March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
I spend a little time looking at paintings and sculptures by Degas. Ballet dancers. I draw a quick first conclusion, that photography is a more suitable medium in which to capture ballet, if it must be transposed. From movement, a static frame. Degas’s dancers strike me as amateur… Perhaps these are amateurs, painted, practising, there. They are of course — lesson takers, or, caught between scenes, with their friends. Slouching. Elbows bent unbecomingly. Untidy. These things being of course what make the paintings interesting: that this object of perfection, the ballet dancer, might be caught offside, unprepared and human, in sloth or at ease; imperfect.
The 21st century, technology-slickened perfectionist in me, maybe, responds negatively to the lack of polish. Their lines, the curves of the dancers are not curved and not beautiful enough; the stretches not great enough and then, the compositions in their entirety: overly complex … not as beautiful as their counterparts in photograph. I feel, underlying this, that there might be something sad in my initial reaction and that I must commit a sort of heresy in expressing the opinion.
As I write this and take pause to consider, as I look again at the paintings, more carefully, I grow to appreciate them more. Their gentleness and colour. Their dancers and their scenarios. The great room of the ballet rehearsal. The truth is that I gave Leutwyler’s photograph just one appraisal, admired it and copied it here. I love the photograph not for the artistry but for the dancers photographed. Her arm, reaching up with its slight bend at the elbow, so beautiful. Their hands. Their muscles. Their pose, together and the tilt of her head and neck. They are quite perfectly beautiful, and I love their image for that.
Voila la difference.
February 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
We went to the ballet last night, to the Opera to see Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin choreographed by John Cranko.
E-mail shortly after:
“Ballet this evening, beautiful, elegant, dated. Purer. Simple.”
“I watched and thought: this is false. Life is much more ugly.”
I watched and, admiring the elegance of the dancers in their precision and their costumes, wondered if I might move with greater grace, in future. Wondered why we did not wear such dresses, such colours. Wondered at the simplicity of it all — dated. False. Not life-like. I felt: a little cheated. That it was indeed beautiful, but an escapist lie. Decoration.
The thirds, divided, passed quickly. Each interval a shock, time vanished with the scene. I watched and, as a friend of mine when reading Beckett: let it wash over me.
I have not read Pushkin, not yet, and I did not understand at first. I did not understand indeed until this morning, waking from a dream, the story fallen into place.
“I wake today, from a nightmare, having understood now the story of the ballet. And I see it is true, and continues to be true. Pushkin: Onegin. Indeed, that it taps in to my very fear, or I do, my own — leaving the opera house, going home to bed and dream. Wake feeling betrayed, non-specific.”
“The lover [the romantic lover] is jealous, though that may be called now immature and old-fashioned. Specific.”