Friday, October 14, 2011



What of all things should remind me of East Coker, the second of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets on a Friday afternoon in October?

On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire

Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations

Ballet West invited Lynn and I to watch a rehearsal this afternoon of their production of “Dracula” which opens on the 21st. Even though Lynn is recovering from a broken leg and complications we decided to go for many reasons, but primarily because we both are keenly interested in seeing sub-cultures, artistic, academic, ethnic up close. Also, although I’ve had a passing acquaintance with ballet since I was four when my grandmother first took me to the Nutcracker, (or as I prefer to think of it “The Lamentable Tragedy of the Mouse King” but that’s another story), it was only after I began fencing that I developed something like an appreciation for the particular athleticism and physical precision the pursuit requires. For me, that level, coupled with the artistic expression is what makes it interesting. It’s the bass clef to the to the treble clef of the dance itself. Both together are what give it depth, irony, beauty.

As for this imagining of Dracula, I had the sense that Ballet West has a hit on their hands. It’s melodramatic, structurally surprising, even to someone like me who knows so little about the art, witty and most importantly, deeply spooky at moments. The rehearsal was so strong and engaging it’s hard to imagine the formal performance itself could be more affecting. And it’s set to some of my favorite Liszt: Totentanz, the Faust Symphony and the Hungarian Rhapsodies. Wicked cool.

The surprising insight for me today, and the reason I was reminded of Eliot, was something that became apparent as I watched. I never knew how much a ballet company was a company, how they support and motivate each other. But it was apparent in the body language, the attentiveness of the dancers, their focus on their colleagues. Even though, it’s obviously very hard, delicate work, they all greatly enjoy it which is also wicked cool. In spite of the discipline, the sacrifice, the work, the art, they remained a group of people dancing together on a Friday afternoon.