Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.


CP: A classical ballet with a live orchestra followed by the full-dress U of M marching band. For you, the evening must have seemed as if Christmas and Bernadette Peters’ birthday had magically merged and occurred on April 4.


RN: You neglected to include the inaugural performance for Northrop Auditorium’s euphoria-inducing remake. But yes, it was quite the night. The Twins’ World Series victories were tee-ball tournaments by comparison.


CP: The new Slimfast Auditorium does appear to offer better everything — seats, sight lines, acoustics — to approximately 2,000 fewer people than could sit in the old Northrop.


RN: Based on that single performance, Northrop has gone from the worst to maybe the best ballet venue I’ve ever seen — and that’s saying something. You know those baseball fans who whittle down their vacation stash visiting every major-league ballpark? I’m that way with dance theaters and opera houses.


CP: Your assertion is a bold provocation that no doubt will be debated by fellow obsessives. Don’t get used to the live orchestra, however, as you may not see it again there for dance for years.


RN: A guy can dream, can’t he? But I fear you are correct.


CP: I think the renovation’s star is the new inner lobby. The grand but cold outer lobby, with its tall coffered ceiling and chandeliers, is pretty much unchanged. The dig-and-be-dug place is the cream-and-butter-colored lobby between there and the hall, much bigger now and with new balcony overlooks and promenades.


RN: I was soaking up the hall’s superb acoustics, the newfound proximity to the stage and the participatory way the audience sees one another across those three horseshoe-shaped balconies. Also the proscenium arch, restored to its former glory.


CP: A short pre-ballet video showed old Northrop seats that seemed to reach back almost unto infinity. No one will miss the old hall’s shallow rake: Even a Tom Cruise seated in front of you could obstruct your view.


RN: Totally. What I also appreciate is how architect Tim Carl of HGA has bestowed a gracious sense of occasion upon the place. The old Northrop always felt like a not-so-distant relation to Williams Arena.


CP: What did you think of American Ballet Theatre’s opening-weekend staging of “Giselle,” aka the world’s oldest continuously performed ballet?


RN: The first act’s silent-movie storytelling was as interminable — and semi-mystifying — as ever.


CP: I thought its message was simple: Heed your mother, or die.


RN: True. But the second half was gorgeous, and the reason why “Giselle” has been a hit since 1841.


CP: Maybe you can explain why dancers kept collapsing as if dead, then getting up and dancing some more.


RN: It’s ballet. Don’t look for meaning. Looking pretty is pretty much the only thing that matters.


E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib