Kings in battle
The second King is down: Guillaume Cote is also injured! ACL, the excrucianting cruciating ligament tear that needs 6 to 12 months rehabilitation, that is maybe also Vasiliev’s problem. Or has the Russian newspaper cruciated, I mean, crossed over Kings x Injuries?
It is lucky that Medicine can nowadays stitch dancers whole again, everytime they tear themselves apart! Or at least most of the times…
Accidents happen. If your mind is your tool, almost none. If your tool is emotion, sometimes. If your tool is your body, frequently. I can accept that, it comes with the trade.
What I cannot accept is when you, with open eyes, bring the tool of your trade (that sounded a little weird) to the verge of collapse. There are always signs, made by Nature to help avoid the worst, PAAIIINNN!!!! being it’s favourite.
That so much choose to ignore pain, to suffer before and even more after collapsing – I cannot grasp: it simply does not find a way into my rationality. It sounds to me too much as a kind of offering, of sacrifice, of flesh-mortification, seen somehow as worthy and positive and needed to earn a dubious reward.
“The body is a sacred garment”, said Martha Graham. She certainly did not mean it in the martyrdom sense above. To me her words evoke the flowing garments of ancient Greece, and their reverence for the beauty of human body, especially when moving. Music and dancing were present in any celebration, then, and were joyous celebrations themselves – they even devised goddesses to symbolize them.
Terpsichore means The Joy of Dancing. How can pain, deliberate pain, be part of joy, except in a self-mortifying or sacrificial sense?
We all know perfectly well that physical conditioning requires certain amounts of pain. Small amounts it should be, if things are made the right way, and not continuously. I believe that’s ok, if it happens while you’re having joy IN your activity ITSELF, but becomes perverse if the pain is great, or accepted not because of the pleasure you get out straight out of work. The pain you accept, the suffering you impose on your body because of OTHER kinds of reward is something I cannot understand.
If you are climbing a steep mountain, and push against your limits so you can reach the next safe rock niche, where you then sit down to recover and enjoy the breathtaking view, is anything more perfect? But if you keep pushing and pushing, just to excel yourself, or test your ultimate body limits, or be the first to reach the peak – and end up hanging down a cliff, breathless and trembling all over, your life in danger, too much bruised and full of cramps to go on, does that make any sense? Not to me! You are not enjoying your body, you are abusing it.
Other physical activities, ranging from Sports to Arts may offer less dramatic examples, but that senselessness applies to all. You see, when Vasiliev was injured, I associated it with another event, in the Olympic Games of 1984 – when marathonist Gabriele Andersen ended her race as a crumpled, cramped, semi-parallyzed, vacillating little heap of pain, she was collapsing, and came very close to death that day.
I believe I was (am?) the only person in the world that didn’t WOW her feat: for me it was even more unacceptable than IV’s injury. In my troubled eyes the whole thing was just twisted, so perverse that I was done with Sports, and never again watched a single Sports competition again. The link between the two facts was precisely my indignation!
Why I do feel that way? Maybe because one of the first books I ever read in my life was about Ancient Greece, and it hooked me for life to their values and aesthethic, or maybe because I belong to the make-love-not-war generation, that was all for colours, nature, music, dancing, and a fierce defense of body’s freedom.
Anyway, I love the human body as much as I love trees or rivers or birds. Lack of respect to any of them, specially if it is done because of competition, profit, fame, or any initiative that uses but does not reward THEM, makes me mad – to me all are sacred, in the pagan Greek sense, and in Martha Graham’s sense too, I bet.
I cannot because…
Guillaume Cotê had a stress fracture and an Acchiles tendon problem while rehearsing Nijinsky, but just kept working. Marcelo Gomes already made two major surgeries – in an interview after the first one he mentions 23 performances in a single month, and 12 different roles in a single season (all the rehearsals!).
I know, I KNOW, there are all kinds of motivation to push your body beyond reason: you must think of your career, you love to dance, you must provide for your family, you love to dance, you cannot let down so many people and things that depend on you, you love to dance…
Now Cote is out during months…
Finding “rational” reasons to explain a dangerous behaviour does not lessen the risk involved, nor does it prevent a bad outcome.
“Currently active dancers expect to continue their performing careers well into their forties. However, dancers whose active careers are now over remember that, although they thought they could continue until their late thirties, on average they actually stopped dancing professionally in their early to mid-thirties.”
This quote is in a report called “Making Changes, Facilitating the Transition of Dancers to Post-Performance Careers“, the result of a research on dancers, both active and retired, in 11 countries. Dancers retire earlier, and earlier, nowadays, and a lot because of injuries. Do you know how many? “Twenty-nine percent of surveyed former dancers in Australia, 33 percent of former dancers in Switzerland, 35 percent of former dancers in the U.S. report that the health effects of injuries caused them to stop dancing.”
A THIRD OF THEM!
My point is, if you deal with your body (as all Nature) in a respectful way, you will run fewer risks, you will lengthen its useful life, you will have more joy when dancig, and you may still excel in your trade. Maybe you will never reach more than 182,546 degrees in your split, or that last half inch in your jump, but when you leap you will fly beautiful, happy and safe as a bird, and will keep flying for a long time…
The disquieting Muse
Terpsichore is loosing ground, her gracefulness and joy of dancing are almost out of sight, giving way to Chirico’s Disquieting Muse – oh, THIS one fits our times: hard, empty of joy, lifeless, but so impressive!!
The joy IN dancing is a continuous, fresh spring of emotional and physical energy. The mere promise of a reward that is OUTSIDE dance in any way (to the dancer himself, to the audience, to an Ideal, to his future) turns dance into a heavy chore, a hard duty where all the energy has to come OUT of your muscles and brain, it is depleting.
These are hard, cold, demanding times: the lack of real vitality is disguised with lots of sparkles in all spheres of life, on the stage even more so. It may seem that you must shine the more brighter to conquer excellence, work opportunities, success, pleasure, retirement. An audience with eyes already wearied by way too much glitter ‘outside’, seems also to demand even more on the stage.
In fact, what we all crave for, not just the audience, is a way to reattach to real life, to the “big questions”, to deep emotion – only we are, most the time, unaware this is our real yearning. Art can do that, through its magic, deep, all-encompassing, carry-you-away magic, but it certainly is not to be found where there are only sparkles.
And what next?
Imagine a Ballet evening in the future, where all dancers are very young, but with serious eyes already. Imagine all of them dancing because of a lot of different reasons, except the one, the single one that makes sense. Imagine all of them performing impossible feats: 270 degrees extensions, jumps like olympic athletes, turns that defy the laws of physics, bends and twist that make them look as disjointed dolls of a cruel child, lifts so complicated you wonder they don’t end up in knot.
This IS the future, not even a distant one, given the rate at which the relative value of physical excellence is increasing – and because it is just the logical development of overrating Form in Ballet (it fits our times like a glove). Imagine physical excellence is so common now, we in the audience are no more easily impressed, the dancers have to excel themselves – and one another – all the time, pushing hard against their bodies’ limits. They are all so terribly young, because all dancers finish their professional lives early, after a series of successful surgeries, until the one that isn’t.
Deeply worried about the physical accomplishments, they have no time and energy to act, or even to learn to act properly, or to create rapport with the audience – their artistry has not matured yet – all they can do is flash a big, fake smile once in a while. Chirico’s muse would be rubbing her hands (had she any).
There is a clear danger here: that young great dancers – current and future Kings and Queens, on whom the spotlights shine the brighter – are lured down this road, and become engaged in unnecessary, senseless battles . I hope they recognize the crossroads when they come to them and choose Terpsichore’s ways instead.