On ballet

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"If I had to title the picture, I would call it Reality and Dreams. The foot en pointe is what every little girl dreams of. The other is the hard, hard work, and the reality."
 - Henri Leutwyler, nymag

Last night at the dance film fest at Brava theatre (my old stomping grounds!) watched Ma Mère Adorait La Danse, a documentary about Brigitte Lefèvre, director of Paris Opera Ballet for over twenty years (1995-2014)....

Brigitte Lefèvre. I've always been drawn to women like her, strong-willed and fierce, intensely individual. From studying jazz with Gene Robinson, choreographing Mikrocosmos, and dancing in The Damned by Dostoyevsky, to forming her own dance company called Theatre du Silence with Jacques Garnier feat. Merce Cunningham, and finally, leading the Paris Opera Ballet, she's just iconic! So very meticulous and self-assured on the outside, with the heart to find raw emotion, passion, and sensitivity in others. The all too common cliche in art is show, don't tell. "Don't show the emotion", she insists. "Be the emotion, the character." 

Before Ma Mère, saw a preview of a new film on Yvonne Rainer. She, a dancer who once traded traditional technique for an avant-garde form of dance not unlike a pedestrian's movements, said "no" to the virtuosity and spectacle of dance itself. Thinking about how a year ago I studied Rainer's work, and what it meant for her to reclaim the body through dance. It's a different experience for everyone, isn't it? 

I was three when I took my first ballet class. At that age, it was all new leotards and pointing toes, prancing around without having an awareness of anything, really. Bliss! 

I loved it. The toughness of it, the prettiness of it, how the detail of one finger, lifted ever so slightly above the others, could change the entire feel of a movement. Inevitably, ballet became very technical very fast, and I started dreading its strict rigidity, its emphasis on perfection. Out of all the dance forms I tried, it turned out to be modern dance and improvisation that instilled in me a love for expressing the overflowing emotion that I could never put into words. I stopped dancing after high school, for around four years. I didn't miss it, not with everything in me, until this year, when even photography and films weren't a strong enough vessel for the excess energy and emotion building up inside. Just sitting in the dark, while dark thoughts melted away, listening to classical music and stretching past midnight, forcing my body to feel something, a strain, to feel alive. This year, I fell back in love with ballet. 

Erik introduced me to photographer Henry Leutwyler (best boss award), who's book, Ballet, is full of strangely beautiful, emotive images of NYC ballet dancers on 35mm Leica.  

"An abstract portrait of their frenzied existence in an art form predicated on perfection. An homage to the gritty world behind the curtain." 

hope to see this book in print


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