Category Archives: Hegemony

Medea-Cutting Off One’s Nose To Spite One’s Face Might Have Been Medieval, But It Wasn’t Mytho-Logical


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Medea-Delacroix

“Gods often contradict
our fondest expectations.
What we anticipate
does not come to pass.
What we don’t expect
some god finds a way to make it happen.
So with this story”
Euripides, Medea

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Medea Sarcophagus; Altes Museum, Anagoria

As I talk to my children, and there are so many things I want to share with them, I find, more than anything, literature and not necessarily experience, is my guide. History repeats itself. At times, it becomes annoying to them, past annoying, a sort of zealous righteousness, they feel, where I am chief, not accustomed to being questioned, and I admit, I rule this way. Every mother must have a method, perhaps a style. For every woman is a Queen of her family and land, or should be. Some have voices, some do not and it is left for those who can to communicate what they can TRY to. Therefore, due to my own history, and thusly I love them. I have protected my own children to the best of my ability believing it is often better to run away, and live to fight another day, than to wear oneself out running in place-frankly, I just get bored with the scenery. I have been chastised for this, urged to let them make their own mistakes, as other parents do, but this dedication to them and the natural instinct of a mother conflicts with the story of Medea. Love does not equal murder, or does it? But, I have seen firsthand the failings of parents, and blame, that can come to them, for letting go too soon. In fact, there is a story in there somewhere. Mother’s and women  in general, take a lot of blame. It’s not the blame we tell ourselves that will cause people to respect us, it is that pigeonhole we have been put in by society, and other women, too, which seems a paid critic of our actions and seeks to imbue us with other-worldly and impossible capabilities and qualities. In Medea, therefore, lies the greatest and most profound tragedies of all time. I do not believe it to be true, as I will explain.

CallasMedea

There must me something inside me, as I am present today still, and they are, that passes this wisdom to me through the ages, some prophetic discourse, not just that which was passed down from my mother, and which makes me immune to their taunts and I know I must toddle on. I know I am right. As if led my some mysterious force, I teach my children, like the cat does hers to bird and climb, extending their circle of freedom and strength ever outward, or like a garden, helping them grow, I think. The ultimate result of this is that I am preparing them to ‘take over’ even if I am master of no land; I am master of myself. A survivor of the very beginning of man and this, too, must trickle down through the dna. It is proven, some of it does.

Now, as a young woman, and having read Medea and other ancient plays, it was inscrutable to me that Medea would take the lives of her own children. I am bent on changing this written persona, this character, drummed up by men and rabid women, who are determined to kill off other women-their competition. It is not that men do not also do this, but this ruthlessness is often attributed to women, like the apple and Eve, her sons actions, and all the problems of the world, can somehow, and usually are, blamed on women. Why except this? Considering a career in acting as a teenager, I thought, this was impossible to portray. Who would want to? It would be difficult to understand her pain, even if she were mad. What leniency does any women receive in giving up her children, let alone abandoning them, or leaving them to fend for themselves or worse, killing them. If possible, this was even more abhorrent to me, as a child, or alien, that any mother would be driven to kill her own children. That’s all. I think children do not read into literature, they take what they read at face value, or try to, and this is not a problem with children; it IS children.

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Medea was a god, and therefore imbued with parable qualities used for teaching, worshipped as a deity and prayed to for safety of one’s children, and other life matters

They are unable to see what is before them, what lies ahead, life. I did not know, for instance, that there were several versions of the story, many in fact. In some, the outcome is completely different-she does not kill her children, or by untraceable means they are dead from some other cause, attributed to her, a sorceress and witch. What of the daughter of gods? Very likely that the memorials that remain to her on the island of Corinth are places of worship and devotion, and a place to pray for the safety of one’s children and in their passing, a place also to plead for their safe journey into the other world. As Medea herself says, “Alas! Alas! Often ere now-this is not the first time-my reputation has hurt me and done me grievous wrong. If a man’s really shrewd, he ought never to have his children taught too much. For over and above a name for usefulness that it will earn them, they incur the hostility and envy of their fellow men.  Offer clever reforms to dullards, and you will be thought a useless fool yourself. And the reported wiseacres, feeling your superiority, will dislike you intensely. I myself have met this fate.” The book goes on to say that through dissumlation (guile) she was able to obtain Creon’s leave to stay in Corinth one more night, even though he feared her vengeance and her skill.

Medea by Gianluca Schiavoni The Estonian National Ballet at Teatro alla Scala
Medea by Gianluca Schiavoni ;The Estonian National Ballet at Teatro alla Scala

Why make Medea a source of an article on ballet? Because ballet is life,  and art, and Medea, like other heroines of popular history, resurfaces again and again, and it should, though fewer people today study Greek or Latin, and those reputable translations of it go far back to when this leap was not so broad. But it surfaces for different reasons and every time I see, I say once again, oh, here goes, just like the attacks on Hillary Clinton and Cleopatra-any woman really. If anybody actually read this blog, I would probably get a lot of guff, but at least we know her daughter seems to be very well adjusted, and yes, she has had a good life. That might indicate a good mother. How could we elect a president who was a good mother? That might be bad for a country. How could a good mother be bad for a country? It has many, many mirrors of life within it’s very small text. Many stories in one. many parallels to the world today.

There are some stories that only maturity can make understandable, and Medea is one. For me almost every line is an epiphany and some relevance is macchiato-Sparknotes is not the way to understand it, but like many books and other works of art, one has to go back to the source and reread it, as I have been fortunate enough to have a cause to do and help to reexplain it to my children, or does one let them figure it our for themselves? I think it is important to shatter biases against women and obvious contradictions. That kind of behavior would be that of someone on The Jerry Springer show, and not someone as intelligent, talented, and powerful as Medea was likely to have been. But, this is how men see us. Still.

Meeting of Jason and Medea, amor between them prelude of Euripede's tragedy
Meeting of Jason and Medea, amor between them-the prelude of Euripede’s tragedy

Medea is like an artwork one passes on frequent visits to a museum, when suddenly a meaning hits you, which you have not even been aware your mind was searching to connect to it with, or a ballet, which might be revised to demonstrate the passion with which life is lived and misunderstanding can result in the death of a hero, so how can it continue to be portrayed in the fashion that it is onstage? The choreography needs to change. It no longer represents what our culture knows about women to be UNTRUE and if we continue to let this dogma be regurgitated, then we are saying the same things, doubling back on our progress, and why would anyone want to act in such a play? But it is important. About as important as Bumpo is to Doctor Doolittle (which is now largely censored, but not Medea because it only insults women). It is important the way remembering The Holocaust is important, so not to repeat it, instead of repeating it to make it true. I think the whole world is confused sometimes.

Nan Melville for The New York Times

What a woman suffers and how she is viewed then, as now, is also clear in Medea: “Life has lost its savor.” “Of all creatures that feel and think, we women are the unhappiest species,” and she goes on to elaborate the plight of women, which has only changed slightly in this day and age, and many of us can easily remember, or even know, her words are still the truth and she outline what devices and expertise a woman needs to make a man happy and contented, and how even when this is done well, beyond question, it will be twisted around, unappreciated, and that older age of a woman will turn a man’s head, then his heart, possibly, to another. He will abandon his own children and we see how men’s basest actions are upheld by others, as though being wrong, but acceptable, as they still are now, while a woman in many cultures may still be stoned for adultery.

Medea Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks
Medea (Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks)

Medea was one of the first modern women, not the first wisest woman, but as she says in the earlier part, superior and outspoken, envied, and hated. We know from other writers that this is true, though we refuse to look around us and acknowledge our own actions, suspect our motivation, or change our nature. And despite this rationality of her own words, we are then to suppose her a highly irrational and not only vengeful woman, but capable of great acts of evil and cruelty-infanticide. Unlikely that these two natures can exist in such a person. A mother. This is how people have existed forever and apparently how it has been acceptable to view women. I imagine female rulers would have been moved by this, and taught to think twice, as in a word of warning, or what NOT to do. There are no real changes to the nature of man or woman and there is little threat probably of a woman committing such an act-look around; not the most popular crime. But then, as well as now, it’s performance continues to fill theaters-even larger than this one.

Theatre of Dionysus, Athens
Theatre of Dionysus, Athens

Today, when a women speaks, stands up for herself, she is suspected of causing trouble and other women are too happy to abide and tolerate this wrong. What woman with children has not been steered into an unmanageable sea of troubles?  And she gives guidance, too, for the strong woman, “it is not yet as bad as that, never think so.” Nevertheless, it enjoyed a lot of popularity, controversy and discussion, and not only has been made into more plays, poems and it’s references used most often of many plays, but there are nevertheless some very choice tidbits about learning and rational thought in this serious tragedy, and those SHOULD be passed on, so what gives? Well, you just cannot censor the authors, that’s all and everyone’s interpretation must be as wide as their differences. It’s all in the perspective, and that, I think, is the key to its everlasting popularity. Everyone, down through the ages, has had the same awareness of the theorem that is sets forth-is a woman capable of this? Why not? How? We are defined by motherhood and our views of the heath and home. Will it ever change, truly? Not as long as we give birth and nurture new lives, and if this is one of our purposes, and I believe it is. Where is intellect and can woman ever be described as having any by everyone, or we will continue to turn onto ourselves and others like us, forever? Maybe. Maybe this is nature, too, and about the survival of the fittest. Maybe this is our ANIMAL. And man’s is fornication. Ha.

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Set design for Medea

Medea was the only tragedy that truly eluded me when I read it as a teenager. It is not a role for childless actors or inexperienced performers. I am not sure many ballet dancers even understand it. We are all some mother’s sons or children; and it has different meanings for everyone. Therefore I never considered it much and was quick to see one side of it, that a mother was wholly insane and allowed herself to become too tied up in her jealousy, and accused, as she is by Jason, as being only conscious of the sleight to her manner of affection, and being stung, turns on those most readily available, destroying all in the path of her righteous anger, monstrously killing her children to get even. Medea is described by Euripides as being vain and selfish and though capable of no good, adept at contriving “all manner of wickedness.”

Medea the Witch Anselm Feurerbach 1873
Medea the Witch Anselm Feurerbach 1873

Euripedes does not merely imply, but avers that women outlive their own usefulness and are perfidy itself, to the world. They are useful for bearing good children, perpetuating the line, that is all. Part of me wants this book banned, for my daughter and all other daughters of the future generations of the world, for unless we get beyond this image of ourselves, and discontinue to live it, then we will be viewed, or may be viewed this way forever. It is now down to interpretation by the theatrical group, or actors, and what they do with it, how they interpret this today, and no wonder it is not more widely performed as many of these views we are beginning to leave behind. But, like an idea, they can be reborn, in someone else, or in some other age, and are never really blotted out. I do not know which is worse now, as I grow older, this or the tale it tells basically. Perhaps this is one reason why people look to leave a world, when the one thing they have to look forward to, their vice, is taken away suddenly, there purpose, as they see it. It is good therefore, that women develop to some other purpose, to some other end of usefulness, and this could not state the reasons why better. This perhaps why it is a text widely used in Women’s studies across the world. This is probably the first example of misogynist literature that I can think of, and did I recognize this as a child? NO! And yet, dancers continue to dance it, artists continue to paint it and create about it, and writers continue to quote it, mostly as a warning, but also for the other intellectual and informative reasons that Euripedes words have a meaning today and many of the things he says are great things. You cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. So one has to parse it down and not let it rest, discuss it, talk about it, unveil it, and for goodness’ sakes promote the other versions of the story and the facts remaining. History.

