Friday, November 09, 2007

Romeo Will Have To Wait For The Passing of A Prince

Hello all,

I was supposed to write today about the Romeo and Juliet Pas De Deux that I recently choreographed, but that will have to wait a few posts.

First off, we had our first lecture demonstration of the season today. It was a Nutcracker LD, (actually two of them). Way out east in Alpine. Alpine Elementary. A very nice school with very nice students. I didn't watch the first LD. I don't want the dancers to feel as if I am micro-managing, but I did watch the second.

I always try to give dancers a chance to perform parts that they normally wouldn't perform (or haven't yet performed) at these school outings. As such, I think its important that I watch them in the parts, otherwise it may seem a bit as if I don't care about the LD's. Which is the furthest from the truth.

At today's shows, there were 400 kids. Which is roughly equivelent to the audience for a show at a mid-sized theatre like the Lyceum. But they are often performed on stages which are the size of a postage stamp with slippery floors (or carpeting) and no theatrical lighting whatsoever. Usually without the ability to run through much. So it really gives an insight as to a dancer's character, professionalism, and mental flexability to see how they cope in these situations.

It is easy for some to blow them off as "not real" performances. But the students don't see that. They are there to see BALLET DANCERS. And art can happen anywhere.

But now the real reason I am not talking about Romeo today. This is going to be long, so bear with me.

We all have heroes. Or at least we should.

When I was about 12 or 13, KPBS (public televison) was airing a series about the Olympics called Olympiad.

It was the first of what would later become Bud Greenspan's stirring, memorable ongoing profiles of Olympic champions. I can remember watching it on my little portable black and white tv in my room.

The names still make me swell up with a stir of emotion.

Fanny Blanker-Koen, the dutch mother of two and housewife, who won 4 gold medals in the 1948 Olympics, at a time when women's athletics was frowned upon.

Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn

Wilma Rudolph, who overcame polio to become the "fastest woman on Earth."

Abebe Bikila, the two time marathon champion who ran in bare feet because that is how he was used to running in Ethiopia.

And I don't even like sports.

Two stories always had a particular resonance with me. The first was of the 1964 Japanese Women's Volley Ball team

These women had endured years of backbreaking, dehumanizing practice and drill to get where they were. In the end, they won the Gold medal, but the look on some of their faces was less of triumph than of utter release. They were emotionally spent and could not stop crying. This coming from a culture where showing emotion is considered bad taste. The voiceover mentioned that each of the women would need to ask herself whether it was all worth it. You could see that for some that answer was going to be no.

To this day, I remember the variety of intense emotion that showed on each of the faces.

The other story that has stayed with me all of my life is that of Al Oerter, who I will discuss in my next blog entry.

Al Oerter died on October 1 of this year. I just found out about it two days ago as I was surfing the Internet.

Al was my hero.

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