Weekend Updates: Art, Ankles and an Old Poem


1. I’m really loving this series of ink-drawn ballerinas on book paper and mixed media. They’re by Romania-based artist Emanuel M. Ologeanu, who sells these and other prints on Etsy. These would look perfect in simple black frames on the walls of my dream room — ballet barre and mirror on one side, writing desk and bookshelves on the other, sprung wooden floor, big bay window letting in the light, with a cat snoozing on the windowsill. Sigh. I did say dream room, right?

2. My mild, grade 1 sprain is healing quite nicely. Three weeks ago, the doctor said I had “angry scar tissue” in my peroneal tendons and quite a bit of tenderness in my posterior tibialis, which she taped up. I’ve also been seeing a Restorative Exercise specialist who analyzed my walking pattern and immediately noticed: collapsed arches and overpronation, especially in my left foot; overactive quads; and weakness in my hips, especially the left gluteus medius which, among other things, is responsible for balancing on one leg. It’s disconcerting how easily these experts can read my body — as if it were an open book, an appliance with usage history and faulty warranties — while I’m obliviously illiterate to my own body’s functions. How could I not have realized that every time I balance on my left foot, my ankle bone forces its way inward and I put all my weight on my big toe, my little toes almost lifting away from the floor? That’s one unstable tripod. It’s a wonder I’ve been able to pull off clean pirouettes on that side! Anyway, we’ve been working on waking up the arch, finding “neutral foot,” redeveloping ankle mobility, strengthening the turnout muscles and improving balance. Hard work — but it’ll be good in the long run, especially if I want to keep dancing for decades.

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Wordy Weekends: We All Have Reasons for Moving


Tia Paulina Flamenco’s post and the reaction of Secrets of a Balletomane reminded me of a Mark Strand poem I fell in love with as a college sophomore. I remember the angst of that age — feeling unheard, uncertain about who I was and where I belonged, wanting to disappear from events I felt forced to attend, from roles I was expected to fulfill. Something was always missing.

It took a while to realize the void inside could be filled by words. Mark Strand was one of those poets whose words resonated, but who also felt strangely inaccessible — I could relate to the obsession with absence but couldn’t understand his desire for self-effacement (then again, what narcissistic teenager can?).

Today, after writing out the alphabet with my injured ankle (one of my prescribed rehab exercises), I reread this poem, first published in Sleeping With One Eye Open (1964) and again in his Selected Poems (1980):

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

We all have reasons, the poem’s speaker says. And because I can’t help but read dance into everything now — especially since I still have to work my way slowly back up to those big jumps I love — here are my reasons. I move to express what my words cannot. I move to get out of my small mind, to reconnect with my body and what it loves to do, to reconnect with something larger. I make big movements to tell myself that it’s OK to take up space, to claim my place in the world, even if it’s just a little corner of the studio. Rephrasing (and perhaps misreading) Strand, I move to keep myself whole.

What are your reasons for moving?

Wordy Weekends: Ulanova, Bidart and the Ageless Giselle


bidartIn keeping with this blog’s name, I’ll be writing a weekly post about a poem, poet,  poetic technique or book with some connection to dance — or that can be read from a dancer’s perspective.

I was going through an old journal, searching for fragments to mine for an ongoing project, when I found notes on Frank Bidart’s Watching the Spring Festival (2008). Based on my scribbles, it seems I wasn’t especially moved by this book of lyric poetry, with its flat-sounding meditations on mortality. I much preferred the tonal variety and page-as-stage explorations of Bidart’s dramatic monologues and longer poems in other books. One of these days I’ll reread and write about his 30-page “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky” — maybe in November, when the National Ballet remounts John Neumeier’s Nijinsky.

There was one poem in Watching the Spring Festival that stood out to me: “Ulanova at Forty-Six At Last Dances Before a Camera Giselle.” In it, a persona watches a grainy clip of the famous Bolshoi ballerina Galina Ulanova, who finally allowed herself to be filmed dancing Giselle while on tour in London in 1956. She was 46 years old.

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Blinded and Bedazzled


Valerie Calam and Anisa Tejpar in three menandwomen three. Photo by Genevieve Caron.

There were many moments while watching Proartedanza‘s SHORT STORIES when I could have reached out and touched the sole of a dancer crouched on the floor. Or extended my leg and joined the moving sculptures making their way diagonally upstage. The Artscape Wychwood Barns theatre was small, with bench-like seats, and V and I were in the front row. The dancers were SOCLOSE we could hear them breathing, feel their body heat, see sweat dripping onto the marley. The intimacy of this setting really set the tone for a show that explored huge ideas: community, communion, what it means to share space with other bodies and to reveal yourself in authentic, meaningful ways.

The first piece, Adam Paolozza’s three menandwomen three — inspired by this e.e. cummings poem (“six are in a room’s dark around”) and Magritte’s The Lovers — opened with six dancers not just blindfolded, but with their entire heads covered in white fabric.The fabric revealed enough of their features that we could tell when their mouths were open or if their nostrils flared as they took tiny steps forward and back, making random movements people do when they think no one’s watching — adjusting shirt straps, scratching a crotch. Then they paired up, and the choreography turned playful, sexy, the repetitive gestures becoming urgent and intense. One dancer kept getting thrown onto the floor then circling back to touch his partner. Partners switched, pairings evolved, and despite (or maybe due to) the dancers not being able to fully see each other, the movements were fluid, natural, with extra attention paid to making space for each other. What struck me most was the contrast when they took off their head coverings and eyed each other with suspicion and nonchalance. Suddenly, even when they weren’t touching, they were in each other’s way, mumbling “Sorry” and “Excuse me” without meaning it, like commuters elbowing each other at the subway station, hurtling towards the next moment without being truly present. The possibilities for communion are lost.

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