Take a peek into this:
Isn’t the luscious, graceful Odetta a pleasure to watch in this video? I loved the dancer, I kept skipping to her scenes, and wish I had been there to see this performance. Unfortunately, I don’t know who she is.
In the whole video you can’t see her doing any fouettés or great jumps, so there are probably none.
Of course, you will say, this is not (bold-lettered) ballet!
This is were I snort and count to ten, because I don’t even know where to begin answering you – there are so many interconnected issues here… I try to write about them one at a time, but never achieve less then 1.500 words!!
It’s about what concert DANCE really is – Ballet being just one kind of it, one corner of the whole picture. It’s about what-is-ballet rules and their uncountable (negative) consequences – to us as audience, and to Ballet dancers.
Of course, I know there are several kinds of “us” in the public of Ballet, but I don’t see any reason why the rule-loving kind should be taken more seriously that mine.
MY kind knows that Dance (Ballet INCLUDED) is, in its very groundstones, about gracefulness and creating magic – more than anything else. We also know, through boring experiences, that rules don’t guarantee either one. Both groundstones are very singular, each dancer has its own way, depending on who he is: physical build, psyche, soul. These two qualities, gracefulness, and being able to create magic, is what turns performers into dancers, and movement into Art.
120 fouettés in 24 seconds, 2 meter high jumps, technical precision, a certain weight, a certain height, colour, age, looks, not one of them, and not all of them bundled together with a golden bow on top, guarantee we will see… Dance!
Sorry to say (at this point you are squinting at my pointed finger), if Ballet does not have these two qualities, it is not Dance! Call it Fancy Gymnastics, or something like that, but NOT Dance. (Fist on the table!)
I’m making fun, but the truth is, this couldn’t be more serious. It seems, looking the Dance millieu from the outside, that the hard work needed ends up making people forget the forest and see only the next tree.
The consequences of forgetting about what Dance really is, are far reaching and sad. It means female dancers having bodies as spindly as an insect’s leg. It means male dancers with busted spines. It means dancers with busted joints, bones and tendons. It means the average age of retirement is 35. It means 30% of retirements are due to injuries. It means dancers believing they are done at 40. It means dancers believing they are not dancers if they don’t overextend. It means dancers seeing themselves more as performers of dangerous or exotic feats (those pics of contortionism are so popular now… aargh!) than artists.
It also means a certain kind of public, as well as many companies, agents, choreographers and ballet schools believing these absurdities are normal, unavoidable and correct. It seems a kind of mass delusion! Beware!!!
REALLY! I’m deeply disappointed every time I see a bland, perfect display of technical precision performed by correctly looking and emploi-ed dancers, so keen in achieving outstanding feats they forget why, after all, they are on stage… They may win an ISO 9000 Ballet Quality Control Certificate… but if they don’t give me what I came for, what’s the point?
A little scared by my frown, you say that good technique, the right looks, age, etc, are not opposed to artistry… on the contrary, they enhance it…
Yes! you are right! Sometimes those gifted with my necessary qualities come with a plus… and I’m very grateful when it happens!
Only… overvalued rules end up establishing a trend: the exclusion of non-complying dancers, gifted or not, from school on, no matter what… and the poor remaining creatures are beaten out of their individuality as much as possible! And the rules keep coming, ever more strict and more demanding! If dancers are born with what it takes, they must be REALLY, fiercely driven by their talent, not to forget what they knew instinctively. Because, you see, gracefulness, and acting skills, seem nowadays invisible (I wonder if some times even negative?) to decision makers – the Guardians of Rules in the Sacred Temples – the big companies.
Still on your remark: I don’t need a complete package! give me gracefulness and magic, and I will be happy – it is what really counts. Anything else is unexpected profit – it enhances their worth, but is by far not so valuable as the capital…
If dancers are graceful, and create magic, they may be old or young, white, black, yellow or green, have too big boobs or feet, or a belly, be bald, tall or small… I will love them.
Odetta is an example. Dancers over 40 that refuse to stop, like Alessandra Ferri – who created Cheri with, by the way, not-built-by-the-rule Hernan Cornejo, is another. I would not want to miss this:
But, you say, these are exceptional dancers…
Yes, they are, in that they did not accept labels!