Tag Archives: Opinions

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

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Corrosively Criptical


I want to do so many things and I have so many ideas, still at my age, if anything, I have more-they are undone. I want to do big, great things. It is like when you watch a movie and some part of it takes you away somewhere else, and you watch that movie to go to that place, as a form of escapism-I don’t always watch movies over and over-but a few I do-then one day, you have watched it so much, and you know exactly at what part you reach that nirvana, and it is over too soon, too fleeting, and you suddenly realize that it is not real. It is not your life, you are not the one getting away, and you need to do something like that, but you need to do it. Not watch it.

I switch from books to media, to music, to puzzles, to writing, to doing, but I always have to do so much to keep my mind sharp, that I do not really just put everything down and do things. For one reason, when you get out of school, you have to work-you do not get to read as many books, write as much, or make art as much, because you have to work. The period in which you are expected to do something, or show you can do something so that you will be picked to do more somethings is very short in school, and if you view life as having to be decided upon before you  mature, then not only is their more chance for you to change your mind about what you really wanted to do, or find out what that is, but also it decreases the number of people educated enough to do anything important. In other words, more education is better.

It takes years of practice to do anything really, really well. Short of perverse genius, some people who are picked to do things based on childish endeavors continue to produce nothing of consequence, whereas, someone who might not have had time to develop into greatness doesn’t get the chance.  Other times it is the person who is pinched (Nureyev, Makarova) that has the drive and ambition to make it and be better than anyone else. I do not think there should be an imaginary window or so much pressure to be picked to be someone’s muse at an early age. A dancer develops into an artist or they don’t, but it takes TIME. I think the lack of truly great artists has a lot to do with the pressure on young students to get somewhere, and be something, before they have had time to develop into anything, leaving them feeling flattened if they don’t do something quick. Yes, this happens to so many people, and I think it retards or stops people from studying dance for longer. “If I haven’t become this by such and such a day,” is nonsense. Surely, people do, but becoming great with all the opportunity in the world, all the gifts and all the right teaching, doesn’t happen often, and if it does at all, it is through years of continuing to develop, actually. I do not think greatness can be measured in ones so young or that it should be expected of them. And one thing all great dancers do have in common is that they don’t quit!

I told my friend today, again, “the sky’s the limit!” It should be and you choose your words very carefully with children to encourage all of them to do their best, and no child should be out of the running. Some of us are very conscious of that, as educators, and parents ARE educators, but somehow, some educators (teachers) even parents, are not. An elitist program can be a problem, but there are dancers who now currently have more talent, but one day, many other dancers will “catch up.” I am for more opportunities for all dancers to do that, one way or the other. I think if more money was spent by parents, and other people with money, on improving children’s chances of learning to dance, get them off the street, out of their cafe lifestyles and into a path of discipline and increased self-esteem, respect for the arts, there would be more and better dancers, opportunities for those who are professionals looking for work, and more tickets bought by ballet aficionados to ballet performances because they would not be adverse to going. An example is my son, age 27, who will sit through a ballet performance because he took class for a few months and respects the hard work. Everyone in ballet takes something away from it, whether they are a new parent helping for the first time at a backstage show, or an usher who gets to watch all the performances, or a cinematographer who is rapt by the precision, sweat and myriad imagery to capture and relate. Everyone is pleasantly surprised by ballet and dance. Surprised to find they like it.

Despite efforts of people to make art with ballet, preserve the integrity and meaning of its movements, teaching, choreography, costumes, in different periods of history, ballet breaks down. Like a car on the road it needs a tow, a repair, maybe a rehaul, to bring it back onto the road and getting the attention or use it deserves. There are constant discussions about ballet and a legion of fans across the world and yet how many actual dance performances can you say you viewed this year in person. anything done for or in the field of ballet, requires notation, the libretto, the photos, the video, the distribution, everything, because it is an art of the moment. Dance. But in order to expose yourself to art, you can walk out on any Thursday night in most beach towns and get a glimpse of it, you can hear music, taste food, wear fashion, and reading material abounds, but dance you have to sit through and watch and go see. You have to go to the theater to do this and like a live performance of music-nothing compares. It is okay to watch it on tv, Vimeo, YouTube, in theaters on enormous screens, but it is eminently better and more exciting to sit in a seat (any seat) at the theater and watch ballet being performed live. It, after having been to the theater, will enable you to get up out of your seat and start to dance, and suddenly, watching dancers perform live, you realize it is real, and necessary and important.

