Is polite, even fervent, audience applause from a seated position a bygone social custom? This nicety has not completely disappeared; last month at the conclusion of “Raymonda,” at Segerstrom Hall, it was a joy to regard the massive Mariinsky Ballet’s elegant bows in full view. The audience, perhaps still enthralled by the enormity of the historic dance spectacle, broke into rapturous clapping while remaining respectfully in their seats.
This generous feedback showered upon artists provided the perfect capper to a superb performance; the applause a commensurate reward for three acts of finely wrought Petipa choreography.
By contrast, over the weekend we suffered the premature pop-up, the faux fawning, the obstructed sight lines of instantaneous standing ovations — at the Wallis, Royce Hall and the Freud Playhouse. The worst is at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where the requisite standing ovation is so ubiquitous that I haven’t seen a curtain call in years. Today’s s.o. is not a true standing ovation; there’s always one person in row one, either overcome by proximity or perhaps in a rush to get to the carpark, who starts the trend.
In Popular Science, we learn that clapping is not only a meme, a spreadable social habit, but it is contagious.
Theater critic Ben Brantley called in the New York Times, for a new S.O. — the seated ovation.
The seated ovation has become a greater sign of respect. So, sit down and clap!
Hi, loved the article about standing ovations, but I’m afraid that is the norm now – like calling everyone who ever stepped onto a stage an “artist,” and every female who ever tied on a pointe shoe a “ballerina.” I’ve only seen one true standing ovation in the last few years, and that was at a performance on Broadway of “A Streetcar named Desire.” Just before curtain time, an announcement came from backstage saying that the star Jessica Lange was out and that her understudy, Leslie Hendrix, would go on as Blanche DuBois. People in the audience moaned and groaned, and quite a few left. People finally settled down and the show went on, and from the beginning, Leslie Hendrix was wonderful in the role. At the end, during the bows, the audience was seated until she came out to bow, and then they all rose – for her. It was a true tribute, and from an audience that started out unhappy not to see the star they came for.
I certainly see both sides of this issue. I was brought up to believe that standing ovations were something that occurred rarely in ones lifetime It was an indication that the performance so so beyond incredible that one was drawn involuntarily into an upright position while applauding. The thought being that this would occur only a few infrequent times in ones life if you were lucky. Perhaps our standards are lowered, as almost every performance I attend these days seems to warrant this response. I suspect this high mark for eliciting a standing ovation no longer exist. However, this leaves us with no options to differentiate the truly magnificent performance from the merely good performance. However, judging from others responses, this distinction is no longer important. But if one does not rise anymore, you risk missing the bows altogether.
Alright, Christine! Thank you for your wonderful comment. Debra
If I love a show, I stand up and clap!!! I also hoot and holler especially for dancers who are underpaid for the pleasure they provide. Damn they work hard. If that is bad manners and a lack of sophistication than I am a proud standard bearer of this type of rudeness. Also my hips cannot bare sitting down and to stand and clap is quite a relief–especially in the confines of poorly planned theaters where leg room is not to be found. What I find “unseemly” is people filing out to get to their cars before the applause begins. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate.. ROAR,WAVE FLAGS, Throw Flowers, Do the wave. Ben Brantley’s complaint is one of a person who is lucky enough to see sooooooo much theater that he can start getting persnickety over the way the audience claps. Good grief man.You should be complaining about the mobile phone situation in the audience. Don’t get in the way of my standing ovation. Hip Hip Hooray. Someone is still excited enough to stand after spending so much money to see a Broadway show. PS Standing up helps the performers SEE how much you appreciate them.