This was normal for McBride, then the New York City Ballet’s principal dancer (now the associate artistic director at the Charlotte Ballet), but working with Balanchine would have been a dream come true for aspiring ballerinas around the world.
He is known as an artistic genius in the ballet world. A gifted choreographer responsible for changing the face of dance and famous for the New York City Ballet’s ” Coppélia” and “The Nutcracker.” And this man personally invited McBride to join his company when she was just 16 years old.
Balanchine and McBride would work alone in a studio, not speaking much. Balanchine would cue the music and dance in front of McBride. A pianist himself, musicality was of the utmost importance to Balanchine. He wanted the dances to flow naturally, so he let the music do the speaking. McBride followed along behind him, learning the steps. Forty-five minutes later, McBride would have a new solo in her repertoire.
“He worked so quickly and he didn’t have to experiment with you. He knew exactly what you could do,” McBride said in a phone interview. “Once something was made to you, you had to remember it forever. You were the guardian of the choreography.”
Balanchine trained McBride for a 30-year career with the New York City Ballet. She danced over 100 ballets in that time, including 30 choreographed just for her. When she performed her final ballet in 1989, McBride was showered with 13,000 roses and a standing ovation.
But McBride did not leave dance behind. She went on to teach at Indiana University and then took over the Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina with her husband and dance partner, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in 1998. She’s now 72 and still teaches eight ballet classes at a time, on top of running rehearsals for performances like The Nutcracker.
This lifelong dedication to dance has been noticed by the outside world, too.
It was a celebratory weekend all about honoring the ballerina (among other honorees), but McBride was quick to thank others in our interview. Especially Balanchine, her mentor.
Theirs was an intimate setting to work in, but Balanchine was more than a teacher to McBride. She looked up to him as a role model and desperately wanted to please him. McBride‘s own father left her family when she was just 3 years old, so Balanchine stepped in to fill that role.
“I grew up without a father so he was everything to me — the man I most admired and just the most wonderful role model anyone could have,” McBride said.
And their relationship was not lost on the outside world.
McBride still remembers leaping for joy when Balanchine invited her to join the New York City Ballet Company all those years ago — and did not hesitate to give up a normal teenage life for one of endless rehearsals, travel and intense dedication.
Balanchine took McBride under his wing and trained her to dance his ballets, many of which are still performed around the world today. She traveled to Tokyo, Italy, Germany, London, Paris, South America and Russia to dance, including five performances for U.S. presidents. Leading roles in her repertoire include the Sugarplum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” and Colombine in ”Harlequinade.”
“I cherish the ballets made for myself by Mr. Balanchine,” McBride said in a phone interview. “He never lost his temper. He was quiet, humble, the genius of the 20th century. He changed the face of what dance is today.”
Balanchine was her teacher, her mentor and inspiration during her long-lived dancing career. He pushed her and drove her to perform at the highest possible level, but he was also kind and patient — a notable trait in the perfectionism-driven world of ballet.
“In the beginning, he taught you how to hold your fingers, use your head, hold your shoulders, how you glissade, bourre — the exact way he wanted you to do the steps,” McBride said. “It was relearning the whole Balanchine technique.”
He was not a man of many words, but when he did offer praise, it stayed with McBride for years to come.
“After performances he would say, ‘Good, good.’ He never really gave a harsh word. I don’t ever remember him saying, ‘That was awful,’ ever. He didn’t praise that much, but when he did, it was wonderful. He would say, ‘I loved how you used your eyes, you were mysterious.’ It would make you feel like a million dollars.”
Balanchine passed away in 1983, but McBride carries on his legacy by teaching her students his ballets with patience and kindness. She gives her students at the Charlotte Ballet Academy praise and talks highly of her “beautiful dancers.” She believes in nurturing her students and making them feel secure in themselves.
“Mr. Balanchine wanted me to be myself. He didn’t want me to look like anyone else,” McBride said. “I love teaching our company dancers the Balanchine ballets. I try to give them what was passed down to me and what I learned from him. They dance it so beautifully. It also keeps me close to Mr. Balanchine. He’s with me every single day.”
Now that stomachs are full, Black Friday shopping has ended and thousands of pounds of turkey have been sold, it’s the time of year to truly appreciate our loved ones through rich traditions. Maybe your family cherishes the moment the star is placed on the peak of the family Christmas tree, or enjoys visiting holiday shows such as “The Nutcracker.”
The Indiana Ballet Conservatory (IBC) will be putting on six shows of “The Nutcracker” at two different venues, the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre and at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “The Toby.”
Miko Fogarty, who plays Princess Masha (Clara) and Sugar Plum said she began rehearsing for this season’s Nutcracker about a month ago.
“Each ballet is different in terms of the storyline and characters,” said Fogarty. “Dancers feed off the energy in the audience. When you ‘feel’ the audience reacting to your performance, you can’t help but rise to the occasion. That type of collaboration is exhilarating.”
Since Fogarty has been playing these two roles for the past five years, she finds many similarities in her characters and herself as a ballerina.
“Masha is a young girl who opens her heart to an ugly nutcracker doll. Her kindness and love help to transform the doll – and herself – into the prince and princess,” said Fogarty. “They go on a spectacular journey and awake the next morning to wonder if it was magic or a dream. Really, the life of a dancer is similar.”
She continues, “For those of us who are pursuing ballet as a career, we recognize this gift is not something to keep to ourselves, but to share with an audience. When we give our all on the stage and embody the character, the audience gets taken on a journey of their own. It is our goal to ensure that each person leaves the theater feeling something special and is transformed in some way.”
While there are a variety of “The Nutcracker” productions happening around the city, Alyona Yakovleva-Randall, founding artistic director, master teacher, and coach at IBC mentioned that this production’s version is closest to the original staging from nearly 100 years ago where it debuted in Russia.
“Even the names of our characters are true to the original storyline, Masha (Marie) instead of Clara. Even the backdrops, which were commissioned to be painted, match the original sets,” noted Yakovleva-Randall.
IBC’s Camel studios are bustling with over 170 dancers ranging from 3 years old to adults, countless production staff and volunteers during this time of year. Practice for “The Nutcracker” and other productions can begin early in the morning until 9 p.m. daily. In addition to Fogarty, acclaimed principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, Lasha Khozashvili is also one of the main characters in the show. Yakovleva-Randall said it’s a pleasure working with all of the dancers.
“It’s always satisfying to see our older dancers work together as a team to encourage and support each other,” she commented. “One simply cannot put on a production of this magnitude without harmony between the dancers. What always brings the biggest smile to my heart is when the older students reach out to the younger ones and help them learn their parts. Seeing the pre-professional students passing down what they’ve learned to the next generation of young dancers is truly satisfying. My entire life’s work is passing down the legacy of ballet down to the next generation.”
