Many of us may have scribbled down Resolutions on paper or in our heads. More often than not, these entail adhering to fitness regimens or weight-management goals. Why on earth do we do this every year? Do we ever get to the point where we are satisfied with the way we look?
Take dancers, for example. Nearly all dancers I know cringe at the sight of their images. We examine our reflections judgmentally in the studio mirror and immediately criticize ourselves. In fact, my nerves are wrought just posting these pictures!
|Me in a studio photo last year|
for a yoga-inspired ballet, set to Vivaldi
Raw photo: Jun Yang Photography
Edited Photo: The Foolish Aesthete
Blame it on the aesthetic George Balanchine stamped on ballet -- the idealized preference for the long-limbed, ethereal ballerina. It's an impossible perfection. Didn't Plato indicate that the material world is but a mere shadow mimicking the ideal Form? That about sums up how ballet dancers feel. At the elite level, if your physique does not conform to the Ideal, you are encouraged to take up a more forgiving alternative -- Modern, Jazz or Broadway dance. Or exit the field and take up photography.
|From another studio photo last year|
same yoga-inspired piece, set to Vivaldi
Raw Photo: Jun Yang Photography
Edited Photo: The Foolish Aesthete
Dance critic, Alistair Macaulay, ignited a big hullaballoo during his Nutcracker reviews two winters ago. He cited that a certain Sugar Plum Fairy looked like she had eaten a sweet too many. Was that an attack on physical appearance or a valid critique of a visual art form? In Ballet, they are inextricably bound together.
One could argue that an artist, whatever shape, can move an audience to tears or ecstasy. But the hurdle is greater if the physical attributes are at odds with expectations. I've heard muffled sniggers from the audience viewing heavy opera singers in romantic roles, effectively detracting from enjoyment of the opera. It takes a greater mental leap -- perhaps aided by shutting the eyes -- and immense talent for the audience to be moved by the exquisite harmonies.
For dancers, as for athletes, our bodies are our instruments. We hone our bodies for our craft as a musician tunes their violin or piano. Dancers are meant to carve beautiful lines and shapes in space. The forthcoming image is as much from the Form our bodies come in as the movement we elicit from it. Therein lies our conundrum. One cannot shut ones' eyes to appreciate dance.
Alessandra Ferri and Sting
Ferri is a mesmerizing ballerina who embodies the physical and artistic Ideal. She has some of the most admired feet in ballet history -- just watch the video! I used to watch her onstage at the American Ballet Theater until she retired a few years ago.
The actual dancing in the video begins at 2:40. But the entire short is beautiful, bringing together artists from various disciplines: music (via Sting and Bach), dance, film (directed by Ferri's husband, the photographer Fabrizio Ferri). And if you need exercise inspiration, it is quite surprising to see Sting mid-twist practicing yoga!
Many dancers I know cannot bear to watch videos of themselves. (I've heard some actors do the same, never viewing their finished films.) Unlike Narcissus' reflection, ours always falls short of Perfection. Yet, we force ourselves to get feedback from the mirror, or take notes from past performance videos, to see what we can improve. The film, "Black Swan" was exaggerated, but it gives you a glimpse of a dancer's tortured psyche.
Boris Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?
Victoria Page: (after thinking) Why do you want to live?
Boris Lermontov: (surprised) Well, I don't know exactly why, ... but I must.
Victoria Page: That's my answer too.
What do you think? This issue of weight and image is akin to that of skinny models in magazines and runways. Is fashion only beautiful on thin figures? Somehow, the proliferation of street and self-style blogs tells me this is not the case. Beauty can come in all shapes and sizes! That said, do you have any image-related resolutions?