Freitag, 10. Oktober 2008

Unattainable Goals

Gelsey Kirkland is teaching guest ballet classes at Steps on Broadway. Imagine that, pay $10 to take a ballet class with the single most famous ballerina still alive today. Her bio doesnt say anything about her being a crack head.

Ballet is amazing. It is a definition of motion and one can create a dialog within this definition, like a pin ball bouncing around inside the table, only able to go where the obstacles and paddles tell it to go, but still with infinite variation. The vocabulary of ballet is a vis-a-vis the human body: basically every direction the human body is not meant to go, go there. Struggle against yourself. Struggle against gravity. Struggle against everything that should be natural, then make it look fun. Smile!

In Berlin turkish vendors cook chickens on sticks. You can buy a half chicken for 2 euro. The sticks go in the rear and come out the top and put the chicken on a perfect axis. They spin on this axis endlessly over a fire, there is no chance they could fall off the axis because it extends through their entire body, from bottom to top and exactly through their center of gravity. Ballerinas strive to have a perfect axis, so they can turn endlessly and never fall. Most fall off their axis but act like they have a stick up their ass anyhow.

The turks then take a cooked chicken off the stick, squish it down with the gutted side toward the chopping block and hack it in half with a big knife, so what used to be a whole body becomes a mirrored profile of two halves, each facing opposite directions. Ballerinas also stive to look like a mirrored profile of two halves. Its called turnout.

To me ballet is the pursuit of an unattainable goal. The romantic obsession with a beautiful ideal, and striving to create that impossible ideal out of reality. A perfect center of gravity and a perfect axis, perfect bilateral symmetry flaunting a mirrored profile. Ballet is the art of pushing your body against its natural stops and creating motion in space which speaks a language that's been handed down, generation after generation, anorexic ballerina to anorexic ballerina, for hundreds of years. The struggle to create this impossible ideal will outlast any one person. One lifetime, especially the brief few years when ones body is capable of actually dancing, is not nearly long enough to get but a taste of what could be possible.

And somehow its absolutely beautiful. Absolutely uselessly beautiful, and if you haven't studied this language, if you haven't learned what the dancers are saying and if you haven't experienced the horror and obsession involved with learning how to say it, there may be no way to fully appreciate ballet.

But honestly, if you just want a good show skip the nutcracker and go see some Ailey style modern.

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