Unreal Nature

August 14, 2016

That Which Is Able to Change the Heart Proves Itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… how far they choose to go in contrast to how far they might go.

This is from ‘Dudley-Maslow-Bales’ [1943] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

… What I sincerely like in modern dancers is the thoughtful way they keep attacking such fundamental questions of dance form from all sorts of novel angles. They are willing to make it hard for themselves. They don’t really take anything for granted; they leave all kinds of possibilities open. They intend, at least, to make every kind of experiment in person.

From ‘A Forum on Dance Criticism’ [1944]:

… A good critic will tell the dancer which elements in a work get across and which do not. But that alone does not necessarily indicate the most productive, the most sincere direction for the dancer to take. An artist will find his own real strength not by listening to what is said about his work, but in the creative process itself. And it is safer for him to rely on himself to find his own identity; for it is unlikely that anyone else can find it for him.

From ‘Marianne Moore on Pavlova‘ [1944]:

An album of Pavlova photographs with “accompanying notes” by Marianne Moore is the very astonishing contents of the latest issue of Dance Index — price, one quarter; admirers of Miss Moore will not want to miss so remarkable an item.

… it is by her private moral perceptions, appearing for an instant and at rare intervals, that Miss Moore gives us the sharpest equivalent for the actual fact of classic dancing. She notes on a picture of twelve-year-old Pavlova “the erectness of the head, the absolutely horizontal brows, indicating power of self-denial; the eyes, dense with imagination and sombered with solicitude; the hair, severely competent; the dress, dainty more than proud.”

[line break added] And after describing a hand pose, “These truthful hands, the most sincere and the least greedy imaginable,” she notes Pavlova’s use of the passive voice when the dancer wrote: “I was permitted to style myself Première Danseuse … later I was granted the title Ballerina.” This classic modesty Miss Moore refers to: “She had power for a most unusual reason — she did not present as valuable the personality from which she could not escape.” And later, suggesting the quality of Pavlova’s expression, Miss Moore asks, “Why should one so innocent, so natural, so ardent be sad?

[line break added] If self-control is the essential condition of conveying emotion and giving is giving up, we still cannot feel that renunciation had made Pavlova sad; may it have been that for lives that one loves there are things even love cannot do?” And later Miss Moore herself answers, “That which is able to change the heart proves itself.”

From ‘About Ballet Decoration’ [1944]:

… The dramatic power of a ballet is in its visual impact. You feel it by seeing just how the dancers move, seeing their impetus in relation to each other and also their force in relation to the entire stage — how far they choose to go in contrast to how far they might go.

The force with which dancers approach, touch or separate, come forward toward you or retire, take possession of stage center or pause isolated near the wings, these changing intensities are meant to have a cumulative effect. You appreciate this best if you sit far enough back to view the whole stage at a glance, so that its height and width can act as a fixed frame of reference. Ballet scenery and costumes are meant to make the action of the dance distinctly visible at a distance and also to give a clear coherence to its variety, a livelier common term to its action than the mere empty stage area.

For this purpose a décor so busy that it confuses or so stuffy that it clogs the animation of the dances is of no use. But it cannot be timid. It must have power enough to remain interesting and alive as the dancing gradually sharpens the visual susceptibility of the audience. One of our finest sets — Pierre Roy’s Coppélia — does this without attracting any notice to itself at all.

[line break added] The effect of a décor is right when as the ballet gathers momentum the dancers seem to have enough air all around to dance easily; when you see their long dance phrases in clear relation to stage center; when the flats keep the force of the gesture from spilling aimlessly into the wings; then the dancers — no matter how odd they looked at first — can come to look natural in the fanciful things they do, the natural fauna of the bright make-believe world they move in.

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

-Julie

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