Free in Melbourne: Ballet in the Bowl

A recent weekend getaway was the perfect introduction to the sophisticated city of Melbourne. In a few short days I fell in love with the southern city which was bursting at the seams with boutiques, laneway cafes, and opportunities to appreciate the arts. The importance of art and culture is reflected in the myriad of boutiques where friendly shop girls know the name about the local designers they stock, in the innovative cafes and restaurants setting food culture trends for the rest of the nation and the huge crowds drawn in to a giant evening picnic to watch the Australian Ballet & Orchestra Victoria at the annual Telstra Ballet in the Bowl.

The bowl is a large outdoor stage at the bottom of a a huge hill, which makes it perfect for outdoor concerts. My uncle Matt is in the orchestra and was playing, so my uncle Thomas and I brought a picnic. The crowd started pouring in from 6pm, even though the concert didn’t start till 8pm. I couldn’t believe the size of the crowd. Luckily, turf wars were few and far between and we managed to get a good little spot near the front.  Couples, families and groups of friends all were among the diverse crowd, which was refreshing to see.

Ballet in the Bowl Melbourne

Teasing the public with a taste of the highlights from Swan Lake and Don Quixote over three acts, the performance was clearly a huge, and very important investment in public interest in the performing arts. How could you not love it? The concert was free and by using the highlights, the performance was accessible to the masses. You could see hundreds of little girls transfixed by the dancers during the performance and who would get up and try their own ballet moves in the breaks. The event let people, especially children and students,  into the prestigious, and sometimes inaccessible world of ballet and performing arts.  It seemed to be inspiring a hundred dreams of becoming a ballerina. Very cute!  Swan Lake was my favourite, and the hour-long first act flew by. I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage, the dancing was synchronised to perfection and it was absolutely hypnotising. I sat there promising that if it came to Brisbane, I’d buy tickets because it was so beautiful. From a marketing perspective, this was interesting to me because I know that I’d never considered seeing the Bolshoi ballet, which is coming to Brisbane, because an expensive ticket is a high-risk investment for a student, for a performance they really aren’t sure they’d even like. Swan Lake completely won me over though, and I would definitely buy tickets to see it, or even other ballet, if the opportunity came up.

We tucked into a picnic of white wine, sushi, camembert and crackers and Thomas’ favourite desserts from an Asian bakery chain called Bread Top. Between the yummy food and the stunning performance, it was a perfect opening to a weekend in Melbourne.

Ballet in the Bowl Melbourne

At the end, I watched Thomas roll up the picnic blanket with such skill that he could only be Swiss, whilst an Aussie father behind him attempted to roll up his picnic blanket by crunching it up in a ball and then sitting on it. I tried really hard not to giggle as I compared Thomas’ perfectly rolled up picnic blanket to the Aussie’s, which was being unceremoniously stuffed into a large shopping bag.

Ballet in the Bowl Melbourne IMG_5722

As my uncle pointed out, in the above photo the dancers look like they are on fire. Flash photography and film weren’t permitted, and there’s only so much you can do with an iPhone. To be honest though, you couldn’t capture how beautiful it was on film anyway, it has to be seen live!

If you’re in Melbourne in March, definitely get tickets. Despite being a free event, it is so popular that ticketing became necessary in 2013 – the tickets sold out in the first couple of days!

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