I think this diet and the other one amply demonstrate how minor changes are to diet causing significant changes in body design based on results desired and a typical work-out. I think one thing to remember is that 5-10 grams of fats per day need to come directly from healthy sources, i.e. nuts, olive oil and fatty fish. How much you eat and what types of foods you eat are important, but extremely important to these people is when and what you eat, that you do not eat so many carbs on off-days and that you increase serving sizes for more strenuous days instead of number of times per day, and that you give your muscles what they want when they need it. For dancers, this is primarily earlier in the day, with maybe a little increase of each serving on days when you have more work, rehearsals or performances. Protein is used for recovery after class or performances (but not late) and especially in the morning when yesterdays store are depleted. Not consuming too many carbs, or carbs on days off, keeps body fat down until you can get back into the studio to work it off. Frequent meals provide aminos which are necessary for building lean muscle and prevents your body from using muscle fuel, and leads to lean muscle, and less fat. As carbs are critical to building muscle, a dancer who eats fewer carbs, but enough will build lean muscle if she eats the right proportions, and type, at the appropriate times in the day. Fewer fruits, grains, and sugars in the later part of the day will reduce fat levels as well.
Try to keep track of everything you eat normally for a week or two, so that you have a baseline for your caloric and food intake. Project onto this your schedule to see if your meal plan id like either one of these meal plans. Categorize your foods by writing next to each item what type of category it falls into, or if its a different one, like a candy bar, preserve, or to go food.Try to establish whether you control the process of food-making and content 100% of the time and if you do not, try to think about what is in it and whether eating that food again could pose a problem to you and undermine your success. it is nutritious? can you quantify that nutrition? As you see now how the balance of these ingredients is everything, how can you not eat in the dark? If you are eating packaged ice cream for instance, can you substitute that for one containing only certain ingredients, control what is in it, or try another kind, perhaps ices or sorbet? Dairy is not as bad for you as sugar because dairy contains protein, but does also contain sugar. This may be one reason, as stated above, that dancers fat content is so high. They are using the carbs and proteins and storing the sugars as fat. As fat cannot be used for energy because it doesn’t break down easily, the more fat you store, the less lean muscle you will display.
Lets discuss terms a little bit. What do you think a calorie is? It is a standard unit for measuring heat, the heat required to raise one gram of water 1 degree Celsius. (C). A kilocalorie (kcal) is the amount of heat necessary to raise one kilogram (kg) of water 1 degree C. Calorie should actually read kilocalorie. Kcals are the measure of energy provided by food to fuel the body. Exercise or movement, even thinking, generates heat, and for every kcal you ingest you must generate enough heat to raise one kg of water by 1 degree C in order to consume the energy provided by the kcal. If you do not generate enough heat, the kcal is converted to fat. People who are said to have a fast metabolism are simply those whose bodies generate more heat. That is not outside heating or hefty bag pants-that is energy expended. How can a dancer generate more heat? The bodies biochemical processes can be regulated to control your body’s temperature and can be enhanced by nutrition and exercise to make it “hot.” Calories in do not necessarily equal calories out, but there are ways to increase your metabolism as there are foods that are easier to metabolize. It is more the quality of the food than the quantity of it that will comprise good nutrition. The nutrients in food have more to do with weight loss than the amount you consume (or calories). Nutrition involves dietary balance of protein, carbs, and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals.Dancers need to eat nutrient dense foods. Let’s look at fuel sources and exercise.
1) Harder is not necessarily better. All exercise uses energy sources in different ways. Weightlifting and dancing share some similarities as we have already seen. Weightlifting involves short bursts of very high energy. Allegro energy requirements are slightly longer but do not require the intensity of energy required by weightlifting. Running three miles burns the same number of calories as walking 5 miles, but a run is fueled by sugar stores (that get up and go) and walking is fueled by fat stores. Hence a run will tire you out, while a similar walk will burn fat and leave you feeling energized. Physiology is complicated. Phosphorus, glucose and fat are the main sources of energy in the body. All energy in the body is supplied by the breakdown of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). So, all those energy sources can be converted into energy, but what the body chooses to use at any given time or store depends upon the level of energy expected to be expended. So it uses it in tiers. Phosphorus is what the body chooses for immediate energy, like rolling over and turning off your alarm. The energy to lift something heavy is fueled by phosphorus which grabs a molecule of creatine to form an ATP molecule. It’s a one shot burst of energy but is consumed very quickly and will not sustain you for a longer period. Most of our energy comes from glucose for intermediate forms of energy although its preference depends on how long and how much energy are expended, like that long walk when you feel too tired to walk back home. You have used it up. Shorts periods of energy, such as an allegro, are fueled by a mechanism known as anaerobic glycosis. This means literally cutting off a unit of glycogen molecule (picture a string of pearls) and is metabolized without oxygen (anaerobic). In order to form this molecule as quickly as it needs to, it bypasses gathering the oxygen to make ATP, it makes lactic acid. After a class your muscles are filled with it. Glucose is also the energy choice for say long distance running. The fuel choice at this point is determined by how far you run, how hard and how what kind of shape you are already in.
