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Sunday, October 13, 2013

In the Footsteps of #Nureyev. By John von Daler

                     Once I had friends in a circle of ballet dancers, an experience not unlike socializing with #violinists. Their trade has its rules just as mine does and we all talk about them constantly. Not that those rules necessarily always make our performances worth seeing or hearing.

                These #ballet dancers were very obsessed with the positions of their feet, the ways their arms should move, the postures of their bodies - just the way in fact that we violinists would talk about how to hold our bows, how to position our left hand in relation to the fingerboard and how to get the most intense tone out of that little, wooden box.
                After a while I got to know the things to look for in a dancer's performance, and I could check off the plusses and minusses of each step like a storekeeper taking inventory. A night at the ballet often turned into a listing of the negative features of each pas de deux.
                Until I saw Nureyev. I think he was James in #Bournonville's "The Sylph". James is supposed to enter the first scene fairly unnoticed and walk around the back of a crowd of villagers. As Nureyev in his kilt strode behind the fifty or so dancers already on the stage, it was almost as if the lights turned off on all the others leaving him alone in a spot. Actually all the lights were on - but still you could not take your eyes off him.
                Later when he danced his solos and his pas de deuxs he dominated, riveted your vision. Beside me I could hear my dancer friends muttering about incorrect angles and sloppy legwork. All I could see, though, was mesmerizing beauty.
                From then on I think my attitude towards the rules changed ever so slightly. I stopped thinking in terms of correctness and started thinking as a performer, a purveyor of emotions. Not that I did not need to have a good, workable technique, but knowing that there were quite a few schools of thought on good technique both in dancing and in fiddling, I just gave up trying to fulfill certain absolute standards and started trying to seduce my audience instead. That pursuit can get you both slapped and caressed. But that's another story.



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