When I was in the 5th grade I memorized Romeo’s balcony scene monologue. My brother had just started in the 8th grade at a new private school, and his English class was studying Shakespeare. Each student was required to memorize a passage from the great tragedy and recite it to the class. My brother, though brighter than most, was rather intimidated by this. He favored equations over paragraphs. Shakespeare’s particular brand of loquaciousness might as well have been Portuguese to his number-loving mind. Fortunately, my mother was always one step ahead. She established a line-a-night system, softening the intricate prose so it may permeate and linger long enough to be spoken before his classmates. Each evening after dinner, she would read the tangled words aloud slowly, using an authentic inflection. Hearing it broken down this way, I awoke to Shakespeare’s poetry. The words came alive. It made sense.
“That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.” I understood.
Thanks to sheer proximity (re: shared couch space), my mother’s slow Shakespearean sets seeped their way into my brain as well. Though serving over the years as little more than a fun party trick, my memorized bits of Romeo’s monologue are resurfacing in the studio, as we set a brand new interpretation of the epic love story. But this time my understanding feels different. Though the ancient text remains unchanged, the love and loss in my own life have transformed the words I once thought I knew. The prose itself seems to have inflated, the sentiment of every sentence deepened. Romeo’s love for Juliet seems ever more magnificent to me now, their untimely deaths far more crushing.
I can’t wait to see where the rest of this ballet takes me, perhaps even beyond fair Verona, where we lay our scene…
“The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.” -William Shakespeare
Between bruised knees and sore ankles, the pink satin dream of a young girl in pigtails tends to slip away, masked by the shadows of a calloused reality. But sitting in the small pool of sunshine by the window in studio 2 yesterday, draped in the tulle fairytale my younger self once subconsciously designed, I couldn’t help but bask in the dreaminess of it all. Of course I promptly tweaked my hip upon standing, and felt compelled to reflect on the relationship between light and shadows; Polar opposites upon first inspection, in reality one could not exist without the other.
Interdependent and eternally connected, light and darkness tempt and rescind each other, distort and define each other. The very existence of one both creates and negates the other, making it impossible for them to separate or marry, and the incoherent dance endures, a perpetual representation of the incidental union of two contradicting entities. Ballet often manifests itself in this paradoxical friction, simultaneously embodying beauty and disfigurement, intense pain and a lack of fear. On stage we exhaust ourselves to present the audience with artificial ease; We submit to hours of physical malady in the production of an unmatched elegance. But if we listen to Shakespeare, we come to understand that most dreams take the form of a shadow while being pursued by those who truly aspire. That is, it is in this work and toil that dreams eventually come to fruition. One relies on the other, no matter how antithetical they may seem.
In these moments, where the dream and reality intersect, I wonder if a bit of borrowed spirit from a younger, poufy-tutu-clad me isn’t the missing link between my light and my shadows.
PS- Do you like my special new leotard? Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement, coming soon!