Tag Archives | ballet

Reverb10: Body

Reverb 10 prompt #12: This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

I remember waaay back in the day–high school and early college–when I was a bun-headed dancer. In high school, daily life was pretty miserable but when I walked into the ballet studio, all that misery got swept away by the precision of plié, tendu, plié, relévé. The girl I saw in the mirror controlled her body in a way that she couldn’t control the world outside the studio–and while I was never going to be a prima ballerina, I think having the separate world of the ballet studio helped me survive adolescence.

I’m pushing fifty at this point, so that ballet body ain’t coming back any time soon (okay, ever) and I’ve (sort of) made my peace with that. What I keep searching for, in my exercise life as an adult, is that endorphine-fueled focus, the sweat that puts everything in perspective.  For a while in grad school I ran on a semi-regular basis but ultimately? I run too slowly and it hurts. Knees, back, ankles. Just one big slow ouch.

And now, in this late-mid-forties place where I find myself and my extra five (eight, maybe ten) pounds? I find myself  at the risk of sounding like someone who totally drank the lotus-spiked kool-aid because what I love these days is yoga.  When I’m sweating in the yoga studio (which has no mirrors, a key intervention in the struggle between mind and body), all the crap that I think about all day–  whattocookfordinnerwhoispickingupwhomwhatamIteachingtomorrowdidIcallthedoctordidIcallthebabysitterwhattimeissoccerpracticeareweoutofmilkisthelaundrydone –all that stuff disappears.It’s not the “om-ing” that I like, although I’m getting less cynical about that, it’s the focus on where I’m putting my body, listening to my creaky joints, feeling them de-creak as I stretch, and the distinct pleasure I take in being able to do things now that I couldn’t do two months ago.

So the short answer to this question is, “today, at about 12:40, when for the first time I managed to lift myself for a split second into something that almost resembles crow pose.” Of course, I tipped forward immediately and about cracked my nose on the floor, but I guess that’s all part of it, right?

just for the record – that person in the picture? not me – it’s from dailygoods.wordpress.com

Continue Reading · on December 15, 2010 in reverb10, Uncategorized

Pas de Deux, Redux

I love the ballet. For the first half of my life, I wanted to be a ballerina and had the knobby toes and duck-footed walk to prove it. Then I got to college, where all-you-can-eat ice cream (and all-you-can-drink beer) intervened, and my pointe shoes got hung up for good.

I loved the athleticism of dancing, the grace, the emphasis on form, and the search for that perfect line from fingertip to toe–but rarely, if ever, did I think about ballet as…erotic.  Didn’t think about it when I danced, didn’t notice it when I went to ballet performances.

Yesterday, though, I saw a performance of “Swan Lake” that finally matched the throbbing romanticism of Tchaikovsky’s score: Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake.  It wasn’t a perfect performance – some of the dancers were a little wobbly, the corps wasn’t utterly synchronized, but the raw power of the dancers more than compensated for those wobbly bits.  Bourne updates the classic fairytale story  and incorporates different types of dancing beyond ballet–jazz, modern, even a bit of disco here and there–and the story packs much more of a wallop than the conventional ballerina-enchanted-by-wicked-magician.

When I’ve watched conventional “Swans” even though I am moved by the beauty of the dancing, I never think to myself that I’m watching a courtship between the prince and the swan princess.  In the Bourne performance, however, there is a courtship–and like all courtships, it is erotic, tentative, fraught with anxiety, all of which eventually yield to joy: the prince knows he has found The One.

The fact that the swans dance shirtless, so that you can see the sweat gleaming on their backs and torsos adds to the eroticism of their movements, which reminded me, over and over again, of the lines from Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan:” “A sudden blow, the great wings beating still/above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed/by the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill/he holds her helpless head against his breast…”

The violence and power of Yeats’ swan flies across the stage here, too: these are not delicate cygnets prancing in pointe shoes: these are strong, savage, masterful birds, and the leader has chosen the Prince for his own. And unlike Leda, this Prince, for his part, is happy to have been chosen.

When the two lovers are finally, painfully, reunited in the ballet’s closing moments, even the staid matrons sitting in front of me were moved–they dug in their overstuffed handbags for tissues and were the first to their feet at the final curtain–not to make their train back to the ‘burbs, but in wild applause.

The Swans are at City Center until November 7.

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Continue Reading · on October 25, 2010 in Gender, NYC

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