Indiana Ballet Conservatory’s ‘The Nutcracker’
The Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
(Limited seats available for Nutcracker Tea, noon – 1:30 p.m., and VIP, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.)
Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “The Toby”
Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.
Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at IndianaBalletConservatory.org.
Facts about ‘The Nutcracker’
Began as the published work “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” in 1816
First production performed Dec. 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia
Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky composed the music for the ballet “The Nutcracker”
The first U.S. performance was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet
The New York City Ballet first performed George Balanchine’s “Nutcracker”® in 1954, which then became a popular holiday tradition
I did not analyze what would be the impact of reading Isadora‘s My Life, on my own life, my own perceptions are here underscored in some ways, in others, I could not agree with her less; I will not be a critic of her life, for that would be to also criticize my own and other women’s, unfairly. But, the parallels to any woman’s life must be so significant as to require a full scale review of the book, and aside from dime novel mysteries which I read to put me to sleep, I have not been moved to finish very many books recently, so overwhelming has my own life been in the past few years. I did try to read deeper books previously, but have not been so engrossed in one novel since college, that I can remember. A discussion group of this book would be so large as to include artists, women in general and celebrities, as well as powerful and successful women such as politicians, and mothers, of course, and any sons of mothers who are sensitive to this life.
There was so much that Isadora tried to do in her short life. It is though she knew she had fate nipping at her heals, and startlingly enough, this prophecy was given to her more than once by fortune tellers and the like, whom she seemed to run across on her sort of mystic journey. She did discount them, and was actually very realistic, down to business and not the idle dreamer represented historically or in cinema. She was not sure whether to believe them at all, but in recounting those instances to us, she did feel they might have had a deeper meaning than she at once thought. She definitely knew she was off her path of her life’s purpose, she knew when she veered, and even with her great love affairs, to try and balance love with a serious profession, and motherhood, was to her the chief obstacle to being in love and ultimately the inevitable sacrifice of the woman-to man.
At one point, she weighed what she had accomplished, how much money she had accrued, by a certain age, and though she felt money and unhappiness were inextricably linked, and she sought to reduce her bank balance religiously (in order to invest in her dreams), she was moved to increasing action by the fact that all of what she hoped to accomplish was not nearly done. Her dream hinged on the Isadorables, which she did not call them, but they came to be called, her children, dancing as an orchestra, freely and understanding the nature of movement, to the music she enshrined as part of her nomenclature, her theater and her school. Her school, was not ably represented in any country, by any government until quite late, but she did manage to seed a generation of dancers none the less, who mastered her ideals and dance technique, and who, for a time, actually taught younger students, and she felt they got it. It is a real shame that what she incorporated into dance and into the living of a dancer’s life is not enshrined in our culture, as a service not only to dancers and artists, but to young ladies, for to understand her is not only to love her, but to embrace what it means to be a woman and to cautiously balance a life.
Her travel did not only have to do with her vision and dancing, but was promotion, for her school, an idea which she felt, at the end, might be the one true vestige of her career that would last, and the only part of her life it seemed that remained stable. Like many lives, which feature great losses, upheaval and turmoil, sometimes the keystone of that life, what is left to always go back to, is not love, or children, but a mission, built up from pure love, no material gain, and her investment, her stocks and bonds, was her school. Her children, her home, the school was always there for her. Even when she lost her own children and wandered as Persephone, seeking her children, it was her school, and teaching her children, who needed her, that was her salvation and brought her back, even temporally, to life, to responsibility.
Men were useful to her, her friends, and because of them, she was able to go on with her mission-they made it possible, but they did not fulfill her completely, except briefly. She quotes, about her mature relationships, from Oscar Wilde, “better the pleasure that lasteth for the moment, than the sorrow which endureth forever.” This increasingly became the case, when her possible soulmate(s) died or were married, unavailable, or for reasons of dependence, were set aside, for they took her energy reserved for her art. But as for her school, she conceived the idea to tour and to request funding for her school, supporting the war effort, and a American support of France, by dancing the Marsellaise in America, in her own way, calling for allied support. Her school was the focal point of these tours, establishing the fact that whether the United States liked her or not, this was American, she was American, and this was the future of dance, hers, and women, she. She wizened-up in her later years, realizing that to flog a dead horse, entertain a lover, might be a waste of her time, and she sought to impress less, and to ask for more, to be more direct, and had a clearer vision of her goals, and quite simply what would and what would not work.
She did, however, take her children here and there, Russia, London, in hopes of finding a permanent base for her school, and funding support, but she was just ahead of her time-everywhere. No one would have expected Isadora to be a part of the bohemian set that was the Greenwich Village art crowd-but she was, and was of course very well received. This, she felt, made up for her losses. At this time, she formed a great relationship with artists (sculptor George Grey Barnard, David Belasco, painters, etc), and where was conceived the idea for a work entitled “America Dancing” of herself, but it was not to be, although a great romantic involvement no doubt was assurance in having it completed, political and possibly personal influences combined for him to produce instead the great Abraham Lincoln statue, sombre, which now stands before Westminster Abbey. Of one of her performances, she said,” It is to revive the lost art of dancing that I have devoted my life.” Of her was written much, I am sure, but what she quotes is what she feels best describes and compliments her, akin to her own way of thinking and describes best what she would have you think or remember. One writer said of her performance,” She has been standing near her parterre of poets when she begins to talk, and when she finishes, she is at the other side of the room. You do not know how she got there….nonchalant way of ignoring space.”
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty-that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Isadora describes the importance of playing up to a crowd, in other words, thinking big. It was her experience in NY that by playing small theaters with bad orchestras, she was limiting herself to the appreciation of the masses (which she did not disdain), when whom she wanted to and needed to impress upon the importance of her art were the affluent, for their money-so when opportunity knocked, Isadora came dancing to the Metropolitan Opera House for about a month (December). Not a seat remained in the theater. Sold out. She felt this was the common experience of artists who were not understood by their promoters, and who were afraid to relegate them to a higher position, but when given the chance, they were welcomed. And despite criticism of Isadora by historians who were unable to find a record of appreciation for Isadora or her work here in the US, these are Isadora’s own impressions and experiences, which set down the fact that this was probably her best experience in the history of her tours, when music, setting and joy prevailed, resulting in press which augmented her popularity and the understanding of her Art. President Roosevelt himself attended a matinee and commented in a letter to a friend,” What harm can these ministers find in Isadora’s dances? She seems to me as innocent as a child dancing through the garden in the morning sunshine and picking the beautiful flowers of her fantasy.”