One of the most important aspects of education, being an educator, is putting aside the customary snobbery that might accompany considering oneself an expert on something, vastly experienced,  knowledgeable or wise and give one’s students the benefit of the doubt, equal opportunity, and chances, repeatedly to prove themselves, opportunity to improve, and practice. The bad get better, but they can also learn other things. I have learned from being able to do things, or not being able to do things is always a state of mind, frequently. The handicapped can learn from dance, the geek, the tomboy, the football player, the debutante, the delinquent. And in a supportive environment these children can be taught to dance correctly, to work hard, to see aspects of art like line, symmetry, and composition, that they would otherwise not be able to comprehend at all, through an activity that most of them can never consider boring. They also learn discipline, social graces, about music, costume, stage design, choreography, scenery, acting, and it can lead many of them to pursue careers in the arts which are supportive of the expressive movements, whether it be acting, film, tv, dance, music, etc. There is art in everyone and a need to express themselves. It is always the best part of me, and the most intimate, which I bring to a choreographed work, and to be able to compel and persuade, and enliven, invigorate, and reach people through a performing arts medium is most gratifying and rewarding. It affirms in us that we are individuals and this is a lifelong self-esteem booster. it can be what gets a fat man off the couch at age thirty when he has let himself dissipate, or a woman, in remembering what he felt like working hard and creating in dance. It can be continued throughout life, and dancers age, but they can keep right on dancing, just like pregnant women.

But in the beginning of any growth of a movement must be organization and structure, and big, BIG thinking, to get an idea off the ground. it can be deflated if enough energy is not instilled into it, or if enough belief is not created, and that makes promoting it and perpetuating it a big job, too. Lots of people have worked hard in that field and created good shows, but they have lost their momentum, believing it need to build, grow, but without resources, it can’t. It is human energy which makes all things grow, and life needs to be imbued into the substance of a thing to get the ball rolling and the energy expended to propel it in any given direction. Without the interest, dedication and true spirit of invention involved there is no momentum, no human energy. So in order to speed things up, get the ball rolling, you have to excite people. There is no point in flogging a dead horse or dealing with people who do not share your vision exactly. They will hold you back, prevent that energy from multiplying and creating the momentum necessary to catapult the vision or dream into the atmosphere and into tangible presence-reality. Without the big bang, or a ton, of life and energy, our people, environment and planet would not have been created, and it is exactly that which can be taught in the studio of a ballet class, things can happen and do, but it is not all about a defined end result, sometimes the energy happened in the process, develops, and momentum of each individual is nurtured by their teacher. A lot of little pops eventually produces a big pop and competition is essential-not negative, debasing, and judgmental competition, but life, energy and momentum, better and better and better! So it is important to stop thinking sometimes and just dance, try, and imagine what the possibilities can be for all children in dance and by each of those children themselves to be allowed to dream, because you never know where the momentum is going to come from. Diaghilev said he could not dance a bit, but he was inspired to take dance to a level the world had never before experienced it, and it was not just the dancers of the New York City Ballet that made those first shows and created that company, it was the patrons and subscribers who came to see ballet inserted between acts of vaudevillian fare, who simply learned to appreciate ballet by exposure to it, and in the same way, when you put a group of children in a room to teach them dance, kinetics occur and develop, which grows upon them and movement ensues, through which they learn to appreciate art in all its forms, and expression and communication. Simple physics really. Mass x velocity. No conservation! Does anyone want to stand in the way of the force of that collision? Keep on dancing!

 

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?


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We do not see ourselves as others see us, do we? Sometimes we form a somewhat higher opinion of ourselves than is warranted in some areas, and at other times we see ourselves as having all of the possible faults, and none of the attributes-sometimes we are very hard on ourselves, and do not let ourselves shine through. We stifle ourselves, for lack of a better word. We look, but we fail to SEE. Seeing really is an ART. We can emerge, like a butterfly, from a cocoon, or possibly, we feel we could fail to metamorphosis into a butterfly? NO, we all morph into butterflies.

But, at this stage of growing up, it is important to pat ourselves on the back for jobs well done and realize that all of those jobs cannot lie on the same plane, some things have to give, to make room for the important ones. One cannot take every little thing so seriously and sometimes when you realize this and stop beating yourself over the head for it, things fall into place [

Falling in Place

AH, EXCELLENT book]

as they should  and you can just coast along, enjoying the ride for a change. It is about enjoying life, one day at a time.

You know you have to jump off, but you can become (almost) entirely relaxed about the point at which you need to jump. You can pause TIME. Use time more efficiently, when you do not worry-practice deliberately not worrying-and then you can become expert at it, like the dancer who can complete 64 beats of the feet in the air before landing-not recorded since Nijinsky, but absolutely possible to DO! Like taking your hat off when the string breaks and setting it down, with composure, dancing on, as if that were your intention all along. And eventually, it just happens, you realize there are at least two of you in there, one who knows what to do when the other has %^&*(up. You then jump as fast and as hard as you can, while you can, because you can, and you LIKE IT! LOVE IT! Bask in that power.

