The Bluffer’s Guide to…Your First Time at the Ballet

 It’s easy to feel intimidated by stick-thin ballerinas and the wordless storylines, but ballet is fast becoming one of the performing arts to see, especially in the wake of the dark Hollywood blockbuster Black Swan. And if you’ve been planning to remortgage your house to buy tickets – some cost upwards of £150 a seat, it’s time to think again. Even ‘normal’ people like bluffers can afford the arts these days!


Nope, it’s ballet remember. The dancers use their bodies to ‘speak’ to you, conveying the story and emotions without uttering a word. It’s why they’ve spent their entire lives from the age of about three honing their art. And they pay quite a price too, top ballet dancers often end up with a stream of injuries including stress fractures and torn muscles, so make sure you pay attention. It helps that most classic performances are famous stories such as Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker so they’re easy to follow.


If you’ve been to London’s Covent Garden, you’ll have seen the queues snaking round the Royal Opera House, home to the most famous of all companies, the Royal Ballet. Standby tickets are released at 10am daily, but queues often start well before, especially if it’s a popular show. If you’ve got the patience to stand in line, you could pick up some brilliant seats at up to half price. Or you could opt for standing tickets, usually under a tenner. Other fantastic venues include Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican. If you’re not in London don’t despair, there are some pretty exciting dance troupes touring local theatres around the country– former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt’s  Ballet Boyz to name one. Yes, it is men in tights – but who’s to say that’s a bad thing?


Don’t panic as you’re probably in the cheap seats, no one will expect you to break out the tiara and pearls. As long as you don’t wear your leopard print onesie, you should be fine. Don’t forget you’ll be mingling with your glass of champagne during the interval so it might be worth making a slight effort. Just don’t forget a deep pocket or bag so you can sneak in a packet of M&Ms.


As a formalised dance, ballet started out in Italy in the 15th century in the Renaissance courts before being taken to France by aristocrat Catherine de’ Medici, where it remained the preserve of the royals for many centuries before spreading through Europe and filtering down to the public by the 20th century. Of course nothing quite brought ballet into the public eye quite as much as the 2000 Stephen Daldry film, Billy Elliot.

DO SAY ‘My, what a wonderful 32 fouettés en tournant.’

DON’T SAY ‘Wasn’t Natalie Portman a bit of a nutter in Black Swan?’