Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Posts tagged “ballet

Athlete. Ballerina. Copeland.

Google “define: athlete” and you get a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.

Miriam Webster says an athlete is a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength.

So why, as a society, do we insist on classifying dancers as something other than athletes? They are proficient in a form of physical exercise that requires physical skill and strength. Like every other professional athlete, dancers train, they cross-train, they practice non-stop. Like any team player, they work together. They are also graceful, and they have musicality. Like any high-level athlete, dancers must perform under pressure, and they compete for their right to perform.  Dancers must stay focused, take care of their bodies, and watch others in their sport to learn from them.

If they didn’t do any of that – if they miss even one – amazing dances like these can’t happen:

We wouldn’t ever get to see the amazing partner work that a dance like this requires. To successfully complete even one lift, the man must have strength in his arms and his core. He must be centered and concentrate on balance. To complete this many in a row, he’s basically superman. But the girl, well whatever. She has no core strength, no arm strength. I mean, anyone could hold their arms out perpendicular to the floor for 1:30 no problem! Go ahead, try it.

We wouldn’t ever get to see the phenomenal choreography in this dance. When we’re performing, we want to be doing the same thing as everybody else. So to be able to intentionally mess up, well that takes a lot of focus, a lot of rehearsal, and a lot of courage. Because there will always be that one person that thinks these girls just don’t know what they’re doing.

So why do we insist on defining athlete without including dancer?

Under Armour began a new campaign today, aimed at expanding their women’s lines. The campaign, entitled “I WILL WHAT I WANT,” features five female athletes, who each have a video about their physical and emotional strength.

I will what I want

UA.com describes the campaign as “a celebration of who you are. As an athlete. As a woman.”

Misty Copeland is the main spokeswoman for this campaign, and she got a lot of press today. Huffington Post described her video as “significant for a number of reasons, namely for marking a major marketing shift for a brand whose image has been traditionally masculine.” Okay, we’re emphasizing Misty’s feminism. I can get behind that.

ESPN also had an article today about the Misty video, which included a quote by Misty herself: “One of [Under Armour’s] visions was to have me being seen as not just a ballerina, but the athlete that I am.” Oh, did I not mention that Misty Copeland is a ballerina? Did you not kinda gather that from the first portion of this post? Let me explain:

Misty Copeland is amazing. She didn’t start ballet until age 13 (most professional – and non-professional ballerinas start before age 5). She is only the second black soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theater. She is beautiful.

So what is my problem, right? Well….this:

“the athletic apparel brand has a new commercial starring a nonathlete.” – The New York Times.

I just talked about this. I just showed you how incredibly talented Misty Copeland is, how incredibly talented all professional dancers are. Under Armour, which markets athletic clothes, picked five female athletes out of all the female athletes in the entire country for this campaign. A spectacular surfer, an amazing soccer star, an international tennis player,, an Olympic skier, a beautiful ballerina. Five athletes. And then the New York Times – THE NEW YORK TIMES – comes out and calls her a “nonathlete.”

And then they quoted Leanne Fremar, Under Armour’s executive creative director of the women’s division. She said “Misty is a ballerina, she’s not a competitive athlete, but she brings a modern athleticism to a very traditional art form, and she pushes the boundaries on the status quo of the word ‘athlete.'”misty

So first, the New York Times used sloppy journalism, falsely portraying Misty as a nonathlete. When I read that quote above, I don’t read, “Misty is almost – but not quite – an athlete.” I read it as “Misty is an athlete, even if we don’t always see her that way because she isn’t competing.” Which, actually, is false. Misty is a soloist. She wants to be a principal ballerina for ABT, as does every other soloist. There has never, in the history of ABT, been a black principal ballerina. In fact, I think Lauren Anderson is the only African American ballerina in history to become principal at a significant company, at the relatively small Houston Ballet.

Misty is a competitive athlete. Just like a soccer player competes for a position on the starting roster, Misty is competing for her dream.

