This past week I read a fascinating book called DANCERS ON DANCING, edited by Cynthia Lyle. It's an out-of-print book (1979), and it includes exclusive interviews with ballet dancers, modern dancers, and choreographers. I learned so much about the dancing world! Dancer go into the profession like any other athlete - knowing their dancing time is limited. And basically to be a dancer is to be someone who experiences pain -- and dances through the pain. I'm interested to find out where these dancers are now, 30+ years later.
Throughout the book I was reminded again of how all art is essentially the same. Today I'd like to share quotes from the book the resonated with the writer in me... and then I'll share a dance poem!
When things aren't going so well...
"The only solution is to find a way to get back into my dancing, just to do that as well as I can and enjoy it. Then I'm all right again. Then I can keep going. There are always friends saying, "You know, you really should be doing this role. Why aren't you doing it?" And sometimes I start to think, "Yes, I should be doing it." But I'm not doing it. And I can get so confused by what I want and don't have that I forget what I do have. That isn't everything, but it's good enough."
- Martine van Hamel
"Dancers are very neurotic people. We are either depressed or very happy. We are always at either one extreme or the other. Frustration before I get onstage often brings out frustration onstage. We like to dance; when we don't dance, we get depressed. If we do a bad performance, it's hard to forget. We are always striving for perfection, which we know we will never attain. A dancer is a creature of moods. The happiest times for me are when I'm performing."
- Ted Kivitt
On strengths and weaknesses...
"I have a very soft and limber back, which makes it very difficult to pirouette. I always have trouble with pirouettes; it's my biggest hangup. But since I passed thirty, I look at it in a different way. I don't dream about doing ten pirouettes because I'm not capable of doing that many. I have learned to accept both my strongest and my weakest points. My strongest point is that I have a very good sustained elevation for jumping, which for a male dancer is very important. I try not to show off. Instead of trying to do eight pirouettes I do three, but I try to make them very clean and very definite. I work on my weak points, but I don't take chances and I don't get mad. I know my limitations and I try to work with them, not to resent them."
- Ivan Nagy
"One thing an artist can't do is judge himself or herself objectively. It's impossible -- mirrors and pictures don't do it for you. Somebody else has to judge you. And then it has to be a great eye to do you justice, to do the most for you by criticizing you, by keeping you in your place and yet challenging you too.... You struggle to improve them every day and to assert what is already good. It's a process that never ends. I personally think it's the only way of existing."
- Violette Verdy
|found at www.quotegarden.com
"I think it is healthy to be competitive with yourself, but not against each other."
- Arthur Mitchell
On finding your purpose...
"There's a period that dancers have to go through, I think, in which you just have to get out on stage and try anything, because the way you should move hasn't crystallized yet."
On advice for young dancers...
"I go into colleges and tell them all to forget it, because I think that a little discouragement is the most I can do to help them. They should know what they're getting into. And I've always believed that unless somebody really has a very big need to dance and feels absolutely driven and has some kind of a real dream about it, he shouldn't take up people's time.... So I think it's best to tell them the worst."
- Paul Taylor
On the role of the critic...
"The critics should build audiences; instead they destroy them by writing disparaging reviews with a narrow outlook. It's very serious, when your economics depends on your audiences."
"For me, I've done the work. That's enough. What I feel is enough. I don't like getting the applause and adulation."
|also by Rumi! You can buy this one at Etsy's Raw Art Letterpress.
On why we love what we love...
"You hear a piece of music, and you've never heard anything quite like it. But you're drawn to it. Why? Because you sense the truth in it. The same in painting. Art presents the truth in many ways."
On where art comes from...
"All these dances come from my stomach - that is the creation point. I don't understand why dancers call one piece "Flower," the next dance "Storm," the next dance "Untitled." If there is only one creation point, and from that all dances come, why they have to make up other titles with their minds? That's very stupid to me. That is like decorating."
Now for my single, solitary dance poem! It's from a series of historical women poems I wrote and is included in my book of poems THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS.
Audrey Hepburn at the Dance Studio
Born for arabesque and cabriole,
I could not pirouette my way
through the occupation, could only
perform in my mind pique turns
and side leaps while I scratched
dirt with fingers, unearthed
tulip bulbs and ground them
to flour. Between loaves
my bones began to wither
and crack, hunger dissolving
the fine arches of my feet,
the graceful curve of calf.
When the war ended I stumbled
into a different dream.
And for all it’s given me
and all I’ve become, I’d trade it
for this mirror, this bar,
one night on some great stage,
my body fluid as sunlight
breaking over a field of wheat.
- Irene Latham