The next part of Isadora’s life was spent in Paris, where she felt she had support. Long before the actual running of the school had been turned over to her sister, Elizabeth, because the German authorities had felt Isadora’s promiscuity and lifestyle were wanton, Isadora complied and had relinquished administration duties-one cannot really expect her to continue in that capacity-how else could she continue as an artist? As she points out in her book, funding the school herself and rearing 20 children in Germany and now another 20 in France, was just one of her supportive roles. All of her money was spent on this endeavor, for where would they go without her? Where would they be, many of them orphans? Even though Isadora found support in Paris, they imagined and wrote more about her that was shocking, for she claims she never really gave them reason to and this is her claim whether she lived as they saw fit or she didn’t, she did feel that to trample her was their goal, and she gave very little consideration for what they wrote, except to comment that what they had found shocking, wasn’t particularly-she must have known that they did not perceive her deepest secrets or understand her. She did not seek people out for support and clearly she felt that support was truly not with her, alone, lost, with only a few people who truly understood her, and forgave her.
Her goal then became to find a millionaire. It just hit her as the way to fund everything, much as a mother goes into the world looking for a way, this was Isadora’s device, for it freed her to pursue her art, and provide for her children, her own daughter and the many others she supported at her school, including her own family members, mother, brothers and sister. It was all up to her alone, to save the sinking ship, and she was good to her word. Very fortunate in that men adored her, she spent as much time pursuing men who would not sacrifice their homes, marriages or celibacy to have passionate love affairs with her, but in one she found a mate, for a very long time (for Isadora), who was also the father of her 2nd child, her son.
Strangely, L. and Isadora were brought together by tragedy and compassion of spirit, and were separated by tragedy and culmination of spirit. The lifecycle of their relationship was like a second relationship (for Isadora) and he seemed drawn to her mothering instincts. Likewise, he supported her, but the loss of her children (one his), and bother of hers, was, not surprisingly, the end of that affair. When L. did resurface, it was to remind her of her mission, the school, and to offer to support her in that at least, which proves he did have concern for her and more sense than she credited him with having. She, likely, did not bear as much concern for her other male amours, due to her art. She did take from them what she needed to continue, but such is the life of an artist, and making art was as much a part of her being, as she realized later on, as was her ability to mother, foster or act as a muse, to inspire others, and later in life, politics became a dominant part of herself and her power.
She did not seem at first to think very highly of her dancing, not as an art, not important, girlish and whimsical, but later in life, she came to understand the importance of art to her being and this, I think, gave her the understanding of it, to believe in it herself and validated it for her and then she was truly able to convince other people. Isadora could sell a trinket, but she could not defile her art. It was part of her roots. Her one statement regarding L, besides her comments on his neurosis, was,”All money brings a curse with it, and the people who possess it cannot be happy for twenty-four hours.” She believed this until the time she died. Despite her love for L., she felt relief when they separated-freedom. To take care of someone you loved was more tiring than performing, traveling, for it was fatiguing to the senses and drained you. Perhaps she was ordaining some post-apocalyptic vision when she stated that in the maternity ward of the future, women would have music, flowers, and surreal peace of mind as an environment in which to deliver their children and not the bestial conditions that existed for child-birth then, and her feeling was that women would have everything to do with the control and direction of this phase of life, as the understanding of it went entirely with women. But we have progressed to this way of thinking, much more slowly than Isadora, but eventually, she was right.
Isadora projected onto her lovers, some of them, a strange gloom, in the case of L., neurasthenia, defined as a complex of symptoms characterized by chronic fatigue and weakness, loss of memory, and generalized aches and pains, no longer ascribed to in Western medicine, but still characterized in Chinese medicine, and other ancient cultures. Isadora did not complain and she did not have any memory loss. When she suffered, it was from abject grief, so she ruled out other maladies and appeared to be quite healthy otherwise all of her life. I do not think she liked to talk about weakness, in herself or others, and she wanted to accomplish too much to spend time licking her wounds, except one big wound, but up until this point, she referred to many people as losing touch with reality, giving up the fight, being suicidal, and perhaps she was exposed to so much to this it haunted her after her children’s death, not as preparation for her own life’s loss, but likely, it was that she dwelt upon and recounted those associations and their possible meanings later in her life when she was forced to sit down and deal with her own grieving, try to survive the suffering, and look for helpful answers from her past experiences. Generally, there was a certain malaise in Vienna, turn of the century Paris, and depression which is artistically and historically significant, called the fin de siecle. A time when industry, communications, art, all were combined together in a very overflowing pot, and many afflicted stragglers, unable to deal with this monumental societal and industrial change, could not survive. A time when traditional values and mores came into direct opposition with modernist thoughts, ideas, and modes of life, some people could not endure. Her tragedies seemed similar to these others in some ways, feeling too deeply might be another way to put it, before the crust was callous enough to withstand the effects and changes occurring, when a move away from religion, the state and order, to the self and wants over duties. Pride goeth before a fall. In all a somewhat, self aggrandizing period of history for some; for others truly freeing and exhilarating.
For Isadora, who now felt that the caprice and selfishness of men, who called that love, was nothing more than an evil, and false love, that jeopardized her Art. She felt she had to give up one for the other. She called it her spiritual line, an upward curve, and all that “adhered to and strengthens this line is our real life-the rest is but chaff falling from us as our souls progress.” She felt that there was never to be any accord between love and Art-a constant battle. She was torn similarly with her body, her canvas, being wrought with the ugliness of pregnancy, and risked her career to have her son, she felt, now with the full knowledge of the changes it brings. She was disgusted with herself, her own weakness, giving up her Art for childbirth, motherhood, but she did it again and she makes us aware of this choice, not cowering behind the martyrdom of it, but rather in picking up her cross, bearing it once again, seems pure duty, and she does does ask for our pardon. She was visited again by spiritual entities and dreams, she was quite possibly a clairvoyant, foreboding the folly of motherhood, the fact that in the end, this was a trick, that it would not turn out well, and that it would be a boy, and somehow was in vain, would not make a difference. She knew not how. One would think these were the rantings of a madwoman, or a self-promoter, except she did not still, at the time of writing this memoir, understand fully, as we do, her fate, or the relevancy of these positionings to her actual history, for of course, she did not see herself as we do, and therefore could not benefit from her own advice. Perhaps, she remembered these things later, when she was consumed by her loss, and attributed them to an earlier time, but she was warned in having her second child, of death, and later when she is taken to that place again, where those visions occurred, she cannot stand the memory, loses all control, in remembering them and had to leave, the meaning of them realized to her now. But still she does not think herself a medium.
Not just the time when she bore her son, but up to (and after) the time of their deaths (by automobile accident) was she absorbed with them, in the book, and seems to pass rather quickly, as though, even at the time of writing, she cannot dwell on them very much, for the thought and memory of them cause her too much pain and anguish to bear. It influences all of her book and becomes quite morbid actually, and surreal, ending very quickly, as though like myself, there is further understanding that must take place, closure has not occurred, and the rest is quickly written, not a real ending to her book. It seems once she brings them up, she cannot let go of them again in her thoughts even to complete her biography.
