I went to the ballet with a friend who has seen significantly less theatre than I have. As we were lazily browsing our programs, he turned to me and said, “Now, you’ll have to tell me if this is any good or not, because I don’t really know much about ballet.”
Suddenly I was struck silent. Who am I to tell someone what is “good” ballet? Can’t we allow ballet to speak for herself?
When I was just a dawdling school girl, I took ballet classes. I knew my arabesque from my glissade and could pirouette with the best of them, but this didn’t give me any license to turn and say what made a ballet piece beautiful or good.
A truly “good” piece of art (dance, monologue, or painting) doesn’t need a critic to come along and declare it good. The art can stand on it’s own. This is what makes art so powerful; we can all come together to appreciate a piece because it shows us something beautiful or true about the world and the people in it. The art speaks directly to us individually, and then we all say collectively that it is good.
In the moment, I mumbled an answer about knowing it’s goodness by the movements being aesthetically pleasing, but I later realized it didn’t matter what I said to him. He would soon come to know what “good” ballet is truly like. We witnessed some remarkable dancing that evening. While I was moved to tears, I could hear him sighing with contentment when a group of ballerinas swept us away into their world with their balancés and pas de bourrées.
He knew, and I knew, and everyone in that theatre knew that we had just seen a “good ballet,” yet no one had to tell us so.