Forget The Moon, Memory’s A Harsh Mistress
Okay, confession taimz.
In class on Thursday and Sunday, I caught my balancé in the mirror and thought, “Hey, that looks really nice!” And I gave myself a mental pat on the back.
- Don’t worry, my humility was immediately restored on Thursday when I couldn’t remember which was my left leg on the return trip and again on Sunday when I traveled too much, did too many loose-canon chaînes (which, for some reason, my legs insisted on doing in fifth), and lame-ducked myself right into a fecking doorframe.
This has been fairly consistent of late, at least when I remember to make note of which flavor of balancé I’m supposed to do.
If, on the other hand, the choreography calls for leading off with arrière and instead you travel à gauche, your beautiful balancé will shortly turn into an awkward evasion as you attempt not to crash into the poor soul who has rolled up to go behind you in your group.
- I, for one, favor the “jump straight up like you’ve just been stung” approach, particularly when you’re supposed to be channeling Balanchine. I feel it fits well with the glittering verticality of Mr. B’s style. For a more Russian approach, however, gracefully and dramatically collapsing to the ground might be a better fit: the Russian style places so much emphasis on expression and character, after all. Or I suppose one could simply try to remember the entire combination.
Either way, I’ve grown rather pleased with my balancés, and it seems that in the process I’ve forgotten what bastardy horrors they were to re-learn.
Tonight, an old entry of Dorky’s reminded me of how gum-blisteringly weird balancés feel before you
brute force finagle your way into them, and how infuriating that can be given that they look like such a natural, breezy step.
Of course, I say all of this after first receiving the Secret Brute Force Balancé Hack from BG, and then being constantly corrected and guided and occasionally actually manhandled until my balancés, too, look springy, fluid, and effortless.
Which, it turns out, more or less seems to sum up the way one learns ballet. Each step, each skill, is drilled into one’s bones by a process of repetition and refinement that begins with, “I’ll never find it! Never, never, never!” passes through the murky waters of, “I can do this, ish, but I suck at it,” to the Island of, “Hey, I don’t even really suck at this anymore!” and eventually to the distant port of, “I’m actually kinda good at this, though not as good as X Famous Dancer/Company Member /Turns Girl (to borrow someone from Yorksranter)/Adagio Wizard/Jumps Boy.”
- “Jumps Boy” is the role I’m growing into in my own cohort of Ballet Nerds. It sounds better than “Impulsive Grand Allegro Fanatic.”
And in time, you lose the savor of those early days of struggle.
And then Memory comes along and slaps you with a dead salmon and says, “Oh, you’re not so great! Here, have an outtakes reel of everything horrible you’ve ever done with balancés!”
And for a minute, you stand there gobsmacked, because Memory really is a first-rate b*tch sometimes.
And then you realize that the very fact that you can even be horrified at how very, very bad you were at balancés means that you’ve come far enough to know how very bad you were, which is at once terrifying (“One year from now, I am going to cringe so hard about literally everything I think I know how to do right now o____O'”) and edifying (“But you guys! Look how much LESS BAD I am now than I was one year ago!”).
So there it is. Pretty much the whole reason that ballet is Not For Everyone (even though, in a greater sense, it is for everyone): you need a strong stomach for your own shortcomings; an ability to say, “Well feck this right out the window; it is literally the most unreasonable thing,” after class on Tuesday, then show up anyway on Wednesday, because somebody has to show the newcomers how it’s (not) done.