vineri, 17 februarie 2012

Ballet, the seen and the unseen art

They say the music starts in the point the word is losing its meaning. We can say the same about dancing, because the dancers tell us whole stories without saying a word. The stage, the scenery, the costumes, the music and their own bodies become the tools they use to transpose the public into the fragile world of the movement, which is alive as long as the music flows.

Ballet is an art made with care, apparently simple, but there are only few who know that the light steps, the flight, the grace and the high jumps hide many years in the study classroom, consumptive rehearsals and efforts which, most of the time, force the limits. Because there, on stage, the dancer transforms, with sculptor's meticulousness and stubbornness, his own body, into a piece of art, having one and supreme wage: the appreciation and the applauses of the public.

I arrived on Culture House on a Wednesday evening, a half an hour earlier than Ballet Gala, the program of Sibiu Ballet Theatre, was programmed to begin. Because of my early arrival I had plenty of time to see the preparations of the dancers for the show and to feel their emotions. Down, in the cabins, a big rush. An interesting contrast with the silence and peace you can find everywhere on the hallways. The dancers are preparing for the two hours show which is announced to fill the hall. In the cabins, on hangers, are laying quietly all the costumes the ballerinas will wear along the evening, but a big part of the artists are already dressed up, with the make up on, tracing the last retouching. On small faces is set with meticulousness a dramatic make up. The lips on blood's color, the rounds of the eyes doubled by a black thick line, the cheek bones, lifted with red have to transmit the sight and the emotion until the far off corner of the hall with 700 sits. The hair enriched with ribbons, flowers or tiaras, is fixed carefully in loops, on the back, one of the ballerinas throwing in the last minute a rarefy cloud of fixing spray over the escaped hair.

In the other corner of the room with big mirrors, which became small because of the rush, a dancer is preparing her feet for the pointes. Those ballet shoes which are going to help her elevate lightly her body, on the top of her legs stretched like needles. She is covering each toe in band to protect it from the shoes "teeth".
Ballerina's feet are the most affected by dancing, the shoes with dull tops giving strong aches to those who wear them.

“The way you learn to tie your shoe-strings…”

The time passes away like a shadow covered by the rush of the dancers who are starting to warm up behind the scene or on the stage, far away of beholders eyes, hidden of the curious sights by the closed curtain. Near by, a girl is tying up her ballet shoes in a very special way. She is looking somehow surprised, to me, when I’m asking her about the technique that seems so complicated. “You learn to tie up your ballet shoes the same way you learn to tie your shoe-strings” she is telling me, while is jumping her feet to run on the stage where is starting to practice a complicate movement.

Before the show, there is a high solidarity between the dancers, no matter they are prime dancers or not. In these moments all left is the vivid emotion, and so thick that you could cut it by knife. “Good luck!”, “God help you! Be beautiful!” I hear somewhere in the left, and the reply: “Good luck to you, too! I will not let myself!” They are hugging each other, sustaining each other, because now, in these moments, there is nothing else left. The mind, the talent and all the practice are the only things that matter, the stubborn body being kept submissive, almost by force. “I am sweated already”, I hear again, while in the other world, of the bystanders, the dance lovers are taking place on their sits.

The show of the backstage

In the backstage there is a strange smell. A combination difficult to define, which, even it has nothing from this, has everything together. It’s taking in just one molecule: dust, paint, wood, tissue, in unknown quantities. Like a magic potion. A specific smell that can’t be taken as something else, which once you’ve experienced is coming back to life from the corner of the memory, each time you get close to other stage and other backstage.

The space is tight, closed between the black wings of the curtains. Here I’m trying to find a place. I’m picking up a chair “forgotten” near the entrance of the stage, having a pretty good perspective over the place and sitting there. I make myself little, almost invisible, to not disturb the dancers.
The show starts.
Near the scene, you can’t see well because of the stage lights, which flood the place in light. The back stages are empty now. Between the stage lights lengthening their necks to watch their colleagues, you can find now only the dancers that are going to perform in the next minutes. Some of them calm, others agitated still warming up. Near me, a small Japanese, sitting down and dressed in tutu, is applauding together with the public. But she is doing it in silent, without sound.
A few meters away, on stage, the pas-de-deux gives wings to dancers. He flies in high and spectacular jumps, defying the earth, the nature and the gravity, seeming like hiding air in his bones, while she is guiding with her mind and soul each foot stretching or finger’s wince. Nothing is left on chance’s mercy. Not a centimeter or millimeter of their bodies. Cause the classical dancing is built on rules left unchanged for at least one hundred years. There, on stage, the dancers are not human beings anymore. They can lift up over the weaknesses that human nature has. They control with an iron will the arms, the legs, the tiredness, the lack of air they feel sometimes…And they smile, are sad, or happy as the role “asks”, the fight with themselves taking place inside them, not in front of the public.
Only in the moment when, with the applause of the public, they are going out of stage, they become human again, letting themselves collapsing. Cause after a long dancing a ballerina fell of her feet in the backstage. “Breathe deeply!”, “It’s all right, don’t get upset now” I’m hearing them telling each other, while the dancers who presented already to the public, breathing interrupted have their forehead, the face, the arms and the back covered in sweat drops that fall on the indifferently floor.
Some of them are coming out happy, thanking their partners, others, gnashing their teeth of anger, for getting lost one of the music measurements, for making an um-perfect pirouette or for mistaking one arabesque.

A sight from a closed world

The second part of Ballet Gala found me sitting in public, away from this closed world of dancers, which doesn’t allow anything to get out. From this perspective, I can’t see nor the effort, nor the sweat. I can see only that unbelievable easiness and serene faces that are making everything seem simple, as simple as a brick game.

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