Nothing seemed to go my way yesterday. I spent the entire work day in a bad mood for no reason, aside from the fact that I was off in class, I couldn’t get on my leg, I was bloated, and ballet seemed to fight me every step of the way. This frustration, of course, led to the dramatic why-do-I-even-care-so-much negativity spiral, in which I question my intense love for an art form that half of the world has never given the time of day. Why does ballet have such a power over me? Why can it destroy my emotions with the simple wobble of a pirouette? And though it maintains this ability, why does it feel the need to exercise it over me on such a random Thursday? Ballet can be so cruel sometimes.
And then I read this review from last weekend’s Up Close On Hope performance (Alex and I finally premiered Moonlight!), and my trust in ballet was completely restored. It’s one of the best reviews I’ve received in a long time, and reading it gave me that tickly toes feeling, like when you finish a whole crossword puzzle (nerd alert). I put so much of myself into that performance, sitting cross-legged with my forehead pressed into the marley for 15 minutes just before dancing, mentally returning myself to this dark place I told you about, so having that vulnerability validated felt like a huge triumph.
And with the quick skim of that article, I was back in ballet’s warm embrace. She’s a fickle beast, that one.
For the past few weeks, A and I have been “setting the mood” with creative lighting in the studios before our Moonlight rehearsals. Remember when we danced under chandeliers?
Yesterday, our director suggested this artificial form of inspiration was merely a crutch, stifling the growth of our professional artistry. So we kept the lights on. And I fell apart.
The first run was rough. I kept catching myself in the mirror, hating what I saw (dancer problems), and throwing off the piece. While I should have been deepening my plié and relaxing into the floor, I was self-consciously tip-toeing around the studio robbing this gorgeous pas de deux of all emotional purpose. So, after some encouragement to dig deep into my emotional history, we ran the piece once more. And I fell apart. In a good way.
Without the dim lighting helping me to feign dissolution, I was forced to crawl into one of the darkest corners of my mind. Here, in this routinely averted fold of grey matter, I became so distracted with the weight of my despair that I forgot to notice what my body was doing until the last chord rang out and our run was over. If that sounds dramatic, it’s because it was.
Friday night I had my first evening rehearsal of the season, and it was actually quite a lovely time. Alex and I insisted on lighting the studios with the overhead chandeliers that are usually reserved for black box events like Up Close On Hope, and of course self-proclaimed perpetual youth that he is, our boss was all too happy to allow it. Rehearsing moonlight doused in the soft glow of chandeliers was completely transporting. A slow drip of darkness from the two large windows facing 4th Street wafted its way in and filled the studio with a fuzzy, dim weight. Our chandeliers indulged us with their moony glow. The alternative lighting left an effect on the room, like the entire space had closed its eyes and our rehearsal was its subconscious monologue. We were that thing, that strange stream of movement it had no real control over imagining when its eyelids were pulled down. It was then that I realized, I do about 80 percent of this piece with my own eyes closed, something I have never incorporated into a performance before. Every step of the sleepy pas de deux felt notably more honest that night, my hollow hands paddling amidst an intangible, weightless mass, the invisible density of darkness. Heavy, but completely immune to gravity. How frustrating to be held captive in this impossible sensation.
Before heading off to said evening rehearsal, I decided to take advantage of my long break and the beautiful fall foliage by going out for a walk around Swan Point Cemetery, right at the end of Blackstone Boulevard. Swan Point is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever wandered into, so much so that before I knew it I had myself completely lost amongst the red leaves and tomb stones. What was meant to be a quick stroll turned into a 2.5-hour walk, but I don’t regret it for a minute. Sometimes a long lonely walk with just the company of your own thoughts is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Definitely feeling the eerie October vibes these days, if you hadn’t already noticed…
ps- check out this video of choreographer Ilya Kozadayev, discussing one of the other pieces he set on FBP.