Perhaps the fact that their death consumed the rest of her life, would be fitting punishment, according to those two writers I referenced in the beginning, who felt that she was weak and a bad mother. If I learned anything at all about Isadora from reading this book, it is about a woman who has sunk to the bottom of the pit of the stomach of life, been drowned by bile and acid and rose from the ashes to continue living. It is about the strength of the human spirit to persevere, not just during calamity, but when you are building up that fortress by living a full life and one that does not bow down to oppression and convention, that life is short, and by wasting it, even one day of it, you take away part of what you can build up in reserve, when you just might need it. She did that, and probably was able to see this period of loss through, because she was strong and independent. Whatever you call it, Isadora was superhuman strong, and was tested in the fire, for mothers the ultimate testing. Why would we even digress, dream or think about something so awful-I cannot even bear to watch movies where children are used for describing truthful situations or crimes, even though I know they exist, to give them proper attention, or is it to sensationally create entertainment of a bass sort. I do not know, but I cannot bear it. Nor dreams of danger to my children.
It was almost as if, she did create a certain amount of her own problems in the beginning, spiraling inward as life went on, to achieve a certain amount and to clean up the opinion and life that in other ways was messy, disorganized and demonstrates less achievement when we view it now, than it certainly really did, for without knowing, she achieved more than all people could have hoped for when you consider she only set out to dance and to survive as an artist in a world where women were viewed as chattel, and whose favors might be exchanged for power, as they had been for centuries, but where true individual power for women still was abhorrent to men. She found this, but she also devised ways for getting around it. She also would have been bored with a more mundane life, was not meant to be wife or concubine, but rather goddess or queen, except coming to depend on a man for finances, even during early motherhood, makes us weaker, but perhaps only those of us who have been truly independent and successful know that. It is a concession you make so as not to be alone, especially when a mother, for it is seemed necessary to have the support and presence of the father. I think she endured them, rather than loved them, for she felt for once in her life, the purpose in their necessity, and then never forgave herself the folly. Save for motherhood, which she felt she could do and was womanly, as Demeter serviced the earth, Isadora served dance and women and artists alike. She served everyone, without really being aware of it, she was the epitome of the female as vessel, giving until she had no more to give, instead of dying, she was taken violently, having spent her course. Her death might have been a kindness to her as she claimed never to recover fully from the loss of her children and it is possible to love to deeply, too much, as part of our beings slip over to our children and we live through them, until they grow up, and as weeds, many of us find it difficult to find water or reason to survive. Isadora found strength in being needed. She was able partly to transfer that feeling of usefulness to her students, but would not ever get over the loss of her children, she needed them, and no one else, ultimately, but even she did not understand the metes and bounds of that loss or those lives until they were taken from her and what might have been, hope, suddenly no longer was. Perhaps a conflict existed in her that she was not a true bacchanal, and that motherhood blighted her artistic self-how could she been seen as the earth mother, if she despised the process of birth? Birth is violent, sudden and wholly reaffirming as having power over every part of the cerebral self. It takes you over and becomes you, you are a slave to it, and perhaps Isadora was more spoiled than she thought-not quite the person she projected, quite ignorant of this use of the body which she did not foresee as being her weakness. Her true use, but otherwise, Isadora was a modern woman, faulty, questioning, curious, vain, self-obsessed, and a true artist. Eccentric, crazy, impulsive, but deep down an average woman.
Isadora was blessed in death, in a way, for she would not have liked getting old and being resentful and unhappy, for she was joy and repeated often in her book that she was like life sprung from marble, innocent and pure, when no sin was gleaned from exposing the body, dancing in bacchanal joy, or expressing oneself, and conventions did not exist. We all have to thank her, not be her, fortunately, and most women would prefer to sit at home, have babies and never set out on a journey and be obliged to follow-through on so lusty an attempt to uphold our own actions by radiant convictions, and true to all save one, she did, gloriously. But all of the things in Pandora’s box did exist, they just were never allowed to escape, until Pandora opened that box and released them. In another way, the analogy could exist for the life of Isadora Duncan to sum up all of the tragedy and passion of the Greek mythology, oddly. Her life conjures all of these great losses, glories, visions, magic and largess, without her own realization ever. She never mentions the similarity once, so either she is a very great writer, or a very great moral and lesson to us, that life can copy art to destruction, and history does repeat itself. We can all learn from Isadora, and much more about life than about dance.
She was also advanced in her thinking, and as today, many men still have a problem with a woman’s intelligence, so they did then. This gave many people reason to dislike her, but she did not seek to rationalize her feelings, she just accepted them. She dealt with, on a larger scale than most of us, with great men, their endeavors to bed her, wed her, and heave her out upon the street, seeking to demoralize her in the offing. She was forced to acquiesce to their demands much as we are in the workplace, home, or wherever we find them, and she dealt with these issues, too. The difference is, she would have to find a new life, we a new job or new mate. Consequently, oftentimes she was moved to explain herself to others, who were not as forward-thinking as she, that love can be hate, turned around, and vice versa. She felt she loved more deeply than most, and yet she only talks about her hate with revulsion or with naivete, feeling we will not be able to distinguish the two, but at the time of this writing, this woman knows both. There is a side to her book which is self-serving and purposeful, for she does not tell all. She forgets that there are readers sometimes and goes off into lala land, but then the true Isadora is surmised as existing somewhere just beneath the surface of the book, and we can all guess, most of the time, where her true feelings lie. She felt that she did not hate, but rather loved America, too much, she finally said, as a sort of apology to people who felt her behavior was less than grateful, but knowing her, she probably believed this to be true, for much of what she repeated, if often enough, she believed. Like the lover who she said, is rude to you, not because they hate you, but because they love you too much. She felt that psychologists could explain this feeling better than she, but she felt her work in the world was American, born here, raised here, nurtured here, and time would find was representative of her native influences. It has. She believed in being poor in cash and being rich in humanity and she put her money where her mouth was, repeatedly. She was an ambassador of good feelings, inspiration and philosophy of art. She was a professor of dance. Though she may have been desperate at times, maybe mostly, she was not any different than the rest of us, so despite her claims to reassure herself, and to go on in battle, and she needed to continue, there is nothing that is different here in personality, except the choices she made and the path she chose, and the variables that exist in any life, could have happened to any one of us. But perhaps that is what is so important about this book, as we realize the great are only human, like us.
