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

14 June 2011

In which the Melancholy Swan moves between Apollo and Dionysus

On June 2nd the Spring session at the Academy ended.  We had a great last class and afterwards I spoke to Jennifer (our teacher) and apparently it is possible for an adult to join pointe and advanced classes!  When I first started I was under the impression that those classes were only for the kids.  It will be a long time before it is even a possibility, but it is nice to know it is there.

Last week I started summer beginner classes through the local parks & recreation. I was a little apprehensive because their definition of adult is 16+ and I didn't relish the prospect of taking class with slim little teenagers.  That didn't happen, and the structure of the class (or lack thereof) kept me from paying much attention to my classmates anyway.

The class is taught by Doris, a tiny lady with seemingly boundless energy.  Since this was a beginning class, she gave us this introduction, "Okay, this is first position, this is second, this is third (but nobody really uses it), this is fourth (again, not used much), and this is fifth.  If you can't do fifth, third is okay.  Got it? Good!  Now go stand at the barre for grands battements."  Seriously, from there she led us through increasingly complex exercises done at breakneck speed.  She offered few corrections or instructions on posture, turn out, and breezed through arm positions.  When students looked confused she told us not to worry about it since this is just for fun!

I was the most experienced student in the class after my semester at the Academy and she asked me what I thought of the class.  When I mentioned the speed and lack of emphasis on posture (not in a negative way, but as a difference from my previous class) she declared that she thought her way was better.  I didn't necessarily agree, but said that there is probably a place for both. Heck, maybe moving so fast will improve my memory for combinations just out of survival instinct!

Tonight the summer session at the academy begins, so I will henceforth move between their appolonian discipline and rigor and the dionysian speed and lassiez-faire of Doris' classes. Should be interesting!

Updated on 4 July to correct my Parks teacher's name. I'm rubbish with names.  Faces...I'm great, but names just slide out of my brain the moment I hear them. This is a real problem since my university sells itself as "a place where all your professors will know your name" and I have to warn them at the beginning of class that I won't.