Appreciate every moment, but then lie down. Look up at the trees with the sun shining through them and watch the wind gently moving their boughs, rustling their leaves, do an encore. Take your bow. You deserve it. And wait for your next chance! But there have to be those moments when you enjoy the fruits of your labor, when you stop worrying about the future so much and enjoy the present. That present is NOW-in case you hadn’t noticed. Don’t apologize for being you. Be you. Make that a you you like to be though. That elephant up there loves himself. You can tell. He just does and I bet he doesn’t even think that he is an elephant!

It is necessary as a young person to pass through this phase, because it allows us to make all of these glorious mistakes, waste all of this (valuable) time feeling all kinds of feelings, sometimes losing the sense of the present, and the joy in it, with our faces pressed to the glass, and we emerge a swan ourselves in spite of all of our efforts to thwart the process! But do not let some adult like me tell you not to have and enjoy all of those feelings, too. They are yours. What would happen if we went along with the process? Did not rebel? Would we achieve more, watch time passing, be more aware of what is happening around us. Doubtful-it wouldn’t be life and adolescence and youth any other way. Is it like a sixth sense? Kind of. Knowing those who have all gone before us as we continue to go.

The process is important in all phases and one should relish those opportunities for change and excitement and new things. For knowledge. New insights will come at every turn, so turns and twists are very important. Without them, no change, no excitement, no epiphanies can occur. Motion makes change and action makes motion. It is the unstable part of youth where we begin to fear the possibility of the future passing us by-don’t let it-not-a-second! Think of all of the other possibilities! For 20 years later, those of us who do not fully live, regret what we did not do, will have unfulfilled expectations. We will remember when we could have amounted to so much, done so much, if only we had given it out all when we had all to give…..and that fear, for it is the only valid one, somehow gives us the momentum, if not the incentive, we need to move ahead, for surely nothing happens if we sit still-time passes us by as we feared.

(It is short and meant to be read out loud, spoken to hear the rhythm)

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam



  Edward FitzGerald's Translation (1889).

			1

	Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
	Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
	And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
	The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

			2

	Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
	I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
	"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
	"Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

			3

	And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
	The Tavern shouted--"Open then the Door!
	"You know how little while we have to stay,
	"And, once departed, may return no more."

			4

	Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
	The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
	Where the WHITE HAND OF MOSES on the Bough
	Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

			*****

			5

	Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
	And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows;
	But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields,
	And still a Garden by the Water blows.

			6

	And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine
	High piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!
	"Red Wine!"---the Nightingale cries to the Rose
	That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

			7

	Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
	The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
	The Bird of Time has but a little way
	To fly---and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

			8

	And look---a thousand Blossoms with the Day
	Woke---and a thousand scatter'd into Clay:
	And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose
	Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

			*****

			9

	But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
	Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot!
	Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
	Or Hatim Tai cry Supper---heed them not.

			10

	With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
	That just divides the desert from the sown,
	Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known,
	And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.
			11

	Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
	A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse---and Thou
	Beside me singing in the Wilderness---
	And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

			12

	"How sweet is mortal Sovranty!"---think some:
	Others---"How blest the Paradise to come!"
	Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
	Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!

			*****

			13

	Look to the Rose that blows about us---"Lo,
	"Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
	"At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
	"Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

			14

	The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
	Turns Ashes---or it prospers; and anon,
	Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
	Lighting a little Hour or two---is gone.

			15

	And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
	And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
	Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
	As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

			16

	Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
	Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
	How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
	Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.

			*****

			17

	They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
	The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep;
	And Bahram, that great Hunter---the Wild Ass
	Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.

			18

	I sometimes think that never so red
	The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
	That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
	Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

			19

	And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
	Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean---
	Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
	From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

			20

	Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
	TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears---
	To-morrow?---Why, To-morrow I may be
	Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

			*****

			21

	Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
	That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
	Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
	And one by one crept silently to Rest.

			22

	And we, that now make merry in the Room
	They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
	Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
	Descend, ourselves to make a Couch---for whom?

			23

	Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
	Before we too into the Dust descend;
	Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie,
	Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and---sans End!
			24

	Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
	And those that after a TO-MORROW stare,
	A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
	"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

			*****

			25

	Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
	Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
	Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
	Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

			26

	Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
	To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
	One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
	The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

			27

	Myself when young did eagerly frequent
	Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
	About it and about: but evermore
	Came out by the same Door as in I went.
			28

	With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
	And with my own hand labour'd it to grow:
	And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd---
	"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

			*****

			29

	Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
	Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
	And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
	I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

			30

	What, without asking, hither hurried whence?
	And, without asking, whither hurried hence!
	Another and another Cup to drown
	The Memory of this Impertinence!

			31

	Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
	I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
	And many Knots unravel'd by the Road;
	But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate.

