“To say the word Romanticism is to say modern art- that is, intimacy, spirituality, color, aspiration towards the infinite, all expressed by every means available to the arts.” -Charles Baudelaire
Last week a few of the dancers and I attended a campaign party to show our interest in all of the elections going on right now, and to emphasize the importance of supporting art, even in our (very) little corner of the world. There are speculators out there who claim that ballet is dying. That it is too old, unapproachable, and unchanging to keep up with today’s faster-than-ever-paced society. But I challenge them. I challenge them to look past these stereotypes that they latch onto for argument’s sake and to take another look at ballet. It is not misguided, it is misunderstood. With new works being created every day and young choreographers emerging as if overnight (hi, Justin Peck), ballet keeps up a rate of fresh production to rival some of the world’s leading musical and visual artists. Through time and space, ballet continues to reinvent itself, with hundreds of companies across the globe performing modern, contemporary, and neoclassic works alongside their classical repertoire, and doing it with style. The level of skill, strength, and intelligence required for dancing such a wide range of movements with this high standard of technique is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Perhaps, I am suggesting, it is simply because the public is not informed of this constant creation, that ballet does not receive the credit it is due.
Today I met a man in line at the supermarket. He was African, with a thick accent, and a vibrancy for life that suggested he had only recently moved to the US and was not yet intimately aware of its quickly reproaching society. He told me he liked my outfit, and asked what I called the style of skirt I was wearing. I responded “A-line” and my insides fluttered a bit when I noticed him repeating it to himself, filing away my words into an important storage section of his brain; his inquiry was genuine, his enthusiasm contagious. He showed me the hydrangeas he’d selected for his wife, and continued to ask me about myself, Was I a student? -no- A ballet dancer?! How wonderful! I simply must write down the name of my company so that he can see a show. I scribbled Festival Ballet Providence and some info onto his receipt and he was on his way, smiling as he waved goodbye. His interest was honest, and it left me realizing how many times I’ve had this exact interaction, only with a considerable lack of excitement from the inquiring party. Then I thought about how this man might actually look into FBP and show up to a performance, and how happy it might make he and his wife.
I would like the public to consider ballet the way this man did. Consider it as a higher form of entertainment. Consider what ballet could teach you or your children. Consider how it could make you feel. Consider how ballet could inspire you, enrich or pleasantly bemuse you. Consider the many ways in which ballet in all its diversity is relevant to the art scene; past, present, and future. Consider how much you really know about ballet. Now is the time to encourage this renaissance, and as dancers we are the messengers of this movement. Who’s with me?
all photos by STB