She did believe in the theater, a home to great art, for great art, is necessary, but not all the additional artifice of man, or the expense. She felt great art comes from the human spirit and needs no externals, “just the beauty that flows from the inspired human soul, and the body that is its symbol, and if my Art has taught you anything here, I hope it has taught you that.” Her life was no frills. Heavy losses, great joy, and travel, soul searching and at least part of it deflating, where she is bass, like the rest of us, all of her experiences she thinks are for nought, compared to the loss of her childen, and her escape from that inner sanctum, where she lives, penalizing herself for something that was really just an accident. Finally, her death, which is not described in her book, but which we cannot help but read into the pages of this book and after, are left thinking, that it was a complete life, lived in a condensed fashion, and we wish we could tell her that it was okay to have lived it the way she did and to console her. She believed her children were there, calling to her frequently, and that she could join them in another life, for that was her view of life really, recycling. In my book of constellation, Isadora will take the place of Orion, or Andromeda, always appearing in the night sky, with her children in tow on her chariot, ready to do battle.
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A photo from the U.S. Archives which demonstrates very clearly Isadora Duncan’s, and other modern dancers, influence on ballet. You can’t say “choreography” without saying “dancers” or “ballet” as they converge, effect each other, and dancers dance, to some extent, what they want to or what the can.
This is a pretty rare photo, but now, we can see that perhaps Anna Pavlova did not really hate Isadora Duncan after-all, but instead was influenced by her, tried to channel or feel what Isadora felt, what modern dance was, or her choreographer was interested in it for this piece. We see it finally because she danced it. She agreed to do it. That makes it important to ballet. What a dancer agrees to do (and does not agree to do) ultimately defines them to their audience, defines their art, and history, especially when you are discussing Anna Pavlova.
But in relation to any dancer, they will be seen to be a certain kind of dancer, expected to perform certain roles, become skilled at those and roles like them. Obviously Pavlova went back to classical roles and swore off modern dance. At least for her life, this was not what she was good at, excelled at. One needs to know oneself and one’s limitations, but that comes with experience. Expansion can mean growing into an acceptance of what your roles could and should be in dance, or it can come to mean limiting yourself to perfection of one type of dancing. Being an expert at one thing certainly raises the level of expertise required for that genre. It increases your ability to dance those roles.
Most importantly, if you are determined to dance certain roles, certain ballets, certain parts, then you need to learn those parts, become expert at them, so that no matter your deficiencies, people will say, “but she/he dances those parts better, even if she/he is not this or that. But if you do not specialize, then perhaps you will never be good enough at one thing to qualify even for that. If Pavlova had not been skilled in ballet, had that not been her passion, we would not have been fortunate to have come to understand her legacy a little better, and while she had the option to become more skilled, at a later age, in other forms of dance, she did not do a 180 and perform modern, or try to find herself in it.
Even with poorer choreography than Diaghilev could provide, she continued to astound audiences with her versatility and drama, as a ballet dancer. She truly was an ambassador of ballet. Something must also be said about modern dance here, the characteristics of it, the difference between it and ballet, are wide. Isadora Duncan could have suddenly said, I want to be a ballet dancer. But she did not. There was unquestionable an attitude and freedom in her approach to dancing, her naturalness, her languor and beauty (she was a very beautiful woman), her form and development in modern dance, which gave her an advantage in performing her roles, her choreography, and she danced to a different drummer, literally, different music.
She was right and Pavlova was right. Two experts, a long time ago, who felt that you had to make up your mind, pick a side, choose, two purists. I do not think choreographers today understand dance very well, for they are not able to separate or merge the two dance styles (usually). They are greedy, and dancers are too, so no one is perfect today in ballet, because they try to do too much. Be the star on every stage. And yet, even with the most sought after choreographers, some dancers just do not enjoy that success. Great ballet dancers fail at exploring new styles, new techniques, and they are simply not the best.
But, by taking on roles that minimize, instead of maximize, their abilities as ballet dancers, instead of having new ballet roles made for them, their performances are not what they could be. At thirty to forty years of age, these dancers should be reaching a point where they are true artists, and yet the barre for true artistry is lowered. There are some artists, such as Natalia Osipova, Darcy Bussell, Tamara Rojas, etc., who have remained dedicated to their art and may possibly reach a point, historically, where their body of work is respected and exceeds more publicized dancers, simply because they knew their limitations and they stayed within the parameters of their expertise longer, trying to reach a point where they were consummate in their art. It is not today that they will be judged, but tomorrow, and in the annals of history, where we are not yet and cannot say whom will leave what.
How will they all be credited? More is needed for women to make a mark, when before them is opportunity to travel, to reach out, to grow, to direct, choreograph, produce. What will their choices be? Will they stray from the path of their strength, give up, or will they take the torch, the flame and finally bring something monumental back to ballet, the genre that gave them their careers, their fame? Or will they dabble in other forms of dance, leaving mediocrity in their wake, when they could have developed classical ballet, and ballet, a big step further in order to safeguard it as Vaganova did.
So when you are in class, or studying ballet, pick a side, and win or lose, cling to that vision. For is you are true to your vision, you are working not only toward what you believe in, and love, but you are setting a precedence for what will be your strongest form of dance in the future. What do you want that to be? Don’t let rejection, or all of the opinions of others set your path. For the path you choose will probably be the one that survives with you, the one you will know best, and will propagate. If there is one you prefer, no matter what others say, follow the choice you will be able to live with and embrace.
Though this may seem a little disconnected from my first speeches about the importance of Isadora Duncan, halfway through her autobiography, I felt compelled to sit down and write again about her vis a vis my impressions of her book. Fortunately, I will not lead the reader of this on a page by page review of the book, and I can’t, sorry to say, even if I tried, for she did begin to drag a bit, or maybe it was me. But, little by little, she left me thinking each time I put the book down, looking eagerly for the mood to take me so that I might pick it back up again in the spirit she wrote it, and read on.
She does rub off on you. Isadora Duncan was a very unique woman. I found out I admire her greatly and can see, why she elicited from bystanders such a response. No movie could really convey all that was monumental in that historic and eventful life, such is the nature of a movie, an essence-one perspective, and to dwell too much on the fascinating personage she was, or her lack of training as a writer would be to judge and diminish what I really feel is a great book. I am drawn in and repeatedly drawn back to find out what incredible journey will next unfold. No life of shorter duration could possibly have been lived with such perspicacity. I will let those who wish to read about her, do, and those who do not presently find themselves interested in or able to, don’t. I will say that some of the names of those famous and infamous she encounters include painters, philosophers, dancers, impresarios, musicians and venerable, one of my particular favorites was Pavlova, and Stanislavsky.