In average condition the main tier will be aerobic glycolosis. The difference between anaerobic and aerobic is that in aerobic glycolosis oxygen is used as the key factor in maintaining and generating ATP rather than lactic acid. Aerobic glycolosis is slower and predominates when the intensity of the exercise is not great. Glucose is the fuel for both, but it is used differently depending on the physics of the movement and condition of the athlete. Finally, fat is used as a source of fuel in a process called aerobic lipolysis. Fat is big and difficult to break down, so the factors that determine whether fat is used are 1) energy demand, 2) duration, 3) condition of the person, and 4) nutritional status. If the demand is too great the body will use aerobic glycosis. Low to moderate intensity exercise would burn fat. You can tell by how fast your heart beats during and after the exercise. Duration is important because a body takes a while to use fat, just like when you are heating a pan to melt butter. If the exercise stops too soon the fat will not melt. Usually it takes up to 30 minutes for the body to begin to metabolize fat. This is called endurance exercise. If you are well-conditioned, your body burns fat more readily than if you are not. However, a well-conditioned dancer is not the same as a well-conditioned runner. Nutrition here means when and what you ate. if you consume food that is mostly glucose (carbs) less than an hour before exercising, your body will use that glucose as its fuel source rather than begin to use its fat stores. You will still burn calories from the food you ate, but your body will not use the fat until the recently supplied energy stores are depleted. It really is a matter of tiers and conditions which vary. Even at rest, you are producing energy by aerobic glycolysis and aerobic lipolysis.
Protein is not used as a direct fuel source and it does not provide energy to any extent. It is used to build and maintain muscle or rebuild muscle and bone. It is the gyst of these ideas that is important, not the details, so don’t get bogged down, just try to understand. Dance activity does not promote fat loss because most of the energy required for it comes from anaerobic glycolysis and not aerobic lipolysis. Fortunately there is a solution. Choosing the right kind of cross-training and diet can lead to the achievement of a lithe sylph.
The Art Student’s League in Manhattan, used to be the center of a movement of art-which is not unlike movement characterized by dance or ballet. As a student in New York in the early 1980’s, I used to pass by it to and from meetings with my father. It sits on 57th Street, occupying a Northern exposure in a great deal of glorious architecture, that at once says, Federal, Belle Epoque, and a lot of other things to a curious student of art, passing by, which I was. What it says most importantly, is, “Come In.”
Once you are inside, there is usually a flurry to your right, clerks registering students, answering questions, giving directions, processing payments, scheduling classes, and doing other things, relevant to the increasing importance of a communications center in a sort of drop-in art school. To your left, there were benches, large sculptures, and in the rear (ground floor), a small art store. But the smell of art, one I remember as a child, pervades the hallways, and artists, as surely as those people at Steps are dancers, come and go, up and down, to and from the classes, in and out the doors. No doubt, it is different now, but it’s purpose is the same.
Central to the idea of having an art student’s league, a Steps, or any other facility which caters to the ideas and expression of a world of artists, is the motto they have restrung, “No Day Without A Line,” or ‘Nulla Dies Sine Linea’, originally attributed to the famous Greek painter Apelles by the historian Pliny the Elder, who recorded that Apelles would not let a day pass without at least drawing a line to practice his art.
I did not know this when I first walked into The Art Student’s League, but I found it anyway, it beckoned to me, and it is this curiosity and drive which probably led others to find it, and why it is still open today. Upstairs is a rather large gallery, where anyone may go, during open hours which coincide with the school’s, and view the work of previous student artists, and this will prove interesting at some point for all people similarly situated, as no doubt, names and works of those whom you have studied, or come to love, or be inspired by, will be at some point hanging on the wall in front of you. You may think, ‘one day, a long time ago, this artist stood here as I am standing now’, with a future before them, questions about their comments or ideas on the encroaching world, and they painted drew, printed, sculpted or made art to reflect those impressions, creative processes or feelings, much as you stand there now doing; contemplating art-what to do.
As artists, songwriters, performers, dancers, writers, pass on, it is even more important to me now, that each day is lived, for no matter the day that you stop doing, it is what you have lived, what you have expressed, done and whom you have impacted, that matters. It matters most to those standing there looking at that wall now, and who knows what may emerge to influence them or represent the past,connect with the future, but it is all cyclical, and it is important to see it, to live it, to smell it, to hear it, to draw, paint, dance, say, write or express it, especially for those coming up who will be looking for it, just as I was, or you are now. It may be important to no one else, but this small difference can mean the world, as we artists have seen and felt-to know that someone before us, came down the same path, looked for the same signs, needed the same encouragement, and passed on even the advice, seemingly to us, “Nulla Dies SIne Linea.” Write that down-No Day Without A Line. An artist’s life begins with the habit of doing, looking, practicing, creating, or thinking-even writing. But, if we fail to see and exploit what is inside us, right in front of us, or invisible to the non-artist-we lose opportunity, and time, memories and experiences. Experiences make art better, more relevant, more interesting.
