Posted by Selena Travel / 01 09, 2019
Mongolia and ballet might not go well in your mind if you don’t have a lot of information about Mongolia and only imagine it being a vast land where the residents live in the yurt in the freezing cold. If so, I strongly recommend you to go deeper into our blogs!
Mongolian ballet has developed tremendously in such a short amount of time due to the soviet influence. If you’ve read our previous blog, you might know that we used to be part of the Comintern- a communist countries’ association with Soviet Union in a head. Even though Mongolia was not part of Russia, its culture and way of schooling has left quite a mark in our way of life during the end of 20th century. Along with education, urban development and market system, one cultural aspect we have taken from Russia is opera and ballet.
As I’ve mentioned before, getting its rise from a country that is a home of the ballet culture itself alone might be enough reason for you to check it out. Russia is home of the ballet indeed, with pioneers like Tchaichovsky and Svetlana Zakharova. They have written the plays that have become world-famous ones such as “The Nutcracker”, “Swan Lake” or “Sleeping Beauty”. Hundreds of theatres have adapted it into their culture and Mongolia has not left out of it.
In 1950s, Mongolia has started sending the chosen students to the best Russian theatre and ballet academies free of cost with intention of having our own theatre once again. The students have successfully completed the courses started arriving with an education that can be accepted worldwide and has started contributing to the Mongolian national theatre and ballet; be it choreography or a performance. Therefore, Mongolia has welcomed its first professional ballet masters in 1962. However, by that time, the audience has already been introduced to the ballet thanks to the local’s effort, and has seen quite a few of them- including Mongolian’s favorite “A flower in the weed” and “Gankhuyag”.
Even though we have quite a history of it, Mongolian ballet is probably the cheapest in the world. The National ballet academy is sponsored by the government so the highest price for a world-class play performed by dancers who also perform in giants like ‘La Scala’ and Boston Ballet, would be 50000 tugrik- or 20 dollars. Opera and ballet alternate in every other week, so be sure to check out the schedule beforehand. However, you should be aware that our theatre is not as big as what you’ve been accustomed to due to the lack of enough sponsoring.
If you don’t get the chance to watch a national ballet, there are other options too. Since 2012, a modern group of ballet dancers called “Nomadic Ballet” has started performing original performances in various places. Even though the price is little higher than the national one since it’s a small group that has been trying to work their own way up, it’s definitely worth the price. The founder of it- Altankhuyag … has been studying and performing in USA, eventually to return to Mongolia with a passion to take Mongolian ballet to the next level. Along with original plays, they also perform classics like “The Nutcracker” in every Christmas. Also, they have started hosting an event called “Night of the ballet” once in a year that takes place in a Corporate and Convention center of Mongolia with guest performers from Japan, US, Russia etc. Compared to the normal plays, it’s a little pricey- around 50 to 60 dollars but there is a starter and some appetizer included in the price, so I would say it’s worth it.
Mongolian traditional ballet
You can also check out a Mongolian national ballet that has a traditional air into it. In the short time of 60 sixty years, the choreographers in Mongolia has won the heart of Mongolians with a play that have been based on the famous tales and stories. One of the inseparable cultural aspects of ours is myths and tales. Tales that have been told by grandparents to their kids goes on and on that even though there is no written proof of these stories, every Mongolian knows it. Those stories of 15 headed monsters and young heroes who defeat them by the wisdom given by a 1000-year-old witch or story of two lovers that have been separated by their parents have carved deep in the locals’ heart. Maybe that’s why those plays have won such an irreplaceable place in our heart.
Even though you might not be familiar with those stories, I’m sure you would enjoy the plays that have deep connection to our culture. Not only the stories are based on a Mongolian tales’, but also the melody has certain Mongolian air into it that you can hear nowhere except here.
However, I have to warn about some of the burdens while watching the play.
As I’ve mentioned before, Mongolians have been introduced to ballet only around 60 years ago and the ethics have not yet found its place in the locals’ mind. Don’t get too frustrated when people whistle or clap during a performance- they’re just trying to show their gratitude, not trying to annoy the heck out of everybody around them. Also, there might some chitter chatters going on around you, or even some snacking. I might have to blame the academy itself for selling those extremely noisy snacks like potato chips and crackers in the theatre. You can never forget about the children in theatre. There is no age restriction in the theatre, so a “sophisticated” parent who wants to teach their 4-year-old might give you the worst experience. However, if you can avoid the school children’s visit day in theatre- you’ll be fine.
I don’t know what was going on the architecture’s mind while building those two-storey seats. Maybe it’s international thing, but you can’t see almost half of the stage if you get one of these seats in the far left or right side of the second-floor seats. Growing up, my parents always used to buy those tickets for me since it’s the cheapest one and they wanted me to have an experience anyhow. Don’t get me wrong about blaming the architect, the building itself is extremely pretty except this one flaw. Since the theatre is pretty small compared to the other giants, it also means that you can get pretty close to the stage for a decent price. So, you’re safe as long as you got a ticket in the first floor- or even the second one, only be mindful to choose the one in the middle.
Those are some of the pros and cons of watching Mongolian ballet, and in my personal opinion, the pros far exceed the cons. I hope the same goes to you and also hope that you get the best experience of it while you’re in Mongolia!
Written by Sainbilig