Ballet is pure poetry in motion, a means of using dance as narrative and to express powerful emotions. It helps to have a little background understanding to get the most out of it.

Know the plot

For your first ballet choose one that tells a popular tale—The Sleeping Beauty, say, or Cinderella—so you can follow the story. Buy a CD and listen to the music, to enjoy the thrill of anticipation beforehand—and recognition on the night.

Learn about the dancers

Read up about the people who'll be dancing for you—especially the principals—to understand the hard work and devotion that lies behind each of their performances.

Recognise the moves

Learn about the complex and beautiful moves from which classical ballet is wrought. Look out first for the slow, enfolding movements of adagio, which might include a graceful arabesque (one leg supports the body while the other extends behind) or a fondu (a slow melting movement in which the supporting leg bends at the knee).

Then there's the speed and spirit of allegro—featuring dramatic steps of elevation such as entrechat (a jump into the air accompanied by a rapid crossing of the feet in front and behind) and grand jeté (a full leg splits in mid-air).

Enjoy the story

Most importantly, allow yourself to appreciate the narrative flow of the ballet as the story is played out with such extraordinary skill and athleticism by the dancers.

 

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