Above the local business and day-to-day running of a place for artists, and many of them find this place the same way I did, and then look it up, before going in, venturing forth, stretching out-are atelier studios for making art. Students sit together in groups, with a model center, each trying to preserve a vantage point of privacy, with their backs to the walls, while viewing the figure in front of them, and then casting onto their chosen form of paper, or communication, a line, then shadows, by various processes, at many different speeds, defining their own vision, what the world means to them, their own very essence of existence, their own opinion-what they SEE. Everybody sees differently, paints or draws or creates differently, and in the studio, above the people, the ceilings rose very high, as though to say, art has no limits, your freedom and expression have no boundaries, BE, LEARN, CREATE, LIVE!
For just 1 hour, maybe more, these people come together to make their lines, and this is as important to the soul of humanity as a Starbucks on every corner, a gym to define muscle and who we appear to be, or the checking of our Facebook accounts every five minutes or so, to see how important we are, or whether we truly have any friends. But here, artists are doing, making, extending themselves, confronting art and the world with it. It is much better to look inward and to relate, in whatever way, what is inside our heads, take it outside, discuss it, critique it, look at that which truly makes us unique, and can only serve to make us more interesting, than to repeat, repeat, repeat, than that which has occurred or gone before us, reposting, retweeting, reminding.
The Art Student’s League is one place to go and find something new about yourself-there are many. What you put in your pot, comes out of your pot through your pen, or foot, or other device. Apelles idea was to search himself every day, at least once, to remind himself that he was an artist, a thinker, a creator, and we are all creators essentially. The trick is to take the initiative, to find what you can create in any or every medium, and that requires searching oneself, daily, for ideas, inspiration and motivation. Sometimes this connects with life automatically, sometimes the slate seems blank, and sometimes with searching a little water is found to be in the well after all, whereas, other times, the water gushes forth and ideas need to be capped quickly, and saved in any form for later reference, just to add to those times when the well seems dry, but if you stop going back tot the well, it does not exactly dry up-NO-but it might begin to take a secondary place, and for an artist, this must never happen!
Think of what ideas and opportunities might be lost! Missed. Forgotten. Unsung. It is still in the pot-let it out, let it mingle, don’t be afraid. Perhaps a terrible bad idea can become a great one when viewed later. But a symphony, a ballet and any artwork or writing starts with a line. A dot, a thought, even a doodle can extend into an idea and become, with work, something meaningful, expressive and important. It is not what we are able to accomplish as humans, sometimes it is the fact that we have a choice to do so, can take the initiative if we want to, that putting a pen to paper or a foot to tapping, is the beginning of something unique, or might be. To me, that is the greatest thing of all-possibility. It is exciting to think about what might be possible. To begin seeing, you only have to begin looking. Really looking.
There is, among us, a retinue of dancers moving forward in the battalion of dancing life that is ballet. I have been reading blogs, posts, books, and seeing firsthand what it takes to pursue a professional career of dancing. There are many stories of dancers and their personal challenges, sacrifices and this all becomes a part of their artistic achievements. When you read a book, you hold that life in your head. Dancers and their audience are connected by a thread, too, sometimes a tapestry in convolution. They will always say, the ballet world is small, but it is not-it is intimate, a world of the language of ballet or the other dance they share in a convivial spirit of dance. This is true. There seem to be good people all over who have committed their lives to practicing this altruism, passing down what they know and love, and mostly lovingly fostering the development of their students in the dance world. My view and perspective are very limited, and by force, practical. Each step that my own daughter has made has been with focus and direction toward attaining her goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer. This has not been easy for her, unlike Sylvie Guillem, who quips that her dedication and love of the art did not come because she was nurtured in a “ballet environment” from an early age, but because she made the conscious decision that this was something she could do, something that for her there was a place, and that she came to love it- was not the only perspective, but an important one, that I thought about this year.
My daughter, Aingeal, is seventeen, and she has been dancing since she was about eleven. It has certainly not been easy for her and a place has not always been offered, encouraged, or extended. She has consistently pursued a path, that while extremely challenging physically, has been fraught with many difficulties of other sorts, too. It has been a great learning experience that cannot be summed up by me, in a short or simple way. But, she has shown fortitude, and an unflinching spirit to continually learn and improve despite having to take and get what she needed in a not-so-consistent manner, she felt. At the bottom (or the top) of this is that little moon over the coast in Moldova, a giant moon to her, of bright light, shining from possibly a million miles away, and sometimes large enough to warm you in its iridescence. I can tell what guides her and keeps her focused on that wide beam of light which encompasses many contenders and rivals. It is sheer willpower and determination, not because she was a “natural” in the typical regards. Those kinds of descriptors have come to mean less and less to me as I see wide gaps in ability and effort, and motivation, with those who apparently have the sought after assets, but when push comes to shove, can’t really engage the viewer unpredictably, and are far less than “capable” of producing art. That giant moon can warm and also burn you, and ultimately, you have to be able to step very far back from the landscape it offers and reduce it’s magnitude and awesomeness in order to seemingly squeeze it between your fingers, and control it; this is what you must do to achieve anything, and you must be able to do it your own way. This ability enables you to keep on dancing-and that is another part of the journey, and without judgement by others of your path, this might be a lot easier. There might be valid reasons for taking a different, less traveled path, and my experience has been that the person on that path is the object and not some other voice of reason or logic, however insistent it’s dogmatism.