			32

	There was a Door to which I found no Key:
	There was a Veil past which I could not see:
	Some little Talk awhile of ME and THEE
	There seemed---and then no more of THEE and ME.

			*****

			33

	Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
	Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
	"Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
	And---"A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

			34

	Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn
	My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
	And Lip to Lip it murmur'd---"While you live
	"Drink!---for once dead you never shall return."

			35

	I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
	Articulation answer'd, once did live,
	And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd
	How many Kisses might it take---and give!

			36

	For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,
	I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay:
	And with its all obliterated Tongue
	It murmur'd---"Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"

			*****

			37

	Ah, fill the Cup:---what boots it to repeat
	How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
	Unborn TO-MORROW, and dead YESTERDAY,
	Why fret about them if TO-DAY be sweet!

			38

	One Moment in Annihilation's Waste,
	One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste---
	The Stars are setting and the Caravan
	Starts for the Dawn of Nothing---Oh, make haste!

			39

	How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit
	Of This and That endeavour and dispute?
	Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
	Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

			40

	You know, my Friends, how long since in my House
	For a new Marriage I did make Carouse:
	Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
	And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

			*****

			41

	For "IS" and "IS-NOT" though with Rule and Line,
	And "UP-AND-DOWN" without, I could define,
	I yet in all I only cared to know,
	Was never deep in anything but---Wine.

			42

	And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
	Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape
	Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
	He bid me taste of it; and 'twas---the Grape!

			43

	The Grape that can with Logic absolute
	The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
	The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice
	Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.

			44

	The mighty Mahmud, the victorious Lord,
	That all the misbelieving and black Horde
	Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
	Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword.

			*****

			45

	But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
	The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
	And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,
	Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.

			46

	For in and out, above, about, below,
	'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
	Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
	Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.

			47

	And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
	End in the Nothing all Things end in ---Yes---
	Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
	Thou shalt be---Nothing---Thou shalt not be less.

			48

	While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
	With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink:
	And when the Angel with his darker Draught
	Draws up to Thee---take that, and do not shrink.

			*****

			49

	'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
	Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
	Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
	And one by one back in the Closet lays.

			50

	The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
	But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes;
	And He that toss'd Thee down into the Field,
	*He* knows about it all---He knows---HE knows!

			51

	The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
	Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
	Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
	Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

			52

	And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
	Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
	Lift not thy hands to *It* for help---for It
	Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

			*****

			53

	With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man's knead,
	And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed:
	Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
	What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

			54

	I tell Thee this---When, starting from the Goal,
	Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal
	Of Heav'n Parvin and Mushtara they flung,
	In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul

			55

	The Vine had struck a Fibre; which about
	If clings my Being---let the Sufi flout;
	Of my Base Metal may be filed a Key,
	That shall unlock the Door he howls without

			56

	And this I know: whether the one True Light,
	Kindle to Love, or Wrathconsume me quite,
	One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
	Better than in the Temple lost outright.

			*****

			57

	Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
	Beset the Road I was to wander in,
	Thou wilt not with Predestination round
	Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?

			58

	Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
	And who with Eden didst devise the Snake;
	For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
	Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give---and take!

		KUZA-NAMA ("Book of Pots.")

			59

	Listen again. One Evening at the Close
	Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,
	In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone
	With the clay Population round in Rows.

			60

	And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
	Some could articulate, while others not:
	And suddenly one more impatient cried---
	"Who *is* the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"

			*****

			61

	Then said another---"Surely not in vain
	"My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en,
	"That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
	"Should stamp me back to common Earth again."

			62

	Another said---"Why, ne'er a peevish Boy,
	"Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
	"Shall He that *made* the Vessel in pure Love
	"And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy!"

			63

	None answer'd this; but after Silence spake
	A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:
	"They sneer at me for learning all awry;
	"What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

			64

	Said one---"Folk of a surly Tapster tell
	"And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
	"They talk of some strict Testing of us---Pish!
	"He's a Good Fellow, and 't will all be well."

			*****

			65

	Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
	"My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
	"But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
	"Methinks I might recover by-and-bye!"

			66

	So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
	One spied the little Crescent all were seeking:
	And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother!
	"Hark to the Porter's Shoulder-knot a-creaking!"

			67

	Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
	And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
	And in the Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
	So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.

			68

	That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare
	Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,
	As not a True Believer passing by
	But shall be overtaken unaware.

			*****

			69

	Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
	Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong:
	Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
	And sold my Reputation for a Song.

			70

	Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
	I swore---but was I sober when I swore?
	And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
	My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.

			71

	And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel
	And robb'd me of my Robe of Honour---well,
	I often wonder what the Vintners buy
	One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

			72

	Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
	That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
	The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
	Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

			*****

			73

	Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
	To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
	Would not we shatter it to bits---and then
	Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

			74

	Ah, Moon of my Delight who Know'st no wane
	The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
	How oft hereafter rising shall she look
	Through this same Garden after me---in vain!