Under Armour isn’t exactly fighting the stereotype here with their terminology, although I certainly commend them for bringing a ballerina into this group of five elite athletes. Now I just wish the New York Times would correct themselves, and stop reinforcing the false conception of ballerinas as beautiful but weak. Misty Copeland proves that herself:


Paris Day-by-Day

Day 0

We arrived in Paris from Prague at about 11:00, and actually got to where we were staying at a little after midnight. We stayed up too late looking at maps and talking about things to do, watched the Eiffel Tower glitter at 1am and then finally crashed around 2.

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Day 1

I got up early (I can’t help it – when I’m in a new city, all I want to do is explore!) and wandered around for about an hour. I didn’t go far, because I didn’t bring a map or my camera – I just wanted to wander and see what I saw. It was a weekday and I watched shopkeepers open their doors, roll up the window shades, and put out the morning’s first flowers. I really did get to see the city of Paris wake up, and it was wonderful.

When I got back to the apartment a bit after nine, I looked at the map, did a bit of research about what I wanted to do and the best ways to get there, and woke up Holly. We were in agreement – our first day would be a day to wander. So we ran down and around the corner to the bakery to pick up some pastries for breakfast (sorry, no pics! They were gone before the camera came out…) and then sketched out a plan courtesy of our map.

We started with a walk past the Peace Memorial to the Eiffel Tower, with a stop on the way to quite literally smell the roses. Once at our first destination, I made Holly take a cheesy tourist picture of me. But, as Claire reminded me on my birthday, I turned 21 in Paris, and that makes my life pretty awesome.

We walked underneath the Eiffel Tower and into a little park with a little pond at its base. In case you can’t tell, Mother Nature blessed me (and Paris!) with beautiful weather for my birthday. Blue skies, beautiful sun, and we looked French enough that multiple people spoke to us in French! (Not just bonjour, but actually asking us for directions or advice or who knows what? Neither of us speak any French…)

We continued our day by walking past the Louvre (see Day 2 for our visit to the Louvre), and on to Notre Dame. While at the Louvre, we laughed at the people with their fingers on the tip of the pyramid, and then pulled the same tourist stunt when Holly spun like Esmeralda just a few hours later.

On our way back from Notre Dame, we stopped at the Palace of Justice and Sainte Chapelle to look at the beautiful stained glass. (We skipped the line and didn’t have to pay and check out my post about cheating the system in Paris to find out how!)

We also made our way through one of Paris’ many shopping districts, even walking into some of the stores. At some, such as Gucci and Dolce e Gabbana, the store clerks (this sounds like such a crude way to describe them, but I really have to better explanatory word, although I could describe their impeccable hair and makeup and their beautiful clothes that looked like they had just come off the hangars…) were kind enough to say hello; at other, smaller names we were even asked if we would like to try something on. Needless to say, we did not. (What were we to do, if we fell in love with a $1,000 dress? Even though my parents said they’d buy me something from Paris for my birthday, I think that may have been a little much…)

At some point, we stopped for a crepe in the Tullieries for lunch, and then stopped at a random park – still not sure which one – around five to relax. Unfortunately, Holly got sunburnt, but that didn’t ruin the day or the weekend. We finished off the day by meeting Christine and Alessandra at the Opera House for a ballet performance by the students of the Paris Opera. It started out with adorable little kids, and quickly got frighteningly good – I’m pretty sure the 12 year olds were better than I ever was or could have been at ballet. And apparently, they all had the flu. But we also got to see the famous ceilings of the Opera building without having to wait in line or pay for it. (Well, we paid for the ballet tickets, but only 12 euros!)

Once we got back from the show, we had dinner on time by French time, at around 10 o’clock. It was wonderful (and super nice of Christine to make it for us!) and then followed by a birthday dessert of chocolate torte without the pastry or icing – so basically chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Which was great. We went to bed around 2.