Medea-Euripides
Medea-Euripedes

As in ballets or tragedies, or movies or any story, we are in the power of the author to give us facts and we must believe them, if this, then that. in that way, or there is no story. First a hatred of the man has to be developed and made to be the reasonable supposition by all, and sundry, and without THIS, the story really has no weight-we need to see, imagine, or know WHY or HOW she could have a motive, just like any crime story today, and this Jason does by defiling the sacred vow that stood between them, proper for this rage to build, and then, mistaking her anger for a benign, manageable one, typical (of a woman) and predictable, and twisting this into a cankerous wound which grows into the most vile of hatred and results in unimaginable evil (only attributable to a woman). Only a WOMAN is capable of this crime. In it’s singularity, it defines us, much in the same way that the worst man is a pedophile or rapist, as a woman may not do THAT. In the opposite sex neither crime seems as horrid, or ghastly,though they are. The rape being the epitomy of manhood’s dominant characteristic turned bad, and the killing of one’s own children, by a woman, the worst possible crime for a mother of the world. Both archetypes are bolstered by these pinnacles of high esteem, and therefore, the reverse is true, that our worst qualities are our best qualities turned inside out/reversed. So it is with Medea. This is natural, therefore in fact, and its genius lies in the opposition, in fact. Like good and evil, one cannot theoretically exist without the other.

Medea Henry Klingman
Medea, Henry Klingman

But, by feminists (a 1960’s term) it is by this that we see women were subjugated to a position below men, due to their sex, frailty, weakness, and that men failed to see them as the warriors and fighters they are, and in at least Euripides version, Medea is going to act on the mannerisms and modes he has created her with, like Pygmalion, but for evil and not good. Otherwise his story would serve no purpose for his own ends-his audience, and whether is was famous for the same reasons it is today, then, is doubtful, but he must have been appealing to women everywhere to not let your jealousy get the better of you, so perhaps man’s means of becoming successful was always so. A Good Woman defined, and a Bad one. Easy. Good that the nature of women is to protect the home and the children at all costs, but according to Euripedes, not so with Medea.  But likewise these dame demons rise up to thwart our success in powerful positions even today and it was not very long ago actually that women even got the vote, so our equality is not real, not for a long time. I doubt very much, except by some accident, that any men will vote for a woman for president when there is no history of one having been elected before. Men need to keep women beneath them in powerful positions, for what else do they have?

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Euripedes

However, a Queen, at different times in history, has been a just ruler, delivered on the goods, and protected her country, just as a man has and in many countries women fight right alongside their men, when they have to, so why shouldn’t they be President. But here, if a women does not fight, she will not be President, but a man who is a conscientious objector will be elected President. Maybe the public believes that we cannot easily send people to their deaths, like Bond and Judy Dench as M, somehow the public wants to hear a man calling the shots and a woman is still a little ‘butch’ in office or in powerful positions. Some warrior queens, such a Cleopatra defied this mold, but the alternative was a sex symbol and men only willing to accept her power as being tied inextricably to her sexuality. A mother getting the ‘job done’ is likely not thinking about sex, any more than a ruler is when giving war orders. Maybe, just maybe, this is more tied to the idea of war being a man’s milieu and if it can be said that anyone is capable of fighting and killing, it is men. one little poisoning and woman is scarred forever, but men can kill and kill and kill-look at Rambo. The black widow was hardly as popular, or Lorena Bobbit. Viewed by men, hers is even more serious (or frightening) to men, than ALL the rapes, torture and female castration done in the world to women (or men). Odd that no one notices this. It doesn’t really matter who is President, as Obama’s terms have shown us. It is an office vacant of power, so why should men fear a woman as titular head of the country? She is a woman and that is enough, and Euripedes does repeat these views in 4,000 BC. How can we not tell this to our daughters and our sons? What is more important than for them to know that people are basically all very similar.

Pier Paolo Pasolini (with Sergio Citti) Musical
Maria Callas. Pier Paolo Pasolini (with Sergio Citti) Musical.

But, like Shakespeare, Euripedes uses a queen, and a descendant of the gods to derive his example, who were presumed to be vain and mighty anyway, and the gods could “get away’ with behavior mortals couldn’t, so surely, it appears, that Euripedes used this as a lesson to those mere mortals as the opposite of the way to behave. There is, however, so much between the lines, also spoken by Medea, which is true, and other things, relevant and concerning politics, that this is used as subterfuge to say something else, make a commentary on society, and Euripedes was no fool. Certainly this woman was a queen, by this age, were she in her own land, and Jason’s excuses are repeated in other versions of the story, that she acted in his behalf and even loved him because the gods forced her to, so in truth, these actions were foreseen and ordained. Her actions were preordained and she had some involvement, but not a lot, in his success in this version, for according to Jason, she is least powerful and also in use, by other more powerful forces, not only as a woman, but one forgets that it is just these arrogant godlike qualities she flaunts and he flippantly casts aside that cause the death of his children-his acts, not hers.  But, she is less than a pure god, only derived of gods or part gods and the writer uses this to show the difference this one little bit of color in the blood can make, or here, the lack of a full does running in your veins. You are judged by men, if not by gods, for you are part of the realm of men, vulnerable. A god would not run, would not be mortal, killable, but she IS. And as a ruler, even related to the gods, women first, were held accountable, for even Jason seems to be above her. So is she really being painted as a murderer of children, or is her killing of her children, or Jason’s children a figurative death? The gods will get even after-all. Even Jason is not above the gods it says and she did ‘escape’ and did move on and on to future Kings, and kingdoms. Who is to say she murdered her own children, or not? It is more likely figurative language and not literally language which implies premeditation of a real sort. But, this story, it thought, logic and meanings also have a great impact on our laws, and define ‘the crime of passion.”

Medea Jason Orpheus and the Dragon 1910 W Russell FLint
Medea, Jason, Orpheus, and the Dragon, 1910. W. Russell Flint

It comes down to us in many ways, and the ways we have chosen and our own interpretation of it as well, so likely, not in the same way it was viewed, then. Is time so far removed and differences in culture so varied, as to make it obsolete? No apparently, for all the use of it, even today. One is better able to ask if Chaucer’s Tales were an apt description of people in that era, and they were, but it does not say much about the man. And it is relevant today because it still goes on, and we understand perfectly the people, their descriptions, greed and larceny, and even their little personality traits and characteristics which define them as what they are, without even a full grasp of the language, conventions or differences in our cultures. So this is a form of propaganda and some of it is being chewed up and revealed to us in smaller pieces or in a single event, so that we have through communication, or art, become wiser, about perhaps what we already know, but did not know that we knew.

Northern Medea in Oxford
Northern Medea in Oxford

Typically, many questions begin to formulate in the reader’s mind. In one sense, I felt the same kind of thinking going on when I watched The Black Swan. Here was something not normally a part of ballets which we see, not focused on, not alluded to, but thought, sometimes, or unspoken, except perhaps in groups, among the intelligentsia after the theater. Thought provoking, and for that reason, Medea is important to all art and to ballet. Ballet should provoke thought. Was Jason only using her? Was man infinitely more sane and calm than a woman, maybe merely more intelligent? Was she acting commonly and not in a dignified manner? Was she wrong? Jason, a hero, by her hand, was certainly, even in those times, betraying her, but even so, she was expected and encouraged (by the writer) to handle this differently, and to quietly benefit from his increased power and position. Is it possible that in his statements there is any truth about his intentions or feelings for the daughter of the king? He is seen as a typical male now, a man, increasing his position and power to benefit his own family in the long run. Were a mother to play this role, it would be the opportunity to emote, express, the anguish and pain one must feel and in no way is this remotely believable to me. It is only imaginable by the man, and is a man’s story of what a jealous woman could do. But for all this, their is depth and emotion to play in the role, just not the usual rantings and ravings which accompany its performance, what the people want to see, or what actresses and actors on the stage think was the intention of the writer. How silly to overact it.

Amphora-with-Medea-Ixion-Painter
Amphora with Medea; Ixion (Painter)

But it is wrong, for no woman would kill her own children, only a man would for the purpose of showing her frailty, her actual and basic human fault. Women were ruled by emotion and men by their clear use of their intelligence.  It is a cautionary tale to men as well, though and advises them to not only be on guard with women, not to underestimate the extent of their wickedness, and cruelty, but also to underline the basic differences of the sexes-a woman’s underlying deceit and a man’s right to purveyed goods. natural. And yet, other writers have revised this story, or tale, and we have access to some of these versions, too, though they are not the most popular, may be more truthful in their assertions that she killed her children herself to avoid them being killed by others, that they were killed for some other political reason, by Creon for instance, or to atone for she and Jason’s past deeds, and one, historically important and with some credence, that they died of natural causes, not related at all to any of these other versions at all, and finally, that they did not die at all, as these other versions attest. But this is based on history and from what we know Medea was a real warrior queen, possibly perceived a witch, and had god-like powers and abilities, and was at the very least skilled in medical knowledge and natural powers.

Michael Smuin's Medea photo by Ken Friedman
Michael Smuin’s Medea; photo by Ken Friedman

It is hard to say what the truth was or is, but what is widely available is the current version of the history and story we have, and that this is fairly universally accepted as a fictional story, and we have all been fed this version or tragedy for many reasons, including those limited by academics and this has had a profound effect upon the world in ways we do not even realize. But, if we are to interpret stories, art and history through whatever medium, as artists, it is incumbent upon us to have our own understanding of this and other stories in ballet. Failing to see in the Greeks, the possibility of hope, which among them Seneca, viewed as one possibility, and that she was a traveler, and explorer, sort of, more of a warrior, who went on, it is also said, to start a kingdom somewhere else, and fared fine for a woman, is a major failing in the story as far as I am concerned, and I think women today, dancing the ballet, and choreographers, enacting the ballet should take these different viewpoints into account if they wish to impress audiences today.

The sun god awaits to assist Medea in her escape
The sun god awaits to assist Medea in her escape

In fact, of Seneca’s version, only a few lines are extant, a quote. Some writers have latched onto this quote, and it appears in not only Columbus’ own book, but also one of Washington Irving’s Books and a number of other older writings about travel to the new world, there being life beyond those islands unexplored, and curious, or mysterious, and for some reason Seneca discusses this in his Medea, most likely regarding Jason’s travels and nothing more, but possibilities do exist, so the history of Medea continues to be increasingly important in some ways, but not the same ways, as it ever was, and in linking us to our past. While this all occurred before 400 BC, it is hard not to recognize the Indians in the North American continent named the Seneca tribe, and wonder if the Greeks, in their travels, did not come to this country long before we would have ANY RECORD of that travel and imparted onto those people’s some connection or name which may in future tie the Greeks into our history more largely than mythology or writing already does. Who knows. But it is a story rich in comparisons and analogy. I can imagine this, and therefore that it is possible that other likelihoods could exist, and not to rule out any possibility until we know the truth and for now I will just believe in my own version, which is rather unlike the one that follows.

 

“In childbirth grief begins.”
Euripides, Medea

 

“Better a humble heart, a lowly life. Untouched by greatness let me live – and live. Not too little, not too much: there safety lies.”

Euripides, Medea

 

“O Zeus! why hast thou granted unto man clear signs to know the sham in gold, while on man’s brow no brand is stamped whereby to gauge the villain’s heart?”
Euripides, Medea

 

“Amongst mortals no man is happy; wealth may pour in and make one luckier than another, but none can happy be.”
Euripides, Medea

 

“Not yet do you feel it. Wait for the future.”
Euripides, Medea

 

“I’d three times sooner go to war than suffer childbirth once.”