I have never blatantly exposed her to the public, and I am not going to now, not in this little piece or snatch of writing. She is too wonderful and too full of possibilities to post pictures of, although everybody does it. I believe, for one thing, that if you do something right, correctly, perfectly, you ought to be seen doing that thing while performing, and that you should not be an exhibitionist. I think photos are a bad way to experience dance and dancers. It reduces dancers to pin-up girls and boys, and doesn’t connect you with the art. Ballet is about movement and what is achieved in a moment of time, something wonderful and it needs to be done doing it, in a theater, on a stage, in a studio, and it is always a work in progress-all the time- forever changing, growing, never the same, not static, frozen, posed, for that is the antithesis of movement and ballet, really. The opposite. One difference is the dancer is not merely a tool, or a body, but is also an artist, all rolled up into one and this can best be experienced by watching a dancer dance, live, moving, improving, growing, changing, expressing, not just stopping in a pose, but moving through the pose-evolving. Dancers transition constantly, they become artists.
I am not saying that ballet photos are not beautiful to look at (and tutus), pointe shoes are shiny, muscles and contortions imply strength, but not necessarily good dancing; they just do not speak volumes to me, as they might to parents or fans of children or certain dancers, about that singular person-not a dancer, and only in a stark and cold way about that imagery, like the little doll on the music box that goes around and around and around, they are commercial. They only represent or remind one of of ballet, or gymnastics, or pole-dancing, or the circus-which also is changing and moving all the time, just not identifiable as “ballet”. They are like a totem pole, trussed up in the colors of a tribe with the stock faces or photos of what a tree looks like, or a pose, much like those art programs where an artist closed inside a room is drawing a landscape or a body and it is sort of by the book-they suggest that this is HOW you do it. It is not. It begins with seeing. Hearing. Feeling. Learning. Moving. Practicing and performing. So many things, thousands and thousands of variables, skills, and this is what makes it an art, all of the assimilation and expression, eventually, of this. It is not liked seeing an individual tree, or a particular body, moving and swaying in the breeze, to the music, or in any kind of “live” action, which you are a part of, when you draw a tree-you are “in drawing.” It is like this when your are dancing-you are removed and yet, in it, and the viewer is up-close and involved in that moment, too.
So, photos are without any real expression or feeling, it is not unique, or individual, though the “art”of photography may be. I do not think “ballet” is a series of flat photos depicting a pose. I think this is why people have come to work on their calisthenics more than their dancing and other aspects important in theater, like a text is less rich than a face-to-face discussion. These are more like reminders of what it is like “to talk”, such as those little twirling dolls, and even more limited. I think ballet is art, and the components of the ballet, starting with a dancer, a musical note, costume, light, libretto, choreography, scenery, and audience, all together create an individual moment in time, or a series of moments, and cannot be distilled into one flat moment, though some beautiful imagery using body parts, lighting and color are created; it is NOT ballet. So, I have waited for her to dance, and have watched her in class and in performances and am surprised when that feeling hits me but not why I did not capture it in a picture. In art 99 percent of what you do gets thrown out, or becomes meaningless extracted from it’s whole. When I watch ballet, I am looking for something else, something a picture cannot ever convey-that is why I go to the ballet.
I am looking for an artist, a masterpiece, and sometimes I can catch this through her, so I know she is an artist, that’s all. If I could convey my own meaning simply, and effortlessly, maybe, then I would be a writer, and I am not a great writer. I am not trying to be, though. But, I do know about the pursuit of art, and I have pursued it in one way or another all of my life, mine, and that of others, by which I am more frequently satisfied, though less often than I hope to be. Great art rises to the top, and really great art remains there forever, or for as long as it is relevant to people. All I could say for many years is how hard she worked, whether she was on the music, how she looked in a costume, that she was pretty, whether she was able to dance, and various other things like that-topical things-the ones on the surface. Now I see a few more of the deeper things, such as certain muscles, a precision, an air, attitude, a glance, a pose, and much movement, precision, and she is engaging, but some of the more important basic elements were there when she just danced or moved with the music, for that is what the eye and mind do, they look to relate. They find line, symmetry, patterns, fluidity, and other things, and they note when they are missing or not there. These things would not be apparent at all in a photo, and only a little more is visible in a video. The theater is the arena for dance.
While I was watching, and when I wasn’t, she grew into a young lady, and the dancer in her grew also, so that they became one being together, and while I love her very much, I cannot fawn on pictures, but it is her spiritual self which has changed into a dancer, and she has this beautiful way about her when she is dancing, and that is what I am so so happy and thankful for; that she is able to enjoy dancing and explore herself through the medium of dance. I would not want to capture this in a photo or a video because I do not need to. She has grown stronger and more appealing to others everyday because of her ability, but more because of something else which I do not think anyone can put their finger on exactly, and photos are not the best conduit for this. It is her, and this is her own intimate form of expression and course, and not mine to post on social media or to exploit. Hopefully, it is in part, what people would pay to see, or not, one day; and that may be the one harmful aspect of posting too much about oneself, or anyone on social media, as it results in oversaturation of one aspect of her abilities. Ballet is in her imagination and you can only see that while she is dancing.
