Perspective is What’s Missing in Dance

The recent story of a horrendous attack on the Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet, Sergei Filin, has brought to light one of the less glamorous aspects of the dance world: the lack of perspective it can foster.

Regardless of the motives of Filin’s attacker, we can be certain that throwing acid into the unsuspecting man’s face outside of his apartment in Moscow was not warranted. What decisions – artistic, financial, or otherwise – could Filin have made that could have ever encouraged such a barbaric act? The answer is none. But in the world of dance, where perspective is often hard to come by, the stakes were high for his attacker.

Perspective 1.0

It isn’t hard to lose perspective when immersed in dance- dance professionals spend many hours a day enclosed in a studio or theater, surrounded by the same people and issues, day in and day out. They rarely have time to interact with people outside of the profession or to experience their concerns and dreams in a different context.

How is one to find perspective under such conditions? I remember having to work consciously to gain perspective on my dancing life, both as a ballet student and later, a professional. Casting decisions felt devastating, and injuries made me feel that my dreams were disappearing before my eyes. It took time to realize that these setbacks didn’t mean I was going to die, or that my career was over, or that the AD disliked me.

Perspective 2.0

But the perspective needed to situate my disappointments, fears, or anger into reality was a long time coming, and I was not aided by the dance world. For that, I always relied on my friends and family, people outside of the world I inhabited.

The perspective I gained never undermined my goals or made me less serious about my chosen profession. Instead, it helped me see what was really important, and how to handle the unexpected challenges of being a performing artist.

Starting from zero

The New York Times article ends with another truly disturbing fact from Filin. Apparently, he claimed the attack wasn’t as bad as when he danced the first act of Swan Lake on a broken leg because his mother was in the audience. “…if they shut the curtain and announced that something had happened to me, Mama would not tolerate that,” recalls Filin. “So I danced until intermission.”

Only in a world where perspective has been lost, would that inner dialogue even exist.

5 replies
  1. Eu Revlis
    Eu Revlis says:

    PRECISELY !!! (at least, regarding the heart of the perpetrator
    and the other(s) with whom he may have been aligned).

    Just as it has been expressed, so concisely, by A. Grin, in The Shining Way :
    … ” there was no perspective.”

  2. Prose
    Prose says:

    The minute we think that such violence against dance professionals is an affect of a culture other than ours, look again. This kind of maddening political violence is rooted in one thing: competition. Our need to compete comes from our instinct to survive – an instinct that we have long grown passed needing. We are ready to let such juvenile needs to promote our own egos go. If it is simply a decision, fine. If it is tantamount to an evolutionary step, great! But, mankind needs to grow passed our need to spop up belief over knowledge, emotion over logic and acceptance of what is, over desire.

    We have yet to gain a fraternity of sisters and brothers within the aspect of any endeavor – particularly the art, simply because we still have this drive to “be the best.” But, “:the best” is naught but a concept of mind. Someone can jump and turn higher, communicates with the audience better, so s/he gets the part. So what? That isn’t the issue with art. I have been trying to get this across to dancers and students for decades: Art is a _practice_, not a method of self promotion – ever. The legions of idiots who do this sacrifice art for fame wealth and fortune…and the sad fact is, that most get none of these. All they are left with is dissatisfaction.

    If we’d stop trying to be the best and instead work towards personal mastery of the craft, only then is such successes that possibly can lead to having notoriety and acclaim. But, the need to compete, to outdo and undo our neighbors, has turned our art form into a travesty. This is why artists have poverty mentality that results in a self fulfilling prophesy. It is also why art is viewed as a lark, entertainment, a luxury and unnecessary to the everyday culture. Oh, how untrue this is. Yet, artists play into this by attempting to legitimize art by promoting art as a commodity. It is not. It does require money and it does require support. But, the support must come first from each artist towards each other, instead of attempting to knock each other down and paint targets on our back. So society will only follow suit and classifies us as fools and dabblers who really don’t know anything about the meaning of work.

    The result? So, the general view of ballet is that awful movie, “Black Swan”, created true by the obnoxiousness of “First Position” where some lunatic coach, who was promoted to the point of incompetence, screams at a child “pull up!”, when it is blatantly obvious that he hasn’t the foggiest idea of what that means, so the child just tenses up and dances like a brick.

    Competition does -not- inspire, it does -not- create excellence. Teaching dance and other endeavors must be taught as life long practices that are not to promote us but help us to live better lives. Only then will dancers actually enjoy what they do. Only then will Balanchine’s desire to have dancers “who have to dance” with dancers -who _love_ to dance!-

    Glass in pointe shoes, acid in faces, spreading rumors, slander – if you’ve been a professional dancer for more than 5 years, you will have experienced cts similar to these. How sad, we seem to have no ability to move on from this. We have such a technically advanced society, we still rely on competition and destructive behavior, as if we were lower than pack animals.

    -Philip S. Rosemond.

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