Tuesday, October 07, 2008

for dancers--and everyone else?

I came upon this on youtube tonight, and was delighted. I found it said something about the dance that I've been failing to articulate for some time now.

Metal is very stylized, and in some ways that makes it perfect for the ballet.

Ballet is all about extreme stylization. Each generation of dancers since the court of Louis XIV has faced some pressure to be lighter, more stately, graceful, delicate, and higher on their toes--growing generation after another towards heaven, up out of dark medieval symbolism that associated downwards and bodies with hell and earth.

As time has come and passed, that heavenly ideal became an idol of self-destruction. In a world where virtually all the stars are women, blooming young and retiring by thirty, generations of men follow student to master as they shape, dictate, choreograph and direct. By the late 1980's the image that dominated ballet was the inherited ideal of Bruce Balanchine's work: transparently slender, long limbed, tall, and young, with the disposition of an adoring child and skin the color of a freshly peeled apple.

In keeping with the tradition of Dance, the visual surpassed the corporeal. Balanchine taught his dancers how to "cut some corners" on technique, creating spectacular stage performances alongside premature retirements and tendinitis. Children ready to give anything for the New York City Ballet sacrificed physical maturity as they starved themselves into--and then sometimes out of--the shape proscribed.

Set against nightwish, figurine grace and surreal, doll-like perfection have made ballet real for me again. In this fantasy playground, historical footage emphasizes every marionette pause, and the dark undercurrents of ballet's approach to sexuality and gender are left clear. Here we remember her invisible bones, the impossible thinness of her ankles, the irrevocable constancy in which she exists only for her beauty, and the way all of us worship her for it as she dances on, forever--in every way that matters--alone.

Here, removed a step from The Great Western Heritage of Culture And Dance, it is easy to believe the ideal is not real; it is easy to believe that no one really thinks this is the ultimate embodiment of who and what I am supposed to be.

Here it is possible to conceptualize ballet as only one aspect, to raise it from it's dark beauty and, in some small way, integrate it to myself--without being eaten by what I would have left behind.

Here's a link to the blog of the fellow who did it; deep thanks for a masterful and insight provoking job.

This is another amazing film piece. It showcases a very tangibly corporeal side of the dance, and at the same time, overwhelming performance, grace, and technique.

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