Euripides, Medea

 

“It’s human; we all put self interest first.”
Euripides, Medea

Medea in most tales was an enchantress, a sorceress, another tale of men, who when dealing with a woman with a woman of depth and intelligence, or power, quickly fears her. The chief way a man can hurt a woman is by tearing apart her heart, and breaking a sacred vow, which is not the accepted story of Medea. What all people forget, who read a story, is that it is we who kill Medea’s children, and not she, in our minds. Little is spoken about it really. It happens somewhere else. We are witnessing the conscience and guilt, or aftermath. The absolute worse thing that, in any culture, can be said about a woman, is that she killed her children, or figuratively, that she killed their chances. Each day this story is played out all over the world, by women themselves, who kill other people’s children’s chances, and not much is said at all. In fact, this is how women are seen everyday, as being capable and ready to thwart those who would stand in the way of their own children’s greatness. It doe snot say much for women at all, that we play this role without any thought about how we appear or fulfill the man’s prophecy that we will do anything to advance our own children, and it is the subject of many a black comedy when women openly and laughably exhibit these behaviors, exaggerated actions, but typical behaviors for some women. Secretly, they connive, and plot, to do anything that will harm another, for probably little reason, and they will devote time, actual time and thought to methods to accomplish this-things to say and do, and they teach their daughters to also do this. Perhaps it is a survival mechanism, but I have seen women do this my whole life, and I have watched. It is one of those associations, and with those people, that I do not wish to waste my time. But it is no wonder that men overall think women capable of such dastardly deeds, for women do more to harm other women and children then they would dare to harm a man. Women fear violence. And men represent violence, and unknown.

“For in other ways a woman is full of fear, defenseless, dreads the sight of cold steel; but, when once she is wronged in the matter of love, no other soul can hold so many thoughts of blood.”
Euripides, Medea

Medea appears again and again in histories of the ancient world and represent women in general. Mysterious, plotting, magical, evil, capable of acting without honor, or ethics to get what she wants and to those in question these mighty words appear, Hell hath no fury like a women scorned.” Hell, even. Women are mighty powerful creatures, but “creatures” like the hydra or cyclops, or witches. Not women, super-human or sub-even, but never equals, and a women as an equal is the only woman that no man fears, because she does not exist. Medea, therefore existed on the water line of many tales and stories, and represents those characteristics of women which a man feared, even in his mother. Now, what mother has not experienced the faithlessness of a man, his inconsistency, his disloyalty, his betrayal? Even worse than the pain of betrayal, or being cast aside, is the betrayal of one’s own son. After a woman thinks that she can experience no greater pain in life than that inflicted by a soulmate, and equal, a partner, and one does, one is surprised to find that the even worse than the loss of one’s earthly lover, is the betrayal by the love that secretly was greatest of all, that of one’s children. That bond which forms when their eyes and yours first meet, can be the most defeating blow of all. No matter, by that time, we women are well-prepared and experienced in loss. This final blow is described in Euripedes play, or any tragedy at all, because none has been written by a women, and no one but a women and child can know that loss. It is slow and like bad policy, incremental, but eventually, we realize that which we have been living for is lost. It was as imaginary as any book, and all in our own imaginations, and sadly we have transferred that hope to our children, so they may hope again, but we will never.

“Mortal fate is hard. You’d best get used to it.”
Euripides, Medea

No matter the story, a women is capable of doing great, evil, but great things for her man. She will even kill for him, if he will only take her away and marry her, as in the Argonautica of Apollonius. Of course, Jason agreed. Jason has to, like in most fairy tales, perform impossible deeds (only a true hero could perform) in order to accomplish the tasks (motif) which would enable him to carry away the princess. In real life, these would be equivalent to a good job and a home, setting aside bawdy and lustfully youthful pursuits and of course, the biggest knell of the marriage bell, other women. I think this is the “cold feet” that men get before a wedding. No other future liaisons. For woman, this is different. Most women. To obtain the fleece (the real jewel) as the woman is only born to accomplish the real mission. But without Medea, Jason could not have been successful in most stories, for it is her power through witchcraft, which enables or makes superhuman Jason, and this is what is needed to accomplish the tasks (in order to obtain the fleece). She annoints him with a salve-he is resistant to the fiery breath of fire-breathing oxen with which he has to plough a field. Medea provides him with a rock to throw into the field of soldiers created by the teeth of the dragon Jason then has to sow in the field. The soldiers attack each other, not knowing from where the rock has come. Medea then gives the dragon a potion of herbs, a thus asleep, Jason is able to fight and kill the dragon (drowsy or sleeping) which guards the fleece. Jason takes the fleece, and Medea (the booby prize) and sails away (on the ocean). Medea even kills her brother Absurtus to distract her father, so she could escape with Jason. In Apoollonius’ version Medea only helps Jason in the first place because Hera convinced Aphrodite or Eros to cause Medea to fall in love with him. This is a poor excuse in court today, but many women have tried it, and in France many a woman has been forgiven for a crime of passion committed at that time of the month.

“Of all creatures that can feel and think,
we women are the worst treated things alive”
Euripides, Medea

Medea’s actions have been even more abhorrent in other versions, scattering her brother’s body parts across the island, so that her father would actually have to stoop and pick them up, which would delay him from his hot pursuit, and no mention is ever made of Medea’s conscience in these matters, or any softness to her. What is apparent is that it was conceivable, even in that day and age, to assume this behavior by a women would be believable. In another version, Absyrtus is killed by Jason (and Medea still loves him). So much for the adage, “a son is a son until he takes him a wife, a daughter a daughter the rest of her life.” But is all fairness, Medea is under a spell, not only of Jason, but one of the God’s, so unquestionably loyal (a given) and powerless against it. A women is also gullible and her mind can be controlled, therefore she is not worthy to lead, but will always remain a follower. In some stories, a stop is made on an island ruled by her aunt Circes (also a sorceress), to be cleansed of the murder of Absyrtus, presumably as she could not go on further with the guilt of her own deed. Forgiveness, and again the Roman’s were always big on the cleansing of guilt. There is nothing, virtually, which they cannot be forgiven for. And we see the tenets of early Catholicism already built into the culture, largely. So, it is also apparent that a women’s natural response to killing a loved one would be to end one’s own life. An eye for an eye, a chance for a chance, a tooth for a tooth, and in some American Indian tribal cultures, women whose sons were lost in battle wandered about the camp, their son no longer able to protect them, until they died in winter. No one would take them in and they took all of their belongings. Men have always been the providers and protectors in human culture. Except in rare cultures, where the women ruled and women did not treat other women this way. Rare.

“death is the only water to wash away this dirt”
Euripide

Medea continues her treacherous and sometimes uncalled for cruelties and murder, killing the bronze man of Crete (Talus/Talos), who bars the port of Crete from Jason. In the Argonautica, Medea uses hypnotism, and drives him berserk, so that he kills himself.  Talos’ death is a particularly symbolic one, in that he has one vein extending from his neck to his ankle, bound shut with a single nail. When the nail is removed by whatever means various stories tell, Talos is killed when this substance runs from his body. (Ichor is the ethereal golden fluid that is the blood of the gods/immortals.) Medea also made prophesies that came true, so not all of her myth was unreal, for Euphemus one day did actually rule over all of Libya, through Battus, his descendant. So such were the actions and the direct connection of success or failure felt strongly through even the later feats of one’s descendants. But the Argo rolled into port.

“Oh, say, how call ye this,
To face, and smile, the comrade whom his kiss
Betrayed? Scorn? Insult? Courage? None of these:
‘Tis but of all man’s inward sicknesses
The vilest, that he knoweth not of shame
Nor pity! Yet I praise him that he came . . .
To me it shall bring comfort, once to clear
My heart on thee, and thou shalt wince to hear.”
Euripides, Medea

Medea also did good things, occasionally, with her magic, and one was to make Jason’s father, Aeson immortal, by giving him a transfusion (yes, they were performed even that far back in history), and it is fairly clear to me, that her wisdom was in her ability to heal, thus, she was a doctor, and we know that they were burned until the mid or late 1700’s in recent culture. So these qualities a woman might possess could do her good or evil. Only women have suffered this duality. A man is forever seen as straight and true. Still, Jason does fall in love with Medea eventually, and by the time they reached Iolus, Medea was able to conspire to convince Pelias’ own daughters to murder him. She convinced them that if they cut their father up in pieces, he would be reborn into a young version of himself. So they did. After killing Pelias (for Hera), they fled to Corinth. With Jason, Medea had five sons, and supposedly they were happy for over forty years.

“Do not grieve so much for a husband lost that it wastes away your life.”
Euripides, Medea

It was here, in Corinth, where later, the trouble begins (as if the above were not shocking enough). Jason abandons Medea for the King’s daughter-and a younger woman-Glauce. Medea sends a dress to GLauce, covered in poison, which kills Glauce and her father, Creon. It is said, that two of her sons were murdered for their assistance in this crime. But Medea’s revenge continues, murdering two of their other sons, and leaving one remaining. She flies to Athens in a dragon-driven golden chariot, a gift by Helios (god of the sun) and her grandfather. In another version by the poet Eumelus, she kills her own children by accident, and in another story, the people of Corinth kill them (which I believe is more likely). Her murder of her own children seems to be strictly an invention of Euripides, though some scholars attribute it to Neophron. Her filicide was to become the accepted version in later or more recent fiction, however. And one writer, Pausanias, claims to have seen a monument to them in Corinth, ad records the five variants in his writings.

“Hast thou ice that thou shalt bind it
To thy breast, and make thee dead
To thy children, to thine own spirit’s pain?
When the hand knows what it dares,
When thine eyes look into theirs,
Shalt thou keep by tears unblinded
Thy dividing of the slain?
These be deeds Not for thee:
These be things that cannot be!”
Euripides, Medea

Like a sensible women, fearing Jason”s wrath, she flees to Thebes in where she heals Heracles, a former Argonaut, from a curse which Hera has placed upon him, and led to his murder of his best friend, Iphitis. Despite Heracles protection and defense of her, the Thebans drive her from their land, so she is infamous for her deeds. In this version, she flees then to Athens where she meets and marries Aegeus and they have one son, Medus. Some writer’s believe this to be Jason’s surviving son with Medea, Hesiod. Never boring for long, Medea nearly convinces Aegeus to kill his own lost son, Theseus, and just as she is about to hand Theseus the poisoned cup, Aegeus recognizes that the sword Theseus has is his own, passed down to his own son. He averts the act. Not surprisingly Medea leaves once more, returns to her home, Colchis, and finding that her father, Aeetes has been deposed of by his brother, now King, Perses, kills her uncle, and restores the kingdom to her own father. In another version, she takes her son and flies in her golden chariot to some part of Iran, living among a culture known as Aryans, who then became the Medes.