			75

	And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
	Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
	And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
	Where I made one---turn down an empty Glass!

		TAMAM SHUD (It is completed.)

			*****


Self loathing passes, too, many of the doubts, and all the uncomfortableness of the onset of maturity, with the acceptance of ourselves, but not complacency (!). We need to kick if only to make sure we still can. This process takes time and energy itself, and if we can just keep busy, active, focus our energies into the positive, second by second, minute by minute, day by day, we pass through it, and it cannot depress/suppress us so much if we use some of the indomitable will we possess innately, to repress IT, to conquer IT, and our own self-doubts. It is important however, now, to keep moving, to keep busy, and to keep dancing, pressing on, because we must go through the whole inevitable period of self-examination, self-prejudice and fault-finding in order to come through it a learned person, knowing the most about ourselves (whom we should know), a stronger person and one more grounded in who we really are and what we can really accomplish if we put our mind to it, and to finally realize that after our heartbreaks and changes, we are complex and fascinating and beautiful people, and not a shell, like the ones held up in photographs and poses, not fake and pasty pearls,, made shiny for the instant, but sea-hewn and rock hard, with mirrored finish and indomitable strength-the challenge is to be a better, stronger person and to emerge loving our faults, embracing them, and liking ourselves better for them, for they are actually our strengths-sometimes it is slow going, just a little of ourselves better each day, like washing an arm or the neck, with love, a little bit better every time, and a little more, if not love, then respect and awe, because we alone did it-made it through. It is us.

Our perseverance teaches us that we were better than we thought we were, and that there IS improvement in the way we see ourselves. Self-loving, self respecting and generous in our accomplishments to ourselves. Thankful. It requires bigger thinking. Huge thinking. And yet simple logic-a stronger brain. Some can articulate and some do not.

More importantly, we will emerge from this journey to find that we are still in the running-the race is not run, there is still time and even more importantly, more and better races, to be proud of not only how much we have accomplished, but realize we do possess that extra bit of mettle necessary to make it through the fire and survive and go again. All of this is coming, the hard part is looking it in the eye and moving forward with the courage and conviction necessary to achieve even half of what we set out to do, first we leave the gate, and then finishing up the rest of it like dessert because we finally realize we do have room and the ability! Then we look back and go, “Wow. What if I had stopped? It is about hanging on, baby. It is about the survival of the fittest, not just being super flexible and posing. It is about dancing and spirit and tenacity. A dancer is not born, a dancer is made. It is about hard work, now more than ever! It is about love, too.

I guess I was told in my twenties by my then husband, that my body changed (all the time). I couldn’t see it. I was a little vexed with him. But he was honest, though I did not (want) to realize it at the time. Sometimes I dieted, but usually I didn’t have to=the less I got on the scale or thought about it, the less I ate. Before I knew it, I was slim again. Svelte. Once told no one rocked the little black dress better! I didn’t think that day would come, but it was true. I just had not seen it all along. What a waste! Worrying about anything, never made it happen, or unhappen, but it took experience even to know that. Discipline is a part of it, but like other areas of life, you have to find solutions that work for you, aren’t really sacrifices, and it takes a while to prefer the taste of some foods over seemingly better-tasting ones. You can choose healthy and still taste good! If weird things aren’t your bag, by all means don’t eat things you don’t like. People were eating healthily before Whole Foods! Diets also aren’t meant to be permanent=that’s why you start eating better and you just learn to eat better forever. But in our teens, some people develop weird eating disorders and issues because of fad diets, body image issues, peer pressure, media, and the rest-sometimes their parents foist those problems upon them, because they want to create phobias like “your teeth will fall out!”, “you will put your eye out with that!”, “you do not want to be FAT!”. But there is fact and fiction. Nature guides us, too. That is why it is important to eat what you like, and use moderation in all things.

Teenagers do not see the rest of their lives, they only see the right now this minute and it is because of this that they are vulnerable to all sorts of things. When we realize there is a tomorrow and another slice of pizza or a bagel in the FUTURE, we do not look at the one today as if it is going to be the last one EVER! Trust me, at forty I was sick of Chicken, Beef, and Pork so Fish became much more appealing, and other options sprung up! Vegetables and other foods became interesting and playful until I was not eating very much neat all of a sudden, only sporadically. Nature must have intended it that way. Having worked in a bakery, I can say honestly that I hate baked goods! I had my fill of Napoleans, Cannoli, cakes and pies-For the most part food is ever plentiful and ever available. A cornucopia awaits, never empty! I completely gave up fad diets when I realized that I could honestly eat a favorite food once a day for the rest of my life and it would always be different, never ending, and the thought kind of bored me, like ohhh….kind of like the number of restaurants in New York-you can go to a different one three times per day, and STILL never try all of them in your whole life.

