There is no end to what you can learn about ballet, the world of dance, or art. However, it is a subject that you can just jump right into, start anywhere, and I believe,come out a fan, feeling part of a group and inspired. No matter what you do. That is because I feel most people dance. Not if you are right in the middle of the U.S. where for most of your life, especially for guys, dance is not cool. People do not know how to feel about their bodies sometimes, or are not comfortable in expressing themselves through movement. But in most cultures, there is dancing. Balanchine (I think) once said, he did not know any dancers who were born dancing, but rather the ones he knew were trained and worked hard, or something like that.
Well, we moved. Each year we do this. Moving is renewal-for me. My children are not always so adaptable. Perhaps they rue this because I do it. My mother was mostly a sty-at-home. There was security (and boredom) in that. But out of boredom often comes the ability to amuse oneself. For me, moving is life affirming, starting over with a new perspective, but also the actual movement means something to me-like Chocolat. Part of that is probably the artist in me: needing to get around and view life from a different point, see if it goes better? I think Balanchine also said, he did not want dancers who wanted to dance, he wanted dancers that needed to dance. Not so much, but rather, I am a glutton, getting the better, the fresh and the new while I can. This may make me seem a bit of a moving addict, although I know I do not escape my problems this way. I bring them with me in a bundle and my new life becomes my old one, no more or less complicated, but I do constantly have a different view. Part of this can be the dancer in me, too. As you move, or change places, you automatically (should) get a brand new, if fleeting, impression. the key, like in a leap, is to hold that impression, long enough to feel it, write about it, or paint it, maybe even record it. At my age, the trick is just to remember it….sometimes. We never really lose our vanity! Vanity is actually important, like pride, but that is not the point today.
Summer programs are important if you can put them into perspective and they do count as experiences. Other experiences might include performing, auditioning, learning variations, traveling, taking a master class. Having a boyfriend. Going to a football game. Learning a language. It is important if you learn anything from it at all, and we do learn something from everything. Such is the human paper. Never blank.
I think that a fair amount of time to savor an experience is desirable (usually)-you learn more. Living somewhere for a year may be preferable to visiting for a few days or a couple of weeks. Sometimes an experience could have been better if you think about. Moving is not necessarily a good experience. I always look for a step up, or a feature that has been missed or desired before. Usually, I find one. Perhaps this is only my optimism. There is not time to do many of the things I would like to do and my paper is pretty full, has a lot of lines crossed out, revisions, carets, and so on. There is a lot in the waste can, but I am always looking to pull it out and make sure I cannot use it, really throw it away. Not too much, for me is truly, worthless.
My daughter did not go to a summer program this year. She did not want to. This may be a result of her experience at her summer program last year. We did not have the money and she tends to not want something if we cannot afford it. A teacher told me that once, and I have ever since been thinking about it-to want, to not want. I think it is a very socialist view. What is worth pursuing in life if you teach yourself not to want? Life itself. She is different from me.The artistic process is different for everyone. It is up to her to find her own process. And yet, it is shattering in a way that I cannot share this always. My magic mirror is cloudy and I cannot always see, nor will she let me see, into her mind, her desires, her feelings. This summer, I have come to accept that. In fact, in some small way, it is a relief.
Sometimes I move around the house with my laptop to find a comfortable place to write. Sometimes it takes me days or weeks to resume writing because I must experience life in order to have new ideas at my disposal. Like music performance, dance performance can be repetitive. But too much repetition can be harmful in dance, as in sports. Perhaps too much repetition in art is also not good for the mind in a less obvious but equally important way. The mind and the body get a new perspective from a summer program. The fan of Aerosmith or Brittny Spears wants to hear a certain song, time and time again. For the fan this is a memorable moment, but for the artist, this process of fulfillment might get to be boring. Dancing with a certain teacher, school or even a part in a ballet, might be boring after a while, or the dancer might need to move in another direction for awhile to come back and breathe new life into that activity or role. For us, that may not be the issue. For us us, it may have been that too many classes with certain teachers might have been making it difficult for her Achilles tendon to heal, so less had to be more.
My daughter’s journey is a slow one, and each day or month, there seems to be progress. As parents we do not always feel this is moving along fast enough, or we feel the need to constantly pressure our children to work harder, achieve certain levels of accomplishment, but in retrospect, I have learned to back off, and let her be. I feel this summer she has learned to work smarter-not so much or so hard, but more to the point. She is learning to have confidence by trusting her knowledge and listening to her body. Her technique seems to be good, her extensions are better and higher, but what has really bloomed is her sense of what her own artistry might be, and although she hasn’t nailed it yet, it has presented itself and she is pondering it. This is an exciting moment for me to watch. She has enjoyed her sleep. I really see that. Her Achilles tendon seems to be healed, but occasionally there is a twinge on the sides, especially before she is warm. She has eaten more, presumably in preparation for growth. There were days at the lake, the beach, the movies, the pool, and about 5 ballet classes per week, plus her privates, when they were not cancelled by someone else who was enjoying his summer. There were books, movies, television shows, talks with her brothers, family time, and importantly, the discovery that if she cannot be a dancer, she wants to be a writer. There is a certain maturity about her, a focus and awareness, beginning to develop, and I hope none of this impedes or is a path for her to stop dancing, but rather to include in her world of dancing other parts of life and experiences that will round her into a lovely and soulful woman. I see she is becoming one right before my eyes.
I am glad I got to see this this summer firsthand, even if there were a few arguments, spats or bouts of laziness. I realize she has worked for this time off and she needed to rest. But I see as she begins classes again, there was growth, her own, and the consciousness of her maturity and the artistry required for a rewarding career in dance. Whether she has one or not, who knows, but she will appreciate more that life is part of an artist, a dancer, and that these things matter, not just ballet class or a summer of adventure away from home. Perhaps from viewing performances she will see more of the person in the dancer, and what they personally bring to the role-not just technique.
We all want our children to have opportunities, to go places and be a part of the world of dance, theater, acting, etc., but we must remember that to be truly happy we must be able to find happiness within ourselves, and not expect others to be the entertainment committee or to become something else just because we are a part of another world for a short time. All of these experiences do add up to who we are, and good or bad, they mold us. There is no hurry I have found, as these opportunities are always around us, within us, and sometimes as we center ourselves and a new perspective is possible without ever leaving home. But it is important to remind our children, wherever they go, that our artist home is always within us and we take it wherever we go.
Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life, it is life itself.