Header Image
Image

First Time at the Ballet?

Welcome! We are thrilled to have you join us at the historic War Memorial Opera House. Here are some helpful links for an enjoyable first time.

Going to the Ballet

Is there a dress code?

The dancers are in costume, but you don’t have to be. Wear what you like and what makes you comfortable. You will see people in gowns and you’ll see others in jeans.

What happens if I'm late?

Our ushers can only let you go to our seat when our dancers pause dancing, which may not be until an intermission. So please err on the side of arriving early.

What if I'd like a drink?

No matter where you sit in the War Memorial Opera House, there’s a bar close at hand, and you can even order ahead and have your drink waiting for you at intermission. Click here for more information.

WHERE IS THE OPERA HOUSE? AND HOW DO I GET THERE?

We’re located at 301 Van Ness, right across from City Hall. We’re big supporters of public transit, so strongly encourage taking BART or MUNI, both of which have nearby stops (we even run a shuttle during the season!). We also have two nearby parking lots, the Performing Arts Garage and the Civic Center Plaza Garage.

I GOT TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD EARLY, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

There are tons of cool places to hang out and grab a bite in Hayes Valley. Check out our neighborhood page for some ideas, and be sure to tell everyone you meet that you’re on your way to the ballet!

GOING TO THE BALLET FEELS SUPER ADULT. IS THIS REALLY FOR ME?

If you’re reading this page, you’re probably old enough to enjoy our productions. Ballet may be an old art form (it recently had its 350th birthday!), but we believe it’s for everyone: young, wise, and in-between! We do recommend most of our performances for ages 8 and up, and Nutcracker for ages 5 and up.

I’M NEW TO DANCE. WILL I UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON?!

Arrive a little early for a pre-curtain Meet the Artist talk or to read your program book. Check out this site and our blog. Listen to a podcast or two. And bring a friend who you can talk to at intermission! You don’t have to “get” it all, you just need to be open to the experience.

MY FRIENDS AREN’T SURE about BALLET. HOW DO I CONVINCE THEM TO COME?

Ballet fans (or soon-to-be fans) ages 21–39 can join The List to access last-minute ticket discounts and groups of 10 or more attending may qualify for a group discount.

WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN I GET THERE?

The performance will start right on time, so please do get there early. Most ballet evenings are divided into three parts—either three acts, when a ballet tells a story; or three separate dances when it’s a triple-bill performance. There will be an intermission between each act or piece, usually between 15 and 20 minutes long. Use that time to run to the bathroom, grab a drink, or both! You’ll know you need to return to your seat when the bells chime. They’ll ring eight, four, and two minutes before the curtain goes back up.

WHO DO I ASK FOR HELP?

We have friendly ushers scattered around the Opera House, as well as an Info Table in the lobby. People want to help, so please just ask if you’re confused, or lost, or just want someone to point you toward your seat.

IF I REALLY LIKE SOMETHING, IS IT OK TO APPLAUD? OR DO I NEED TO BE QUIET?

At the symphony or the opera, you might be expected to hold your applause until the end, but not so at the ballet! A long tradition of balletomanes—people obsessed with the ballet or specific dancers; think of them like Raiders Nation for ballet companies—made it acceptable to clap if you see something impressive. And even cheering is ok once the dancers are taking a bow—but these days we ask you to refrain from throwing flowers. It’s a safety hazard.

HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT BALLET?

Well, mostly by coming back! This is an art form you learn about by seeing. But we also recommend our pre-performance talks, our classes at the Chris Hellman Center for Dance, our various podcasts, and the Explore section of our website as places to start!

Tips for Watching a Ballet

Ready for your first ballet? Click here for some helpful tips for what to look out for.

Read More

Ballet Helpful Hints

Click here for some pre-performance helpful hints.

Read More