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Bolshoi Bragging

February 22, 2017


This reworked post is from 2012



The Fantasy


Cultured and sophisticated people are a different breed from Joe Six Pack and the other plebeians on the street. The world is their playground and they cast a larger shadow than average people. They donate money to museums and universities and have their names engraved on libraries, hospital wings and research centers. They donate to Masterpiece Theatre (cultured folk do not spell it theater) their children attend exclusive schools and their dogs are the offspring of champions awarded ribbons by stout dog experts with names like Mrs. Fitzboozer Smythe or Mr. Roger-Bailey Van Bumsby.


While most men concern themselves with football scores and baseball stats, and housewives focus on the foolish shenanigans of Say Yes to the Dress or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, others strive to be bastions of sophistication. The cultural divide separating sophisticates from lowbrows is never more apparent than when it comes to—ballet.


In 1977 I was not the sophisticated chatterbox you know today; back then I was concerned about my lack of interest in ballet, confused by emaciated tip-toeing women flaunting their underwear and looking in desperate need of a corned beef sandwich, and pretty men in leotards tight enough to show their circumcisions. But I’ve always thought of myself as cultured and refined, the type of person who’d say, “Excuse me,” after farting even when alone, so when someone gave us tickets to see the famous Bolshoi Ballet I figured it was in my best interest to attend, to expand my cultural awareness by exposing myself to the glory of a world-class ballet ensemble.


When I mentioned the free tickets, Mrs. Chatterbox was quite excited about attending a performance of the Bolshoi, Russia’s premier ballet company founded in 1776. Since it was my goal to observe the world from atop the cultural pyramid, I was excited by this über cultural opportunity.


When the lights dimmed and music began to swell, I was finally able to witness the glory that was the Bolshoi Ballet. I tossed aside my preconceptions in favor of firsthand experience: the drama, pageantry, athleticism, music, scenery—the mesmerizing combination of so many art forms brought together through the magic of theater, make that theatre. Truly, a spell-binding moment, an experience I’d heartily recommend if your finances permit. The experience left me and Mrs. Chatterbox feeling uplifted, so recharged with a passion for the arts that we exited the theatre feeling like we were walking on water.


The Reality


In 1977 Mrs. Chatterbox and I attended a Bolshoi Ballet performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. The tickets might have been free, but the evening wasn’t cheap, by my standards anyway, the standards of a guy working for minimum wage at Standard Brands Paint Store in Santa Monica. After enjoying the culinary delights of a nearby Sizzler, I was required to give the valet a sawbuck to park my ’68 VW Beetle, and the pre-performance flutes of champagne were also ten bucks each, not that sophisticated people take notice of such things.


We sat in the balcony near the rafters. Mrs. Chatterbox wasn’t dripping in jewelry like other female attendees, and the only suit I owned at the time was made of stifling brown corduroy and made me look like a grizzly bear. Shortly after the first act, we fell asleep and were rousted by ushers when our snoring disturbed nearby ballet lovers trying to enjoy the show.


I still don’t like ballet, and I’d like to say we’ve had better luck staying awake at operas, but it wouldn’t be true.





The only ballet performance I truly enjoyed, from Disney's 1940 Fantasia.





Anyone a ballet fan?