“O what will she do, a soul bitten into with wrong?”
Euripides, Medea

No less vividly represented today, the established view is not one of heroism, but rather one of filicidal tendencies and murderous methods, changing her good attributes, to those of the criminally insane, or at least evil. What is apparent is that she was a demi-god of some immortal persuasion, and that whether she lived for Jason, for a time, she moved on, and she was at least as great a warrior, with her less violent, but equally adept methods of winning battles, fearlessness, and cunning, shrewd tactics and strength of mental character, surviving the loss of her children, and in founding many cities, with which she is credited in actual history. And though intelligence in government was reduced to attempts to bring into power her own offspring, it seems as though she were caught, and suffered ostracism at times, but she always landed, like the Argo, somewhere new, like many women do. No one in art has been more represented or written about, or has surfaced in the poeems and writings of so many illustrious men, Ovid, Apollonius, Seneca, and all those poets above mentioned, employ her figure, and she rises again in literature as other warrior women do, such as Cleopatra, and Boadicea, and other Queens. What she appears to have been is an extremely brave and intelligent women, who is misunderstood by history, and cloaked in the same sort of contempt as women have been held in history by men, unable to relate to their personal battles and intelligence. Only a mother would know that Medea could not have killed her sons, even Jason’s sons, over jealousy; that is perhaps a man’s motif, but not possible of any woman, and certainly not the kind of resourceful and intelligent, even brilliant woman, Medea must have been. She is however, revered in art, staring back at us from vases and paintings, and widely apparent in Greek culture where women are revered as much as men in their chivalric deeds, and another reason why I will always be a fan of Greek culture. Medea is, like Gaia, or other earth goddesses, associated with death, and the grave, probably most evident in the chthonic culture and the due to the dramatic overtones of her slain children, and an actual sanctuary devoted to them in Corinth. The Greek word khthon is one of several for “earth” which literally refers to under the ground, or the interior of the soil, and not, like Gaia on the surface of the land. So, she is revered in death, and is probably a sub-god of Hades, or the female version.

“Stronger than lover’s love is lover’s hate. Incurable, in each, the wounds they make.”
Euripides, Medea

Whether in drama, or poetry, history, or art, and especially in Music, Medea has always caused a sensation. Thousands of references occur and much is attributable to her, and many controversies are led by association of her mostly magical and evil side, so probably she has remained very popular because she represents a vivid and interesting possible interpretation, reviving classical themes to promote some personal opinion.  She is allegory itself, in a way, and each of us, as we view our children running along a seashore, might be reminded of Medea who traveled much, did great, but possibly bad things, and was an actual person, I believe, who was raised to mythical status fro some reasons-stood out-because of her strength of character and positive attributes as a women, but whom through history men have decried as the worst type of woman. But, we should not do that to ourselves, or each other. One cannot help that believe her actions must have been those of a typically intelligent woman, who like Eve was blamed for the sins of man, thought to be naive and gullible, and dumb, and cunning, and snakelike. A woman who despite history, is found to have a story that all women can relate to, and as hard as it is to believe, was once a child who probably ran in the cold, barefoot, along the line of the shore, while her mother, picked up her shoes and followed, picking up and carrying her back to the house. It was always hard for me to picture her any other way, especially now, that I have been a mother and known that their is no greater loss in the world, at this point that of a lover or a friend, and that children will grow up and that we must continually fight to be understood, and not driven from the land, no matter how we are perceived, all women will do whatever they have to, for their children, but they would not kill them for a man.

Yuri Possokhov's Damned she read the Euripides play searching out details to incorporate into the choreography
Possokhov’s ‘Damned’ read the Euripides play searching out details to incorporate into the choreography

“Tell me, how does it feel with my teeth in your heart?”
Euripides, Medea

  • The story of Jason and Medea was familiar in many dramatic treatments in France, beginning with Pierre Corneille‘s version of Euripides in 1635. As early as 1454 however, the myth was presented as a dumb show in Lille, and, in 1489, the dancing masterBergonzio di Botta of Tortona adapted the tale of the Argonauts to a version that then became a model for subsequent danced entries in a variety of styles and tastes. In 1736, Marie Sallé, a dancer much admired by Noverre, danced the role of Medea in a version called Médée et Jason.[4] Medea was portrayed by the English ballerina Mlle. Nency who “apart from her amazing dance talent, succeeded by showing in her acting ability all the soul and expression of that incomparable actor, the celebrated Garrick, in England where the dancer, trained by Mr. Noverre, was born.”[5] Other terpsichorean roles included Fire (Medea’s burning mantle), Steel (Medea’s Sword of Vengeance), and Jealousy. Gaetano Vestris (who had travelled from Paris especially for the occasion) and Angiolo Vestris were Jason and Créon respectively.[3][5]  When the wild-eyed Furies first appeared on stage in the ballet, some audience members reportedly fainted while others fled the theatre.[5] In 1780, a Paris libretto described the work as a “Ballet Terrible, ornamented by dancing, suspicion, darkness, pleasure, horror, poison, tobacco, dagger, salade (‘hodge-podge’), love, death, assassination, and fireworks.”[5] The ballet was one of Noverre’s greatest success, and was constantly revived across Europe in the decades following the ballet’s premiere with or without acknowledgment of Noverre’s authorship or his supervision.[4][note 1][1][7]

Definitely an opera day! Pagliacci Muti 1997-full opera


via Pagliacci Muti 1997 – YouTube.

Also see the film, if you’d rather https://youtu.be/dSURBaT3XF4

Or the 1936 film version (Stella Dumi)  https://youtu.be/m6PI5b6YKeY

Save the Date! March 27th @8pm: Edward Henkel’s MovementTalks: Real Men Dance—92nd Street Y – New York, NY


Edward Henkel's Movement Talks: Real Men Dance-We've Come A Long Way Baby (Randy James,  10 Hairy Legs, Adam Weinert, and Norton Owen

OVERVIEW

The story of men who dance is complicated, with ups and downs, stereotypes and triumphs.

This program presents several people with different perspectives and insights about the legacy and meaning of male dancers. Randy James’ talks about his all-male company, 10 Hairy Legs, which celebrates the technical and emotional range of male dancers. The group will also perform two pieces. Andy Weinert (also performing at 92Y on April 24 and 25) has been reconstructing dances by Ted Shawn, the first important male American dancer of the 20th century, and by other modern dance pioneers, while also creating new works that investigate that legacy. For perspective and a sense of the changing history of male dancers, Norton Owen joins us. He’s the archivist for Jacob’s Pillow, which was founded by Shawn.

via Edward Henkel’s MovementTalks: Real Men Dance—We’ve Come a Long Way Baby – 92nd Street Y – New York, NY.

Let The Body Go – Expression of Grief


 

Let The Body Go – YouTube.

Guide to Ballet Training, Part 1 (for novices)



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Part I

I think useful information on ballet schools is a bit hard to find on the Internet. Information about the process, what to do, expect, avoid. It’s not truthful when you do find it. You just jump in. But there is a process if your child wants a career in dance. There are many factors, but if you are starting out as we did, there are some things you should know, and if you ever need someone to talk to, you can always ask me what to do. I’ll try to help. That may not be the best recommendation, as I am certainly no expert-no one can be-but at least I am not politicking for anyone. Yes, my daughter is in ballet. I think this is her sixth year, maybe going on seven, I may have lost track.

According to my teachers eleven was a fine age to start then (9 or 10 being the youngest to begin seriously), but you are always hearing professional dancers (and non) stating they started nearer their birth. In my opinion, it is wrong for dancers to tell other dancers that, because they should know better. I think the Russian methodology is the best, for one thing, most of their dancers can concede to the age of around 10, because that is the earliest those schools take them and they begin, seriously, to study ballet. You have to wonder about the truth of other statements when the serious study of anything cannot begin much earlier, and certainly not ballet. They do say, and correctly, too, that they studied or took other dancing, gymnastics, etc., and this is probably true, but even they know it is not like ballet and is different. It might have helped them, but they do not feel the need to relate that usually because the training at those schools is so formidable as to put into the shadows any previous lesser instruction. There is really no comparison. Why? This will become apparent in a later section of the article.

I think there is a truly correct and comprehensive method to the study of ballet. I am always searching for that in schools, teachers, pictures, videos, performances. It is what you have to learn to look at first. I do not think my daughter would have known, starting out, what was good for her, and I am aggressive about what I desire and look for in any educational situation which affects my children. I have 3, and I went to my first audition, with my son, at SAB, about twenty-one years ago. He was not accepted, but continued to dance in Russian schools in NY until he was about 12 years old. He lost interest in it and the outside pressures of being a boy in ballet just became too much for him. He did learn some things about ballet, and sitting down to watch a ballet performance now, brings all of that back to him. He has always been a dancer, though, and never shies from performing. He is a ham. I have followed ballet for about 40 years.

I know how to go about looking, though I was not a professional dancer, I danced, and the choices were easier when I was growing up, and I was lucky to get good instruction. I had opportunities to dance professionally, but I finally realized in college that I did not want to become a dancer exclusively. In all ways, that decision is very personal to the dancer. Proper instruction, correct instruction is probably the most important piece of the ballet, or dancing, puzzle. I do not know how I was so lucky to have had the teachers I did, when I did, and where I did. Part of the reason this occurred, because although my mother did not accompany me at all, she had schooled me in the basics of ballet and dance knowledge, cautioning me extensively, prior to my going out and signing up for classes and because she bought me books, or gave them to me, and I read them. I was not averse to reading or listening. She also researched and made suggestions where I could go, and I went there and she turned out, and they turned out, to be right for me. After that, I found things on my own. It is cyclical. Things change in ballet schools sometimes as often as they do in public schools, and programs-one year it is good, the next, not so. It depends on who is teaching there at the time, the program, mission or philosophy, and some other factors. More variables affect parent and student over time, but initially, it should not be too difficult to find good training, despite the vast differences between schools. I think this constant “polishing” of the process, program, and elevator effect does not benefit every generation or level of dancers at the same school, for usually, in this country, in most cities and towns, there is nowhere to go for top ballet training you find. The problem is continuity, but it is also cost, change, greed, and outside influences. But when it gets to a point, you have to take it into your own hands and find what you are looking for-what your child needs.

You can go to the horse’s mouth in New York City, but what if you are not accepted at ABT or SAB? Well, because it is New York City, there are other good teachers and schools to go to. It is an international and cosmopolitan city and there is no dearth of dancers there.You can also find good ballet teachers in other places, but it is a crapshoot sometimes. You do not necessarily know. They can be in the strangest and most unlikely places, or they can be right around the corner-for the time being, anyway. That is why I look for Russian now. It is just so much easier. I do not have to look at French, American, or British systems, because my daughter now makes the decision on where she wants to study and what. As a parent, Russian just makes more sense, because Russia has a system of ballet training- the Vaganova method. It focuses on correct placement, the correct technique and levels, but most importantly, probably, to me, as a parent, it also is designed to reduce the possibility of injury in what is a very difficult art. I said art. Not sport. It is not athletic. It is discipline. It is part science of movement, part muscle training and part art, then mostly art.

Some parents do not always care about injury enough. Some parents do not realize the risk of injury. Some parents will not accept that their child might not have the facility required for the correct and plausible performance of ballet, or have children who have not had good training or training in time. Some parents were dancers and know exactly what to do! I think a lot of Russians have come to the U.S. and other places to teach ballet in the Vaganova style and for whatever reasons, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn ballet with them as they truly know more about it, are passionate about training, and knowledgeable. They have to start somewhere, and sometimes their options are not always the options extended to those teachers at the actual Vaganova schools where the children are handpicked, out of hundreds or thousands, for the opportunity to study ballet at a state funded school. Here, we bring our (often) faulty children, without any gymnastics, bad feet, poor attitude, inflexible backs or legs, poor posture, and even more frequently, our money, to ballet schools, without having had even a physical, or x-rays, to determine their capability for such a regimen, and demand them to make stars out of them. This is NOT how it is in Europe, and worse we bring our sense of  entitlement.

