Yes, indeed. This week I read Adrienne Sharp’s novel, First Love – a story of two 20-year old ballet dancers: Adam, his career soaring to fame and glory with the American Ballet Theater, and Sandra, a corp ballet dancer with the American School of Ballet, dreaming that the legendary George Balanchine choose her as his muse. Which, in the case of this fiction, he does. I would have liked more description of what this was like for Sandra: the transformation from background player (sometimes made to stand still for so long that her feet fell asleep) to prima ballerina. But alas, I devoured this book – particularly the first two thirds of it – with relish.
It’s conjured up a lot of thoughts about art, and the creation of art. Do you have to dig deep into your emotional core for art – or do you steel yourself to emotion, distance yourself from that rawness, in order to perform? Or both? Oddly, this concept made me think of the Joyce Carol Oates novella Beasts, in which women in a writing class dredge up their darkest hours in a strange competition of truth and beauty in writing.
In First Love, everyone has their own version of reality: is art their real life, or an escape from it? “Their real life was lived in the theatre.” There is risk in this – losing family and human connection along the way, all sacrificed for the sake of their ambition. How do you find a balance, when – especially with an art form so all-consuming as dancing, and so fleeting – your art demands so much?
On that note, let’s enjoy a little Sleeping Beauty: