Week One–Courtney Escoyne

(Belated post, this was meant to be up during our first week of classes)

A few points from our rather varied discussion this week and our escapade to Asia House:

For most of the Ahura Ensemble performance at Asia House, I was primarily focused on the dancer. Not only did I enjoy watching her because her musicality was superb and the choreography seemed (to me) to do a good job of interpreting the mood of the given musical piece and/or poetry, but it was also interesting to watch it from a more technical perspective. The use of the wrists and hands and the resistance in her arms reminded me a lot of the port de bras (ballet term for “carriage of the arms”) used in Flamenco, which I believe is somehow related to classical Persian dance. Also, many of the steps and positions seem to have echoes in today’s ballet—such as a movement much like pas de basque, arms that mirror fifth en haut, and a travelling step that gives the appearance of gliding, a quality similar to bourrée. This is particularly interesting when one considers that the origins of classical ballet are typically traced back to the seventeenth century court dances of King Louis XIV of France, definitely well after the beginnings of Persian dance.

On a different note, in class we spoke a little about the differences between oral and written communication and how the two are perceived. When I took sign language in high school, I remember learning that the vast majority of communication when speaking to someone is actually entirely non-verbal—facial expressions, body language, etc., have as much, if not more, impact on the meaning of a statement than the words themselves. People can say one thing and mean another—this is illustrated well when you look at the dialogue for a film and then see it acted, because how it is played can completely change the tone of a scene from what it looks like written on a page. Perhaps this is part of the reason our culture is so inclined to believe what it is that we read: we see nothing but the words, and there is no reason to doubt them because we always read things literally unless there is cause to do otherwise. In the same line of thought, how do we read tone in written communication? Is it a matter of knowing the personality of the speaker, the syntax of the writing, or both? And how does the nature of our message change with our written medium (ie texting as opposed to email as opposed to written letters)?

One final idea: grace. (Here comes the ballet metaphor.) I have never described a ballerina as graceful—or anyone, for that matter—who wasn’t strong. I don’t mean big and ripped or tearing through whatever they are doing, because while that is strength that would not be grace either. But I also don’t see grace as being fragile or soft—grace is not easily breakable. Grace, in movement, is using your strength to create lightness. It is a balance. I think the idea of grace being a balance does not apply just in ballet, but in every application of the word. Grace is sort of an in-between state—like Eros or a philosopher—between two extremes.


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