In her opinion, it is for the stage only, in class, to practice, and for a lifetime of dancing, and those many thousands of moments cannot be encapsulated into one photo. But there is a feeling of memory which a photo can relate, but it is not plastic or alive, so I am not going to post accompanying photos to this post, or any other, as long as I can help it. Her journey began to be difficult at birth, and during delivery she had her arm broken in several places, and her shoulder, due to a poor medical plan on the part of my doctors. She should have been a cesarean delivery, and had she been, I might not be here, and she might not be there. But, for several months after birth, she wore a little sling and the arm healed, with no manipulation or encouragement of the bones except naturally. She was able to see no doctor about it after it occurred, such is the medical practice, as long as she gave her real name, and even now, until those doctors were convinced it was too late for us to sue, so there has been no further x-ray of it, or investigation or cures proposed. Only ballet and normal childhood activity.
When you have a child, and you worry about possible disfigurement at birth, crippling effects, and their health and happiness, the last thing, I think, that a normal parent worries about is suing anyone-you think, “I hope she is able to do all the things she normally would; pole vault, etc” and not, “How much can I get?” Or maybe that is just me. I watched her grow and remarked, when the sling was off for daily changings of her undershirt, which held it in position, pinned to her lapel, how the arm didn’t move very much, and how she tried to move it, and how freely the other one moved and worked normally. It was just that, that perceptible difference which marked her path, maybe, and what was required each day in order to do the things she desired to do, reach, play, and grab, but also hug, use fine motor skills and it was that added effort she applied which made it better each day, and not the talking about it or recording each daily change for posterity’s sake. She was perfect otherwise, beautiful, and would stand on the bench, inside and looking out into the yard, and I swear the little birds and animals would come right up to the window when she did, and had no fear of her. She sang, and rolled and lolled and when she could finally hold a pen, she wrote, and she wrote reams and reams and reams, just in one year, of scribbles across the pages, approximating something she was compelled to say, or do, or achieve, and daily the patterns became more clear, more intricate, and finally words emerged, then speech, and description and communication, which then became more and more perfect, organized and immaculately contained in stapled pages, then in journals, then notebooks, and diaries, and larger notebooks and she has continued writing, and progressing to a purpose of greater communication or ability, fluency, or possibly for many other purposes unfathomable to me.
This is what happened in dance, too. She endured a lot of pain then, at birth, and for her, pain was not something which daunted her or repelled her in dance, and she moved toward it, rather than away from it, to achieve literacy, what was on the other side. Perhaps from memory, too, she was not going to let a little pain stop her. I remember when she first went to ballet class, and I really had no plan, no design, none at all. I took her because my grandmother wanted to pay for her to take lessons, and because she was attending a little school with her friends in our town of Laguna Beach, CA. I had danced, and had a proper respect for the pedagogy and was going to instill it in her, too, because that is what some parents do. I had to find her a good teacher, I knew, of ballet only, and that was all. But, her perspective was likely much different. For one thing, she was skeptical, and did not know if she would like “ballet”-had never even seen ballet really, and though she always liked dressing up and dancing around the house with her brother, beyond that satisfactory experience, and her obsession with carry-alls and passports, as opposed to dolls and toys, I did not think she understood it at all, but she moved and liked to move, most. But we went to a class and they were at a more or less primary level, each in their little white leotards and white demi-skirts and she joined in, rather late in the year, looking perfectly suited, graceful and beautiful. I thought it more of a beginning to becoming a young lady, a rite of feminine passage, what people DO naturally, a way to develop poise, confidence, agility, but she immediately saw it as a means to an end of something she was in pursuit of and which I clearly knew nothing about.
I knew for me what it meant, had meant, and my own perspective was all I saw, but I did reason that others had different motivation, so I accepted hers as hers, that’s all, but even then, I did not recognize hers as greater than mine, more impassioned, more necessary possibly, and that would have been hard to imagine even if I had been more sensitive or smart. That was it, first class, hooked. A new language, something she had not mastered, like the fine motor skills with her hand, and use of her arm, and she began a journey that took her each day, week, month, and year, toward her own very personal goal. She approached it pretty much the same way she had everything else and it was a suitable endeavor for a lifetime it seems. But now I only see this looking back.
I will cut out the many (now) years in between and note that she led me where she wanted to or needed to go and I followed, not always the perfect accompaniment (myself): driver, mouthpiece, personal factotum, sounding board, bank, beggar, and loving mother, but she surpassed my knowledge in some regards very quickly and is now far beyond me. I no longer even service her needs really, because she is strong in her path and my advice, contrary to her own best instinct, perhaps, might lead her astray. It must be what she wants it to be, and so to blame no one else, I am not there to pressure or help her, except as I can, because this is never the path to greatness in art. Art is an individual path. Only great teachers or artists, may contribute to another hopeful; only they understand one another. I did not think to make my daughter an alien to me, far from it-my children are my only and greatest friends, and only they truly love me, know me, forgive me. But there is also a remoteness in the serious study of ballet which eludes me-I am not an artist of it. They have their own levels of personal achievement and placement, a pecking order, support and encouragement, things that we rarely learned about and she now occasionally experiences; they each have a place that is known to only that dancer, and is shared only by dancers with each other. It is truly passed down. That is her world- this is mine.