The key is to see if we want it as badly in 5 minutes or this evening, tomorrow, or on Saturdays or Sundays, teaching restraint and perspective. Mostly perspective. That way, by 6pm, tomorrow or Sunday, something nearly always looks better, and we begin to see how whimsical our choices are on the spur of the moment. When we are craving something, and fail to see how recent exercise or physical need might be the culprit-that our bodies crave certain foods, at certain times, and why. Unfortunately, I do not know a good book on this subject, but I do know of a writer who deals with it in dancers specifically. I have posted several articles by her from her blog. She is full of good advice and offers recipes and facts on food. But the information is everywhere and in our brains there is common sense. You have to eat right. Live right. Eat a wide variety-variety is the spice of life! Take care in preparing your food, eating your food and enjoying your food. Sit and eat. Don’t run and eat for then you just feel hungry and as though you haven’t eaten at all. Mealtime should be a ritual. A time to sit and relax, and eat enough. Don’t overeat. Don’t try not to eat, rather eat something good and juicy, healthy, enriching, flavorful, whatever. Eat less, but eat more! Enjoy food. It nourishes you!

We all prefer to see ourselves as we once were, whether that was a nubile young thing, a mature teenager, “in my twenties”, “before I was married,” and it goes on, so that by the time we are 51 or 94 we are able to (at least) pick and choose which body we want to be, which period we most liked and ALL of them have reasons to be liked, eventually. But we are much more than a body. I would much rather be someone, if I could, and not just her body! We just have to be mature enough it seems to finally LIKE all of them that we are, that we have been. And you will. In time. For me, it did happen young, it has happened, and now I am perhaps too comfortable with myself….Sometimes I wish I could just pick any one of those former selves and be that for a night out, a day in class, at the beach, in my paddling pool, again. But I realize I am all of those, too, and much more. I am a complete package and to extract one of those different bodies is impossible, because a human is an organism and changing all the time. Those images are literally in our mind like a snapshot in time. Our image of ourselves might be static, but we are never just as we remembered anyway. We are live actions figures and not dolls!

We really were different and changing all the time, like the sea. As women, we change daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and as different systems in our bodies take over, work on their own for different reasons, from birth through life, such as when we bring a life into the world, and as we get older, we change sometimes drastically. Would we deny our baby’s good health by fretting too much over our own self-image during gestation? Cheat the wisdom of old age? No, it would spoil the emotional moment of our lives, and risk our baby’s health. Why would we treat ourselves differently? Risk our own health? Worse?

We don’t want to interfere or to control that body too much until we are perfectly comfortable with its ebbs and flows. It can take care of itself. We just have to learn what those are. They have a rhythm too. We just have to love it and deal with it. Some cultures celebrate all those changes! Some people never learn acceptance of themselves. They do not realize these things. They do not love themselves-it isn’t the food. Their behavior is boring and repetitive and predictable. I cannot imagine thinking about it all of the time, worrying about it all of the time, wasting time feeling bad with what-ifs and denying myself things I like-in moderation.

Sometimes it takes less time to control radical changes, other times , sometimes more, but I wish I had known then what I know now-that at least is unanimous among people. In the case of adolescence, people make it through. I remember looking in the mirror in a store changing room after my first child and going, “What the???” Even that changed and healed. Passed. A few years later, back into my stride, someone commented about how (based upon my appearance) it really was true that dancer’s bodies just sprang back, at how amazing my physique was, but I saw all my faults-or were they? It was at that point that I began to think differently, realizing I was good. Okay. Better even. Like scars, maybe our faults or perceived flaws, give us a kind of character, a chance to build on them, to strengthen, to love, they are a marker of where we have been even, cliche, but true. Unavoidable and part of life, so why fret life? But, so do all of those mental phases  and other memories, which become associated with times of our lives and are woven into the fabric of US, who we become, and cannot be separated. Don’t get lint in your warp! So make the most of them, enjoy what you can, and take time to smell the flowers. Make good memories, too. Eat what you want. My mother was good at telling me not to worry. She said I did not have to worry about getting fat. She was right. At my age it is when I look into the mirror to make a physical assessment, it is not like it used to be and yet, I am surprised that I do not look as bad as I feel. Sometimes I check and make myself laugh-I am still there, I am still me. Thank GOD. There was a time when I would not always like what I saw, I was too critical. I just didn’t see me! Now I do, and I am happy to greet ME!