Also, I will mention in Russia, she found acceptance and her descriptions left out much detail that I would have liked to have known more about, heard more of, but these extraneous sentiments that flitter through the pages of her memoirs seem to be like tastes of delicacies that have motivated the life we are reading about, her book, were prompted by the doing of the writing of her book, and were influential to her. Her accounts of her lovers, loves and pain are concise and matter of fact. She was not a hateful person, did not have time, I believe to waste her energy on the pastime. Her portrayals at first seem vapid, and gawking, too much like an engenue in reverence to those she wishes to impress, and later, her perspective of their greatness diminishes, or is replaced by the observations of an equal, wiser and more experienced artist in her own right. There is no doubt that Isadora was a great artist, and influenced the world of dance, and not just modern dance-ballet. At once she is passionate about the people of Russia, how business seems to leave the conflux of her ideas and is replaced by her thankfulness of their deep appreciation of great art and finally a place for her (possibly) is considered. For us westerners, it is as if a closed door of great strength and impenetrability is flung wide open and its rich desserts apparent at last; the mystery solved, for they welcomed her with open arms into a glittering world of the paparazzi, the rich and decadent world that was art in the beginning of the last century, ecstatic to embrace new ideals, and Isadora’s impressions are nearly surreal in their intensity. She seemed and acted as if in a dreamlike state and was overwhelmed.
From this first visit came the momentum to finally open her school and to pass down the 500 or more specific exercises that were to form her actual technique, and as well certain facts about her motherly instincts, the blessing came with the droves of children who applied for admission to her school upon the announcement of its opening in Berlin. She took in many orphans into that school and invested her accumulated fortune in it. One idea passed onto the next in her life, impulsiveness was one secret of her success, and she accomplished so much in so short a time-she lived just fifty years. I am fifty this year-me and the James Bond movies. She never let the knock of opportunity go unanswered, even if it was whimsical, unconventional, mythical, fantastical or animalistic. She was truly led by her id, and aware of her power as time went on.
It will disappoint readers to find, if expecting debaucherie and promiscuity. None really, so far. But she did seem to come into her womanhood later in life. She had great self-control and as she aged, she found less and less in men her inferior to rouse her desire, and fewer men of her own equal not intimidated by her charisma and intelligence available, or willing to commit to her brand of life. Her descriptions of her impressions of experiences, childbirth, and her first child deserve a second read, and are sadly omitted from any self-help/guidance books I have seen passed along by mothers, and her perceptions are fitting if not couched in euphemistic terms. So much in fact, that to say she is frank would be a disservice to her. She is honest, I believe, and I can barely read her discussion of her feelings toward her lost children, without true empathy. Of motherhood, she says,” The baby was astonishing; formed like a Cupid, with blue eyes and long brown hair, that afterwards fell out and gave place to golden curls. And, miracle of miracles,that mouth sought my breast and bit with toothless gums, and pulled and drank the milk that gushed forth. What mother has ever told the feeling when the babe’s mouth bites at her nipple, and the milk gushes forth from her breast? This cruel biting mouth, like the mouth of a lover, and our lover’s mouth, in turn, reminding us of the babe. Oh, women, what is the good of us learning to become lawyers, painters, or sculptors, when this miracle exists? Now I knew this tremendous love, surpassing the love of man. I was stretched and bleeding, torn and helpless, while the little being sucked and howled. Life, life, life! Give me life! Oh, where was my Art? My Art or any Art? What did I care for Art? I felt I was a God, superior to any artist.” And she said she was not a writer. There is more, lots more, where that came from. Words from a soul which felt life so intensely, and could express it, that I am almost scared to continue, expecting tears at the end.
But that is just the book and really does not give her enough credit. She wrote other little books apparently and now I feel it is my duty to seek them all out and read every word. Not just the books, but the exercises, the choreography, her words, her guidance. I am not convinced that she is ably represented by her followers, who try as they might to capture her presence and her spirit in their copies, cannot possibly convey what Isadora managed to, upon those who witnessed her. No wonder imitations paled and fell by the wayside-no one could recapture her. She applauds gymnastics as the first preparation for the dance and compares styles of it, denouncing some and upholding others, but she states that this is merely the basis on which a body grows healthy, and I think she means by exercise in general (and ready for more specific teachings in dance and steps and the interlinking of music in those steps is explained in pretty good detail). Then she refers to the mind becoming the art and the body a sculpture with which expression and feeling alone can bring to perfection, through art, living and nature-rather Pygmalionesque- but I won’t explain any more details here, and will continue reading hopefully providing a few more impressions at the end. Keep on Dancing!
Paris is luxe. London is Continental (and English speaking). Germany is FREE. Russia is difficult. New York is….well, New York. So many cities have so many dance offerings, it is truly thought consuming to go over all of the pros and cons of applying to or travelling to any of them. Sometimes it is just easier to stay at home while everyone else goes to summer programs. Yes. It is that time again. I am greatly overwhelmed, not just with the choices and options, prices and amenities, teachers and classes, but with the basic idea of sending my daughter away for any length of time to a place that by most measures of criteria can still be termed a very expensive summer camp.
If your child, like mine, located your passport and carried it around like a toy for the second year of her life onward, only wanted bags and purses from Toys r Us, and then decided she liked to mix with old friends two towns away instead of blending in to her new surroundings, only buys dancewear and shuns anything not dance related (even school), and whose cell phone is permanently attached to her hand-you may have the same problem I do. She is a dancer who has no problem leaving home and not looking back. I guess they all call when they have a problem, but are they old enough-not just to go away to a program, but to make decisions about what they want to do with the rest of their lives, without the benefit of our own experiences?
Sadly, going away is not my daughter’s problem. The problem is whether these experiences are worth the several thousand dollar investment each year in the long run. Would it not be better to encourage them to stay at home, avail themselves of the less busy instructors for additional privates, enjoy some home time and friend time, possibly start their monthly period, gain some weight and catch up on their favorite television shows and read some books, maybe even finish or get ahead in their high school work? A ninth grader should have some normal activities when the year has been spent dancing in at least two productions, classes everyday, privates and other dance-related classes, music, yoga, pilates, the physical therapist or whatever, and texting real people instead of being in a gang of girls going to the movies and the beach.
Also, does your child really benefit from these brief workshops where they are usually so crowded that even the teachers have trouble remembering anyone’s name but the very best? Are they really worth the effort and expense to find out at the end, if your child has been one of the lucky few to receive additional notice or an invite to stay on through the year? Would you allow your young daughter to stay? Can you afford it if she/he is asked? If not, can you or your child deal with the disappointment of being asked, but not being able to afford the tuition? Well, a couple of years ago, we were in just that position with the Joffrey and besides the fact that she was just not ready, we could not addord even the balance of tuition and room and board after the ample scholarship.
