Talking to Mr. Adult Beginner the other day,
Mr. Adult Beginner: …remember that Robert Altman film about ballet (he’s talking about The Company) where it was like, hey, we’re going to make a ballet movie about a ballerina who does ballet in a ballet company, so let’s get that actress what’s her name (Neve Campbell) who is an actor not a dancer to be the lead! How did that make any sense?
Adult Beginner: Yeah, and on the other hand you’ve got The Red Shoes, where it was like, hey, we’re going to make a ballet movie about a ballerina who does ballet in a ballet company, so let’s get Moira Shearer, who is actually a ballerina, to play the ballerina, but then for some bizarro reason playing a ballerina in the ballet movie kinda ruined her ballet career!
Mr. Adult Beginner: Wtf?
Adult Beginner: Yeah! I was reading somewhere (Dance As Life, by Franklin Stevens) that ballet goes through these weird cycles with the way it promotes it’s stars. Swings from a put-on-a-pedestal, Ethereal Being type treatment to a ‘just regular folk’ kinda thing. Like, it’s either gorgeous glossy photo spreads in Vogue, or it’s interviews about married life complete with a ballerina’s favorite pork-chop recipe she makes for her danseur husband.
Kind same with actors, like, do we want to see them all did up and flawless on a giant screen, or do we want to see them caught by paparazzi looking fat and holding a Venti Frappacino?
You would think the Internet would kind of help to sort this kind of thing out. I mean, if everybody’s got a blog, and Twitter, and everyone else and their mother can read it, that leans toward the ‘just regular folk’ aspect, like, we’re all human together, but it feels like maybe having access to more information on your favorite star feeds into hero worship.
I don’t know.
I’m not even sure where we are right now in the cycle: are ballet stars currently on a pedestal? Or are they holding Starbucks.
Here are two books:
Dance As Life, A Season with American Ballet Theatre by Franklin Stevens, copyright 1976, Harper&Row Publishers
Mr. Stevens writes about being a dancer, and later being around dancers for a season. One thing I remember in particular from this book is his description of being young, consumed with lust, and being told to put his hands all over a gorgeous, barely clothed young lady while a room-full of people looked on. Oh, the mortifying hilarity!
And the other is
The Dancers’ Body Book by Allegra Kent, copyright 1984 William Morrow and Company.
The subtitle sums it up pretty well, “With Trade Secrets on How to Become and Stay Slender, Healthy, Strong and Energetic from the Great Ballet Stars- Merrill Ashley, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Fernando Bujones, Jacques D’Amboise, Suzanne Farrell, Patricia McBride, Edward Villella, Heather Watts, and many others.”
This book is really the ultimate in ‘just regular folk’. It’s full of interviews with dancers about their diets, how they lost weight, and yes, what they cook for their husbands. I love it for the kind of gossipy, intimate, hey-girlfriend style body talk, but the diet tips are all about denial, and seriously, just looking at this book makes me want a milkshake.