She has remained sweet, honest and nice to others, as she was on the bench in the window, but she has grown to fill that space inside completely and has a depth that I cannot fathom. She is stronger than I give her credit for, stronger than anyone will probably ever know and only the best will appreciate her fully, give her what she needs. She is an artist. She is a dancer. She has sought to express with her body, and to communicate in a language, though basic enough to all of us, is for her a special language to express, with that body of hers, feelings and emotions, patterns, and paragraphs, sentences and pictures, which to the artist and audience, have mutual conveyance and understanding, but it is an art-not a pose. There is more in a gesture, truly felt, and understood by all, seemingly simple and yet so complex, that we immediately understand. There is so much to it though, and it is continually challenging and demanding, that I cannot begin to be a part of it, nor do I understand from a distance that other side of it,which cannot be expressed in words, just how and why it is so completely different a place for dancers, an inner sanctum, but it is. So, in some sense, she is very quiet about it, and the more quiet she is, the more I know she is content, and happily working toward a proficiency in another language, which only little bubbles of excitement escape to share it’s life and depth, or apparent deep thought, open disappointment or frustration, even depression is all communicated physically, and anger might be the cause of other action. Elated, joyful, cat-like behavior and physical snuggles, resembling purring, but not a lot of talk. I hope it is a phase-it is so difficult, because I cannot share her spectrum of feelings, cannot communicate back-ward in this way to her, and only know it by a sort of recognition now, and begin to know that it is communication by its repeated appearance as such. In my house, people speak English, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, French, art, and ballet. It is great and you learn wondrous things from them about their culture, but that does not mean you become proficient in the language by watching (as critics and parents think)it yourself. But we try to understand, see another point of view. It means you are exposed to it, just like any other language, but you are not necessarily fluent, capable, or necessary. Being able to order in Chinese is a long, long way from writing a classic in it, or reading a classic with the deep understanding of a proficient. She and I have a long way to go, I much further and may never really fully understand. I am not fluent. I am really blind, deaf and dumb. She is becoming fluent in ballet and to some extent I am mute. I think this is wonderful for her and increasingly difficult for me to understand even. But when I watch her dance, then I am convinced once again, that this is her place, where she belongs, some place she can do something. What makes dancers dance?
When she is a great artist, if she reaches a point where she is competent, powerful, profound, famous, markedly different and you can’t take your eyes off her, ever (and I am sure even great artists are boring sometimes), then will that be truly something special for me to witness? Assuredly, it will be the same experience of art, and fame or validity of a public kind will not take that away or change it for me, or make less artistic or moving, that which I have always been privileged to see and have already witnessed, all those many thousands of moments, I remember. It begins to make more and more sense and I re-accept her commitment and dedication, and unswerving devotion and sacrifice to achieve and continue doing something she really loves and must do. A picture might trigger a certain memory, or stage of here continuum, but I would not be able to gain that from a photo, posed, poised to dance, but not dancing what I have in my head. That is where the picture, as her mother, comes to life. I could only see this from watching her dance, seeing her move, experiencing all of her, and seeing her voice, feeling it while she is performing on a stage. Then she is another person, a dancer, an artist, and I am moved the same way I am moved by any other great artist-this is how I know and how I have always known that it is not about competition, or praise, or photographs or fame. It is about art and the pursuit of it and a level of true artistry, performance, and imagination, but most importantly, it is about being able to communicate and being driven by the passion to do so.
It is a long journey to be a great artist, if that is what you want to be. It is as fleeting for a writer to find the perfect phrase, or for an artist to know in his own heart that indeed this work is a masterpiece, as it is for a ballet dancer to have that moment when there is catharsis, and the moment is perfection; like those few bars of music playing when we recognize perfection, and that tune has it’s lasting reverie and effect upon us once again. This is the singular power of art. It is like water to life-just that very instant, when life is summed up by something created and communicated by art, and even some people agree, that this hits the magical spot, even for a brief moment, a split second, but long enough to want to isolate that part and play it over and over again, until we tire of it, have our fill, and to feel that moment, or to see that vision, to feel that pathos, or to repeat that expression, and in ballet, too, or in dancing, that begins in the artist and they must have control over it to some extent to be able to perpetuate it, without set music, pat variations, recognizable scenery, for that is, in a way copying another moment of art, or just decoration, superfluous to the art of ballet itself-but it is not possible in a picture to capture, or a film any of that moment at all. But it is in that moment, for a dancer when it feels perfectly expressed and like fire, it catches everyone’s attention, and for the dancer, the journey to that split second, maybe, it was all simply worth it. They might wonder if anyone saw it, if anyone else shared that moment with them, but it does not decrease that moment if they did not. This is an artist.