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My sisters are fans of the ballet but it's never interested me. I would probably be falling asleep. Maybe if I absconded with the ballerinas on a fancy yacht like in The Dark Knight I'd be more interested.
By: PT Dilloway on February 22, 2017
I took ballet as a child- and it is great exercise-however that only lasted a short time as I preferred riding my bike and exploring the great outdoors ....ballet was pretty boring and after snoozing through The Nutcracker- I chose to go to rock and roll concerts. Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on February 22, 2017
I enjoy ballet and have been to a summer performance in the Boshoi theater in Moscow where I (having just traveled overland from Singapore) was woefully under dressed!
By: Sage on February 22, 2017
Does going to clogging and square dancing shows count as being refined and cultured? I drew the line when it came to yodeling, though. Hey, I finally added a humor category to SiteHoundSniffs, and you co-star in a video ad for it.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on February 22, 2017
I took my husband to a dance exhibition at the Kennedy Center when we had first moved to the DC area. The tickets were not outrageous, but not cheap. We saw the famous choreographer Mark Morris and his dancers dance in their underwear for over an hour and decided we were not sophiticated enough for this.
By: Tabor on February 22, 2017
Nope. And I can't understand why anyone wants to starve themselves and cause life-long foot problems to perform, either! I'm just a hick, I guess. Ballroom dancing is a whole other ball game - love that, for some reason.
By: jenny_o on February 22, 2017
Never been to a performance but always wanted to. My expectations are much like yours in the beginning of the story. Now you have me suspicious that I might end up the same way.
By: Arkansas Patti on February 22, 2017
I love both ballet & opera, but then I'm a much better person than you!!
By: fishducky on February 22, 2017
We got to see Baryshnikof, and he and the company were tremendous. No falling asleep here, i have also enjoyed seeing the Nutcracker a few times. If i had money, i'd go to the ballet more often.
By: messymimi on February 22, 2017
I like classical music and I have a number of waltzes on my walking playlists. Does that make me sophisticated?
By: Pixel Peeper on February 22, 2017
Like you I'm not a ballet fan but, I would take those free tickets in a heartbeat. I never liked jazz, but I do now. I started listing to jazz that had some explanation and description. I caught on.
By: red Kline on February 22, 2017
I love the image of you in your corduroy suit, snoring in the balcony. No ballet for me. My mom looked at me like I was crazy when I asked to attend a performance of the St. Louis Symphony when they came to the local junior college. She took me. Even though that was some highfalutin entertainment for the hinterlands.
By: Val on February 22, 2017
You made me laugh....I actually write Theatre in that way. I like the ballet but have seen very little but would love it. There was some film I saw with Chevy Chase where he was at the ballet and the men's bulges started to swell,...I laughed so hard but I can't remember the film.
By: Birgit on February 22, 2017
Never been to the opera or ballet. I've been to a few musicals some of which I enjoyed more than others. They're to me the heightened culture to my bloodline. Half of my bloodline is from Ireland and the other from France and settled in New France.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 22, 2017
I think I would enjoy the experience of ballet or opera...once. I think I would appreciate the art and the athleticism, I would hate the snobbery.
By: cranky on February 22, 2017
Yes! We don't go often, but when we do we love it. Now, opera ... that's a different story. Btw, I am shocked ... shocked ... that you don't keep your wife dripping in jewelry!
By: Tom Sightings on February 23, 2017
You pulled a fast one. I was so convinced, I purchased tickets for the SF Ballet and reserved a hotel room at the Fairmount for the weekend. Sneaky man. PS Loved this, hate the ballet (or I merely assume I would. Actually, I saw the Nutcracker. It was alright - left no impression on me, but I didn't snore when I dosed off.)
By: on February 23, 2017
Loved, loved, loved your post. I love ballet, but I am not a highbrow type of person. Even the mention of that word or the dichotomy it implies (high vs low) brings me up in a rash. :-) I attended my first ballet show when I was 16 or 17. It was terrifying. I sat amongst these people who all belonged to the same tribe. They ketp looking at me: black, heterosexual and badly-dressed. What was I doing there? Plus, I was on my own. But I am made of stell. I saw also a performance of Swan Lake (but by Cuba's National Ballet Company) and I was hooked. I came back the week after to watch Giselle and the rest is history. I can't aafford Covent Garden here in London but I do try to catch a ballet show every now and then at a chea venue. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on February 23, 2017
I DO like most ballet, although Swan Lake does tend to put me to sleep, too, unless it's performed by the Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo (an all-male troupe) . But try and make me sit through just about any opera and I'll be snoring along with you.
By: Mitchell is Moving on February 23, 2017
Did you say "ball fan"? I love baseball and, though I've been disappointed in recent years (actually since 2001), I still semi-faithfully follow my Diamondbacks. Oh wait. Ballet? Never mind.
By: Catalyst on February 23, 2017
not even close!!
By: Bee BB Bee on February 23, 2017

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