I remember the first time I ever visited Lincoln Center. I was in middle school, living in the mountains and traveling to New York for the first time with my drama class. The weather was starting to get warmer, seeing as it was an end of the year pilgrimage, and the city bursting with verdant foliage. It was that time of year that I had my first introduction to Lincoln Center. And I thought that it was one of the ugliest landmarks that I had ever seen. The austere buildings and jeweled interiors struck me as dated and cold. I lamented the fact that the US lacked a true Bolshoi Theatre or Palais Garnier.
Years later, and after having visited both the Bolshoi and Palais Garnier, I could not disagree more with my younger self. A glamorous, palatial theater would look gauche against the New York City Skyline. Lincoln Center has a quiet dignity and grace that serves as the perfect counterpoint to the spirit of the city that I now call home. It’s a sanctuary, yet not an escape, from the every day. You go there to exhale and consider the experience of others, to open your mind and your heart and your soul, but not to forget the world outside. It’s architecture ensures just that.
Trite as it may sound, dance is art in motion. Classical ballet is the closest mere mortals come to the aesthetic ideals set forth by those Greco-Roman sculptures which inform our collective concept of beauty. As dancers, we stand to benefit immensely from an understanding of where we fit in the world of the arts and how our bodies act as extensions of those ephemeral moments turned eternal that comprise a painting, sculpture, or photograph. There’s a reason some of the greatest choreographic works are either directly inspired by the visual arts or call to mind some particularly great works. When choreographing Apollo, Balanchine turned to the reliefs on ancient urns for inspiration. Dancing Swan Lake this Spring, I could not shake the stereotypical image of Madonna and Child from my head as I held my wrists crossed over my tutu, imagining my tears rolling off my cheek and over my right wrist.
Without an understanding of art, épaulement lacks context, emotions are flat and two-dimensional- in short, our own art loses its color. As such, why not indulge in the museum? Spend an afternoon wandering its halls, taking in and internalizing the frozen human emotion that adorns it walls. Trust me, it helps bring joy to our practice and roots dance in a language that all can enjoy.