After recently seeing FELA, I became interested in the work of Bill T. Jones. His Tony Award winning choreography for FELA moved me to tears. I came across this documentary about his new project: A Good Man, and had to share. It is an incredibly inspiring and intelligent film about dance, choreography, performance and storytelling. This is a must-see for anyone interested in creativity. Works like this make me wish I had pursued dance more professionally. I am completely in awe.
"I used to say that I want grace. That my reward in this life were to be to find what grace is. But now it's all choppy seas. Grace is for the saints. I'm not a saint, I don't aspire to be one yet. I'm a two-fisted maker." – Bill T. Jones.
One of the highlights of my stay in NY this month is getting back to my dance classes at Alvin Ailey. Here was a rare moment alone in the studio just before my Horton class (first one in a year). It was an emotional reunion. It was as though I never left. My connection to this space – to dance – is difficult to articulate. Like coming home. I can imagine what it must be like for those who do this professionally. If there was one thing I wish I could bring back with me to Toronto, it would be exactly...this.
Lexie and I are back in our Brooklyn apt for (all/most) of August. The slight change of plans happened just a day or two ago. It was what I wanted to do anyway, my circumstances changed to accommodate for a longer stay. It could be my last few months of having a Brooklyn apartment. And my place was (deliberately) vacant this month anyway. Since the timing worked in favour of staying, I figured, why the hell not?!
It's been unexpectedly grounding to be back in the city. It feels a lot more like coming home this trip. It has everything to do with familiar surroundings, even for Lexie. I've lucked out with great weather. I'm taking in as much inspiration from the city now as I ever did while I lived here. It's been so wonderful to spend time with my dearest ny friends again and eating very well, as per usual. I will write a separate post on the food! I AM also doing work while I'm here and looking for interesting new projects as well.
One of the things I'm looking forward to this next couple of weeks is taking my Alvin Ailey dance classes again. In fact, I am going today. I can't wait!
Photos above (from top left): Jeffrey's Grocery (West Village) A West Village apartment courtyard Lexie at her old park in Brooklyn Still life at Joseph Leonard restaurant (West Village) My new fall oxford/mocc ankle boots! (by Luxury Rebel) Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn at sunset
Last night I had the chance to witness, once again, the exquisite beauty of the most famous ballet in history, Swan Lake. After seeing the film Black Swan, I was quite inspired to see the ballet again. I learned that it was first performed in 1895 in St. Petersburg by this very same ballet company – Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet. It was it the first ballet I have ever seen – back when I myself was studying ballet at the age of eight. In the days leading up to seeing the performance, I realized that Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake had been my introduction to classical music. I had the casette tape, in fact. I used to dance by myself to this music whenever I wasn't in class dancing to it.
Within the first few minutes of the ballet, I was in tears. Yes, I was that moved. It's amazing how much the music took me back to that exact time in my life and the sense of joy dance gave me (and still does). I remembered that I learned sections of this ballet myself. I remembered feeling overwhelmed when I first saw it onstage and didn't quite understand why it was so moving then. I thought about my first ballet teacher (Vella Damian). I learned recently that she went on to train a few dancers who later became prima ballerinas. I also remembered my mom taking me to every class and how she wouldn't let me cry in front of my teacher whenever I messed up. There is so much memory tied to this and it all rushed back to me the moment orchestra began to play.
The performance last night was so exquisite. It took my breath away. I felt that we, the audience, were witness to such extraordinary beauty and art in those three hours. Not to mention the perfection of the 32 fouette turns by prima ballerina, Uliana Lopatkina. It was absolutely incredible. I thought: this is why dancers learn to dance. This is the ballet that first inspires dancers to dance. And that dance transcends language. Anyone can understand and appreciate it. I felt so fortunate to be witness this level of the art.
Here's a great BBC documentary I found on Swan Lake and it's history. It's a great inside look at the Mariinsky company and the story of the ballet itself. There's also a video of Act 3 of Swan Lake featuring prima ballerina, Uliana Lopatkina's amazing 32 fouette turns.
After months of anticipation (and avoiding reading it's reviews), I finally saw Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. It is easily became my favourite film this year – if not, of all time. It was amazing. Natalie Portman was so perfectly cast for this and, to me, delivered the most captivating performance of her career. So many shots focused a great deal on her face and the psychological turmoil underneath. She was incredible. The film was dark, sexy, timeless and edgy, gorgeous colour palette and cinematography (by an incredibly talented friend, Matty Libatique). It was a kind of psychological thriller that reminded me of terrifying old black & white films like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. There were enough surprises in the film to make even the most jaded viewer jump out of their seat (or gasp and look away, the way I did). It was also amazing to see all the dancers and performances. This film took my breath away. I'm dying to see it again...
Last night I made my way back to my first dance class in two months. Despite a somewhat terrifying rusty start, it provided the joy and satisfaction of movement and expression I needed – not to mention an incredible stretch. I tried a new technique (Graham) with a friend at a new school (School of Toronto Dance Theater). At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, last night made me realize that no matter what is happening in my life or what direction I'm being pulled, I can turn to dance to bring me back to me.
Having all my dance clothes back on inspired a photography search last night. It lead me to the work of multi-disciplinary artist (and dancer), Adriene Hughes. I absolutely love her photos. Her own love of dance comes through her work. They make me wish I had pursued dance more seriously. These images in particular really spoke to me. It captures the passion and desire that dancers aim to express with their bodies. I was also very moved by the artist's own story of cancer survival. It's unfathomable to me to even imagine having such an experience – especially for someone who's physicality is so vital for creativity and expression.
I was incredibly moved by my dance teacher's company's performance last weekend. Not only was it so beautiful and exciting, I have a great deal emotional connection to dance as well. Watching the same style of dance that I study (Horton) being performed is unbelievably inspiring. I took photos until I was told I was not permitted. I sat so close to the dancers that I could hear every breath they took during the performance. It made the experience that much more intense. I could have continued to watch the dancers performing for hours. I am far from being at the skill level these dancers are at. It was lovely to dream for a moment, of trying to attain it. These photos don't even begin to capture the energy of a live performance. If you've never seen one, I highly recommend it.
If you've followed my blog for some time, you're aware of my love of dance. My teacher, Karen Arceneaux at the Alvin Ailey Extension remains a huge inspiration to me. Dancing has given me so much over the past few years. Karen's Horton classes continue to teach me strength and grace through dance – not to mention stress relief, humour, live music and endless fun!
I'm looking forward to seeing Karen's own dance company, Genesis Dance Company perform on July 24th, 2010 as part of their 8th annual NY Performance. if you're a fan of dance and in the NY area this month, go see this one night only performance in Brooklyn's Kumble Theater. I absolutely loved last year's show.