on dancing and being

I have now served as piano accompanist for all three of my classes this semester: Beginning Ballet, Ballet II, & Pointe Class.  This morning I have an 8:30 AM Beginning Ballet class. Tomorrow my Ballet II class is canceled but interestingly I have been asked to accompany one of the other teachers’ class. They didn’t tell me what class it is. But I immediately agreed.  I enjoy this work and am learning a great deal. Much of what I am learning is applicable to music and living in general.

Also, I continue to read Apollo’s Angels.

I had a brief conversation with one of the ballet teachers about this book. She said it was on a poster in the hall and that she was planning to read it. I fumbled about saying that the author had some interesting takes on ballet that I questioned. She said, “Like Ballet is dead.”  I nodded. Her take was that what the author was defining as ballet was very narrow and traditional. She also said we now have no Ballanchine which she said was the musical equivalent of having no Schoenberg.

I responded that I wasn’t looking for a Schoenberg, that I thought art was fragmenting, decentralizing, in an interesting way. She gave me an odd look when I said I liked new music.

When I mentioned the recent NYT articles on Nutcracker Ballets presented this past Xmas, she didn’t seem too enthusiastic. A period piece, she called it, even though I said the point of the article was the many varied interesting takes different dance troupes had taken on it. I didn’t go on to say what I was thinking,  that it was good evidence that Ballet wasn’t dead. Out of my depth.

I continue dipping into Zuckerman’s Wisdom. This morning I read part of Alan Arkin’s section.

Celebrity Birthdays, April 26 -- Alan Arkin

I found his ideas about collaboration interesting and filed them away for thought:

Collaboration doesn’t work when you hang on to your vision as if it’s what God is waiting to hear and learn from. But a good collaboration is when you’re willing to sacrifice and throw your own view out for something that’s more exciting or more interesting.

A young musician once told me of his disappointment in his fellow musicians when they weren’t flexible enough to experiment musically in public spontaneously or follow each other when someone started changing something.

Collaboration is something I tell myself I am interested in. But I’m not ready to throw all of vision away, just take risks. As I said I will be thinking of Arkin’s comments.

Another thing he said, I found interesting:

We’re brought up in a culture that tells us, ‘You are what you do.’ When people say, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ we immediately talk about career, as if that is a complete and perfect definition of who and what we are. In many parts of the East this is not the case. Someone will say, ‘Tell us about yourself. Are you a painter?’ And the response will be, ‘No, I paint, but I am not a painter.’ There’s a recognition of the separation between who the person is and the activity they’re performing. They are a person and they are just doing something. That was a big lesson for me, recognizing that I am something other than, and maybe more important than, what I do. To learn not to define myself by what I do for a living and that my work is an outgrowth of who I am, rather than it being the reason for who I am.

I have thought about this as well. When I make music,  I find it helpful to try to just “be” in the music, not think, but just “be.” And I have thought often about what it means to “be” as opposed to “do” or even think in words.

This morning, I checked on the daily Writer’s Almanac on NPR even though I am subscribed to the podcast.  (Did you know today was Horatio Alger, Jr.’s birthday and that he resigned in disgrace as a minister after having been accused of having sexual relations with some young boys in his congregation?).

At the bottom of the page was a list of other websites from American Public Media. One caught my attention. It was called “Being.” I clicked on it and found to my chagrin that the old NPR religious show “Speaking of Faith” had changed its name to “On Being.” I keep getting sucked back in to religion. Yikes!


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