I see the chubby girls with glowing skin, beautiful eyes, buxom beauties, so to speak, I see the slender girls with knowledge that they meet a certain body type, and I see natural beauty in all sorts of people, and less beauty in that which is continually thrust before me in media etc. I remember once closeted in an elevator in college with a bohemian film type and he prefessed his deep regard fo me and my Rubenesque (Rubens was a painter of scantily-clad and fleshy nymphs) figure. I was not Rubenesque, but even if I was to him, I was loved! I was appalled and fairly ran from the elevator. I see the marketing industry changing and attempting to glamorize fat, and obesity in order to market fashion for it. So the focus on weight has shifted from one end of the spectrum, to try to capitalize on people being fat, in other ways, and I do not mean weight loss centers-I mean fashion and money. Keeping them fat is big business nowadays. They even try to market fat food to fat people!

I do think people need to be disciplined and eat what they need and not waste the food on the planet. I think fat is fat, and if you love a person you want them to be healthy, not fat. If someone you love gets fat, would you leave them? But that goes to values and people. We should love people not ideals. But when someone is perfectly healthy and not fat, and is just seeing fat which is not there, which is their beautiful body and that person is not fat, I am concerned with what that person is worrying about and why they think they are fat. Obesity is a health issue. Dancers are healthy….

I would tell someone they do not look fat, I would not judge, I would say, “you look fine.” I tell anyone the truth who asks. Eat right. You are healthy. You’re you. What are you worried about. You are perfectly normal. And I do not like ballet companies who only hire dancers that are of one body type because usually they are not all good dancers. Boring. If I wanted to see a lot of strings on the stage I would cover it with silly string (and save alot of money-and make a statement). Lines are not about weight, and dancing is not about weight (partnering IS), but here I might insert good partner and bad partner-people who do not want to lift their own weight, let alone other dancers. Tall girls weigh more than small girls-they just do. There is someone for everyone. Ballet is about ART and art is not about modelling or fashion-art is not pop. Art is about truth and beauty and other things. It is about strength and agility, stamina and interpretation. It is about entertainment, and not only one person’s who is creating the piece. It is for the world and the whole world is not going to judge by image. They judge by talent, ability and beauty and many other things. It is not all orgiastic claptrap and perfect bodies. That is pretentious and real art, passionate art is anything BUT pretentious! They do not want to admit it, and say, “so and so is just g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s!”, and what they mean is “I am saying the right thing.” But they speak false. If truth is beauty, and beauty is truth, how can truth be false or false be beautiful…..? That is as much posing as anything and that is not art. No matter how deep they try to make it appear to be, some of it is just like a 45 minute fashion show and I do not find that moving, or relevant-except in context possibly, or meaningful. It is certainly not a forever theme. It is not real. It is not engaging. It is not interesting. It’s not even history. It is more a political statement than anything and art is not, or should not be, politics. It is boring! Perfect bodies have not necessarily been perfect artists-they have been perfect bodies. That is all. Not always perfect dancers. Some just can barely dance! Dancers have muscles and strength. They have to. Rarely do the two combine…..I love imperfections. They are unique! If you look hard enough, everyone has them. But don’t dwell on them-look at the dancing! And keep on dancing!

A Little Poetry Can go a Long Way, and so can an awesome ballet class!


to INSPIRE you.

Sometimes I feel exhausted, so tired and alone,

as if what I am reaching for is nebulous.

Sometimes the fear that I will be unable to do what I do

in my dreams, will suffocate me.

Sometimes I whine, the pain, the futility of repeatedly trying and failing,

is not resulting in the object of my desire.

But being alone, tired, sore, injured, blindly striving, monotony and repetition, even nightmares-all

feel good after a perfect ballet class! Truthfully, it is alone that I reach for the stars, muscling my body for Mars, to the music I sweep,

across the stage so wide, just hoping for my chance to be alive!

boadicea

This is not how I imagine Boadicea in my mind. It has always been me. Hair flying, sword in one hand, daughters cupped protectively under one breast. In the other hand, my rein, of the horse driven chariot. I ride triumphant. I ride alone. I ride, despite turmoil, war, poverty, hypocrisy and against all odds. Odds are important. Surmounting them builds character. Inspiration comes in many forms and from invariable and sometimes unlikely places. I have never gotten anything for free and have never valued or kept anything I did not have to fight for. If I didn’t have to fight for it, then I just did not think it worthy of my time or effort. This includes e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

I first read about her in a book entitled Sarum. Then I hunted out Warrior Queens. Since then, I have read every bit of drivel about women pirates, leaders, queens, and concubines, and I always did have a serious fascination with fairy tales, especially Russian and Chinese, mythology, and Shakespeare. Which are surprisingly full of heroines-not weak. I was good at finding obscure books, like Woman in White and The Cloister and the Hearth. I studied Chinese language, a dream of mine, probably stemming from those fairy tales, and of course, ballet. Once I discovered the Russian fairy tales linked in ballet, I was hooked. My childhood was linked with my future (I thought then, I know now).

