“But ballet itself – it’s important. Dance is important. It’s that language that everybody understands. It’s a powerful tool to open people’s minds. It’s some subconscious thing, a connection we all have. Kids dance before walking. It’s our truest nature of being. It’s true spirit.” He pauses. “And then, slowly and slowly, as we grow older, we get more and more baggage and life changes you. We are more scared of things, more fearful. So how to eliminate that? We have to go back to how we were as a kid, because that’s our truest nature. And with ballet, that is how I’m trying to come back to this state of mind. Because that’s the purest state. Tribes dance. Every country has a national dance. In the clubs we dance, we dance at weddings. Dance is a language. It’s a language that we need, like music, to survive.”
Sergei Polunin interview Another Man Magazine
If you could be dancing
Photo: Street Milonga in Porto (2013)
Only in time
Photo: Gianmarco and Jennifer from the Opus Ballet Compagnia rehearsing in Porto, June 2017
References: T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Burnt Norton (1935)
The pink of the leather turned out to be a lighter shade than I’d hoped, it looked like the underside of a kitten, and the sole was a dirty grey cat’s tongue, and there were no long pink satin ribbons to criss-cross over the ankles, no only a sad elastic strap (…)
Zadie Smith, Swing Time
I remember my first ballet shoes. After being accepted to the dance school, my mum took me to Porfirios in Rua Santa Catarina to buy the light blue leotard and skirt and that same kind of faded ballet pink leather shoes. I don’t actually remember the details but I remember the smell of those very first ballet slippers.
Scent is, in a way, charged with history (…) the sense of smell is, as McLuhan stresses,” iconic”. In the same perspective, we could also say that it is the narrative epic sense. It brings together, weaves and condenses historic happenings into an image, into a narrative composition.
Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time
Scent gives us back who we are by conferring some kind of stability to our own narrative, allowing us to make sense of ourselves by composing some sort of self-portrait. My childhood smells like new ballet shoes. This is a scent I have tried in vain to reencounter. New ballet shoes don’t have that exact smell anymore. In October last year, I bought new shoes. I prefer canvas to leather now and split soles and pre-sewn elastics. I haven’t been to ballet class yet. Life or some other excuse has been in the way.
It was also the aroma of possibilities, once they’re gone, they’re gone.
I spent my summer vacation at a Flamenco “bootcamp”; It seemed like a good way of spending a week’s vacation even if not a really good way to get some rest. I have started Flamenco lessons around October last year and have been struggling with it ever since. I do not have a natural talent for it. I love the music but I am both rationally and physically incapable of understanding time. The cante transports me to some fantasy southern living of disquiet but I am unable to feel connected to the raw, untamed earthly passions it invokes.
And the dancing? I feel like I have been through a week of awkward moments of pretense. Pretending to be a dancer, pretending to be able to perform intricate footwork, pretending to belong. Even pretending to perform. For a week I lived inside a bubble of passion and obsession so intense and fast paced it left too little time for any kind of reflection or soul searching. At a distance, it forced me to confront my lack of talent in a world where talent, or the appearance thereof, seems to be everywhere. It is also forcing me to surrender to the obvious. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.
Still, it was a way to live some kind of fantasy life, an item crossed off my bucket list.
Last time I was on stage I think I was around 14. It’s been well over 20 years. I was afraid then, I feel terrified now. I do an adult ballet class twice a week and although I never dreamt of being a ballerina, the fantasy of performing tends to be irresistible. And, when invited to be part of the final year show, I said yes. Now, one month to go and after what has been feeling like never ending,exhausting rehearsals, I realize, once more, that not all challenges should be taken on. The fear of being on stage will, at this point, have to be conquered. The certainty that I have not actually achieved the mastery that would transform it into some kind of second nature experience is making me feel like I’m cheating.