A “pantsuit power” 200-person flashmob appeared in Union Square, New York last Sunday to perform a carefully choreographed, five-minute tribute to Hillary Clinton (to Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling). Film-makers and real-life partners Celia Rowlson-Hall and Mia Lidofsky pulled together volunteers from all over North America, organized a 10-camera shoot on a micro-budget and sourced hundreds of suits from thrift stores all over New York to “dance Hillary Clinton into the White House”. Proof it’s possible to support political opinion in a different way? Perhaps.
Have you danced much recently? Jigged about a bit to a radio tune? Or delivered a whole groovy routine – maybe even accompanied with booming beatbox and strobing lights? Your answer is likely to reveal your age. The older we get, the more likely inhibited and stiff bodied we are.
Shame really. We should all probably think about dancing more.
That dancing is good for you; for your body, for your soul and for your brain, is proven research that’s been out there for some time. And then there are the dance benefits evangelicals, “I believe we’re born to dance,” says Dr Dance, Peter Lovatt “It’s something innate to all of us. When we dance it fills us with joy.” (Why do we dance? – Tedex)
We’ve grown up watching big screen dance films. Like fads for leg-warmers and curly hair though, your particular childhood favorites (Fame, the original with Irene Cara and Flashdance, for me) will definitely date you. Dance stories on screen usually awe the audience with grit and glamour. Mostly the stories tell how the would-be dancer overcomes an adversity to achieve greatness through talent and determination. The stories might be familiar but the big-screen scores well for showing us spell-binding skill (and lots of sweat).
The small screen dance offerings compare pretty well. Every year millions of viewers enjoy the glitzy ball-room in Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1. And from Dance Moms to Dance Academy – there’s plenty of choice and a dancing TV show for everyone. Long in the cold, ITV are now reportedly investing a big new entertainment format – Dance, Dance, Dance – that will blow us away with 3D special effects…
Dance, dance, or we are lost.” Pina Bausch.
You’d think the visuals would be important to attract us to dance stories but there are libraries full of novels inspired by the theme. From the children’s classics Dancing Shoes and Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield to Bunheads by Sophie Flack – dancing stories have a fairy-tale quality that keeps them appealing down the generations.
Ballet – the preserve of the middle classes (and pushy mums, precocious kids) or so the popular press would like us believe – but the real life stories of dancers often tell a very different tale. Hugely popular (I have a shelf full), here the desire for perfection makes for a gripping read. That ballerinas put themselves through the mill is in no doubt from these recollections, and some do wallow in the misery of starvation and competition. Others have a more uplifting tell to tale, from Hope in a Ballet Shoe by Michaela de Prince (and her Tedex talk) to Life in Motion by Misty Copeland, to Mao’s Last Dancer – Li Cunxin and No Way Home by Carlos Acosta – it’s the humanity and endeavour not the talent that keeps us reading on.
Technology is bringing more of us ever closer to the once closed world of ballet. The advances in live- stream is bringing ever new audiences to the art through cinema. Whilst global event days like the 2nd World Ballet day (4th October 2016) treat us to 20 hours of live-streaming from five of the world’s top ballet companies; The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet. You can catch up on the four-hour segment of the day from the Royal Opera House (presented by Darcy Bussell) on demand for the next 30 days.
Why we, even those of us who will never dance on a stage, are drawn to ballet is often difficult to explain succinctly – for the spectacle, for the control, for the grace – perhaps it’s best put by one who really knew; George Balachine, the great choreographer whose imprint is still virtually everywhere in dance. He taught viewers to find drama solely in the beguiling patterns of his dancers massing, breaking apart, recombining, forming symmetries, tracing variations told Time Magazine in 1954, “Ballet is important and significant… But first of all, it is a pleasure.”
So next time you get the chance then, forget your awkwardness and dance for pleasure. Show the world who you truly are and who you we can be.
More about ballet – go on, dive in:
For a laugh:
Bunheads – American TV series. Ballet and comedy? It works…
Bead 109 – An adult beginner’s passion for ballet drives this blog. Live-a-long proof that passion, dedication, and curiosity can elevate your world to heights and sights previously unimaginable.
Balancing Pointe – everything ballet for ballet lovers everywhere
Royal Opera House podcast series – audio interviews on a range of dance subjects
For cultural knowledge:
The Ballet Lover’s Companion to Ballet by Zoe Anderson. Up-to-date performance guide to more than 140 favorite ballets