Looking to Great Artists for Inspiration
Published in Dance Europe, April 2006
What creates a dancer? Curiosity, Precision, Focus. The devotion to investigate and hone the art of dance. Consider Cézanne. As I finished reading the pages of an article* that recalled the greatness of this artist, I recognized his unquenchable desire to further his life-long love: his art and his craft. A continual curiosity and devotion kept him focused. Even six days before his death, he complained to his art dealer that he had not received his paints. Can the exploration of dance be completed in a lifetime? Would we want it to be? No. It is an ever-widening circle of discovery. For when a great dancer leaves the stage a fraction of the previous talent is carried forward into the disciple’s art. It is the natural pathway of evolution. If you want to hone your dance technique and artistry, study your heroes with a passionate, discerning eye.
Cézanne was an iconoclast. He questioned. He found his way to greatness. There is no cookie cutter mold. The iconoclast will always be the one bending the rules. Visualize the greatness, the freshness, and the audacity of something new. Discovery is exciting and rewarding, although often hard won. It is a painstaking process to follow through with a love. But what else is there for those who love dance so much?
Change is an important initiator. Do not be afraid to relinquish yourself to it. The voices that tell us to settle, to save the question for later, to make excuses, are always there, but know they are quieted by perseverance and courage. You must be in constant conversation with the possibilities of your art.
Cézanne once said he would astonish Paris with a still life of an apple. Imagine. Dance is a study in delicate precision. We look, we study, we wonder. We carry on the art that we so love. Analyze the details of your art. Make a class combination a polished gem.
* Paul Trachtman, The Obsessive Genius of Paul Cézanne The Smithsonian, (Jan. 2006), Pgs. 80-88
Pearls of Wisdom, by Frank Freeman
For me, April’s guest editorial by Helen Pickett is a truly inspiring piece of writing. It brings into sharp focus, in very few words, the essence of artistry, craft and discovery. Her insight and wisdom seem particularly relevant in today’s dance world where so often there is a tendency for the acquisition of technical perfection to over-ride the many other facets of the art. I think this short piece is a great and encouraging statement for everyone in the dance profession, and especially for students whenever they may feel daunted or discouraged by the demanding career on which they have embarked. Pearls of wisdom indeed! Let’s have more from Helen Pickett please.
Published on Emory University School of Law website for Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, Martha Fineman, director of the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative.
One of my great pleasures as a choreographer is watching dancers connect corporeally, emotionally and spiritually to the movement in any given moment. Through their exploration, they reach a state of awe-inspiring vulnerability. They share themselves with unwavering commitment. As this generous energy transfers from the studio to the stage, it insists itself throughout the theater space and transcends the fourth wall. As a result of this outpouring, we, the audience, experience incomparable yet evanescent connection.
Meaningful connection starts with an act of vulnerability. Here I use the word vulnerability to mean an active state of honesty. If we consciously choose this state, we allow ourselves to access life without numbing judgment. We accept that the choices we make contribute to our internal and external connections. We opt to connect authentically. Embarking on such journeys encourages us to keep realizing our boundless possibilities. And once we feel this energy coursing through us there is no going back.
Therefore I feel it is my responsibility as a choreographer to cultivate an atmosphere that not only nurtures connection, but also incites contribution and collaboration. Within this space, who we are, rather than who we should be emerges, and we bloom.