In America, it is about the students you get whose parents can afford (or not) ballet training, the mentality is different, and until recently, due to so much promotion, and competitions, such as YAGP, ballet was not in the headlines. Only by promoting it, has it become more popular, for boys and for girls, or considered a career option. Respectable. A sport (to make it acceptable to some Americans). And a sense of it being far less demanding, complicated and fickle, than it really is. In America, until people become more aware of its difficult requirements, many people will continue to frown upon it, as they are basically uncultured and working-class people, who have considered for several decades, ballet as a starving art form, or dance as being “gay,” or not an intellectual pursuit, nor as having the prospect of wealth. In some cases, it is a middle class parent who aspires to have their child succeed as a team dancer, or competition dancer, who enrolls their child in ballet, gymnastics, and theatre, modelling, etc., and for ballet, this focus is not correct. It is not a good formula, not one based on knowledge of the art of ballet, what is required, the prospects, but only the early physical success and a trophy as proof. A ballet dancer’s career spans a lot longer time than most professional athletes, actually, and unlike sports, but as in theatre, maturity is required, and artistry. Artistry is not acquired in early stages of youth, such as the understanding of the emotions and stories involved in some mature ballets, or the sense of freedom required, by many years of practice, to express oneself uniquely in performance of mature subject matter, and to do so fluidly. It is this part of ballet, I believe, where most dancers with physical potential actually fail in ballet. They are not artists and perhaps never will be.

Ballet is competitive, but first it is discipline. As it was designed, it was discipline for the longest time and then possibly, much later, some success might be possible. Maybe. It is easy to forget, in the little ballet studio, that there are a world of other dancers out there, and that they might have several distinct advantages over Americans, in general. Training is number one. Ballet, of course, had its starting point, too, like all dancers, but then a Golden Age (occurring almost 200 years later), and more structure (another 100 years), then becoming almost scientific (50 years), and again a resurgence (50 years), again (20 years) and again now (20 years). There is a phenomenal (and interesting) history to the art of ballet, but it was never Shun Yen, or gymnastics, or jazz, or a sport- at anytime in its development. It never should be or will be really viewed as an art and a sport, or it will truly cease to be ballet. The movement to even discuss this is one to capitalize on the financial opportunities and promotion of it as a commodity and everyone seems to getting into that game, but the step to make it an Olympic sport, like discus throwing is absurd.  This might improve everyone’s physical health, increase advertising demand, create paycaps for “artists” or make it acceptable overall to men, and others, but it will do absolutely nothing for the art of ballet. Ballet like that is without art. It is without stories, music, entrepreneurs, shows,E and in that arena, no true art is possible. Just gladiators and lions.

Everybody dances (if you go to New York), but in many places in between the coastal cities, the only dancing done is at weddings or a folk ensemble at school, or not at all, depending on your sex, religion, persuasion and coolness factor. It was not until I went to New York, in college, that I had occasion to go to clubs in the city where all the men (almost) got up and danced. Where I grew up, all of the above applied. The only professional or aspiring dancers you saw were in local companies or at weddings. It was a physical impairment of men, that they “could not dance,” would claim they “had no rhythm,” and no one made an effort to persuade them. NO one challenged any of these false hoods. Even now, it is extreme to label a child as “trans” when it is normal to go through questions of individual sexuality. Dancing has nothing to do with that, except it is still seen, in the US, and other places, to be largely “feminine” to express oneself, and there is still a morbid (private) fear, in this country at least, to be considered feminine, or unmanly, in any regard, with young men. So ballet will probably always suffer due to the few boys who manage to find their way into it. It is no less athletic for girls, but in ballet, boys can excel more obviously in many areas where other boys, outside of ballet, just do not and cannot ever hope to reap the benefits from. So in one sense, I see a practicality of noting that ballet is the most athletic, and totally physically demanding of any physical activity they can do, in a sense. Only to encourage boys to try it because there are a lot of really bad male dancers out there, and people are always saying they are “really good” and they are not, and I think this leads to resentment by some females, who are, much better, really, and have to work much harder to get noticed. They have to be perfect, but a boy can definitely “have a career” if he is mediocre. A girl has to be beyond perfect.

In my time, or slightly before it, one dancer, Jaques D’Amboise, made the attempt, and temporarily succeeded, in making ballet a course option in New York City public schools, but that was not successful, unfortunately. He started a foundation, however, to educate inner-city (and all) children and their parents, the public, and everyone else, about how positively dance had helped him off the streets, gave him options to pursue a career in ballet, and the theatre, and how he learned to dance. He has tried, chiefly, all of his life, to share that information and knowledge about dance, and he has been somewhat successful in spreading the word, but mostly he has been successful at providing an afterschool environment that gives children the chance to try dance and to see if they like it. That’s all you can do. If they are successful, he helps them pursue it further. Lost momentum. NO. It was the beginning of change, which takes time. He is correct in all that he says about dance, and for this reason, if no other, dance should be available to study to anyone who wants to pursue it, free of charge, just like sports in most schools, but it is not.

In most countries, there is the respect for ballet that there is in Russia, and not just ballet, but arts. There is great funding to the arts in other countries, but as in so many other ways, we are behind in many of these areas. They are just more cultured and differently structured. Most foreign countries at were once aristocratic political systems. As such, the monarchies investiture in the arts, or their countries people, was to educate and make available to them entertainment, education and culture that otherwise they would not have the ability to underwrite-in fact his was one of the very large platforms of government, besides, security. It is a matter now of patriotism and history, especially as it relates to countries which had a formidable part in the creation or perpetuation of ballet. it is part of their iconoclasty-they cannot give it up, or be seen to, as people then say, “Why do we continue to have a monarchy?” And there is also a gradual uncovering of that, or change, such as in Russia, where the ballet has increasingly, or at least more purposefully, taken the backing of the highest bidder. But as a result of it having being made available to everyone, at least in the past, or the effort to continue its conference, everyone there at least understands its importance, artistic significance, or has some underlying understanding of it and accepts it, etc…and many more people pursue culture, are actually cultured, attend shows and are involved in the making of art on many different levels, not for the money, but for the art. It is seen as part of a good education, education at all and is underwritten or subsidized. It is getting increasingly harder for those countries to even afford to keep ballet companies together in this economy.

In this country, frequently, it is the private contributions which make the performance of it or viewing of it possible to people without a lot of money, and it is nearly always a political nightmare to get funding or to make new art. The states do not support artists, art or the training up of artists. I think one of the reasons we have government is to decide what is good for everyone and necessary and if art is not, then very little else matters. Art is like the hyacinth for the soul. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and philistines. How can the parents of these people know where to take their child for ballet, when in today’s culture, what they want is a cheap afterschool program for its babysitting possibilities. It does not mean that if the child is exposed to dance, somehow, that they will not become enamored with it. Most likely they would respond to some form of art, and along with humanities, reading, other forms of culture, such as the making of other kinds of art, this exposure cause us to search within ourselves for deeper feelings and emotions, answers and humanity. These are requirements for people, and in art, all of the shared commonalities of people exist. It is a higher plane of functioning, not on an intellectual level, but on an emotional and expressive one. That is why, in our country, these independently run ballet schools are so very important. All together, whether they act accordingly, they are responsible for the education of our children, edifying them about the importance of art in society and life. They do a big part of the job with no subsidies, no review boards, networks, administration, doctors, child psychologists, theatres, funding or even newspapers or promotion. With no one willing to champion them. Some of them are frauds, some of them provide healthful physical activity and a needed outlet in a community, and some of them provide a basis from which to pursue art, but we cannot make those schools Sports Authorities in an effort to create a funding tunnel, because in the history of ballet, when the technique and art suffers, the ballet loses historical importance, great artists, and attendees. People come to expect more in viewing ballet-more acrobatics, more violence, more intensity, more stimuli, and this is not art.

But most of all, you take your daughters or sons to ballet to learn character, discipline, and whether you know it or not, etiquette, respect, music, following directions, beauty, grace, strength, work ethic, survival, and working as a group. Many of the same things you learn in karate or sports, school or church, theatre or art, you learn in ballet. It is important to know why you take them, to know what they need to learn, and when, and most importantly, it is important to know whom is doing the teaching, and if you do not know that you do not really know anything at all. I have heard of more than one famous dancer who was taken to ballet to use muscles after a debilitating illness or injury, and who became devotee. A brother who accompanied sisters, a YMCA after school programmer who got the bug, the late starter, the street dancer or troubled youth, and most times the student of the little local school whom has been accepted to a top program (frequently in another country) which ought to , in itself, exhibit the problem in a nutshell. It offers something you do not find in any other place. I do not mean teamwork or competitions, or glamour. In fact, ballet is not glamorous at all, particularly, unless you consider a sweaty, calloused, haggard, starving, and beat-up artist, glamorous. I feel it is mostly a discipline, first, and an art second, and possibly a profession, and somewhat glamorous, third. In the end, no one will probably remember you and most likely you will not ever be a household name, unless you are on Instagram, or model, are self-promoting, and then you are not really a dancer, are you?

Not all dancers become artists, but all dancers become more disciplined, somewhat. I think this depends largely on the training because part of it is ballet etiquette and philosophy, part of it is physiology, and another part is perseverance, determination, hunger, hard work, reaching the sublime art of ballet and mastering that, and it continually learning, working and training. It just never stops. It is frought with injury, if you start out wrong, and just gets worse as you try to correct those things that should have been nipped in the bud, all the time with the studio turning a blind eye and just continuing to take money, pushing and over training at a very early age. It starts out as non-competitive, though in many countries, I could not say that, because there, they expect it to lead to greatness, or not. But again, they have a system and if you are accepted into it, there are reasons that you were, and according to them you have the facility for ballet, and then they provide the training. As you get older, it is much harder to get a consensus, and in some ways, to professionals, more obvious to see who is possibly talented and who is not. Competitions, in a way, make this worse.

But no matter when you come away from ballet, as an aspiring professional or not, you keep what you learned for the rest of your life, whether you continue to dance or not. You will always be a dancer. If you have been dancing for at least a few years, you are already a dancer, no matter whether you are famous or not, and more and more people pursue dance, or parts of it, for exercise, and movement, as adults and as non-dancers, than before and in some ways this is good, some ways not so good, or misleading. Perhaps this is okay if you understand what it is not, but it also takes away from the whole purpose of ballet training, if only part of the form of it is followed, or part of the technique, such as in Barre classes is done (badly), but it is not proper ballet training, is bound to cause injury through repetition, so it is ballet, but without any or all of the safeguards involved, without experienced or knowledgeable teachers, taught en masse, like gym class. That is not ballet. NOT ballet. NOT BALLET. Why not go to one of the MANY adult ballet classes offered at studios for that purpose. There is nothing wrong with barre exercises, but it is a component of other parts which are important. It is dangerous to give it credence, even a foothold in the world of a fitness craze mentality. These people will have children and will say, “I know something”-a little knowledge is sometimes very dangerous.

I do not believe that doing barre makes you a dancer and to an actual ballet dancer it is hard to separate it, explain it, impossible to rationalize, or to even acknowledge it at all because it should go against everything they have ever learned or will learn. Ballet dancers are snobs, sometimes. This is good and part of ballet, but it is also a discredit to the world of people who could be supportive of ballet and whom for that very reason sometimes, are not. Ballet should be for everyone, to a point. These types of activities also send the false message to average people, “You, too, can look like a ballet dancer, have a “ballet” body, be a part of that, do pointe, etc.,” and they are selling an image, a club, as false a claim as any claim could be, marketed as a sport, unintentionally or not, and untruthfully, that barre makes you as good as a dancer, and worse that anyone can dance, any part of dance, and that they will be accepted (eventually) into a dance class and be able to do all of the movements required. I do not have a problem with saying “they can obtain a good body,” but I do have a problem with them saying “a ballet body.” They are just exploiting the word “ballet.”

