Monday, June 29, 2009

Prima Ballerina

Nina Ananiashvili in a production of Don Quixote. How beautiful is that?

Tutus were such an incredibly large part of my childhood. I loved dancing, going to dance class, wearing legwarmers, and putting on shows. That was all fine and dandy, but when I got to wear a tutu? Now that was a phenomenal day in the life of this little lady. Tutus were reserved for special occasions like recitals, and putting on on suddenly made my little-legged dancing career a very serious matter. A tutu equaled immediate prima ballerina status, and I loved ballerinas. On the 27th American Ballet Theater's own prima ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili gave a farewell performance at The Met that by all accounts looks and sounds like the work of a truly gifted artist. The New York Times's review of the Ms. Ananiashvili's final performance paints the beloved dancer in an incredibly humble and joyous light, speaking repeatedly of her sincere and transparent affection for her colleagues and fans.

I honestly haven't thought about ballerinas in a long time, (uh, somehow, they just don't come up in my normal conversations anymore) but the photos accompanying the Times piece are a great reminder of just what I love about dancers, and dance costumes. Dancer's bodies are works of movement, there's something about the body built not from weight lifting and gymming, but from movement executed with grace and lightness, that looks like poetry in motion. It's like seeing a very well designed machine, where the beauty of its form results from its use and function. That kind of beauty aligns aesthetics and practicality in a way that I find reassuring and settling. Ananiashvili's talented execution of intricate dance moves seems to slow time, her legs are suspended just enough longer than you would assume so as to astonish. Her body is full of grace and has all of the clear flourishes you would expect of a ballerina; the subtle muscle tone, the perfect posture, the creamy complexion, and incandescent presence. So beautiful.

Dance costumes are such works of art. They too meld form and function in such a gorgeous way. The bodices are tight and secure enough to stay seamlessly put, but give just enough breathing room for the passage of so much movement fueling air. The tutus (THE TUTUS!!) are constructed eloquence. Nina's swan costume is a gorgeous layered affair, mimicking feathers and fluff in a refined way. Who makes those costumes? That sounds like an assignment for I Want To Wear It. I'll look into that for you and report back. For now, go back and watch Nina twirl again. It's a pleasure.

All photos by Erin Balano for The New York Times. Click this link to see the entire slide show.

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