Friday, July 22, 2011

How Can We Know the Dancer From the Dance?

Friday came, as the beginning of a weekend usually does, but this time with a misting of cooling rain and much nicer temps than had been earlier in the week. Our Friday night plan was to head into town at the invitation of some new friends who had asked us to share a table with them at the upcoming Ballet on the Green that the Montgomery Ballet was putting on, an evening of ballet and sort of picnic on the lawn of the museum grounds. We said we would love to come, mainly to be with them, and the folks we knew who would be there as well. The idea sounded fun in general, this one being outside with food and wine, unlike the years of sitting through our daughter’s recitals in formal theaters with parched throats.

The rain and clouds that were moving around the area during the later part of the afternoon, unfortunately, were making for an if’y probability of this performance but, were also making for some very dramatic skies and scenery. Mark and I climbed into the car and took off in the general direction of town, taking the back roads in search of a pretty scene or two to take a photograph of along the way, figuring the cell phone call would soon come telling us the event was canceled.

We first stopped at the Trotman Ranch, east of our farm, one of the few remaining huge rolling fields uncut by fences, buildings, or anything, just a big lovely meadow with grazing cows off in the distance. The sky beyond the field was dramatic and volatile with a mixture of dark clouds hanging heavily and bright white puffy ones floating on the backdrop of deep periwinkle blue. Beams of light were shooting between them like a William Blake painting, and these beams lit the tops of clouds below them, making for a ridiculously gorgeous scene. Then like in a Hollywood movie, on cue, out came the rainbow to further this visual feast along.

Finally time was pressing us to make it on time to the ballet, and so we left this lovely field and headed on. I noticed that the further we went the rainbow began to disappear and it made me think, the obvious and the trite, of, duh, rainbows are totally a thing to see only if you are in the right place and time with the right conditions. It is simply a matter of perspective to enjoy the magic. Once on the other side of the apparition, it disappears, or does it really stay there but it is veiled. It’s kind of like the question that if a tree falls in the woods with no one to hear it, does it really make noise? Does the rainbow even exist if one isn’t there to see it?

We made it to the museum grounds where people were huddled under umbrellas, the white table cloths were drenched, and the box lunches on tables under a tent were stacked but also wet. The stage with all the lights were waiting for the dancers, but since dancing on pointe shoes is difficult enough on dry stages, the inevitable was called. The dancers would dance but it would be back at the studio. Everyone grabbed a box lunch and got in their cars and drove to the indicated place.

Our poor hostess was so bummed and was apologizing profusely, as tho the weather was her responsibility. We all tried to reassure her that is wasn’t and we were flexible. The dancers I am sure were disappointed at missing the chance to be on a large stage, but they too had be flexible, and deal with the moment and the rain. Costumes and shoes loaded, it was back to their work space.

Once fed and dried off we were told to come to the room where they worked on a daily basis, a  mirrored walled room which now had chairs lining the edges. Everyone sat and the ballet mistress said her thanks to all who had stayed and not gone home to dry off, then the dancers began.

It was quite a snug fit with all of the chairs and people in the room, and I wondered at how they would have to change their choreography from the larger stage to now this abbreviated space. The dancers made it look seamless. Most of the dances were more of a modern style, and the costumes were simple yet very elegant and complimented the music and the dances. With the scaling down of the room for their leaps, twirls, and flourishes the dancers were sometimes almost in our laps, and when they left the “stage” they merely passed between two chairs and left the room and stood and waited for the next dance.

From my many years of carting our own daughter to ballet and seeing a little bit of the behind the scene amount of work they are doing, I still had never seen a ballet performance in such a close up, very personal view. With grace and power these dancers moved and swayed, and they poured sweat and took great gulps of air when they left the stage. What they were making for us, art in movement, did not get there by chance. Ballet is not a sissy activity as it sometimes gets accused of, at least not on the level of proficiency of these dancers.

To see up close, a ballerina(and I’m not talking tiny, slim yes but..) being carried above her partner’s head all the way across the room, with him making her look like she could just as easily float up and away, is an amazing thing to watch. These were people at serious athletic work, which made their sharing of the many hours of practice it took to get them to this level, a real gift, and made even more special because of a rain cloud that drew us together into venue, and this space and time.

It was a very nice surprise to have such an experience, and it would have been little more than a social picnic in the original site of the evening. The rain that brought disappointment for some that day, brought beauty to the skies, much needed water to the fields, a rainbow, and a marvelous intimate ethereal experience in watching these dancers and being there with them and our friends. Nice.

O body swayed to music,
O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
Wm. Keats

the nice photos of the dancers courtesy of Mark Dauber, regrets that i can't include the lovely scene shots that i took. i am not tech oriented enough to get them to jpegs.

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