Tag Archives: ballet

terpsichorean


terpsichorean adj. of or relating to dance

tomer_dancer_06

I chose this particular word for two reasons, one being that I don’t believe that I have written about an adjective in all of my nearly 60 posts. The other reason being that when I was in high school at the venerable “castle on the hill” in Teaneck, NJ, there was a very talented troupe of dancers called the Terpsichoreans, or “Terpsies” and I really enjoyed watching them – and the outstanding choir my high school had –  on the cable access channel when I was a teen. I didn’t have much of a life back then and for some reason my mother and I would watch the various broadcasts of my local high school’s performances as a bonding ritual. So you already know I’m a little weird…moving on.

Dance has been ever present in my life and with the exception of a year or two of ballet dabbling because I begged, I have no formal training. I love ballet in particular. My theory is that I have a latent, girlie side of my personality that simply yearns to be set free. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t recognize it and I ended being a runner / soccer player for most of my life, never having the opportunity to explore the wonder and femininity of ballet.

…but it did not stop me from manifesting my admiration of all things terpsichorean in other ways…

I was thinking about this for awhile on my walk home from the train today and dance has followed me throughout my life in perverse ways. For example, when I was around 12 or 13, I remember quite distinctly choreographing a production of the Nutcracker at the after school program I was in. I was, of course, the principal dancer and had enlisted a bunch of Kindergarteners to dance with me. I specifically remember finding a Tsaichovsky record and playing it on the standard, Catholic school record player (the box kind with hinges that smelled like old books and buzzed with tubes) and making up all of the dances for each of the tracks. I chose myself to dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy because that  was my most favorite part of the music. I’ve come back to think about the fact that I did this when I was a pre teen a few times a year and it makes me cringe a little. I think I must have been suffering some sort of mental strife in my life at that point. Some teens turn to drugs or partying  in their awkward stage. I turned to a sort of buffoon choreography…I’m not sure what this says about me as a person. At least I grew out of it.

I was lucky enough in my early years to have friends who were Indian and learned all about Indian dance. I remember fondly the days of practicing the different steps and moves with one friend in her living room. We also watched a ton of Bollywood, which I still adore to this day. I remember showing it to my dad on yet another cable access channel on Sunday mornings and it quickly became a tradition for us to watch it each week.

Later, when I was a senior in high school, instead of going to the prom I went to a performance of Romeo and Juliet at ABT in Lincoln Center with a dear friend and genuinely trained and talented ballet dancer. I remember watching Julie Kent in the role and being mesmerized by the beauty of what she could do. I was damn proud of myself for getting some culture instead of slogging down nip bottles of Bacardi in the bathroom of some Marriott in a satin dress.

My college years are a menagerie of bad dance experiences at cheesy Rhode Island clubs that would make the Jersey Shore hide in shame. There is a reason why Pauly D., a native Johnston, Rhode Islander – was included on that program. One particular club I frequented quite often during my college days was known as Oxygen. It’s logo was a green tank with Oxygen written in neon. The club had three rooms – R&B, Top 40 and Techno. It was dark, dirty and as a white bread Providence College girl, you needed to beware of the sketchy Johnson and Wales boys. My roomates and I, in true college tradition, would put on our tightest fitting clothing, slather on a good layer of slutty makeup and head off to this place every weekend – or Wednesday – and dance. We’d start off in a circle with each other so we could warn other friend of impeding male sketchiness. We had a hand signal so we could tell if we needed to relocate or reorganize to protect each other from unwanted “grinding” attempts. Ahh, those college days.

My post college adult years have included forays into adult ballet classes once or twice, a few more memorable club visits in European countries, and many, many evenings of watching ballet and dance documentaries secretly while my husband is busy doing yard work or traveling for work. The latest manifestation of dance in my life is through my son, who will gladly bop away on command – with or without music. Maybe some day he and I will get my husband over his fear of lithe men in cod pieces and we will all go to a night of ballet together as a family…a girl can dream.

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reverence


reverence n. a gesture indicative of respect

Reverence

At the end of a ballet class, the dancers pay respect to the pianist and teacher by performing a series of curtsies, bows and ports de bras known as reverence. It is a physical manifestation of deep respect and honor. Several weeks ago I came upon reverence when searching for a word that could capture my feelings and thoughts regarding a recent tragic event. I have been struggling back and forth about whether to write and what to write about it because I don’t have confidence that my writing here will create an appropriate reverence for those who have suffered and lost.  There are writers and artists far more eloquent and talented than I who have and will create tributes of much more profundity that I can express with my dictionary words. I’ve decided that instead of writing about how sad I feel about the whole thing, I would attempt something more reverent.

The world would be a better place if we were all ballet dancers and could perform reverence when needed. Imagine at the end of a business meeting everyone standing up and performing a 3 minute reverence as a gesture of respect for what was just discussed or planned – or just for the whiteboard on the wall, comfy chairs and overhead projector. Having attended quite a few meetings in my life, reverence would add some much needed civility.

As a reference, here is what reverence looks like:

Obviously this is not a realistic practice to propose, and unfortunately in our current world, the beauty and constraint of reverence would most likely be perverted into some sort of vulgar flash mob in Grand Central station – which would make it most irreverent.

In the here and now, the word reverence seems quite archaic. So few things in life are truly respected and honored these days. As a society we seem to want to flock to the center of attention and when the spotlight has moved we flee to another center elsewhere. In the perpetual chase to the “next big event” we become more and more numb, never taking the time to pay respect or to really absorb the gravitas of the thing that has just occurred; always searching for the next thing that will restore feeling or emotion. Perhaps it is because we don’t really understand “reverence” any longer or we feel the appropriate reaction would be to mimic what Hollywood tells us is sorrow or grief so that others will be sure to know we are suffering – like actors on a stage. In the case of Newtown, I feel this type of behavior is truly saddening and disrespectful.

The other day I was watching MSNBC and a talking head named Ashley Banfield was speaking about the tragedy. With a flip of her perfectly coiffed, shoulder length hair, mascara coated lashes clearly fluttering with feigned emotion, she said that “Newtown would probably never recover.” Her comment saddened and angered me and I wondered to myself if she ever listens to the words that come out of her mouth while she is on television. If she had any idea that her words were feeding a media fire, painting a picture of a town that deserves so much more respect. Or if she merely needs to boost the ratings for her paycheck.If Ms. Banfield had ever visited Newtown she surely would never have questioned whether it would “recover.”

26 people, some children, died in Newtown, Ct – undoubtedly one of the most horrific event that has occurred in in this country. But if we choose to dramatize the events and squeeze out all of the emotion and cinema, we are truly doing a dis service to those who were lost. The people that died in Newtown also lived in Newtown. There are far more happy memories shared at Sandy Hook Elementary than the one horrific event that occurred. For the parents that lost their children that day, it is in those memories that their children live. It is a place where teachers loved their students so much they ran in front of bullets to try and shield them as if they were their own children. Where neighbors took in children that fled the scene and people gathered to support each other in the aftermath.

It is a place where babies will be born, children will ride bikes in the streets, lovers will be married and families will celebrate memories. Newtown is a rare example of family and community, far too beautiful and strong to be destroyed by this terrible event. It is the type of town that Newtown is that makes what happened all the more tragic. A community strong enough to endure and pay reverence to the memories of the heroes and children that died that day.

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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