But in some smaller ways, they must feel this all the time, or maybe more often and finally, very often, to continue. This is not to be confused with a student in class, who appears to be teachable, or who can afford to pay for privates, or does performance after performance by rote, dresses up, wears a costume, does a competition, photographs themselves, etc. It is how that artist alone floats in the water, survives, learns to paddle, and then weathers the elements and the storms to continue to dance originally, before they become recognizable, and how they can move you, communicate with you personally, and this requires you, as the audience, and the artist, as expressor to complete the circle. It isn’t static. Sure, you can say, viewing it again, it is right THERE, at 2:21 when you felt chills run down your spine and you practically leap out of your seat, moved to dance, but it is not the same as the actual moment when someone’s dancing really struck you, as different and unique on a live stage or the impact in context of the entire ballet or performance. There is no real magic otherwise, only perceived. It can never be the same for you, not the same as dancing, as it is for the person doing it, either, but it seems possible, and moves the paraplegic, the autistic, and others to do the same and to express themselves by using the language of ballet and movement. So, we all think we know about it, but the perspective for the dancer, what truly motivates them, aside from obsession, is not necessarily apparent. It is not meant to be. But in all great dancers, and those who continue to dance, it is there.
In class, people will say her upper body is beautiful, without realizing just how much work it takes to keep that shoulder down, or how much pain it causes one to dance, to hold one’s arms, and how when you are dancing, you forget that pain, and that in some way this is God’s blessing to you, that he enabled you to feel no pain in your feet, not wear even a toe pad, and how you have your teachers to thank for saying “all right, remove the wool-here we go!” and how you never looked back and just kept moving forward despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles and when you thought no one was interested-they were. It’s ironic that she should have such beautiful expression to me, that I can see her mastery and control of this instrument growing daily, and how long it has taken to perfect something more difficult than what she already has had to achieve, for her, and how much eternal joy can be gotten from moving at all, and being able to dance, and how that alone can be enough to propel you, and that you are unstoppable really, because nothing could hurt or be more difficult to overcome than those initial obstacles, and you achieved those. How those ballet muscles must literally be holding that little body together and without it, though I had never even contemplated it, how she might have suffered and been deformed, or had limitations, when now she has so few. How it has molded and shaped her, and helped her to overcome some things that might have seemed impossible had she stopped to actually think about it, or took cures, or dwelled on it, listened to any other voice than her own and the music, and how incredibly strong she is and has become, and how this strength suits her, and yet how she is also capable of expressing such vulnerability and how this, too, looks good on her.
If I took her to class and this was the result, only, I could find no fault with it, or our journey, only gratitude in it, from a mother’s perspective-ever. What could have been was far worse? So, she has always had to work hard, but not for the same reasons other people have, or the same ways, and maybe that is why I will never be able to fully speak her language, why it will always be a little alien to me, hers alone, really, because I took those things for granted, and I was not born with that same stick-to-it-tiveness, or determination, and I did not get up in the morning and say, “I have to dance!” But she does. I look at her, and I am so proud and happy for her, but I do not want to see pictures. They just do not communicate well enough the infinitesimal detail which she strives for, the expression which she ultimately seeks, or any of what I see or feel. So, I owe it to her to keep that journey private in a way, and to not interfere with her perception of herself, and to let her try to become what she wants, evidently, more than anything else, to do. I do not want her to look back too often and say,” that is what I was,” but instead, “this is what I am and will be.”
It isn’t what people think of your pictures, it is what they think of you in class, that you catch their imagination and hold onto it, hear your voice in your dancing, and are riveted by your performance, are inspired by your effort, see your very soul shining forth, your strength, your differences, and not your similarities-what you do differently from other people, and how that is unique. This is important, that you say something in a way that is distinctly you. People all communicate differently, and she is developing a way of speaking of her own, that comes with hard work and practice. Maybe something more, too, and maybe that is in all of us to some degree, but that is what makes ballet art, and never sport.
It is how you do something wonderful with the same pair of old shoes you draw, and how you make each performance and each step meaningful and vitally necessary. Art has an epitome, a reachable point of perfection. It is in our perception of it, not only others. There is a way to grab it between your fingers and control it, roll it around and ponder it, and then let go, stand back, and let it’s wide light engulf you. When she is comfortable in her ability to communicate, she soars, and I think that is what is important, and that journey is different for everyone, uniquely so. I do not believe that anyone who wants to do something, no matter their age, their ability, background, or their income level should matter-if they have a strong enough will, and an opportunity, I have found, they will find a way to accomplish it-despite all the advice, opinions, naysayers, competitors, dream-killers, and sad-sacks. It is the joy you seek, and some intangible reward, and that I know, which is the momentum for continuing. She is living proof of that many times over, and she literally needs to continue, no matter what. To continue is always a fight financially, and costly to keep moving ahead and progressing in level, it requires deftness and intelligence, too, but it has to be done somehow, and we have continued on, despite deadly setbacks, ridiculous politics, and other reasons which really have no place in ballet education, the arts, therapy, or communication. It shouldn’t be so difficult to pay for when someone really needs it, or wants it, to get the right education for you to continually get the extra help, encouragement, or opportunities that you need to go on and try, and each day is happier and happier still the closer you get to all of your goals, and to that place when you are better, and it’s reaching all of those little muscles, deployable now, and in your control, so you can speak ballet fluently, but it is very difficult and expensive just the same-part of the challenge. But, you have never shrunk from a challenge. I pray you get more!