In that sense, dance training needs to be begun properly, with the correct outlook and perspective. This is really true no matter the age it is started. Often students who have “danced” for many years find they are not right for ballet or not accepted into a serious ballet training environment or company. This happens for a few reasons. 1) The training for ballet has not been correct or prolonged 2) Other training has taken place which you cannot easily get rid of the effects or muscle memory of, without great effort, and 3) great effort is required for serious study of ballet, focus, observations and correction, over time, 4) Enough money is not available, and 5) Companies have many dancers applying and they can only take one, or a few. But, with that goal in mind, if that is the plan, private or not, it cannot be accomplished any other way than as above stated, for only then will you even be in the running, and very few people will succeed among the very best. Only a literal few have come from other backgrounds entirely and been successful in ballet. In that sense, alone, it is viewed as an art. If you cannot get past the guardians-you cannot get past them. So, what, at a local school, or primary school do you need to look for so as not to further reduce your chances? Good teachers and guardians, or choreographers.

End of Part 1

Part 4 of Winning the Fight Against Fat: The Emergent Sylph



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sweaty swan

Many children are dancing now. By child, I mean, anyone who has not reached adulthood, their final (ever-changing) post-adolescent body proportions, has not reached their full height, width, girth, started or regularly encountered their period, and anyone who is changing or growing constantly. These people need to be doubly cautious when it comes to providing enough and varied nutrients in their diets, and enough cannot be said here about this. It is a parent’s responsibility, and not only the child’s to make sure food is eaten, what and when. Weaning is gradual and in dance may need to be watched and continued until much later on because there is little time for student, dancer, teenager to make or prepare, shop for and eat all of the right things. Some people continue to grow into into their twenties, and men and women can fill-out later in life, and the body is always changing, going through new life cycles so there are adjustments to be expected aside from actual dancing regimens.

1) don’t cut calories drastically. instead, eat slightly smaller portions and better foods. you need your energy, otherwise you could injure yourself or just be too tired to work at your peak level while dieting. females should not cut calories more than 200-300 per day. that is, if you are eating 1500-1600 per day, you can safely go down to 1300-1400 to begin with. at the same level of exercise this will reduce you fat gradually, and

2) aim for many meals per day 5-6 at least over the course of a 10-12 hour day. you can lose more fat because more meals burn more calories [by increasing thermogenesis, the production of heat, in the body]. divide how many calories you expect to consume during the day by the number of meals you can schedule in and try to spread them out evenly.

Some things we are born with a certain amount of and we lose, and these things need to be nourished to continue to grow in our bodies and starving our bodies can result in their premature loss or depletion, such as protein and estrogen-one is short term and one long. Example, proteins which are eaten should frequently be “complete, and hormone replacement therapy is one option to low-estrogen. It is almost impossible to replenish certain things with food, just as wheat germ cannot really be “organic.” In the case of dancers, estrogen, and minerals may be on the decline or are lost with vigorous dancing. Water. Sugar. Fat. We need it, or some, to survive. We do want to try to choose our fats as often as possible, so I do not recommend eating prepared foods. it is one sure way to make a promising diet attempt a flat failure.

3) drink lots of water during the day. make sure you are thoroughly hydrated by consuming about 4 16 oz bottle of water per day or 2 32 oz ones. Take a vitamin supplement regularly and make sure to get your vitamin C, especially during cold months or at the onset of symptoms of a cold.

4) Some people swear by whey protein powder which is consumed in small amounts mixed with water and shaken in a tumbler or other cup. One after heavy exercise does reduce pain and speeds up muscle healing time. One would replace a protein portion, say in the afternoon snack period. Some food products naturally contain whey protein, so be careful not to overdo your protein: ricotta cheese, milk, yogurt (Greek of course), all cheeses (especially the cheap American variety). Sweet whey comes from the process that makes cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, swiss and other cheeses made with rennet enzymes that coagulate casein. Most cheese-makers consider whey a waste product, according to “Whey to Go” by Liz Campbell. She says that the Norwegians and Greeks continue to process whey further to make brown or Mysost “whey cheeses” like Gjetost.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/254097-which-foods-contain-whey-protein/

Many foods and meal plans or choices exist which provide the needed essentials, tasty food choices and lots of options for different types of bodies, different or changing regimens, but which ones are suitable for dancers? What do dancers actually eat?  They will (almost) never divulge their dieting secrets or truths. What about the dancer who tours or performs part of the year and then is off? What about the dancer who performs more of the time, but different parts, such as a corp dancer compared to a soloist? What about the young dancer who is building her body to the desired form, or the dancer newly wedded with grueling performance and rehearsal schedules, student by increasing level, change of program, type, or dancer returning to classes and performance after injury or time off? What about the competition dancer? The varied genre dancer? The athletic dancer who runs and does cross-training to mold or sculpt? The student or university dancer? What about a new mother who gives birth and then returns to dancing? What about the older dancer or non-dancer who returns to dance or begins to take classes? All of these different people, different bodies, different genres, ages and styles or situations are different mainly because of their levels or types of activities, and many other variables.

lean muscled man

5) creatine is a naturally occurring fat burner, and is usually obtained via supplement because of the amount of food one would have to eat per day to get optimal levels of it for fat burning purposes, i.e., 500 g raw meat or fish every day. Since this is not realistic, supplementation with creatine is both prudent and advisable. Vegetarians and vegans do not get any creatine from food sources. Creatine levels in blood plasma are very low in these populations and it is one of the issues with vegetarian diets. How much is enough is debatable since you can’t get enough anyway. What is is most important about creatine is that athletes and dancers bleed it out. Whether you take a creatine supplement or not, is up to you, gauging whether it assists you is often the best way to find out. For those interested in reading more about it http://www.myfit.ca/foods_high_in_creatine.asp   . You decide.

6) increase you vegetable consumption-i did not say “fruit.” Vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they pack maximum nutrition value with minimal calories, leaving you more full on fewer calories. Consume five servings a day of veggies, whether as a snack, on a sandwich or on the side of a chicken breast. Order your next grass fed beef, lean chicken or turkey burger with fresh vegetables instead of french fries. Vary the vegetables you eat for maximum nutritional whollop. Check a chart if you have questions about what vegetables are sources of which vitamins, minerals and other things that are good for you.

In varying degrees some of these situations run to the similar, but each one and everyone is unique for many different reasons, and it isvery difficult to not group people into similar categories, without making specific allowances for each. But to start with there are obvious differences which can be accounted for. Good foods and bad foods for a start, but face it, when you are starving, there is not really any bad food choice. So, don’t starve yourself! These other varying differences between dancers are, in accountable for in ballet specifically, and in those persons desiring to be professional dancers, certain distinct differences which can be used for comparison are abundant, but do not really change the diet composition much, or what it should be. They may need more of some things or less of others, but the food stores should be basically the same, failing personal taste. Age, to me is important. A child needs more to grow into healthy adulthood, and I will say, “womanhood.” Our bodies need to have stores of certain things to grow into fertile and healthy women. We need to mature and pass through adolescence and puberty, and at this time, when our bodies are doing many natural things they need to do, it is unwise to alter the needs of the body without being an expert and especially starve it.

7) Don’t use commercial fat burners without exercising, and don’t rely on them to burn fat without following a healthy eating plan.  They are  more likely to cause or add to harm, as they, like all vitamins, too are supplements and do not replace actually nutritional value.

8) Consuming fiber makes you feel full, provides slow-burning carbs and lowers insulin to aid in lean muscle creation. Try to have 20-30 grams of fiber in your diet per day. refer to nutritional details for information. Bran cereals, oatmeal and beans are good sources of fiber.

Further, unless there is an unusual set of ethnic or economic conditions which exist to limit these dancers diets, or ability to lose or gain weight, the circumstances or food may remain fairly static and is determinable. Habits which begin to develop in adolescence may take part of a life to change or control or omit without assistance. In some foreign countries rickets, and many other diet deficiencies are present (gradually less so) and deformities have occurred over centuries of malnutrition. Until about 30 years ago, no one looked at ballet activity and even thought that it varied from any other activity, researched dancer stress, strain or diet, or compared it to that of other semi-professional or professional athletes, or considered that the needs or habits of dancers were entirely different, and truthfully there is a paucity of well-thought out or researched information that is up-to-date or readily available to help dancers, specifically.

9) Eliminate ALL junkfood. Pizza and hamburgers have some nutritional value and can be consumed once in a while. This includes SWEETS-if you want that form!

10) Eat the right amount of protein. Protein will be converted to fat if overconsumed. About 1 gram of protein per pound of your weight (not the desired weight) is adequate. Keep track. If you do overeat protein, do not be terribly concerned, just lower it to the correct level if possible the following day. 1.5 grams of protein per pound is not going to hurt you or cause you to put on weight unless it is consumed over a long period of time. This provides sufficient amino acids to maintain muscle mass, while keeping your total calorie count under control. A lot of dancers do not ingest enough protein, making them have less muscle definition. Others might consume too much and be bulky or muscle-bound. It is definitely a visual thing.

In later life, aside from the dangers of messing with the above-mentioned and more obvious issues, are old age, and as women, what we begin to lose as we get older, how we remain healthy and prepared for those inevitable changes and losses, and even in early age many things can occur, but get worse or become more obvious as other hormones are depleted, so it is extra important for female dancers to educate and demand information about these concerns, but also to plan ahead. Those accumulated losses can accrue and devastate the female body well before old age. Some very healthy people exist out there who would belie this fact, and there are others whom are prone to certain diseases. Brittle bones, lost teeth, cancer, haggard appearances, etc. it is all based on how we treat ourselves over time and genetics, so we need to be good to ourselves because as women, teenagers, and children. We need to be prepared to withstand a lot.

11) Remember those healthy fats? Eat more. They are underutilized by people trying to shed fat. You have to reduce calories to get rid of body fat but you cannot cut out healthy fats completely. They take longer to break down in your stomach and help control blood sugar levels leaving you feeling more satisfied and reducing food cravings. Again, avocados, fatty fish, like salmon and tilapia, olives, nuts, and oils such as olive, flaxseed and canola are good heathy fats to introduce into your diet. I recommend mixing one-half serving of butter to one tspn or more of olive oil until you become accustomed to reducing the level of butter in your diet. it is great for cooking, you know you are cooking with half the good fat and it practically never smokes! This works in recipes as well (most). Also, Wildwood brand vegenaise is absolutely delicious and as it comes in several flavors there is no need to risk adding ingredients for your sandwiches, dips or salads. Ask your grocery store to carry it or look for it at Sprouts retailers. They usually order it by the case and it is in the cold section. I do not recommend replacement of mayo, for those diehards like me, but this is a delicious alternative.

12) Share your cheat foods, but eat some, too. That way you do not feel cheated and you get some of the flavor while not consuming the whole pie. You are doing everyone a favor.