The next year they changed directors, she could not afford to go at all, but if she had gone, would she even have been asked? Such is life. But, I firmly believe that it was the best possible turnout for her as the instruction she has received here in the interim has been of very high caliber, in most cases nearly the best. She has been working on turnout, her stretching, epaulment, character, variations, dancing and is in the Nutcracker. Even though there are certainly issues at her studio, they are typical ones, like the allocation of parts to students who pay for each one they dance, or preference is given to children who have attended there for many years, or the costumes for the Nutcracker are secretly changed so that certain children whose mothers work in the costume fitting area will have them for their children. But we can deal with these things because the instruction is amazing. If only all of those children and parents who display these tendencies availed themselves of what is truly important, and there really was a spirit of family and comaraderie it would be a perfect world. You can’t have everything.
There is also the fact that my daughter has her own issues to overcome and she is being made aware of what they are through a not so pleasant but necessary process which would not be available if she were in a A level school-she would just be sent home, probably with little explanation and a poor opinion of herself. In this environment, she is being given the option to change, to better herself, to get better and better. No, she is not without potential, she is not lazy, but she is afraid to split herself in half. She is also weary of the endless (seemingly) stretching that (seems to) result(s) in little improvement, which the minute she looks away. What she actually is is YOUNG, naive with a tendency to work very hard, but not always work smart.
What really can happen to a child when you prod them so much, and there is so much pressure to compete, but they have a choice, is that they often choose not to do something they basically love, because they begin to associate negative feelings with that activity rather than positive ones. Of course, as serious dance students, they waver between a normal social life and activities, even career choices, desires and may have a tendency to favor a fantasy life rather than a real life, but these are still normal swings and growth. What is tragic is if they begin to depend on dance as a life choice, while eschewing other possibilities, fearing that failure in dance will mean a life without any other choices. Parents have a great responsibility to these children to release them from liability if all does not go as planned and to teach them to love themselves not as dancers, but as talented people who have goals and see what not just their bodies, but they can do! One short goal at a time helps them to see they can accomplish anything they set their minds to, not just in the dance arena. Sometimes setbacks help us as parents to have that opportunity to teach our children (and ourselves) that you can make dinner out of almost anything in the cupboard if you only think creatively.
All parents of dancers struggle to juggle a heavy load, but think of what your children are accomplishing, even if they are not top of their class, fall somewhere in the middle, or even have trouble keeping up. All children have personal challenges, especially at this age. You may not see them in the studio but they are there. I remind my daughter of what she has accomplished since last year, not even a year, and she then sees her own improvement. Her long term goals have moved a step closer by her own logic, her own means, her hard work. It is not the dissemination of particular parts, but rather her own improvementrt she has to learn to appreciate and value, in short, herself. I can work to keep her focused on certain things, important things, and her teachers help. But it is up to her to do the work and to realize it is the ultimate reward. Nothing can touch, for some of us, the freedom and the beauty that comes in opening up and dancing, but to find that place where nothing else matters, is sometimes a challenge in this worried world.
I can decide to pay or not to pay, sometimes I cannot pay. Sometimes I cannot pay enough which means she really has to do what she can do within her means to improve herself. If she is told what to do, and she cannot find time to do it, then she is being inconsistent. Privates have little benefit at that point, for it is in the studio where she will find herself or not. And I have told her that consistency works wonders on the little goals-one step at a time. If she does not see immediate improvement, then she is not giving herself a chance to. That’s all. But such is the stress that accumulates when dancers try to do so much in so short a period of time. It’s funny, but you don’t look at them on stage and think they are a wheel on fire….They have to be reminded to slow down and to enjoy what they love or lose it. Performing becomes the heart and soul of their lives without their even knowing or expecting it, the parts the bonbons, the acceptances the reward, and the passion and reason for dancing, for working are sometimes lost forever, partlicularly at this age, where so much seems to be at stake. They cannot help thinking they are behind or not good enough if we let them fester. We are there to guide them, or steer them, into enjoyable learning experiences, and to remind them that nothing worthwhile is won without hard work, not just dance, but in any other aspect of their lives. Not all of that hard work pays off immediately, but it all pays off in the long run.
If they can take that committment into life with them, into their other activities or schoolwork, then it has not been a waste of time. Who knows what they can accomplish. We do not realize what we really buy with that tuition, those leotards or pointe shoes, but it does not have to be lost because one part is, one year, any year, all years. The summer camp might just be an extension of these lessons, proving to our children that what they bring home is just a slightly more enlightened version of what they brought with them in the first place, and that learning takes place all the time, not just the summertime. I do think think that they are worth applying for, auditions are important, and acceptances are, without a doubt, a confiormation of something, though we will probably never know what exactly. But, I also think that each school is looking for children who fit a very specific set of criteria oftentimes difficult to judge from one audition-whoever heard of all of the summer intensive students accepted, being asked to stay all year? If their judging skills were consummate then this would be the case, and using the same sort of logic, you can rest assured that if your child had been selected, and had the chance to prove him or herself-they probably would have been chosen to stay ;). Sometimes the thinking is better than the doing!
I truly believe all art should be free. My daughter got in the car today and said (in tears) that it wasn’t fair-her teacher constantly cancels her privates in order to take someone else ahead of her. She said, “It is like I am doing all this for nothing”-meaning variations. The fact is, I don’t know. She quickly made sure I knew she didn’t mean ‘ballet.’ Just privates.
If you have even one, it’s addictive, like you can be better faster, not ahead of everyone else, just better. Someone said, ‘ballet never gets easier, just possible.’ Ballet is an art which you venture into unaware that it will take the rest of your life to understand, study and hone-I did not say ‘perfect.’ You work in privates very hard. As there is more personal attention it is very intense, tiring and deflating in a way. Even though you are getting more corrections, there is only so much you can assimilate at one time. Hopefully, you get better each time (requires actual practice). But sometimes getting better is not being told to get better, but learning to get better or advancing/growing enough physically/mentally to be able to do something or understand it.
It seems it is all about getting better quickly, working out little issues, learning variations-it’s what they do in Russia, right? Wrong. I do not really know what they do in Russia because I am not Russian and I did not study ballet long enough to have more knowledge on the subject. I do feel that some Russians are expert teachers, but teaching, like learning, is also a growth thing, and a practical knowledge thing. With age comes maturity. One is trying to communicate, and one is trying to understand and do. At least in the classroom. There are many great American teachers of ballet. Though Russian technique, the Vagonova method, might be an older method book, and if followed precisely, may result in a certain ability to more easily work the body, I am not so sure the end result is any better than our own mature dancers in terms of freedom and expression.
