The Age of Inno¢

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This past weekend, my mother (in town for a surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law) and I had the pleasure of escorting my daughter to a performance of “Cinderella” by the Richmond Ballet and the Richmond Symphony. (As an aside, it was an incredible production and thoroughly enjoyable. If all ballet companies were to do as well with a couple of “family friendly” ballets a year, they would be in no danger of losing their audiences. It really was that good, and I must have seen a half dozen parents and children of my acquaintance at the Sunday matinee.)

As I settled into my seat and cast a quick eye around the sold out Landmark Theatre (the venue formerly known as “The Mosque”), I noticed the number of people with open cellphones, tapping away. Perhaps they were tweeting “at the ballet.” Perhaps not. I didn’t think much of it until the house lights went down and the young woman next to me flipped open the screen on her smartphone and responded to a message (msg.?) This happened several times during the first act and was a little distracting. There was that glow in my peripheral vision.

“Thus,” I thought “begins my descent into curmudgeonly old age.”

But I was soon engrossed in the ballet and my daughter’s delighted whispers into my ear.

It was during the first intermission when I noticed the two young women a row up, obviously dance students as were many of the audience, giggling and whispering to each other over the keyboard. Suddenly one turned, looked into the balcony above her, blushed and waved.

Edith Wharton’s scene popped into my head.

Maybe that’s what the symphony and ballet — indeed most live performances of “classical” pieces — have been missing: the social element that draws in the flirtatious younger crowd. (But I’d like to see a low light option on those mobile screens….)

What do you think? Annoying? Intriguing? Never going to happen? Why do people go to the ballet, opera, art openings?

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11 Responses to The Age of Inno¢

  1. Paula says:

    Fooling around on the cell phone–with lights or no lights–is, in all instances, completely rude and inappropriate. If the arts can’t attract a young crowd without inviting their equipment in the door with them, I say let them stay home and miss out. I agree with you that what the performing arts chooses to perform is the best way to attract a full house–of any age. So many of our so-called “arts” have turned into politically correct spectacles of vulgarity and crassness–well, who really wants to sit through that at the end of a stressful work week? We can see vulgarity on the street corner for free! Our community playhouse, which for decades was a rocking success, has fallen on hard times. Why? They can’t seem to find a script that does not involve homosexuality. Nothing against sexual diversity, but I, for one, don’t care to wallow in it in the name of “entertainment” and “art.” Violence, vulgarity, perversion on display is not art. Mary Cassat is glorious. Classical music has lasted for a reason. Pure classical ballet is quite possibly the most beautiful and amazing art of all. Vail, Colorado used to host The Bolshoi (sp?) ballet company every summer and perform in August. To this day, I have never seen anything like it. Those Russian ballet dancers . . . danced! And it was exquisite! If someone is using their cell phone for anything during a performance near my husband and I, we always, ALWAYS let the usher know. Actions have consequences. The perps are usually ushered out.

  2. HOBAC says:

    It is rude. Plain and simple.

    I honestly wish I could have let this alone, but I can’t and I won’t. E&EL if you feel it should be deleted, I completely understand.

    Paula – I’m sure the sexually diverse are grateful for your largesse.
    “Violence, vulgarity, perversion on display is not art” – and neither is small-mindedness.

  3. Alex in DC says:

    I love the idea that people are communicating with others at the performance with their phones – definately a modern twist.
    Although I must admit I’m surprised that they had their phones even on – vibrate is audible in a hall — and you are correct they lights from the screens are very discracting.
    So far, I have yet to suffer from this in the DC area – somehow most of the concert halls and theaters are able to block reception (perhaps the walls of newer halls are all concrete for sound isolation?) – so this hasn’t been a problem YET for me.
    Don’t let it stop you from taking your children to performances or going yourself!! The best way to get your children involved as life-long attendees and supporters of the arts is to take them to performances when ever you can … and to see you and your wife as active devoted supporters is as well. We are living in a world that is losing it’s love of live cultural events and it would be a sad loss. IMHO training our future generations to love them is one of the best things we can pass on.

  4. Paula says:

    HOBAC, you seem to have assumed that my distaste for violence, vulgarity, and perversion is specific to a particular group. That does not surprise me in this day and age of identity politics. You couldn’t be more wrong. Most of the violence and perversion being played out on stage and in the movies, all in the name of “art,” is targeted at children and women, even animals. Does any of that offend you? And story lines based on sexual preference have become tired and over-done. Had I inserted the words “Nor is” before the word “violence,” I think my post would have better articulated what I intended. Last time I checked, tolerance was a two-way street. Nice try trying to paint me as intolerant.

  5. ADG says:

    First, I think it is such a sublime endeavor to take your little girl to the ballet. I’m trying really hard to build great memories with my little one. D.C. has much to offer us but we also take the train to NYC with regularity.

    I’m fine with change. What I’m not fine with is the consistently evaporating phenomenon of common courtesy. Technological advancement, new ideas, different approaches….all of this is fine with me. Deportment, courtesy and consideration should however, be timeless.

  6. Here at Easy and Elegant Life I will always welcome civilised debate and the opportunity to better explain your point of view. We won’t always agree, but as long as you make a good case for your argument, I hope that we will always be willing to listen. After all, I live in a country that is one vast experiment in reconciling many conflicting opinions.I can only imagine that there are thousands who would call this and other sites like mine “elitist.” Hoorah! Raise the level of intelligent discourse. Marquis of Queensberry rules… no name calling, no hitting below the belt and in the end, if we can only agree to disagree, we have not let down the side. (For example, violence, etc. isn’t at all new. I recall a Professor of mine saying that Shakespeare’s stage was often awash in blood… then there’s the whole Hamlet/Mother/Stepfather-Uncle thing and don’t get me started on we Greeks and our tragedies…… But how nice to be reminded of this years after I was first made aware of it and to rethink some of the things that I’ve learned.)

    All of your comments are very insightful. As HOBAC says, it seems to boil down to a plain and simple fact. Sometimes we lose sight of that and it’s nice to be reminded of it. There is a timeless element to deportment that is very elegant.

  7. Paul says:

    Politeness and rudeness questions aside, I will say that I’m envious that you made it to the performance. By the time I was reminded by our fellow neighbors that it was happening, the decent tickets were gone. And I couldn’t bring myself to pay full price for last-row, third-tier tickets when it was a beautiful afternoon and there were parks to be enjoyed.

    I fully intend to keep my radar up for the next appropriate performance, however, and buy tickets early enough to give the girl perfect sightlines.

  8. First of all, I love your Wharton references. That said, I loathe all of the texting and twittering. It is so distracting–especially in a movie–when someone holds up a bright screen, no matter how small. If one MUST text (like in an emergency) they should at least do it discreetly in one’s lap.
    Theaters have not been as good about making this action prohibited as they have about cell phones ringing. If you are not going to be fully engaged in the performance, I say stay home and save yourself the cost of a ticket!

  9. Laguna Beach Trad says:

    I increasingly am of the belief that cell telephones, personal communication devices (PCDs), “Blue-Berries,” whatever the hell you want to call them, are mainly a way for (1) young people to “hook up” and mate; and (2) married women (and some men) to cheat on their spouse. I hate the things. With a passion.

  10. pvedesign says:

    Oh how utterly preposterous to be tapping away during the performance.
    I too feel that there is a place and time for everything and find it annoying to be seated next to someone who disregards personal space in a public setting – plain rude. That and a “baseball cap” – three rungs down my ladder of social graces you will go!

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