Unreal Nature

August 7, 2016

Serious Dancing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… Any child knows by now that there is no money in it, and little enough glory. But young people do it just the same, with the obstinate generosity that keeps turning up in our species.

This is from ‘Ashton’s ‘Balanchine and Tchaikovsky: “Ballet Imperial”; Carmen Amaya; Doris Humphrey’ [1943] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

Balanchine has an extraordinary gift for bringing performers to life on their own personal terms, so that the unconscious grace that is in each one of them can shine out in the work they do, giving it the momentary and mortal expression of beauty. The plan of a choreography is a great pleasure.

[line break added] But it is the brilliancy of young dancers entirely in the present, the unique liveliness of each dancer caught entirely in the present instant that at once, we all know it, will be past and irretrievable forever — it is this clear sharp sense of our own natural way of living that makes a moment of ballet speak to the complete consciousness that makes choreography look beautiful. As Balanchine’s has again and again.

[ … ]

Angna Enters, who is of course a realistic mime and not specifically a dancer, appeared in new and old impersonations. The clarity and unobtrusiveness of her action, the elegance of her accessories, her pointed sense of “genre,” and a certain rhythmic instinct in forming a scene — all this is expert and high class. So is the extremely intelligent piano tinkling offstage. The evening is a specialty of understatement and inference. But the emotion is not always distinct and it is mostly small.

[line break added] For me, grateful though I am for so much good taste and so little pretentiousness, I find an entire evening of it gives me an impression of timidity. Of course I know that for a century or more a notable characteristic of the American school in art and in taste has been timidity of expression. But now and then it seems to me an absurd standard for grown-up people.

[ ,,, ]

… Five years ago they [modern dancers] were chiefly concerned with the emphatic aspect of movement: they socked the active phases of gesture, stamp, jerk, thrust, or stop, they gave slow motion a knife edge or contracted with paroxysmal violence. A dance seemed like a series of outcries. The moderns had always cultivated continuity in their intellectual concepts of dancing, but they did not build their dances out of a continuity of expression.

[line break added] Now they are interested in the value of the unemphatic phrases as well, in the continuous support on which the continuous dance line rests (as in singing or piano playing). I think they are interested in the confidence the continuous line can express, and in the melody of a continuous movement.

Modern dancing is not dead, of course, not. It has an appreciative public. Its intentions are extremely intelligent. Its execution varies from the student-like to being fresh and real. But it sets itself the highest standards. … Even when modern dancing is conventional, we who watch are happy over the disinterested love of serious dancing that motivates it. Any child knows by now that there is no money in it, and little enough glory. But young people do it just the same, with the obstinate generosity that keeps turning up in our species.

My most recent previous post from Denby’s book is here.

-Julie

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