But of all those lusty heroines, Boadicea was my queen. She, for personal reasons, replaced the saint in my saintless life, and my religion has always been to conquer in the face of death, my goals. Was I to think that my passion for my children, would be any less flaming than my own desire to go where no woman has ever gone before? I did, in a way, do that. For the music business in the early 1990’s was not populated by even one successful female. No woman ever had had a record company I believe, even if my own was born out of management, and creative marketing of unsigned bands, I did it with no less flamboyancy than the best. It was difficult. Being a mother of a young son, at the same time, made it inadvisable, and being in England, alone, with a band, and no money, made it seemingly impossible.

Without thinking twice, I found a way to take 17 cassette tapes, $100 per week, and my will, and turned them into a flat on Baker Street, a son in  London public school, 10,000+ cds, and 2,500 press outlets, radio stations and distributors. In the stores in less than 3 months. I started in November. Published date was March 1st. We did a live radio interview on WNEW in the middle of the night in February, cds in hand. What motivated me, was that struggle-not power, but passion. I knew then, what I know now, that if it had been me I was promoting, I would have been competition for Madonna. But, it is also what you promote. My feeling is that if it is a product-it has to be virtuous, pure and , marketable. If it is a charity, then it has to be above reproach and fastidious in its lineage and heirs. If it is a person or a band, then it has to be loyal and true, built of the same mettle as me (at least) and it has to be ready to work. Above all is the immovable line of resolve, no wavering at the finish line.

In art the contract is everything. A bad contract is a very bad deal indeed. In ballet, there is practically no refuge for the artist. They get what they get. Artists are unfortunately not taught business and most of them only begin to learn when they are recovering (if they do) from being stepped on. I have learned more from my mistakes than my successes. But, there is a strange similarity between a baby and a business. You become attached. No matter whether you know your business isn’t perfect, you love it, you have created it, you hold onto it, until you just have to let it go. It is a part of you. You can feel this way after 2 years in a business, even 1 year. After 18 years, the roots are no different than the tree.

So, Boadicea, with her raped daughters, her outrage, her unconquerable spirit, her ability to rally her people, her martyr-like death, have always seemed to me to perfectly triangulate the ohm in my mantra. Ohmmmm. Ohmmmm. Nothing else makes perfect sense but life and death, and protection of your creation, whatever it is. It starts out very benignly, like a ballet class, or a little drawing of a Pagoda, or jumping around on the couches, perhaps, twanging a guitar, but after it evolves to become part of you, and you have nurtured it, sewn it, and aggregated it, daily, weekly, monthly, and each year, it becomes intrinsic to you. It is you. I believe that is what defines most dancers, musicians, artists, etc., it is that what they do defines them, enables them to communicate in another language, to a central part of their own spirit, which reaches out to other like spirits, as an energy, more than a thing. When I look back at my drawings, I do not see the lines, or the brush strokes. At first I feel a rushing, like wind, as part of my own energy calls to me, remembering that moment, that part of my own spirit and feelings (of the moment) that that artwork contains. Only after that rush has subsided can I look at the work or enjoy it. First-we recognize each other.

Of course there is a sense of pride, that when you look back at a thing, 30 years later, it still remembers you, and you it. But, there is also, that feeling that I did that, and it still lives and breathes my feelings of that moment, it communicates, still. Although ballet is literally a moment, it is the same, and a piece of music, once created, is a thing always enjoyed. This passion stems from the selfsame place as Boadicea’s, although hers is a bonfire, where mine might be a flame, they are both of the same elemental importance. As parents, we nurture our young, and pass on even these sorts of feelings, the same way we might pass on technique, a combination, or a story. We look to our young and most often I find, rather than one little thing like a grade, I am trying to pass on that fiery passion for learning, for life and for survival, that must be present in an artist and a warrior.

I am happy to say that each one of my children, in his/her own way, possess that spirit, entrepreneurial or not. But I feel that if they eventually catch fire, then I have succeeded. When I think of Boadicea now, I think of my daughter, and my sons, alternately in the chariot, with their children cupped under one breast, a sword in one hand, the reins in the other, hair flying.

For Ballet Lovers Only :: Interviews :: Altynai Asylmuratova, Artistic Director of the Vaganova Ballet Academy


For Ballet Lovers Only :: Interviews :: Altynai Asylmuratova, Artistic Director of the Vaganova Ballet Academy.

First Black Prima Ballerina Janet Collins: El blog de Tania Quintero: septiembre 2009


El blog de Tania Quintero: septiembre 2009.

This is a good blog, but I could not figure out how to press the article I wanted. So here is the whole thing. If you scroll down you will see that The Met Opera hired Janet Collins (ballerina) for the role of Aida in 1951. I guess she qualifies as the first black prima ballerina.

Silent Sunday – Why write?


so true