Day 2

Today is the day of the Louvre. The plan: go to the Louvre. Decide from there. Everyone talks about how big the Louvre is, and they’re absolutely right. But if you’re being honest, no matter how big you think it is, it is bigger than that. Take, for example, the Grand Gallery:

We spent four hours inside, which I think is more than enough for one day, and not enough to see anything. We missed the entire Egyptian wing, spent about three seconds considering trying to push through the crowd to see the Mona Lisa (decided not to), and noticed that the ceilings and floors are works of art in their own right. It was the King’s palace, after all.

After the Louvre (and lunch!) we continued our museum-ing and headed to Musee l’Orangerie. It was the only museum we waited in line for, though we got in for free (sense a pattern here?) and spent hours with Monet’s water lilies. They are truly incredible, and much bigger than I imagined.

If I’m being honest, I don’t like art. I never liked the art history classes I had to take, and I seem to recall a comment on a report card along the lines of, “Kathy would do well to apply herself to her art history classes as she does to her math.” (They were taught by the same teacher.) I think, however, if someone told me I must take an Art History class today, and that I could take a class on the Impressionists, I would be okay with that. I don’t like art, but I really like Impressionism. I guess you could say it makes an impression on me. (I’m sorry, I had to.)

DSC_0193Holly and I met Christine in the Luxembourg Gardens, which are beautiful, and then stopped for a glass of “spring beer,” which has a strangely fruity flavour. In the evening, we went to a very nice restaurant for my birthday dinner. Thanks, Daddy! Once again, the food was fantastic, and it came and went before pictures could happen.  And it was after midnight by the time we got home, and we stayed up and talked for a while. You can probably guess what time we got to bed.

Day 3

As I mentioned earlier, I love exploring new cities. I walk everywhere, and I tend to not stop. Somehow, new energy reserves spring up when I happen to be out of town. Unfortunately, I tired Holly out after two days, so I let her sleep in this morning and headed over to Musee d’Orsay for more Impressionism. And the Bareas! These guys were in Paris for Spring Break, and I was supposed to meet them at 9:30. But I was already on Paris time, and the chances of meeting up looked bleak. I skipped the line, got in for free, and headed upstairs to see my new favorite artists. Also, my old favorite artist: Degas.

Unsurprisingly, as a little girl who did ballet, I loved Degas. I loved his paintings, I loved his sculptures, and now I’ve seen them in real life. I think that might have been the best thing of my weekend. I mean, seeing Monet’s three paintings in blue, orange, and green and Renoir’s famous paintings of the dancing couples were pretty amazing too. (I actually remember these from my Art History class – maybe I’ve always secretly loved the Impressionists?)

As I came downstairs, I continued to look not only at the art, but also for the Bareas. For those of you who have never been to the d’Orsay, it has a huge atrium, essentially, open from the first floor to the fifth, and balconies of sorts on the second floor looking onto the atrium. I can’t really describe it, but the description is only important because I found the Bareas from across the museum. How do you get someone’s attention from across a museum? You can’t yell their name. You can’t even whisper it. So you just stare intently, and wave when they look your general direction. And it works!

So we found each other, continued exploring the museum until the kids got bored (they lasted a full 2 hours which, at ages 6 and 10, is pretty impressive) and then we went off to explore the city. We stopped for lunch, and I had salad. (A true rarity in the Czech Republic, so I’ll take all the greens I can get, thank you!) The grand plan was to visit the Catacombs, but the line was so long that we got straight back on the metro and went all the way across the city to the Basilica of Paris upon Montemarte, with a beautiful view of the city. We climbed up 396 stairs (Lucy counted for us), took some time to enjoy a drink in the beautiful weather, looked for a Kate Spade and discovered there is none in Paris, and generally had a good time. It was really nice to see more faces from San Mateo, although it made me want to head home.

I met up with Holly again in the evening, and we had a evening of snacking. First, at a café, I had real, French, crème brulee, which tasted about the same as other crème brulee. Then, we went to the Seine (with Christine and Alessandra again, of course!) to a tasting on a boat. We basically had a dinner of cheese and pate tastings, along with an essentially infinite number of tiny glasses of different wines.

