“There is no arabesque”

29 Aug

So I was reading an article yesterday morning in Synergy, a publication by OSU’s Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences department.  Which technically, I shouldn’t even be receiving because although the street address is mine the name on it inexplicably belongs to someone who does not nor has this person ever lived in this house.  Anyway…in it, is an article entitled “Dancing with the Stats” which discusses a collaborative project with OSU’s dance department, ACCAD (the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design) and William Forsythe.  The reason why the article is in this publication is because of a statistics professor’s involvement with the project.  The whole project has to do with mapping movement into statistical data and analyzing the data.  Here’s a small excerpt:

The source video of Forsythe’s dance piece had been quantified–into cues, movement material–themes and improvisations, dancers, stage locations, and times, and had been transfigured into 17-dimensional vectors indexed by space and time.

Jigga-what? Not surprisingly, the article was a little above my head, but so is William Forsythe.  I am reminded of the time I actually got a chance to see him speak at OSU a year ago, although at the time I had no idea who he was.  Coincidentally, his lecture was during my ballet class and my teacher wanted us to see him, although she was completely transparent about wanting to go herself so we were somewhat coerced.  But the point is, it was a rare opportunity.  The lecture itself wasn’t even a lecture, but a conversation between him and one of OSU’s professors that was mic’ed for the rest of us to eavesdrop in on.  The whole setup was kind of weird, but ok.  Meanwhile, he started talking about things, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I think Forsythe hails from another dimension of existence.  He was saying things like “there is no arabesque” which raised more than a few eyebrows, and he continued with “an arabesque is just a triangle” which is when my brain combusted.  Head trauma aside, he has a very compelling aura in person.  If you’re interested in learning more about the project, you can check out the website.

Anywhodle, I’m throwing around a lot of ideas in my head these days, and it’s high time I figure out what to do about them and set some goals in writing.  The first relates to the SEKRET project, which has a potential second component, and is always on my mind.  It’s requiring a lot of reading and research on ballet history and other random things, and I keep falling asleep every time I try to read.  My research however, brought me to a book called The Ballet Goer’s Guide.  Published in 1981, it’s an excellent resource that gives information on 140 ballets, including composer, choreographer, premiere dates, plot synopses, notable performers of the piece, differences between major company productions etc.  A lot of the ballets aren’t on wikipedia, and I’ve thought about doing a Julie & Julia style “ballet-a-day” series in this blog, since the youth these days can’t be trusted to actually go to a library and pick up a book, but there isn’t video footage of all of these ballets readily available and obviously not on youtube either so I don’t know if any musings on them would prove worthwhile.  I’m not sure if I want to just rewrite the entries in the book on here either since that’s plagiarism-ish but it’s also out of print and not necessarily readily available.  You can actually buy a used copy on amazon.com for 32 cents (I’m not kidding) but there are only so many to go around.  I prefer this book to Balanchine’s Complete Stories to the Great Ballets because if you’re a visual learner like me, this one has a lot of beautiful pictures.  We’ll see…maybe I will do the “ballet-a-day” thing.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about doing is choreographing a dance myself.  At first, I didn’t think I’d have the nerve, but then I thought, “why not me?”  I certainly don’t know everything, but I know enough to create something, and surely I have a perspective worth exploring.  As a notorious self-saboteur, I think I just didn’t have enough confidence in myself to really create a decent work, but in an effort to dispel that kind of mentality I think I’m just going to have to do it, and keep doing it.  I’m taking baby steps though, and starting with a three and a half minute song, which I’ve actually got a fair amount planned in my head.  Very classical, plotless, and there are a few moments which dare I say I think are pretty awesome (no triangles, but there are some arabesques).  I just need to clarify some mushy areas, fill in the holes, and get some willing bodies to try it out (it’s a pas de quatre).  Hopefully I’ll be able to put it together soon and post it here for some feedback.  The prospect terrifies me, and knowing me I would probably post a video and shun looking at feedback for a while and prepare myself for the onslaught (seriously, in college when I would write papers, I would wait for months before actually looking at the feedback professors would write to me), but this shell needs to be broken and I’m the only one with a hammer.

So fellow dancers, choreographers, and ducklings…take some time to remind yourself to quit it with the self-sabotage.  It took me all morning to psyche myself up, and it was worth it!

2 Responses to ““There is no arabesque””

  1. Hilary August 30, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    I’m thinking about getting a ballet-style workout DVD but there seem to be tons–any recommendations? I’m mostly looking for something that is tone/flexibility centric rather than combinations and full-on choreography.

    • youdancefunny August 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

      The only one I’ve actually done is the New York City Ballet Workout, which has 2 different dvd’s that can be bought as a set or separately. They both have warm up, stertching, and some conditioning (abs/push ups), and the first one is a little more traditional with plies, tendus, degages etc. in barre order, but with adjustments to be more workout-ish rather than ballet. Doing just the warm up, stretches, and abs is around twenty minutes to half an hour by itself so that’s not a bad workout. The 2nd dvd has a similar warm up and conditioning, but is overall less technique-y, and ends with a fun little tarantella that is good cardio (I think the second one has more stretches and strengthening exercises, whereas the first one has more for articulating the feet and turnout). Volume 2 has been better received.

      The full workouts are actually on youtube if you want to preview them before buying.

      Vol. 1


      The user with Vol.2 also has “Ballet Bootcamp” which I just watched through and seems alright, some slight differences, a few similarities. And I think has more for a total body workout and a little more cardio, but also seems less thorough in other areas. I think NYCB is a better buy, and has better music.

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