From the New York Times' Gia Kourlas, April 5, 2023:
"Ballet these days is under fire in some quarters, and the very idea of devotion to it has become suspect. A myth has grown around it: That its price is physical and mental abuse, eating disorders, bloody toes, suffering, pain and blind subservience to patriarchal leaders."
Gia's "Critic's Notebook" column in this week's NYT was, to me, exciting, validating, thought-provoking, and a relief. A relief because at last, a prominent, credible voice on dance was expressing-- with clarity and rational analysis-- all the points about this "ballet under fire" trend that have been swirling around in my own head over the last many months.
Gia lays out the reasons why to be a ballet dancer (a female one) does not mean subscribing to an illusory, pseudo-feminism. Why Balanchine's choreography in particular gives dancers just the opposite: irrevocable freedom and power and autonomy and self-worth. Why finding one's identity as a ballet dancer is a proud thing, not one to be trying to slip away from or hide. Why a dancer's artistic prowess has everything to do with her intellect and independence of thought.
And, maybe most importantly, she calls out the co-opting of a famous Balanchine quote in its use as the title of a recent book, completely reversing its meaning and Balanchine's intention in saying it.
I will let you read the piece and let me know what you think. The discussion about whether ballet as an art form and practice is nefarious, evil, innocuous, or sublime has been, unsurprisingly for those of us in this profession, polarizing to say the very least. I have resisted (almost) getting into the fray, for fear my exasperation and aggravation would come out as shrill and blinded. So I am, as I said, deeply relieved that Gia was able to make my points for me, and for so many others.
A week from today, I will be making my way to Eureka Springs, AR, where I will lodge myself for a three week residency at The Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow. If you follow me on social media, you'll have seen a teaser about what I'll working on there. (Yes, I am going to make you look at my feeds to find out!)
My road trip to Eureka Springs will take me through four states over three days. I feel trepidation about so many hours in the car (a ballet body-- meaning that of a person who has danced, not a defined silhouette-- is not happy being either sedentary or constrained) but am nonetheless desperately ready for this priceless, long-awaited experience.