The history of each body is important, and its age, in determining proper needs and nutrition, but also important and calculable is its activity level, patterns of use, and wear and tear. I have said before how important it is to treat your dancer body well, pamper it as often as possible, use good care, hygiene, and do not overwork it. Work smart. In short, do not add stress to it where enough stress is already occurring. Good diet should relieve stress not contribute to it. Adequate rest is very important and most dancers at a pre-professional or professional level do not get enough rest. Proper nutrition, I mean really good nutrition, for each dancer, is often not evident in many dancers, particularly young ones, and this is disturbing to me. Why is more attention not paid to dancer health in schools? Why do any children in this country not have access to good medical care and planning when so many diseases can later be attributed to the lack of it? With all of our advances, we are not able to measure each persons general health adequately. Most people only begin to be concerned about their health when they are older and we worry, kind of like the old finding God or being repentant just before death and not before. It is not how we lived, but how we live, that is important. Each day, each choice, each change.

13) Eat breakfast! Balanced. Full. It is the most important meal of the day for a dancer and one who is dieting because it contains everything you need (a good start) and will most likely be burned off. Your body, whether you know it or not, has been starving all night long and it deserves to eat. Not eating breakfast will negatively impact everything you do all day, including your technique and dancing. Eat a goodly amount of protein for breakfast, too, about 1/4 to 1/3 of your daily intake-spread the rest over the other meals and snacks. Eat a complex (slow-burning) carb, like otameal or a whole grain waffle or pancake, and start with a piece of fruit (right when you wake up), even before breakfast to get your metabolism revving and provide that much needed surge of energy, before your day has begun. Start off right! Since this is the best time to consume sugars, maple syrup (real) or other sugar incorporated into your breakfast occasionally is fine, as they will most likely burn off. Remember to keep your portions normally sized. Larger portions (hoarding) will only cause your body to store fat. This is where discipline comes in-it does. But you can have an extra egg white or yolk, and don’t forget the option of having additional egg whites during the early part of the day, or at breakfast. You can actually have a lot of eggs at lunch and as snacks. Spinach and kale in your omelette are also good for you as well as throughout the day! Mushrooms and other breakfasty type veggies can be eaten now as well, safely. try to consume one potato in its skin per week instead of other types of potatoes. Yams provide completely different nutrients and are not really necessary during the dieting phase, but can be consumed after your optimal weight/shape is reached. 🙂 You will normally burn off most of this by mid-morning snack, except the slow-burning carbs which will continue to be used until well into the afternoon.

14) Dancers and people in general, should avoid any food that lists corn syrup in the ingredients.

A teenager has different diet requirements than a young adult or an older, mature woman, or an elderly person. Having dealt with the elderly, those dying of cancer and other illnesses, middle-aged women, younger women, teenagers, children, babies, athletes and dancers, I have had the experience of knowing they are all very DIFFERENT but all respond to good diet. We would all be in a better position, later, to watch sodium, sugar and fat, now. But comes the thought that you cannot worry all the time about food and you cannot necessarily afford the best choices or everything that would benefit you. Psychology of the woman, teenager, adult or child, is also a very big factor impacting personal eating styles, tastes and goals. Bad habits excluded, we all develop eating patterns that appear simple but can be quite complicated just the same. Just as the person who fails on a diet and gets fatter, suffers a blow to their ego, blames themselves for a fad diet not working, the person who never appears to have diet issues can be seriously malnourished and fall prey to eating disorders later if they gain an ounce, or they may have to eat to build strength or gain weight. People’s motivations and experiences, vanity, and self-loathing and love of ourselves all play a part on our diet and eating habits, right or wrong and you need to account for them, too. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and demand that others are respectful of your body differences and eating requirements. No one is going to do this for you-you have to be your own best advocate and discipline comes from yourself.

15) Sugar consumption. Taking in simple carbs (which is sugar) should be limited, especially the first week you are dieting. They should be eaten in a very limited quantity after that as they are stored as fat. Right after you exercise, or as stated above, before breakfast, they provide quick energy, replace depleted glycogen stores in the liver and replenish muscle. Since they are much abused and anticipated, it is important to give yourself some. Satisfy your sweet tooth occasionally with a piece of fruit, chocolate less often and soda NEVER! You can have tea, coffee, waters or diet soda (if you must, but it is really bad for you). Once your desired weight is reached, and lean muscle is overwhelming flab, you can safely have the occasional hot chocolate, mixed drink (1), or beer, as well as the occasional random dessert. But for now, give yourself a week, and then keep track of them ALL. They are your culprits along with breads-you know the crusty kind….

16) Rotate your carbs. What does this mean? It means, for dancers, that some days are not as exhausting as others. It means on lower energy days it is best to reduce the number of slow-burning/carbs you eat, because you don’t use as much energy, therefore what is not used will be stored as fat. If you consume 100 carbs per day (100 pounds) on some days you might eat 120-140 and on others you might only eat 80-100. You still need energy, but not as much, and mental activity (homework) requires carbs, and energy, too. You cannot starve your body, but try to reduce protion size, eating as many meals per day with perhaps lower serving levels, or cut out that handful of nuts at snacktime, or yogurt in the afternoon-maybe the whole afternoon snack, because on slow days, meal times may be longer, meaning your meals are better enjoyed, definitely have room, and may be enjoyed. No dash and run snacks, but make sure your spread you meals out over the same number of times if possible. that way when your body comes to expect the snack, it gets something, just half, etc….or only the protein. Also, don’t carb-load, for any reason without following the guidelines of carb-loading, particularly. http://m.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/carbo%E2%80%93loading-rules-run  It is not highly recommended for dancers. Another rule is to try to stop eating all carbs (if possible) after 4pm. THis does not include veggies with dinner or your usual bedtime snack, just slow-burning carbs, like most grains.

Besides psychology and age is activity level and this can varies in all dancers. Are you lethargic, energetic or do you conserve your energy or expend it all very quickly? Do you give 110% to your regimen, barre, allegro, variation, or performance. Do you go the extra mile or leave off after the first combination. Do you mark the exercises, sit-out? What are your habits? Good or bad, they account for calories and may be the difference between burning fat or other carbs, never getting to the fat. What is your level of consistency each day in the number of or type of dancing classes/performances or exercises that you do? When do you expend the most energy? At what point do you become tired, peek, or have to stop and why? What did you eat today? What is your level of activity, cross-training or aerobic exercise out of class? Are you prone to putting on weight or do you have to eat just to keep it on? Are you recently losing or gaining weight due to increased/decreased activity levels? Are you battling with other health issues, poor thyroid, cholesterol or salt? Are you diabetic? What time of the month is it? All of these factors combine to make your body chemistry or system completely unique and also affect how it loses or gains weight and builds muscle or mass, uses fat, carbs or glucose, etc., and how rapidly it tires or becomes apparently or not, worn out. It is possible to improve other areas of your dancing or techniques regardless of diet, for a better, more focused workout-try this-http://www.pointemagazine.com/issues/augustseptember-2011/your-best-body-defy-your-dna

17) If you like caffeine, drink one cup of coffee before your classes and another later in the day, say before rehearsals or a performance. It is known to enhance a workout. It causes the body to rely on more fat for fuel, rather than glucose. The effect of it, however is lessened when you consume it with, or on top of a high-carb meal. Try to consume it well after breakfast, but before class and eat it with healthy fats or protein if you are eating with or near it. Skip cream and sugar with it always and do not overdo it or drink it at other times of the day as you will develop a resistance to its fat-burning qualities.

18) Reduce or omit starchy carbs. Potatoes, rice, pasta and breads (especially consumed at the same time or meal) provides your body with more than it needs for energy and glycogen stores so what is leftover will be stored as fat. You do not have to eliminate them completely, and whatver your consumption of them, it should be spread over the life of your diet, and not omitted just for the diet. It is eating with purpose and good sense which results in permanent weightloss and not binge eating. You should, however, really omit or cut back on them while trying to reach your desired weight and shed body fat. They are the main problem with mismanaged carbs (sugars). Whether dietin gor not, limit their intake to 3-5 servings a day where most needed and as I said before, none after 4pm. A serving size is 1/2 cup to 1 cup per rice, pasta or sliced potatoes. Obviously, the rice is closer to a cup and not a cup of potatoes! Pasta servings should be fairly small when eaten and I do not recommend it if you want to see immediate results. You are what you eat.

I will attempt to post additional meal plans and advice as I come across it, adding additional parts to this article, so that some people can have a goto menu plan perhaps when they are too busy to plan or lose interest or imagination. Also, I would greatly appreciate comments and feedback on this as it is for dancers and any little bit of practical advice really helps people as long as it is related and in keeping with the idea of the piece. The best sources of diets for dancers are dancers themselves and though no one wants to interfere with their money-making, a little advice goes a long way from a professional  or a novice, and it is just mean to keep it to oneself. Mean and shallow. Why hold on to something that is useful knowledge, hurting lost people in the process, and then writing a book or doing a paid interview, expecting them to then buy it? I would more likely buy the book of someone I liked who helped me previously than I would someone who jealously guarded it until someone offered them money for it. So, don’t be stingy with the knowledge, not every idea or meal plan merits a book.

So, due to their complex nature, I am not going to deal with many more of these medical and scientific (but related) issues because the article content and my knowledge would have to be far above my ability or qualifications to guide or assist those affected in their thinking, and is not intended as a practicum or rulebook for those with any other issues such as the ones listed. These are factors to consider when dieting, how much, portion size and that after 6 meal or snack, whether you need additional carbs or not, and to make you start thinking about what and when you eat. We even use energy when we are sleeping but are you choosing what energy and components you use while sleeping? Or is your body just depleting stores of energy and nutrients you need.

Obviously, any issues need to be taken into account and treated by a professional medical practitioner and/or nutritionist. Instead, I am approaching this from the point of view of any dancer who is basically healthy and eats clean and simple, but who wants to turn their fat into lean muscle, wants to make their body the best asset it can be and this is not about exercise, this is about eating foods which give energy, provide options and flexibility, and protect you from injuring yourself, while trying to obtain your best body appearance as a dancer.

If you have been told that you should wear a long skirt until your are “ready,” struggle with areas of resistance, would like to have leaner legs, arms or abdomen, you might be very close to your goals, but you will have to have a leaner diet with slow-burning carbs, less sugar and likely more protein, so be careful not to mismanage your carbs. Understand simple and complex. If you have lost a lot of weight recently, or are still losing it, gradually, but have so far not been able to discern much muscle, want to control how you lose it or appear, and despite continued efforts at dancing, then you might also want to add cardio to one of your workouts daily, and manage your carbs and protein better, this article might be useful for you, but I would be more concerned with eating enough, healing and making sure I got those extra vitamins and minerals and didn’t lose too much weight than changing my diet completely. Chances are you are doing some things right! If you are weak, skinny and no muscle tissue is discernible, than you have to build muscle and strength, this diet probably might help you to learn what you can add safely, though your purpose would not be to lose weight.

If you want to begin discovering yourself underneath a very small layer of fat, seeing your muscles, as they are naturally, with a rigorous program of ballet in place, then this method might help if you have the discipline to stick with the meal ideas, make small goals and stick to your guns, follow the advice and stay constantly on the lookout for better foods for you which meet roughly the same criteria.  It might be safe to say that after one year has passed since reading this article, you come back and share your experiences and knowledge and story.

This article is not about dieting, it is about eating. If you want to see slow but perceptible change and begin a path to an improved image in front of the mirror, then there is going to be change which is visible, but not plenty here to motivate, inspire or sustain that journey as it is about a life of commitment and not a fad diet-but may it especially be a continued one for a long and healthy life of self-love and self-accomplishment. It is your body and is never going to look like someone else’s body no matter what you do! No diet is ever going to reveal another body-just yours, but you might be surprised of what you are capable of….and the body you can reveal by eating right. This article also assumes you dance at least 10 hours per week in a serious ballet or dance program, but it is written for someone who is newly dancing everyday for 6-8 hours or more per day every day. And, oh-take one day OFF.

