15 July 2011

The Melancholy Swan has moved!

The Melancholy Swan has found a new home at melancholyswan.com
Please update your bookmarks! I'd miss you if I lost you!

07 July 2011

In which the Melancholy Swan encounters a snotty teenage cygnet

Tuesday evening the Melancholy Swan arrived at the Academy as usual for the adult class. Generally the adolescent cygnets ignore me, either chatting in a bevy of their peers or the siren call of their smartphones. But this time, I was noticed, and a blonde of perhaps 14 or 15 years old looked me up and down. The contempt in her gaze was palpable "OMG. Are you kidding me?" as she turns away and starts whispering to her friends. I kept walking and when I turned back to look at her, one of her friends poked her that I was looking, giving the impression that I had been under discussion.

I've been heavy for most of my adult life and as I've gotten older I decided to stop worrying about the skinny girls at the gym or in yoga class (and I was taking yoga in Sherman Oaks, CA with lots of beautiful people) and focus on my work. I stopped wearing sleeved shirts when it was 95 degrees in the studio and discovered that cute guys at the gym actually encourage big girls working out.  But the biggest realization came when it dawned on me that no one was looking at me. They were focused on what they were doing, not on me.

The same thing happened when I started ballet. I was nervous and did end up being the largest one in the class, but nobody cared but me. Only one person was passing judgement on how I looked. Me. And I can be quite the mean girl to myself. So imagine my surprise when a bitchy teenager gave the snotty eye to a 40 year old woman! It's like having a kitten hiss at you. They're so cute when they try to be tough!

If I had been younger, I would have been hurt and humiliated. Now I'm just a bit confused why she would even bother. Besides, the little bitch wasn't that pretty anyway.

03 July 2011

In which the Melancholy Swan wrangles cygnets

Thursday last your Melancholy Swan waded into dangerous waters. I entered a studio populated with four and five year old little girls in tutu dresses there for the Intro to Ballet class. While doting parents and grandparents watched through the window, they jumped, spun and wiggled. While the little savages lifted their skirts and bounced from one side of the studio to the other, the tiny shy ones would hold my hand and babble on about something I couldn't understand. My task was to keep them all together in an orderly line and encourage them to follow Doris (my teacher.) They were adorable. They were spirited. They reminded me why I never wanted children. I watched with great relief as the baby swans returned to their families.

They next class was Ballet 3/4 which was made up of older girls ranging from eight to twelve. The older dancers got most of the attention. Unfortunately Doris does not have a lot of patience for smaller children and less adept students. One smaller girl couldn't follow along very well and when a new student arrived, I was asked to coach them. The first girl positively blossomed under individual attention (and some encouragement.) By the end my girls were happy and doing well. It was a nice feeling.

While the Melancholy Swan is fully aware that she really has no business teaching anyone anything about ballet, I think I at least gave the stragglers some needed encouragement. I was once the little girl struggling to keep up in class, unable to remember the steps. Now I'm an adult in the same position.*

Well behaved ballerinas (Not my class)
photo by Katy Batdorff

*I learned that I have a minor non-verbal learning disability, which is apparently why I was so clumsy as a child and have trouble learning ballet combinations now. I'm working to learn all the names for the steps so I can match the words to the movement and remember them that way.

30 June 2011

Beautiful Silent Film of The Sandman

My husband found a beautiful contemporary silent film of E.T.A. Hoffmann's  The Sandman and Freud's interpretation of the uncanny.

In which the Melancholy Swan moves to the head of the class and learns something new!

Yesterday was my class at the Parks & Rec and after a difficult class on Tuesday, I was completely different for Wednesday's class. One of the problems I have in my ballet classes is with my short term memory (thank you chemo-brain) where Josh would demonstrate a sequence of steps, I would follow along with him and then immediately forget everything he said. It's been a year and a half since I finished chemotherapy, but every once in a while lingering side effects show up, and while my memory for my work has improved, ballet combinations remain a blank spot. My breaking point came when we did turns and no matter how slowly I went, I could not spot and immediately became violently dizzy. I was in tears after class because it is so frustrating. Every time I feel strong, something has to remind me that I had cancer (as if the scars on my breast and underarm aren't enough.)

However, when I went to my Wednesday class, I was spot on. I remembered the combinations to the point that Linda had me move to the front of the barre so the class could follow me! We didn't do any turns, so I avoided the dizziness, but it felt amazing! Then after class she asked me if I could come back today to assist her with her Intro to Ballet class (4 and 5 year olds who just want to spin and dress like princesses) and Ballet 3/4 class. She said that she has a few superstars she works extra with and she wants me to dance with the rest of the class to make sure they can follow the combinations. It's a little strange to be in Ballet 1 and be asked to assist in a 3/4 class, but I'm excited. It's not going to my head because I know full well that yesterday was just a good day, but it makes up for my performance on Tuesday.

I also learned something amazing today on the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast about a riot that took place during the 1913 performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with Nijinsky's choreography.  I love the fact that there was a time when innovations in art could inflame the public!

29 June 2011

In which the Melancholy Swan gets a message

Yesterday the Melancholy Swan was reading for an article I'm writing and when I opened the book to the next chapter I found a bookmark advertising a production of Coppélia. I'd missed a class last week and in the middle of a rather tedious reading (when dissertations become books, the result isn't always good, especially when they write according to the "tell them what you are going to say - say it - then tell them what you said" school of thought) and my little discovery gave me a welcome mental break.

Well, sort of welcome. See I loathe Coppélia I read the original story The Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffmann, along with Freud's analysis of the story when I was writing my dissertation. It is a dark tale of Nathaniel, who as a child, feared the lawyer and alchemist Coppelius as the Sandman, who steals the eyes of children who won't go to bed. Nathan's father was killed during an alchemical experiment with Coppelius.

As an adult, Nathaniel believes that Giuseppe Coppolaan eye glass salesmen. He is briefly convinced he is in error by his physics professor Spalanzani who knows Coppola and has a daughter, Olympia.
Nathaniel meets Olympia at her "coming out" party and falls in love with her, while the other guests are creeped out by her uncanny, almost mechanical perfection and her lack of speech beyond "Ah, ah!" When he returns to the house to propose to her, he finds Spalanzali and Coppola (who is, in fact, Coppelius) fighting over Olympia. In their struggle, she is revealed to be an automaton, and is torn apart with her eyes falling on the floor. Nathaniel goes mad.

He seems to recover and is reunited with Clara, his real girlfriend that he dumped in favor of Olympia. They climb a high steeple to look out over the city, when Nathaniel spies Coppelius in the crowd and his madness returns. He tries to throw Clara out of the tower, but she is saved by her brother and ends up throwing himself over the railing and dies. Not a happy story.

Jacques Offenbach's opera, Tales of Hoffmann, transforms Hoffmann into the protagonist who's tragic love for Olympia in the first act ends with her destruction and his realization that he was deceived by Coppélius and Spalanzani. Again, not a happy ending.

Coppélia a comedy where the mysterious Dr. Coppélius creates a dancing doll, the idiotic village swain falls for her, she is revealed to be a doll, the swain returns to his living girlfriend, they have a wedding celebration that goes on forever. Happy happy, joy joy.

Sometimes I wish being an academic didn't make me a total buzz-kill, but it was a welcome distraction from reading about boredom.

17 June 2011

Perhaps less a swan than a goose

Though sometimes I do keep up with the swans!

Image from: The Sitting Fox