American Ballet Theatre, fall season

At Lincoln Center on Saturday, October 10.

The American Ballet Theatre doesn’t usually perform at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall—and for good reason. It’s a terrible place for a dance performance. The majority of the balcony seats, in three tiers along the walls of the long rectangular room, have only a partial view of the stage. There’s no orchestra pit, so all the accompanying music must be performed by a mere handful of musicians sitting in a back corner of the stage. And there’s no curtain, so the dancers have to warm up in full view, the ballerinas with sweat pants pulled up underneath their skirts, an amusingly ungraceful effect.

I was trying to make the best of it, but the woman sitting next to me Saturday was not shy about voicing her displeasure with the situation. After she had finished griping about how she couldn’t see the left third of the stage even when she leaned forward in her seat, she started complaining about the lack of a curtain. “I don’t like having the stage just be open,” she told me. “It ruins the mystique!” I mumbled something noncommittal—I was trying to read my program—but she turned back to me a few minutes later. “Never mind what I said earlier,” she said, now smiling. “This is fun. It’s like having a backstage pass!”

So I looked up for a second look, and she was right. It was fun watching the dancers warm up, walking through steps, practicing gestures, greeting one another with theatrical kiss-kisses on both cheeks, all the while dressed in their goofy hodgepodge of slick performance attire and grungy hoodies and legwarmers. And that, the mixed blessing of a bad venue, set the tone for the program. My seat really was lousy, and there were aspects of the music and choreography that I didn’t like, but I had fun despite my misgivings. The beautiful elements of the dancing were truly beautiful, and that made up for a lot.