Keep on Dancing!

Part 3 of Winning the War Against Fat: The Emergent Sylph



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When I was growing up, people did not say that dancers were disciplined, but it was true. You could see it in their form. Also, it was much harder and more expensive to obtain organic foods, locally grown foods, or to find food without dextrose, sucrose, or corn syrup. Packaging was not very helpful and we did not have the Internet. Dancers were still seen somewhat as freaks, and so were yogis, health ‘nuts’, etc…. and now they are acceptable, but dancers still are, to some extent, still seen as freaks, trading a normal lifestyle for one of sacrifice, discipline and commitment, whether in a studio, on a stage, as a general fast, cleanse, eating regimen or health nut. At best we are acceptable as athletes, but this is not really what we are, is it? But when a dancer is judged, they are judged on the body, on the line, on what they can do on stage, in under 2 minutes, to a much greater degree than any other athlete. It behooves a dancer to have a healthy outlook and a positive one on the benefits of good food and a healthy lifestyle, because you have to be strong and resolute. It’s a matter of doing the best you can with what you’ve got. If you are starving your instrument, your art will suffer, eventually, because YOU will. The audience, judging public, professional or otherwise, has already decided what level of discipline you are based on how you look that quickly, too. I know many a very lazy dancer who is very slim and some very hard working ones who are not, but they will generally cast the slim ones-not always. Competition is fierce.

But, it is definitely how you appear, as a performer, and also what you do, so it is not uncommon for a choreographer or company to cast on body type, then teach teach teach the work or variation to a less accomplished dancer because they want a certain look. Artist has a much different connotation than dancer. It also implies age , maturity and wisdom, but you do not have to wait to eat smart. To begin with, size even determines what roles you get or don’t get and what you are permitted to or encouraged to wear, and this is largely based on how the choreographer or director or public perceives you or will perceive you (and how many costumes they want to keep on hand of various sizes) or how much sewing they reasonably want to do. As many factors as they can control, they do attempt to control and if you are a ballet dancer, you will have to control what you eat for longevity, health and appearance. No one has bought a ticket yet to see Sumo wrestlers perform ballet, but they have (regrettably) bought tickets to see a fashion show, where a skeletal body is the norm for hanging ballet clothes, and then these bodies typify what we as dancers, expect to see at a performance of actual dancing or in ourselves. Not fair? Who cares if they can’t dance, or can’t dance as well? Sometimes we are surprised that dancers are never like supermodels and when you see a real company of dancers, they are all muscular and few are starving. Well, some are very thin, but they do exercise more than average dancers and their calorie intake can be higher, also their basic metabolisms might run hotter more often. The first step is to reach that plateau, and then deal with adding calories, changing or inspiring your metabolism to work faster, and dancing all day and all night. La!

Sometimes we are even more surprised at the amount of actual energy required (and food) to perform variations, a full-length ballet, and support the work that goes into it, or more understandably how tired we are after a private, rehearsal or performance. The week after performances a lot of people are out. To remain healthy is a big job and the most important one. Sometimes time must be taken off to let the body heal, restore and replenish-rest. Sometimes that is just not possible and we have to be as fit and prepared for that inevitability, as dancers, as possible. Fit for dancing. Individual dance performances and exercise are short bursts of energy repeated after resting, usually, but any dancer who has just walked out from her half-hour private, will have the look of exhaustion and she is just working on a 2 minute piece. It takes some getting used to, building up for, and effort to sustain dancing for that long and you just do not get that at the barre. Even greater stamina is required for actual full-length performances, tours, seasons, and professional ballet in general. It is a constant juggling act, so I think food and dancers must be sympatico, because there is just too much on their plates already.

So, importantly, there are all exercise levels in ballet, but some must be obtained regularly to lose FAT. At your level of dancing this may not be possible, so you might have to crosstrain or get on the elliptical or spin or whatever to lose weight, just so the calories you are eating to work as hard as you must, do not exceed the calories you need, and are ingesting (fats, carbs and protein). Mostly you want to reduce your store. Be efficient, clean house. That has to be balanced against going home, sleeping, time off, illness, sabbaticals, and school, largely sedentary activities for a dancer. Dancers do not like to sit. Rather, you prepare the muscles at barre for the way they will be used in dancing and that is simply not fat burning exercise! So you have to eat less of certain things for now.

Slow-burning carbs are good choices for dancers, especially early in the day http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-slow-carbs-lose-weight-12116.html  These would also include oatmeal (steel cut), and quinoa. For other kinds of energy, such as a pick-me-up or morning activity, and lets not forget the other kind of fast burning sugars/carbs for energy after sleep for instance, when your body is depleted of it. http://www.muscleandbodymag.com/10-carb-commandments/     of which canteloupe, an apple, orange or pear might do the trick, given time to work, and then followed by a normal breakfast of protein and slow-burning carbs for your classes. Many meals in the day provide constant energy and nutrients, which a dancer needs, and sustains them for long days of varying kinds of movement intensity. The idea is to keep fueling your body when you need it, and then to heal, regenerate and continue to burn fat and use energy you provide, even when it sleeps. Late night snacks are not verboten, just controlled-the same as dinner after 6. A midmorning and afternoon snack are just that, not meals, and anything from a piece of small bagel and water or yogurt and blueberries to some lentils and quinoa (pre-made) with tomatoes and chicken broth can do the trick, or cottage cheese, milk and a small serving of peanut butter, or meat. Just make sure your food is clean and wholesome with no added fats or sugars. Healthy fats are numerous and should account for about 20% of your daily intake of fats: avocado, olive oil, even butter can be healthy fats, but there are many to choose from. a characteristic of healthy fat is that its polyunsaturated fats fat count is much higher than either its trans or saturated fat levels, discernible from-reading the package or from a nutrition source. Also, avoid deli meats if at all possible, or within the “fat” rule, as most deli meats contain things you do not want and “oven-roasted is always better than any other kind as the meat is probably just rubbed as opposed to soaked in brine etc., before it is baked. But make sure. Cured or uncured does not necessarily connote this.

krave snack

 

As performances for the novice, pre-professional or recreational dancer, just do not last that long, or come that frequently, there would seem to be little if any change necessary in diet, but as you go you do increase your caloric intake because you need more energy, such as for that variation, not less, and there is gap with regard to dancers who are new to this and virtually no help in understanding or dealing with it available. There is almost no mercy for students, because that is going to be displayed and no matter the age, they look at the package-how well you dance, pose, and what you look like. Sometimes there is device and trickery, but there is almost always a moment of truth for a dancer, when all is exposed and the fat shows or lack of lean muscle shows. The result of working so hard everyday should be visible, the labor, the effort, the pain, but it does not always meet our expectations and you cannot fathom why or what is causing it. Sometimes there are only minor things about ourselves that we want to change and as dancers we know that requires work-another small part of our attention focused on that trouble area to fix-no matter what we do, it is always going to be a juggling act. Learning to eat healthier is the first step to controlling the weight and to seeing a leaner you.

It might be our backs, the space right at the top of our thighs where there is a little bit of fat (legs rub together), it might be calves, arms, bosom, or torso, but it is usually there and looking right back at us when we look in the mirror, or noticeable to people onstage. Chances are, when we put on our clothes, or take them all off, everything fits, looks beautiful and is fine, and we love ourselves, so we say, “I am just fine.” We work on other things and we cave in to hunger cravings, and that is an important word, c-r-a-v-i-n-g-s, when we get a break. That is why we do not want to get caught out not having edible food, which we have prepared, or accounted for, handy. We eat whatever is available or easy or we have prepared to eat, but is this what we need to build the body we want? We have to teach ourselves what is right and acceptable for our own body chemistry and activity level and for every woman, this is a job, it is habits and discipline, and knowledge of ourselves, and time to develop. We have to work on it, sometimes inch by inch, because as dancers, our bodies are observed very closely, judged and they are our tools. Dancers later into life deal with other issues. So this project sometimes never stops, particularly if we have been unsuccessful in our dieting attempts, suffer from low self esteem, believe we come from FAT people, have big bones, are large, are flabby, and in fact, some of these diets can result in extra fat stores being accumulated just in case we decide to diet again, compounding our problems. Or if something is working, we often don’t change at all, but our bodies DO, making that diet ultimately wrong later on. The truth is, the body fights back!

The body is a survivor. It is the perfect example of the survival of the fittest. Fat people or people’s bodies who respond normally to having food taken away are healthier, stronger, fitter, champion bodies, because they have come across this before and determined to survive and keep your health, keep you alive, they fight back in a warrior-like and genius way. Bodies that disintegrate and lose weight, starve easily, or as a way of life, are probably not all that healthy-they don’t have a safety switch that turns off when they have depleted their bodies important store of nutrients. So take some comfort in your body working perfectly. They take what they need to survive, and they sort out the contents, nutrients, and various chemicals later, as their first mission is to inspire you, urge you, to eat. They might overeat to protect you, to prepare you, they are greedy. They are a force to be reckoned with. You cannot win that way.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/162703-healthy-diets-for-dancers/     If this is a fairly good diet for dancers who are not working on toning and making leaner muscle, then the diet has to be modified slightly. Very slightly, because the thinking is sound. Some actual dancer meals from Ballet Austin http://www.balletaustin.org/blog/?p=2810  (again, they do not specify DIETing), but good so far and these I focus on as lunch. A dieting dance needs to eat just the right foods after her dancing day is done or after 4pm and 6pm and 8pm (if she eats at all-and she will). High energy snacks include http://www.danceinforma.com/USA_magazine/2014/06/03/high-energy-snacks-young-dancer/    and http://pointemagazine.com/issues/augustseptember-2012/dance-bag-diet   Remember to keep portions of snack very small. Dinners typically include protein and veggies, no grains for dieters or fruit (sugar) and certainly not past about 4pm. A late snack before bed can include some healing carbs and protein, preferably casein such as found in milk and cottage cheese and other snacks which might promote healing and energy creation during the night of the leftovers and chosen. I refer to this very cautious article for dancers attempting the sylphlike body of a ballet dancer, as it addresses and precipitates eating disorders which are caused generally by this attempt. http://www.contemporary-dance.org/dancer-diet.html

Depending on your level of activity, you need to balance your caloric intake with a healthy diet, and most importantly one that provides energy, builds muscle, and enables you to carry on the endurance activities that professional or semi-professional dancing requires. Also, it needs to be palatable food, nutritious food, and you need to replace vitamins and minerals that you lose while dancing or exercising rigorously. Any student that takes a break from dancing can put on weight. Expect it. First, it is water weight and then it is fat. When you return to dancing the process starts all over again. The body re-adapts. Unless you have come off a starvation or carb or other diet where your body has been denied what it normally uses for energy, and it is in a recovery mode, hence storing up more glucose and fat for later use (and it will redouble its efforts each time), you are in a pretty good place to get to where you want to be, eventually, at that point in time. You may not think so, but you are. Any diet should start from a baseline approach, meaning eat what you eat normally beforehand for a few weeks. If your body is in shock and working to replenish those lost supplies, then you had better approach your diet in a more patient and less demanding way, anyway, because it will win if you try to trick it, starve it or control it too aggressively-that is a built in response. The real trick is to give your body exactly what it needs in terms of nutrition, water, fats and sugars, so that it doesn’t try to compete with your sylph. That way you both win.