Friday, December 10, 2010

"The Dancer Within"

I am on the 8th floor of the Chicago Public Library and I never want to leave. I picked up this book by Rose Eichenbaum and it is a set of interviews of famous artists/dancers. It is fabulous. I don't know why hearing what Martha Graham teach someone or how Alvin Ailey was very respectful of the individuality of his dancers or how Balanchine didn't care who his successor was is such intriguing material to me, but it is. Hearing it firsthand can be quite profound.

Regardless, I wanted to quote some quotes from the book. Maybe I will quote more later...

“As a dancer your job is to interpret your character or, in an abstract ballet, a story or viewpoint. What’s it like for you when you feel your own identity surface?”

“I can’t really describe what that feelsl ike, but I do know that it’s what keeps me going, even through all these injuries. I can try to explain it with words like joy, fulfillment, euphoria, but these words are insufficient and inaccurate.”

“When you get into that emotionally charged place, do you try to linger there a while?”
“To try to linger there would suggest that you have some control over it. I don’t. I’m only in control of the steps that i’m doing and the training and the musicality I possess. I only have the tools to go for the ride. I’d be foolish to think I control what happens out there. I’d be foolish to want to”.


“Do you remember your first class with Martha?”

“I’ll never forget it. I came in and took a place in the back of the room. Louis Horst was playing the piano. Martha stood at the front of the room and demonstrated a contraction.” Yuriko now sat up, her eyes shining. “As Martha’s torso hollowed I thought to myself, that’s what I want in my body. Here was drama. Here was creativity. I had to find out where it comes from. In time, I understood that the contraction comes from the breath, and that its shape originates from a deep source within the body. This source extends to all the extremities in the physical body. Take for example, Martha’s famous cupped hand,” she said, demonstrating. “This is not a position or a shape. It comes from here,” she said, pointing to her solar plexus and then drawing her finger up the chest, through the armpit, down her arm to the center of her hand. “The body’s center islike the roots of a tree that sends nourishment out to all its branches. A contraction vibrates through the body and ends right here,” she said, pressing her index finger into the center of her cupped hand. “It’s alive. A shape is not alive. To achieve, this, you have to steal it,” she said, looking me in the eye.”

“Rose, it’s not really a mission. I simply realized what a transforming experience being an artist is. I wanted to share it. There is great joy in being consumed with an art form and making it your life. And it’s true of all the arts...if you are lucky enough to ‘play’ with tremendously talented people as your teachers, it is a soul-transforming epiphany...”

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