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May 12, 2005

Dancer and Superdancer

One of the more telling assessments of my work as a choreographer was probably made by Septime Webre in a phone conversation we must have had around a decade ago. I’m not sure of the conversation surrounding this quote from Septime to me, but it sticks in my memory.

“That’s because you’re inspired by high culture and I’m inspired by kitsch.”

Few blanket statements are absolutely true, and that one isn’t either, but at minimum the assessment about me is more true than not.

My attraction to art has always been about the ideal, not the real. I don’t want to see us as we are, but as we could be. I think the dichotomy is also very important to understanding someone’s taste and attractions.

There is a duet danced topless in Fiona Marcotty’s piece. After her rehearsal I said jokingly to her that I was glad that the dancers she chose to be topless were the ones we would most want to see topless. And she said legitimately that would be her usual reason not to choose those dancers.

At the dress rehearsal of Ursula and the 11000 Virgins last night, Vicky Schick and Derry Swan were particularly lovely and there is a striking duet of a saint and a dragon. Alas, you can’t tell the saints without a program – the only one I could ID for certain was Elizabeth Zimmer as Saint Wilgefortis, because she told me so in advance.

I’ve long been fascinated by saints and hagiography, and among the tales of the weird, but I’m more moved by the hope of transcendence and grace. Apologies, this link is in Spanish, the original English is the story of Cornelia Connelly from Kenneth Woodward’s Making Saints.

I’m not a believer, so I don’t believe in divine grace. Strangely enough, I do believe in grace, or at least the state of being inhabited by something greater than oneself for its purposes. I’ve seen it in ballet. Darci Kistler is the dancer that comes to mind. There’s no way to describe the effects she had in her greatest roles, except that she was channeling something else much greater than any of us, and she had no idea why or how.

I'm torn between understanding that a certain amount of neurosis is involved in saintly behavior, and creative behavior as well. Still, I think we destroy what’s admirable about it by reducing it to neurotic impulses. There’s more to grace than being undersexed.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at May 12, 2005 4:43 PM

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