I wrote a little ballet commentary piece to accompany a short film I made in collaboration with filmmaker/photographer Daniel Robinson, choreographer Gemma Bond, and fashion designer Andrew Morrison. Read the admittedly pretentious text below, then watch the video. Most importantly, enjoy!
FOUNDATION by James Whiteside
It’s undeniable that ballet’s foundation is sturdy and unshakeable. At what point does that foundation support new levels, and who is deemed worthy to build them? Are all artists not the architects of their own dreams?
Expectation generally begets disappointment. The audience tends to want to see recreations of their favorite performances, whether they are aware of it or not. The artist knows this better than anyone else. They too have their favorite performances from the past, from the alleged “golden age” of ballet, and the past has the power to inspire or restrict their interpretations. Do they recreate their idols or do they step off the edge and hope that in creating themselves, they are not splattering themselves all over the pavement. Such is the problem with art, it’s largely opinion based.
Expression is said to come from within. Ballet is as much acting as it is dancing. It’s very easy to reject the way some artists express themselves within their work. Love is hard, hate is easy. Art invokes a visceral reaction from its viewer, and while you can’t keep a lemon from being sour, you can appreciate that a lemon is pretty damn good at being sour.
Depression is inevitable but surmountable. 51 cards are stacked against the artist, but he or she’s still got one card left. It takes time to find the wild card, the one thing that allows the artist to remember why the hell they started this game in the first place. But when it’s found, throw down and collect.
Frustration can be crippling. The artist can hate themselves into an almost cryogenic state. No progress can be made in this limbo. The pressure of being extraordinary often renders a dancer incapable of feeling anything. The one thing that remains is a sense of injustice. “I’ve sacrificed everything for this, why is it not working?” And sometimes, it just doesn’t work, and then what’ve you got?
Realization is trite. It’s rarely the denouement of stories like this. Artists are seldom the recipients of pomp and circumstance. Regardless of what the folks behind the fourth wall think, feel, and say, when something clicks, it’s utopia. There are no dumb artists, only ignorant artists. However, there’s a whole world of inscrutable audience members. Being an artist is a choice, and it’s a hard one. Why on Earth would someone choose this life? It’s not a quick, fame game. It’s a life long struggle for artistic clarity, relevance, and revelation. A mental education of physical creation. Dancers make themselves from the outside inside out. Only when the audience sees the true person within do they forget about those before, but in truth, they don’t want to see that person until they do.
View OUT Exclusive with text by contributor Glenn Garner here.
Please comment with any thoughts on the piece.