adjust my travel schedule around them.
While ballet and opera are obviously fairly different, the key to enjoying both of them is the same.
I learned this during that same first ballet that I wasn't so into. It was the Little Mermaid and I went with a ballerina friend of mine. She loved it and laughed when I said that I had no idea what was happening.
"You're supposed to read the story in advance so that you know what's going on."
Oh. I was so focused on trying to figure out the plot that I got frustrated and didn't appreciate the ballet. I didn't really want to go to another ballet, but I did anyway, having read the synopsis first, and I really enjoyed it.
The same is true of operas. You have to read the synopsis first. Unlike other forms of entertainment, where the plot is the primary draw, it's mostly a formality for operas and ballets. You go to see the emotion conveyed through dance or singing, to enjoy the music of the full orchestra, and to see people do incredibly difficult things.
I got so into ballet that I ended up taking classes myself. I got to the fourth level of classes, which sounds impressive until you realize that the fourth level is still called beginner ballet. Ballet is an incredibly difficult pursuit, and one of the few that require absolute grace. So you end up doing very difficult physical tasks, getting all of them at least a little bit wrong, and have to pass it off like it's easy and fluid.
Taking those classes helped me appreciate ballet even more. They make it look so easy that you don't realize how difficult even the most basic things that they do are.
Find a good ballet or opera performance to go check out. Read the synopsis before so that you know what's going on. Sometimes I'll read them a few times just to really ingrain the story. As there's no spoken words, it's sometimes hard to know who is who unless you've read the synopsis on Wikipedia.
When you go, just focus on enjoying the music, the costumes, the set, and the difficult tasks that the performers are making look easy. Even if you don't love the art of ballet or opera in the beginning, there's a lot there to take in and consider.
I now go to a dozen or so operas and ballets combined each year, and my enjoyment of them varies by a lot. I've also found that it's impossible to predict which ones I'll really like and which ones will just be okay. I walked out of the ballet of Spartacus, which I thought would be really cool, but I loved The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, which I thought would be mediocre.
My favorite ballets are The Fountain of Bakhchisarai and The Nutcracker, and my absolute favorite opera was Rigoletto. If you see any of those coming around, check them out. It's fun to enjoy a less-common form of entertainment, and you get the added bonus of being able to get your friends into it.
Photo is from the Sylvia ballet in Budapest. Solid but not my favorite ever.
About eight months ago, I had the idea that maybe I should be doing something to work on flexibility and posture, like yoga. I've taken yoga in the past and liked it, but never really loved it enough to stick with it. Maybe I'll try ballet, I thought.
A lot of members of my family and extended family have taken ballet, as have a disproportionately high percentage of girls I've dated. Through them I've been exposed to it in bits and pieces, and I always admired the discipline of it. Ballet is so exacting and precise that even after years of work it's still near impossible, but ballet dancers press on despite that. I always admired the tenacity it seemed to build.
I also like going to ballets, as long as they're not modern ballet. Between seeing all the good things that came out of others doing ballet and thinking it may help me appreciate watching ballet more, I figured I'd take one class and try it out. The fact that it was weird for a straight guy to take ballet probably factored in, as well.
I was pretty much hooked at my first class. In life I like the idea of working as hard as humanly possible but still trying to make it look good on the outside, and ballet was the dance form that reflected that. It felt great to wake up on Sunday morning, ride my motorcycle downtown, and then slip on ballet shoes, stretch out, and learn something difficult and physical.
A new thing I'll be doing this year will be promotional videos for shows and upcoming events. Video and video editing is something I've wanted to take on for quite a while, and so, I am making baby steps toward that end.
This past weekend I unveiled a little Promo video for my show this coming Sunday at the Exit/In in Nashville. Many folks have never actually seen me perform live even though they may already have some of my songs. So then, of course, my goal was simple: to give people a taste what they might expect when they see me perform.
I decided to play a song called "Arabesque". It's probably the most classically-influenced piece I've written. It's a challenge to play but a ton of fun.
Heavy on the arpeggios and calling on my love for Russian and Baroque-style classical music, it's a fanciful little tune about a father expressing his pride over watching his son dance ballet and ultimately fulfill a life-long dream . . .