We’ve all heard this cliché; ballet is the pursuit of perfection.
Guess what, it isn’t. Not all the time. Perfection is dull.
“Ballet’s image of perfection is fashioned amid a milieu of wracked bodies, fevered imaginations, Balkan intrigue and sulfurous hatreds where anything is likely, and dancers know it.” – Shana Alexander
Someone should have informed director Darren Aronofwhatever of this fact- we could have avoided that whole Black Swan tragedy. Just kidding. We’re all exactly like that.
- Black Swan/ Transparent Swan I see you, Sarah Lane
I feel that this ideal of perfection is a two-fold obsession with:
- not making obvious mistakes
- the idea that what we do is never enough. We could have done one more pirouette, our legs could have stretched higher or rotated more, we could have held that balance on more second. More more more.
It’s a funny paradox that we as dancers are so highly to pressured to make our bodies a certain smallness capable of ever-increasing greatness.
Let’s forget the wacky expectations of ballet for a second and think about our bodies as the carbon-based life forms (what, I’m not made of sequins!?) that they are, culpable of the laws of gravity like everything else. Except for Daniil Simkin. He’s obviously a robot or wizard of some kind.
Newton’s first law of motion- often referred to as the law of inertia- states that:
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
In other words, to be perfect, a dancer would only do one thing until the end of time. A pirouette would continue indefinitely, Aurora would never need the hand of one of her princely suitors in the Rose Adagio, the Dying Swan would stay dead (no curtain call for you, Makarova!) And I would sit in this chair forever and never get my butt back to class. That doesn’t sound perfect to me.
- Best Dying Swan– sorry Natalia
If we think about dance in a scientific way, we can begin to understand that ballet trains the dancer body to play with this idea of perfection, of balance, of such perfect harmony that we are free of the oppositional forces that push and pull even the earth itself.
The necessity to dance, to live is to be in a state of unrest. It is this which leads to a kind of activity which manifest purpose and communication.
If we think about dance in an artistic, humanistic way, we cannot ignore the emotional forces of nature, for these mobilize our energies, physical and psychical. Balance is active, a dance itself, a struggle against the many forces that work to knock us off our centers. The intricacy and creativity of the shapes possible within the human body during dance movement means a constant work for efficient balance in these asymmetrical and unbalanced positions. But to achieve this balance forever is not only impossible, but would be dead boring.
In short, perfection would only allow us to do one thing. I think we as dancers should change the language, stop thinking that we are chasing perfection when we should be chasing the maximum movement.
Imperfection keeps us moving, fighting to find it just for that split second for as long as possible in the next thing we do, try, achieve before the inevitable fall or force propels us into more, and more, and more.
Keep dancing inertly, imperfectly friends.