One thought on “9. Grace: Luther, Li Zhi, Catiglione

  1. I found The Book of the Courtier to be absolutely fascinating, because its description of the acquisition of grace is quite similar (ok, it’s identical) to what I’ve learned through ballet training. You find a good teacher, take every measure to transform yourself into a master of the art, borrow the best aspects of the art from those you observe (hey look, mimesis!), avoid affectation of manner, and learn to conceal the enormous effort that goes into it until eventually, it becomes second nature. I remember being told, when I first started ballet, that if I felt comfortable chances were I wasn’t doing it right; a few years later, I was flattered when the same teacher told me that the technique was starting to look “natural” on me. As a dancer, after a while you forget what being “normal” feels like; ballet really warps your perception about some things, but the technique and the grace you learn eventually are as automatic as breathing (not that you ever stop learning, of course).

    The goal is to “conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” Learning grace, learning ballet–based on these descriptors, they are basically the same.

    Interestingly, the first ballet school wasn’t founded until two centuries later (it was in Paris and was the brain child of King Louis XVI). However, I think that this idea of grace that permeated court culture directly contributed to the development of ballet. After all, ballet started out as court dances that had everything to do with social status; to misstep was to utterly disgrace oneself. In fact, it has been suggested by dance historian Jennifer Homans that ballet was studied by the aristocracy so that they might master their bodies and therefore be closer to the angels, rather than the beasts, on the Great Chain of Being.

    Therefore, the adoption and assimilation of a graceful manner in a courtier was not just a way of improving social standing, but of achieving something more, akin to spiritual grace, as well.

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