Saturday, June 21, 2008

Art Does Not Imitate Reality

The studio on Broadway which I usually attend has open Ballet classes. This means that depending on your level, you can join any class available and do some barre and center work every day of the week. As convenient as this might be, the competitive level of the dancers can get intimidating. Although most dancers who take those classes aren't professionals, some of them are. Those who are belong to the American ballet Theater, or dance for companies such as the New York City ballet. Some of them take classes at Broadway as a break from their other, more exhausting Ballet classes at their own companies. Dancing, like any other art form, only becomes art when one is extremely good at it. At least with Classical Ballet there are no intermediates, there is no getting away with being a bad dancer because the flaws would be too evident in the movements of the body (unlike plenty of contemporary artists who seem to get away with bad installations or dull paintings, etc.) The division is easy then: there are those who dance and try to make the best of it and there are those who dance so extremely well, so flawlessly that they are able to use their bodies as instruments for artistic creation.

This is all to say that I sucked at my Ballet class today on the Broadway Studio. Not because I couldn't follow the center work or because the jumps were too hard, like it sometimes happens, but only because there was one boy who was so amazing it just killed me. Compared to his saint-like steps, his flight, everybody in that studio was a fallen creature. This boy was of Asian decent and must have been younger than sixteen. He was probably a future dancer for the American Ballet theater. I kept having to stop what I was doing to watch him jump in the air and suspend his body away from gravity, like a small king.

This boy stood in front of the mirror and turned four pirouettes, he jumped, finishing his allegro solemnly, without much thought and then he retired to his corner of the studio, walking humbly after having moved like a fire bird. I saw him standing quietly, his soldier eyes, and wanted to whisper: " Your life will be solitary and difficult, but you have something that nobody else does." Dancers like him are the ones who keep proving me wrong. You see, I keep saying that there are no Ideals of Beauty in Art, that Platonic perfection does not exist. Then I go to a Ballet Studio and there, among the other limb bodies in tights and leg warmers, among the city smoke, I see a boy dancing like he is a small king. And I realize that there is perfection and that human beings can achieve it. Art does not imitate reality, it imitates universals. And I witness so much genius and beauty in less than one minute of movement, and it is all embodied in the figure of this child who has tricked us all, who has carried us away from reality.

This child has proved me wrong, he will be the next Nijinsky, the next great artist. Meanwhile after class, all of us, average dancers, will go back home and continue with our lives. We will try to convince ourselves like others do, that there are no ideals of perfection, that the most one can do is strive for the best Forms and be happy with that, convince ourselves about our fall and our imperfect nature. But we will be lying to ourselves. As dancers, we have seen Beauty embodied, we have witnessed it as it grew thirsty and out of breath in the slippery studio floor, and no imitation theory will be able to live up to, to justify its perfection anymore.

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