The Fallen Idol

I grew up staring at a picture in my dance studio of Natalia Makarova as Dying Swan, thinking ‘one day, that will be me’. I wonder how she’d feel knowing she inspired my blacktop version?


A week ago, COCA hosted a lecture on the creative process of the artist with Rose Eichenbaum.

If you follow this blog you’ve heard me ramble on and on about the book, ‘Masters of Movement’many times before. This is one of her three books where she photographs and interviews choreographers, dancers, and actors. In ‘MoM’ she has interviews with people I would sell my soul if I had one to talk to; David Parsons, Paul Taylor, Daniel Ezralow, Katherine Dunham, Ann Reinking. They’re all there. It’s pretty much my dream party guest list.

Can you name any of these choreographers?

I was so excited to hear her speak, to get to see her in person, to maybe introduce myself to her afterwards. I have an autographed copy of her book, but she signed it, ‘to an aspiring choreographer’– which still holds, but I also worship this book because of the life as a dance writer, and the interviews. I thought it might be amazing to get it signed again, maybe this time to ‘an aspiring writer’. I even attempted to make myself look nice so that should I be so bold as to ask for a picture of us together, I wouldn’t look like my normal post-teaching mess. I toted my glammed-up self, my terrible old camera, a notebook to take notes during her talk, and this big old book with me to the theatre, where there were only a handful of other people waiting to hear this amazing person speak.

In her speech, she had a slideshow of pictures and described meeting with some of the people profiled in her book, how she convinced them to allow her to pick their brains, what it was like talking with them, and what they said. She had a hilarious and casual picture of Makarova in jeans.

I found the talk wonderful.Afterwards, this weirdo man and I hung around like fruit flies to bug her a little more. I think he’s a photographer of sorts, he starting asking if he could photograph me wearing my pointe shoes, then photo-crop me out so it was just the boots. Um, no. A- I don’t know you, B- why waste this face? Just kidding. 

Here I was, this shaking with excitement nerd holding her book, the dope who was the only person sitting int he front frantically writing down all of the inspirational notes from her speech. I introduced myself, said that I- like her- was a professional dancer and have found myself on a path recently as a writer, and then told her how much I love her book, how I’ve quoted it in the majority of my college papers, turn to it for inspiration before interviews that I conduct, and just peruse it when I’m creatively stumped. Want to know what she said?

“Yes, I hear that from a lot of people”.

Um. great. I’m so thrilled to be one of your many adoring fans. I’m talking about me here!

Now I know I’m totally selfish in saying this, but I had really hoped that this person who I professionally and creatively adore might take a special interest in me, seeing as how we do have certain professional background parallels. She was, this past sunday, conducting a workshop for dance photographers where she would look over portfolios and give a critique. I got up the nerve to ask if she would consider looking at a piece or two of my writing, to give her thoughts on my interview skills. I realize I was asking to bend the rules and for a favor, but I was still going to pay the entrance fee. I figured it would be worth it, professionally and emotionally.

She seemed none too enthused about the idea (a person who wants to pay to hear her thoughts on work similar to her own, where I clearly respect her opinion? How rude!). I managed to get out that I had recently interviewed a Joffrey star (which I thought would give me some clout) and she cut me off to say, ‘oh yes, I gave a copy of my book to their director. He LOVED it!’

Great. Then she burst out,‘Where was everyone tonight? I thought there would be a lot more people!” This from the lady that just spent an hour or so talking about the creative endeavor, and how it must be for you and not with the expectation of reward or recognition. Practice what you preach much?

Then she asked how to get backstage because her jacket was back there, and  the door was locked. I went to find one of the staff to unlock it for her, then without saying goodbye, or nice to meet you, or thank you for coming, (let alone a picture or autograph) she turned and walked out.  Devastating.

Her photography was on display opening Friday in the gallery at COCA. because I finished teaching at 6 and I wanted to be at the Touhill for the artist talk with Dance St. Louis director Michael Uthoff and Joffrey Director Ashley Wheater at 7:15, I had some time to kill. So after again attempting to make myself look decent and changing out of teaching sweats, I headed to the gallery where there were less than ten people milling around. Whether she recognized me from the night before or not, she did not say hello. I took my time examining the photos, fully enjoying the work, and then left with zero interaction with her.

I probably should have realized that maybe something was amiss when she said in her talk that the book that changed HER life was Isadora Duncan’s autobiography, ‘My Life’. I know that I am a fully selfish and egotistical person but I look like a saint next to Duncan. Just read it, I’m telling you, she’s a crazy old bat. She tries to seduce married men, then when they turn her down, tells the public it’s because she must have intimidated them with her beauty and genius. I also hate her work, but that’s beside the point. Isn’t it weird when the idol of your idol is someone that you cannot stand?

I still love this book. I will always love this book. I am really sad not to have made a connection with the person that created it, but sometimes I suppose the creation must stand separate from the creator.

And I didn’t go on Sunday to get her feedback on my work. I figured that if I got any personal time at all, I’d end up hearing more about her greatness than any potential greatness in me (which is what I ALWAYS want to hear! Tell me how awesome I am, or will become!) So that’s 15 bucks she missed out on.

I had this whole ‘meeting my idol and she’d take an interest and give me a nod of encouragement and maybe a picture’ thing so worked up n my head that I have to say, it hurt when it didn’t turn out that way. Isn’t that kind of built up expectation followed by let-down just so me? That’s ok, I can still bury myself in the glorious pages of the book and pretend, and if you’re in St. Louis, I’d encourage you to check out the gallery at COCA. (It’s free!) I can still respect the work of the artist, idolize the project, even if the artist in question isn’t the person I was hoping for. As it turns out, I idolize her job, not her– a disappointing but good distinction to make. Maybe like my thoughts towards Makarova, one day that will be me. If any over-eager person comes to me for encouragement or advice, I really hope I remember writing this.

6 thoughts on “The Fallen Idol

  1. You know what, you absolutely will remember writing this because you have a quick mind and depth of character….unlike some people.

    But this whole interaction is so disappointing! I think you were wise to draw a quick line between the genius of the work and the shallowness of the creator. It’s sad to see someone passing up the chance to be a mentor.

  2. It’s always sad when something like that happens. It’s sad that being an arse is so helpful in getting ahead and that success seems to only increase arselihood in some people.

    If you want to sit around and feel smugly superior to Eichenbaum, I just noticed that she has an email address. That’s pathetic.

  3. I doubt that she got to where she is by being an arse- her work is really amazing. I think she can be warm and generous when she needs to be because she definitely came across that way during the lecture, otherwise I wouldn’t have tried to bother her afterwards. And to be fair, she doesn’t owe me any favors just because I bought her book. Agreed on the sad state of an aol email though. I can indeed judge that!

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