Ahhh, dance. Last week I had the tremendous pleasure of attending the ballet at the Harris Theatre here in Chicago. I’d never attended the ballet before, in any capacity or at any stage, and to have the opportunity to witness such artistry in a city that gathers the best talent in the world filled me with such gratitude and inspiration.
I’m a dancer in my head. Sure I dabbled in the usual tap/jazz/ballet nonsense all kids explore at some point; but I equate it to those first few years of t-ball and soccer. There are few proud parents in those bunches, watching their children pick grass, score goals for the other team, whiff 5 times swinging at a ball perched on a tee, or perhaps garnering the prestigious MVP by kicking the ball once or actually hitting that squishy stationary baseball to their family’s delight. I was a very serious child and what I did, I did well. That being said I did a couple years of recital type dancing and moved on to boyish activities like baseball, basketball and playing in the dirt.
My awkward penmanship, heightened mathematic skills, and forceful leadership allowed me to fit well in the sports arena and therefore my creativity was not fostered. No need, I was too busy asking for homework, catching fly-balls and dressing in baggy pants. It’s a wonder how I’m not either a lesbian or a transgender at this point. My affinity for home depot aside, as I became an adult my love and appreciation for the arts, dance in particular, grew exponentially. I’ve since achieved a bronze skill level in ballroom and latin dance (hold your applause) and taught my very own concoction of a hip-hop, latin inspired cardio dance class. Those were good times.
Now approaching the latter half of my third decade my body isn’t what it used to be. Just kidding, I’m strong as an ox and have wicked balance thanks to Yoga, but unfortunately I’m at too advanced an age to truly pursue dance for anything beyond pleasure or hobby. So I soak it in wherever I can. I’m fortunate to have a close, unbelievably talented friend here in Chicago who’s a member of a modern dance company called the Seldoms. Check them out! I’ve seen two of their performances, one heading to New York City next weekend that was so astonishing. I felt like my mother I was so proud to be her friend. Below is just an excerpt.
Cut to last week. A studio owner and friend of mine knew of my love for dance (those who can’t do, watch) and generously offered me two extra tickets to the ballet. My initial thought was for my Seldoms buddy to attend with me but due to a scheduling conflict I was forced to bring my very open-minded, albeit reluctant piece of man love along for the toe pointed ride. We journeyed downtown to Millennium Park, right off Randolph street, backing up to the amphitheater. From the outside, you’re not even sure you’re in the right space, but we entered the very open lobby, met my friend and made our descent into the balletic abyss. What makes the Harris Theatre interesting is the better seats you have, the more stairs you decline; so you’re walking underground and emerge into this grand theatre with a hidden orchestra above the stage, and the curtain cascading down. We had excellent seats, stage right (yes, I took theatre in college!), no tall people in front of us and we settled in our seats with anticipation.
There were three performances that evening, all from various members of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. All three were mind-boggling. The discipline it takes to perform at that level is staggering, let alone the creativity and passion exuded by the dancers and musicians. The Harris showcases music and dance specifically and each show had the heart-melting accompaniment of the orchestra above.
The first number had some of the most beautiful partner work; amongst men and women, men and men, women and women, and with some simple but very haunting piano. The lifts, the flow, the strength and ease with which it was all executed left me breathless. I literally had to remind myself to breathe. If this was the first show, boy were we in for a good night.
The following number did not disappoint and I feel elevated in mere creativity. It was very primal, animalistic. Each artist emerged from this incredible flowing metal curtain, alone, crouched, with such a focused gaze. The lines they were creating by placing and moving their bodies somewhat awkwardly, in combination with quick direction changes was astonishing. There were sounds generating from stomping, clapping, sliding and all sealed with great humor with a sudden direction change with their heads, eyes and bodies. Suddenly the character would see another and gradually more and more emerged. This was all in silence until the entire ensemble was on stage and the orchestra set in. I loved the story, the humor, and how polar opposite it was from what most assume ballet to be. It was exactly what art is and what art evokes. I was enraptured. I still am.
The final performance was as liquid and effortless as the first, but as if the liquid was Niagara Falls. Talk about ease, precision, grace, and general holy shit moments. Sense perception was so heightened at this point and my face hurt from smiling and crying (yes, I cry more from positive emotion than negative strangely enough), and I just wanted to be in the presence of these people longer, forever if they’d let me. I can’t even detail it my mind was so blown after all three. It was beautiful. It was the best professional athletes amalgamated with the most brilliant artistic minds and giving you their best. They should be making millions and not struggling, taking their mind and bodies to the brink for decades to barely make ends meet. I love sports deeply but Terrell Owens can make a few million less, get rid of that monster ego, and pass along the dough to those who could not only use it, but damn well deserve it.
More than taking away deep admiration and respect for these people I loved the response from the gentleman who sat next to me, also called my husband. He’s a modern man, in a modern relationship, who’s an artist himself with high regard for other artists and no ego requiring him to hang on to his masculine man card and refuse to attend the ballet or other events with feminine undertones (see article: Bitch is the New Black, and Black is Back). It may not have been what he would have sought out himself, but he went with an open mind and left thoroughly pleased and blown away. Just as travel broadens the mind, so does art. I highly recommend you all surprise yourself in this way as well. Check out films, books (please continue to read), museums, and any form of art you don’t understand or aren’t drawn to. You may get more out of it than simple entertainment. I certainly did.
Also, it should be expressed here that ballet dancers, if you didn’t know, have incredible bodies, especially the gluteal region. Wow. That alone rendered me speechless. Oogle below. Amazing.
Dance. Don’t be uptight. It extracts joy. If you need inspiration, watch it in some capacity. Enjoy.