I have not been completely stunned by Russian dancers of late-not since Lopatkina, and she, too, has her limits. They are all good dancers, but is their artistry better than their training? I look at it as a billion little cells and muscles and they can all be taught to do the basics in any method. But the brains are different. It tells those cells and muscles what to do, or sometimes, just naturally, someone’s cells and body parts just do things differently, uniquely. The x-factor. Not all the students with short backs and long legs, good feet, etc. are going to have that gift. Sometimes it is the awkward or ungainly bunny that has the staying power, drive, and determination to get ahead, and the x-factor. I believe you have to watch this person to see what they will do next. You don’t have a choice.
If you start weeding them out too early, assess them out based on body-type alone, or because they cannot focus all the time, you are putting art through a sieve and retaining what you think are the golden apples. That is not a natural selection process or an intelligent one, but it will get shows put on and tickets sold. The result may not be as amazing, but there will be leads. Shows must go on everywhere. In the meantime, there is a certain kind of person who will wait patiently in the wings and try to be a better and better technician and artist each day. But as the athlete or dancer‘s career is very short by nature, this also requires more than a bit of good luck. And to be be very successful in dance, it requires parents and teachers who coach and nurture these children well beyond their own level of maturity or ability. If your child is not one of these “prodigies” then they do not really stand a chance in this type of environment, but it is up to the parent and the child, in this situation, to determine whether to stick it out, or move on to a better environment, or quit. People do all three.
From this, I am reminded that some people feel that a child, picked as among the best, for your better academies, should have what it takes to survive in class, to get better with everyone else. This is a heavy burden in itself. They should be given the chance to exert their personalities and express themselves in class-they need to do this with other similar students, easily done for the most part. In a given area there might not be enough children to choose from to fill a class each year with boys and girls of a certain body type and ability, I like to call mainstreaming. But that is why we have always had regional companies. Many dancers do not wish to go to a major city and become famous or try to be a big fish in a big pond. Some people just do not like to travel, particularly out of their own country, and do very well in a smaller company, and some even move up after a time. Sometimes it is enough to dance anywhere. Some of the best dancers are in these regional companies.
All of the other possible factors including ability and desire combine to ‘make-up’ for the lack of perfect body types to educate-and let’s not forget artistry. Was Pavlova smart? Smart enough. Not enough is made of these lesser known, dedicated and oftentimes very talented dancers and their voices are not called upon usually to give their advice to young dancers, but they should be, because they are the reality and their paths the likeliest one for most dancers. Dancers trained in the best schools are needed as teachers, more than as dancers. It’s a fact. Like a recipe for what will be instead of what could be.
Something must be said for superior training and it all comes down to the best teaching really, and not necessarily the best dancing or the most famous dancers. I think if most of us knew the preemptive, it might change our paths. From the best teachers frequently come the best dancers, but it is not like an egg. You can have great dancers and great teachers from different eggs (teachers). The Russian ideal was created over a long period of time, refined and perfected because the state paid for the education of those dancers. Lots of other pros and cons emanated from that system, too, and it is not something to idealize, necessarily. Certainly a great dancer can add instruction on the nuances of a role, but that does not make a dancer unique, for there would be no artistry if the student exactly followed the prescription of the teacher or the choreographer for the role. It is said a great dancer has a style all of their own, like a painter, or a musician, but as we know, there are schools of art, just like dance. When you see a Russian dancer, you know their school, by certain telltale signs. But a true artist is their own school-we like to think. I cannot help looking at the best dancer and thinking what kind of teacher she will make and whether that would suit her or her parents very well, because that is what is likely to become of all that training. My daughter wants to be a teacher, which is fine, because she can be well on her way before others get the notion. Perhaps that will slant her perspective at a time when it is important. Is that any less of a reason to be well trained. But, in knowing this, do I really need to worry so much?
However, ballet does not stop at the classroom anymore. With performances and events, like competitions, dance immediately goes beyond the classroom to the world, YouTube, major cities, and publications, competitions, the ballet world and beyond. People also claim that ballet is intuitive, a dancer listens to listen to his/her own body and from the outside it might appear as if one dancer is naturally more intuitive than another, even to a teacher, but children learn at different rates. An experienced dance teacher will tell you that you can never tell who will make it and who won’t-there are too many factors. But, if they did know, then there would be no purpose, and no money, from teaching everyone else at all. The parents should quickly ascertain that certain students get more of the attention, praise and are better than their own children at many things. But parents have indefatigable hope and belief in their own children to persevere and improve. If they knew they were competing to be teachers eventually, do you think they would fight so hard, pay so much?
They continue to pay for lessons, and this is frequently at the behest of their children, who improve enough and enjoy the classes and performance enough to still want to become ballet dancers against all the odds, bad bodies, and poor teaching (possibly). Some of them do become great, but the majority eventually quit, never even attending a dance college. I think that is a shame, for one profession is intrinsically as good as any other one. I never hear of many dancers in adult ballet class who were dancers and follow the same regimen they did as youngsters, as older adults. Funny. It is as though they are traumatized, forever, and severed from what they love, convinced that they are failures, rather than embracing what they know and love. So, it is important to think about why we dance in the first place, it is for fame, for glory, to be better than everyone else, or just because we love to. Because how can you have to do something everyday until you are 14-17, and then suddenly wake up and say, I no longer want to do that. I was unsuccessful. I will try something else. To give up what you love must denote some severe setback.
From my perspective there are two majors groups of dance supporters, besides teachers. They are both parents-those who danced as children who now or will or did have children with whom they will not make the same mistakes, or to whom they pass down the art and love of ballet, and there is the other major group of older teens and adults who comprise new learners and whom, without baggage and failure learn to love and dance. So dance is constantly recycled and we build new possibilities and breathe new life into the art form with our children, ourselves and our love or appreciation of ballet. But hopefully, we learn from all of our experiences, as the generations of Russians did, who do not all go on to be great performers, but also great teachers, choreographers, administrators, etc.
Therefore, it is for some a means of keeping in shape, for others a way of expressing themselves and growing, and for others a way of life that is being passed down to them at perhaps a too early age to decide, and in a very competitive and picky environment where many of the positives for a mature person are degraded for the child in an arena of extreme competition. Forget art, it is about survival of the fittest, literally. Money is a big part of that agenda now and not just in America!
By now, my regular readers know that I studied dance for a while, and I began late (as a teenager). But my mother and her mother also danced and had more natural proclivity for it than I did probably. My grandmother could not afford lessons, being one of 12 children. She used to wait for the girls outside dancing class, walk home with them and pick their brains. She taught herself everything this way-everything she knew. She copied what she saw. She sewed this way, did her hair, clothes and make-up this way, and she was very good at everything she did. If she had had a great teacher, there is no question in my mind that she would have been the best. They are necessary it seems. It is also important that as people we value dance and continue to strive at it and to increase the knowledge of it to be passed down. Why is it such a legacy that no other art form is intrinsic to ourselves? Shouldn’t we just sever the cursed limb?