Sarah Sapora-Marketing expert and lifestyle blogger passionate about empowering women to be more inspired and body positive in their everyday lives. (The Huffington Post 5/6/2015) Reposted 5/10/2015 on Mysylph. Photos by Nichole Alex.
A few years ago I started noticing this trend in fashion blogging — tutus.
Blame it on SJP and Sex and the City if you will, but tutus were suddenly everywhere. Petite girls, plus size girls, women of all shapes and colors were donning fluffy skirts and posing for pictures on rooftops, desert roads, beaches and urban city streets. Oh look, another tutu pic…
Cut to the present. I was deep in the throes of a stream of crappy dates — feeling blue and lackluster. I’d sought solace at the bottom of many containers of Haagen Dazs Limited Edition Peanut Butter Pie. I had exasperated all my Back Up Guys via text and watched Sleepless in Seattle for the third time when I came to the conclusion of the cold, hard truth — if I wanted to get My Magic back, I was going to have to get it myself. And that’s when the idea pinged over my head like a cartoon lightbulb: I wanted a tutu.
What would I do with one? Where would I wear it? How on earth did buying one make sense?
I threw away each of these practical questions and turned to Etsy. A quick search revealed dozens of vendors offering tutus. I flipped through page after page til I found the perfect match and squealed in delight when I saw a HUGE color card to pick from. Did I want bright pink? Vivid aqua? Shocking yellow? And then I saw My Color. Electric Coral. It spoke it me. It Dolly Parton sang to me. Before common sense could intervene, I placed an order for my very own, custom-made tutu.
It arrived on a Thursday. Packed into a small, lightweight box. And when I took it out and released its glory unto the world — the heavens sang.
It had magical powers. As if it was sewn from threads of whimsy and delight.
The tutu sat on the floor of my friend’s apartment and gathered spectators, all coming to pay homage to it, having heard about it through the grapevine. Selfies were snapped. And every woman, no matter how old, how serious, or how jaded and “oh so, LA” became an enchanted little girl in its presence. Skinny girls. Big girls. Twenty-something girls and 40-something executives all melted into pools of giggling pleasure as she wrapped it around her waist. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tutu.
Do you wonder what it feels like to wear a tutu?
Once you get over the silly feeling — which lasts all of seven seconds — you feel simply glorious.
You are transported back to your parent’s living room, swirling around in oversized dress up clothes with sticky, jelly covered fingers. Before college or period cramps or micromanaging bosses. Before agonizing over each text He sent, stressing about debt, wondering when those wrinkles got there? When desire, not obligation, was your daily fuel.
You feel emotions you haven’t dare been in touch with, since gravity hit your breasts and grey hair started creeping in at your crown. Whimsy. Glee. Enchantment. Freedom.
You know, the things “grown-ups” just don’t allow themselves to feel.
For just those few minutes, you are The Little Princess, Sara Crewe, reunited with her father. Mary Lennox in her Secret Garden, blooming with flowers. Eloise running free through the Plaza. Alice gazing upon Wonderland for the first time.
For that period of time, striped socks, leg warmers, glitter Mary Janes and a polka dot skirt is a totally legit fashion choice. Spoonfuls of Nutella are a perfectly suitable dinner. Making a blanket fort with your BFF is the awesomest of Saturday night activities. She who had the most Lisa Frank stationary won at life. And nobody, and I mean nobody, could tell you that that plastic lanyard friendship bracelet made safety pinned to a sock while sitting cross-legged on the bed wouldn’t last forever and ever and ever.
You are Madonna. And Tiffany. And the sky isn’t just blue, it’s “Electric Blue” (thank you, Debbie Gibson) and you can paint the world any color you like with your brand new set of scented markers and glitter lip gloss and hair sprayed with Sun In…
But then the Galaxy beeps on the table next to you.
And the spell is broken.
Crestfallen you take your tutu off. Pack it (somewhat) neatly back into the box. And return to life. Your boss emails. And the phone clangs and dings in your hands. The Internet goes out (again) and you unplug the router for the eighth time. And your jeans are tighter than they were last week (whaat?) and you look forward to your current definition of Saturday night awesomeness activities, eating Chipotle and catching up on Scandal.
But as you stuff that box away under your bed, you touch it lovingly. You’ll always have that box. Stuffed with your tutu. That fluffy, frothy, magical tutu. Sitting at rest and waiting. It’s yours to cherish. To take for a whirl when you need it the most. When you need to remind yourself its ok to be young at heart, to make friends with that little girl inside you with the jelly covered fingers. To never entirely let her go. And nobody, we mean nobody, can tell you that joy won’t last forever and ever and ever.
And so I urge you, from one woman to another. Find your tutu. If you’re feeling frisky, get your own! But if tulle and ribbon isn’t in your future, find something. Something that belongs only to you. A dress in your favorite color. The faded New Kids on the Block tee you’ve had since the 7th grade. Or something made of lace. Something, anything, that when you slip it over your head makes you utterly impervious. To stress and to obligation. To big, scary decisions with lots of consequences. To transport you to a more simple time when you lived in the moment, time was on your side, and anything was possible.