Monday, August 22, 2011

Anne Polajenko: "Role Models Are Important In Dance Too"

      Think about this. Once upon a time there were books, most of them available in libraries. You had to get a ride, go to the library, find the book, check it out, read it and return it within a certain number of days. A research paper or an essay might require you to stay at the library, feverishly taking down notes before going home to write the paper. All this assuming you had, or could hastily organize, your transportation. It took work, planning and mental organization. 

       Today it is all there at your fingertips on your home computer. The avalanche of information is staggering. So, I find it singularly interesting that the more information is readily available the less young people know. 

      Take the example of history, dance history to be precise. My teacher used to say you do not know who you are until you know where you came from. Just as you know your family lineage, you should know your artistic ancestors to better understand your art. History is not just a series of dates and events, it is about the people who prompted those events and how they came to doing what they did. Get interested in the people and you just might find the whole subject of history fascinating.

        One of the most rewarding experiences I ever had as a teacher was to take my students on a trip to France. We were in the Great Hall of Mirrors at the grandiose palace of Versailles outside Paris. I stopped the group in the middle of the ornate ballroom and asked them to perform a ballet “royale” (small jump while criss-crossing the feet). “Now”, I said, “You have just replicated a step first done by King Louis XIV in this very spot four hundred years ago. How does that make you feel?” Their faces lit up. There was a sudden understanding of the meaning of legacy.

        When interpreting a role (or even just watching a ballet), it’s always a good idea to know some of its story. For example, in the ballet “Pas de Quatre”, one of the dancers hair - do is different from the three others. Ever wonder why? Fanny Cerrito was a rebel of sorts and was going to distinguish herself in one way or other. She surprised everyone by showing up with a different “do”. This tells you something about the personality of this 19th century ballerina and is certainly necessary information to anyone who will dance this part. It is even helpful in appreciating the ballet and the interplay between the four rival ballerinas.

      Role models are necessary to any young person. It is always helpful to have an “idol” in mind, how he or she danced, what they brought to the art form. You cannot work in a vacuum, you must have a successful artist to look up to. Some of the greatest are very much alive. Baryshnikov? Cynthia Gregory? Carla Fracci? Vladimir Vasiliev? Look them up on your magic computer. You’ll be glad you did. 
                            --- Anne Polajenko

     Hope you all had a fantastic weekend and that this week will be wonderful, 

       Love from your humble blogger,

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