Then, once night had fallen, we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to take a trip up and see the city at night. For once, we actually paid for admission (but the student price, and we walked, so not really…) Needless to say, the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous, but what really amazed me was the engineering of the thing. So much, that I’m giving it its own post.

Day 4

I tired Holly out, and the Bareas tired me out, so we slept in on our last morning in Paris. Once we got up, we headed to a nearby market, where we bought pastries for breakfast and pineapple and cantaloupe for lunch before heading back to the apartment, grabbing our bags, and heading to the airport.

All in all, I’d say my 21st birthday weekend was truly amazing. I didn’t celebrate my 21st with a big night out on the town, which doesn’t surprise me, nor does it bother me. I’m not really that type of person anyways. Instead, I had an amazing weekend with good friends and I got to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

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High Culture

I’m a theater geek in a theater city, and I am trying to take advantage of that as best I can. Last week, I bought $10 tickets to see Madame Butterfly in the National Opera, and this week, we were given tickets to see La Boehme. Then, over the weekend, I took Emma to see Swan Lake at the National Ballet. Unsurprisingly, all three shows were fantastic, and I can’t wait to see more theater. There are so many things I want to say about both the ballet and the opera, so sorry if this post is a little discombobulated. (more…)


At the Ballet

♫Everything was beautiful at the ballet/ Graceful men lift lovely girls in white/                   Yes, everything was beautiful at the ballet/ I was happy… at the ballet.

I may or may not have had this song stuck in my head yesterday while I was trying and failing to get work done in the library. And then Tara’s message pops up: “want to go to the ballet tonight?” And college is all about spontaneous decisions, or so I’ve heard. So I, of course, said yes!

Sleeping Beauty

It was about 5:30 when she messaged me, and the show started at 7:30, so I finished that one assignment (amazing what a good motivator having something to do can be…), and rushed back to my room to get spruced up and head out. One hour later, we had our $20 rush tickets, our burritos for dinner, and were getting ogled on the streets of Boston. It was wonderful.

And then, of course, came the ballet itself. I’ll be really honest, I’ve seen a lot of ballets. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Sleeping Beauty, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard all the music. And the production was absolutely amazing.

I’ve definitely ruined all theater-going experiences for myself by being involved in theater. Maybe not ruined, okay – definitely not ruined. But I certainly watch everything in a completely different way. I’m always noticing how the lights are designed, where actors and actresses exit, how fast their changes are; not to mention that I spend half my time calling my own mental cues. It doesn’t ruin a performance, but it absolutely changes them.

I don’t go to the ballet very often, but when I do go, I always wonder why I don’t go more often. I am always awed by the choreography and the skill with which the dancers perform. And I always walk away hoping I can bring some of that beauty into my classes. Last night’s show, more than any other ballet I have ever seen, instilled in me a bottomless sense of beauty.

The girl dancing as Aurora was something beyond anything I have ever seen. She had impeccable balance, beautiful leaps, gracious arms. Literally everything I ever imagined a professional ballerina should be. And I swear, she couldn’t have been over 21 years old.

Beyond Aurora, all the dancers were amazing, and the sets were fabulous, the lighting set moods with such ease, the costumes, oh! Absolutely stunning. Each dancer must have had at least a half dozen costumes, ranging from full skirts to pancake tutus, with crowns and garlands, and period style shoes. My favorite costume was Princess Aurora’s white pancake tutu; the one with the pink overlays, not the gold one.

Every time I see men jumping, I am amazed anew by the power and speed of their jumps. I will never forget the image of those six male dancers leaping in unison, each of their entrechat quatre looking like a dozen beats. (They were four – I counted. I counted a lot of beats, and a lot of spotting…) And yet, with all their strength and speed, they are incredibly graceful. Even lifting their partners, even holding them with just one hand, they never look anything but graceful.

The beauty of the ballet was stunning. Everything was beautiful. Graceful men, lovely girls in white.