March 5, 2011

Where is Terpsichore When You Need Her?

Darcey Bussell as Terspichore in Balanchine’s 'Apollo'
Photo by Bill Cooper

After last week´s you-did-well class it was only a matter of time before good times came to an end. It is how my learning curve in ballet works: I make some kind of breakthrough, enjoy the moment, then realize that the bar has just gotten higher, after which there´s the obligatory nothing-getting-better plateau, to be followed by the one-step-forward, two-steps-back, pirouettes crashing and mis-placed placement. Sure, I could put the lingering effects of the snivel on yesterday´s lackluster class performance - but truth be told, I was really just way out of my comfort zone!

Class was a lot more difficult this Friday. The pace was faster and the moves trickier, with the usual demand for absolutely clean technique - combined with some seriously dance-y port de bras. Our teacher gave us a lot of Balanchinean choreography to do, with emphasis on high extensions, speed and elongated lines. You can tell that Madame loves Balanchine´s style, and I sincerely believe that Mr. B himself would have appreciated her talent just as much. She has in fact danced the part of Terpsichore (in the ballet Apollo) and still looks like she could do a repeat-performance on the drop of a hat. 

Old me, on the other hand, hasn´t been visited by any dance-muses of late. Instead I feel the need to join my fellow ballet-blogger Adult Beginner in the Happy Sad Happy Sad  -song:

Happy we have Madame willing to go out of her way to teach a bunch of adult dancers Balanchine.
Sad I´m as far removed from such artistry as is Helsinki from New York.
Happy my arms are learning to "breathe" and elongate.
Sad they still look readier to swim than to swan.
Happy that my neck is long and that my bun looks credible.
Sad you cannot use special effects in class and paste my head onto a legit ballet body instead.
Happy that I have been called a "good girl" - in class - just the same.
Sad that my "girl"days and frothy-pink-tutu dreams are long since gone.
Happy to be a woman in black leggings learning how to dance en pointe.
Sad that my right foot looks sorry on pointe.
Happy that my left foot has been described as "nice" instead.
Happy I can take my talon á la main and stretch that leg up to the height of my head.
Sad it will never be 6 o´clock.
Happy that my heel has been promoted to a body part of importance.
Sad that the same heel does not wish to face forward and welcome the spotlight.
Happy that there is another class tomorrow.


  1. I discussed recently on Dance Advantage that Terpsichore means literally "delight in dance". (We started a little project called Terpsichorus in which dance works and books are discussed)

    Anyway, perhaps if you think about that delight as being something you just go ahead and do, rather than an elusive visitor, you'll find that Terpsichore isn't so out-of-reach afterall. In other words, focus on what you really do delight in about what you're doing, about ballet, about dancing in the moment. You may find that all the challenges and frustrations become less so and even begin to resolve themselves. Just a thought as I pondered our favorite muse :)

  2. Delight in Dance" - I may have to print that on a T-shirt and wear it to class! To remind me that:

    I do delight in the pirouettes and jumps that are becoming more effortless, in the camaraderie with my fellow dancers, in the coaching of our super teachers,
    in the lines my body makes, in the music that lifts my spirit and feet.
    I do get frustrated at times, but mostly dancing makes me really happy. So yes, maybe Terpsichore has been there all along ;)

    Thanks Nichelle for another uplifting comment :)

  3. Sounds like the happies win

  4. You're most welcome. There have been times I've felt I needed it printed on my forehead as a reminder. I think every dancer goes through this and then there are other times when you wear that delight like it's printed on your forehead from the inside out rather than the outside in. :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...