Here are some of my favourite ballet quotes and excerpts from about dancers and ballet.
Sometimes I get so inspired by the way a writer describes with words I just have to write it down! So here are some of my
favourite passages of books written by ballet dancers. Hope you it too!
Exerpts from “I was a dancer”
By Jacques d’Amboise
On William (Lew and William)
When in his nineties, I heard he has been moved to a nursing home, so I called him. “My time has gone!” he yelled into the phone. “It’s too late for me! I can’t move! I can’t demonstrate a dance step! I can’t teach a class! Time has passed me by.”
Then in a subdued voice, “I always loved you, Jacques, from the first time I saw you dance.”
On Tanny (Balanchine’s wife)
The stick-skinny, gawky teenager, Nymph to my childhood Puck, had blossomed into an exquisite, witty, sophisticated princess. Balanchine had watched and nurtured her for years, intrigued by her talent. Through her teens, he choreographed for her, and waited. She had captured the eyes and heart of the king.
Alone in a studio, I took each step, analyzed it, and practiced, repeating it over and over again at different tempi – slow motion, then fast, faster — even danced with my eyes shut, to explore the possibilities in the movement. I would then repeat this regimen with the next movement. Then, I’d the first and second steps together to find the flow between them. Next, progress to the third step, and repeat. Now, put first, second and third together, finding the bridges. And so on, until I’d rehearsed every step in the ballet, including middle of lifting the ballerina, practicing my partnering without a partner. It took two hours to get through a two-and-a-half-to-three-minute variation. I even practiced breathing, where and how I would leap and stumble upon an interesting paradox: through detailed practice and countless repetitions, there is freedom.
In the artist’s pursuit, there is no ultimate end – whether musician, painter, actor, writer, choreographer, architect, director, poet, or dancer.
If someone of quality mentors you,you are lucky.
I heard from Balanchine the same thing. “Class is to analyze how to do the gesture. After you leave class, you must practice alone – practice your tendus by the thousands – while eating your eggs and brushing your teeth.” Then he would say, “Something will happen with your body. You will develop speed and strength. Virtuosity. The rest is up to —” and he would make one of his characteristic gestures heavenward, indicating it had something to do with divine forces.
Dancing became so much more interesting, an odyssey toward excellence. In this singular striving toward an ideal, with only yourself as competition – no coach, no audience, just you, motivating and pushing – I found a joy.
Just to get ready for class in the morning, the dancer warms up, sometimes for an hour or so. Then after class comes a day full of hours of rehearsals, one after the other. Any additional time is devoted to working out little details of the choreography — honing, perfecting. Through it all, there is a sense of building toward performance.
Then arrives “Curtains going up!” — the peak. Now you’re free to forget everything, listen to the music and dance.
After the performance, I’d be on such a high I felt I could envelop everything – audience, orchestra, stagehands, lights, curtains – and later, in the streets, the passersby. I could swallow them all with relish. While onstage, I often thought, “If all I have to left to live is these few minutes of dancing, it’s worth it.” At night I’d dream “dance”.
On learning to choreograph
The next day, Balanchine and I met for breakfast. “You have to choreograph, Jacques, you must choreograph all the time.” And I said, “What do you mean, all the time?” He said, “Not necessary to put on stage. You must just choreograph. Make up dances all the time. Give yourself impediments.” He explained, “You know, make pas de deux and have no pirouettes – no pirouettes. Or, ballerina must never, ever be in second position. Or, like we did, pas de deux while you get dressed. And if you do this, don’t expect to put it on the stage. It’s exercise. A person wants to write- don’t write a novel right away; first you write a thousand short stories and poems, letters, but you learn how to write. Maybe someday you have great novel. Same with music, choreography, painting – you exercise!” he urged.