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Ballets Russes

Mood: in-between | Drinking: tea


For my birthday last fall, my friend K gave me a documentary called Ballets Russes.

I have been a big fan of ballet since I was a wee small thing and my mother took me to see The Nutcracker one holiday.

Unfortunately for my ballet ambitions, I am tall, curvy, and clumsy — and nothing close to flexible, so dancing sur les pointes was not in the cards for me. But I have always harboured a special fondness for dancers that is likely, if I’m being honest, backlit by the green light of jealousy.

Dance in general and ballet in particular is an art form that never fails to amaze me. Perhaps I love it even more because I have no talent for it.

So I knew I was in for a treat when I sat down to watch Ballets Russes, the story of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe.

It’s a brilliant documentary, if you’re at all a fance of dance — or of adorable, elderly Russians. I was especially taken with Nathalie Krassovska, one of the founding members — and prima ballerina — of the Ballets de Monte Carlo.

In the documentary, Ms. Krassovska, then in her 80s, dyed black hair coiled atop her head, dons a leotard and swirls about a studio, attempting to recreate the grace of her youth. Something about that moment struck me, made me think about how fleeting beauty is, and how we are in our primes for such a blink of an eye.

It reminded me of one of the last things my grandmother said to me, the day she died, as she struggled to catch her breath walking to the car. She looked up at me with a twisted smile, faded eyes still flashing, and shook her head, “Whatever you do,” she said, “don’t get old!”

“Too late, Nana.” I replied. And I wasn’t really joking.

Of course, this all brings us down to a poem that I wrote, inspired by Ballets Russes and Nathalie Krassovska in particular, but also by my own grandmothers…

Ballets Russes

In monochrome film she is sylph-like,
an ingénue sur les pointes in the footlights,
a fairytale spun across the stage.

Effortlessly she holds her audience.
They time their breaths to each fouetté,
gasp as one with each grand jeté, and
when she pauses, mid-arabesque,
and smiles,
they shriek
they swoon
they die.

Add technicolor and seventy years,
and she is no longer Balanchine’s baby ballerina,
her limbs weighed down with age, unnaturally
bowed with arthritis. In her hair, chemicals
mimic the color of youth, as her violent red lipstick
bleeds into the lines that whisker her mouth.

The mirror behind the barre
reflects her decline, yet she points her toes still,
attempting elegance in orthopedic insoles,
gnarled fingers striving for grace
but falling far short of grand pose.

Then the music begins
and she closes her eyes,
disappearing once more
into sublime black and white.

-Lo, who gets older every passing second.

Grin and Bear

Mood: Hazy
Drinking: Empty

There are some days that require of you only survival.

Just hang in there.
Just get through it.
Grin and bear it.

It’s not that the day, in and of itself, is particularly awful. There are no hurricanes on the horizon, but there is no soft breeze, either.

There is just a day, with its list of tasks, with the people you must see and be polite to, with the work that can be done only by you. There are appointments and errands and none of it will kill you, but none of it will thrill you either.

I feel like this whole week is made up of those kind of days.

Doesn’t help that I started the week off exhausted. The entire weekend was filled to the brim with the Zine Fest — and thanks to all you kind folks who came out, who stopped by, who gave us your money. Cheers all around.

Talking to strangers for 9 hours a day makes me very sleepy. And though I might wish for a weekend with which to recover from my weekend, there is no such thing, and so I must hold out for, what… three more days. It’s doable. But not pleasant.

And there’s the rub. I’m still close enough to my recent vacation and all its deliciously lazy days to feel the absence of luxuries such as paddling slowly about a swimming pool on your back, with nothing to do in the long day ahead but to splish and to splash and perhaps take a nap.

But good things are on the horizon — writing group and time with friends and C & M’s new sweet puppy. Oh, and two new nights of So You Think You Can Dance. Yes, I have fallen victim to the reality show. I’ve held out, lo, these many years, but I am a simple sucker for dancing. Boy thinks I’m crazy, but he sits there and watches it, too. And how could you not love dancing zombies and fallen angels and Burtonian wedding receptions and then, on top of all that, a pas de deux? I’m completely in love.

So there we go. In the course of one meandering and pointless post, I’ve managed to perk myself right up. Perhaps I shall go and try on toe shoes.

-Lo, who has plans for a dancing cinepoem, and that’s no lie.