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visitors since May 12, 2002
November 13, 2002
Ballet is not an art form

Today I was a distant, remote power figure.

It felt good. If at all possible, I'd like to be one again.

I was summoned to the National Theatre to be part of a three person panel to assess the dramatic skills of two groups of ballet students. Everyone there was a very good dancer, but their acting ability varied widely.

But, to be fair, my ability at being a distant, remote power figure also varied widely. My instructions were to "assess" the students. I was given various pieces of paper, and after we saw the first class do their monologues I was asked for my assessment.

"Well," I said, "some of these girls are very pretty. And yet - others are less so."

Apparently, this wasn't the answer they were looking for. Nor, indeed, was it even close. The other two members of the panel looked so aghast that I eventually thought about giving them a better answer.

I had a quick glance at one of the pieces of paper they'd given me. On it were words like "focus," "emotion" and "character."

As an experiment, I put together a sentence that featured the words "focus," "emotion" and "character." I even prefaced it with the words "just kidding," and this helped soothe the mood of the room.

But, really, I wasn't kidding. Ballet, to me, is all about what you look like. That's why I have no interest in it. Ballet dancers constantly conduct themselves as if they're on a catwalk, even if no catwalk is available. They seem to inhabit an imaginary, ongoing fashion show. It seems fairly natural to give them a score out of ten for their looks alone.

A lecturer I had at university said that ballet was the youngest of the main art forms. He said this as part of a discussion about semiotics, or semolina, or something. It was all I could do not to leap out of my chair, rush over to the lectern, and kill him. If ballet is an art form, I remember thinking, the world is doomed.

I know I'm getting irrational here, but as a distant, remote power figure, I feel it's my duty. Ballet dancers are very, very, very self-conscious, about their looks, their clothes, the way they move. Of course, to me, the way they move is utterly ridiculous. Even the simple act of walking is complicated to a fanciful strut. The spine is painfully straight, the shoulders are dead level, the head is balanced just so. The result is graceful pomposity. Ballet is the elaborate process of flowing about the stage, looking blonde. It takes years of intense training to become good at it, and all to accomplish an artistic goal that doesn't matter.

Today I was a distant, remote power figure. I arrived with an enormous, irrational bias, and left with it in pristine condition.

In other words, I was a distant, remote power figure with no idea about what I was doing.

Somehow, that just seemed right.

     Posted by Sean Hegarty at 11:57 PM in the Reviews category | Comments (3)
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