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Recently there is a heated controversy over a quote in the NYTimes by  the art critic Alastair Macaulay. He described the ballet dancer  Jenifer Ringer from the New York City Ballet performing in, “George Ballatine’s The Nutcracker” looking “as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” Ringer has shared her struggles with disordered eating and has made her experience public. Free speech yes but decency please, Macaulay.

The comment displays the insensitivity that we have as a culture towards beauty criticism. It is perfectly acceptable to make comments on peoples bodies whether it’s praise or disgust. Our bodies are on a platform to be discussed, criticized, or idolized.

Macaulay wrote a response to all the criticism in an article, Judging the Bodies in Ballet. He argues that,

If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career. The body in ballet becomes a subject of the keenest observation and the most intense discussion.

He tried to explain his reasoning with,

many other female dancers with obvious physical imperfections have made impressions far greater than those whose bodies were ballet-perfect. But that’s their task: in an Apollonian art that requires purity of line, precision of execution and harmony of appearance, dancers with less than ideal shapes must bring other qualities to bear. Many have, and Ms. Ringer does, too, with several roles. This particular Sugar Plum Fairy — one of her rare tutu parts these days — was not one of them.

In other words, if your body is not a dancing skeleton with slippers you  must try that much harder to bring something else to the floor, control your curves, and please- don’t wear anything showing your legs! Apparently, leg muscle is out.

 

He’s a critic indeed but why are our bodies and appearance even up for evaluation? A dancers performance of course but a dancer’s body is part of who they are just as their eye color or their race. Yes, ballet is a culture where thinness, perfection, and lithe grace is idolized but maybe its time to challenge this adage.

Actress Natalie Portman apparently lost 20 lbs. for her role in the new movie Black Swan where she plays a ballet dancer consumed with the battle of perfection and the competition in ballet. Our perception of ballerinas has been shaped by standards but whose standards? In the 1600s the standards where curves, curves, curves. Now the pendulum of standards has swung and we are left with bone, bones, bones. One word is as bright and loud as a strobe light here: standard.

Standards by definition means there is a model to be compared to, a principle to be judged on, and apparently also a grade of beef immediately below good. Who set’s these standards and why do we blindly fall into line trying to become this standard?

A standard brings along with it a definition of perfection. How is it possible to have a standard on something that is so diverse? Our bodies are all shapes and sizes. Our bodies are diverse and subjective. The aesthetic of beauty should not be a standard. The real aesthetic of beauty celebrates being human whatever shape that happens to come in.

Jenifer Ringer was interviewed on the Today Show about her response to Macaulay’s criticism. She shared that at first it was embarrassing and she felt bad about herself. Then she said it was just one person’s opinion and she was encouraged by all the controversy and positivity it has sparked. At the end she said,

dance is a celebration of people dancing to this gorgeous music.

Ballet should not be about a standard of beauty. It is a celebration of bodies twisting, jumping, and stretching. It’s a celebration of bodies communicating without the distraction of words. Ballet is beautiful and beauty defies standards.

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Every culture has a form of it. Every period in history has made a different contribution to it. It’s older than the first book. It can be slow or fast. It is simple yet simultaneously intricate and complex. It can have layers, dimension, or even be linear. It makes us cry and it makes us laugh. It helps us release our anger. It can have words. It has texture and color. There is even one theatrical shenanigans based simply on “it” with 30 brooms, 8 lids, bins of all sizes, poles, 15 pounds of sand, 4 blocks of athlete’s chalk, 12 pairs of drumsticks, 200 litters of water, 8 bananas, and 12 boxes of matches.

What has had such an impact on history? On life? On us as people? What is it?

It is simply music. Sounds, melodies, harmonics, rhythms, noise, poetry or whatever you use to describe this phenomena know this; it is heard differently by each person yet it is felt by all and has the power to unite whole groups of people together with one common thread.

Yes, music. There’s just something about it that gets up under your skin and pulsates. It makes your feet start to twitch. It makes you close your eyes and sway. It wakes up your soul. Of course, only if you allow it to. But, if you do there is nothing sweeter than turning up your favorite tunes and just simply dancing.

All this movement begs the question: just what is it about music?

Why is it so salient throughout history? Why can we find it throughout all cultures and in so many various forms?

Primarily, it’s been used to communicate. It’s even been used to record history before it was written down. But, there is something that goes deeper than that.

There is something that moves us beyond words. Beyond all forms of communication.

Music moves us to a place where we can just be. We just exist in the present moment of the song. The past and future may ebb and flow through us but a song has movement and brings us with it back to the present. What is the key to this seemingly magical transcendence?

Freedom. That is what music truly gives us. Freedom of expression, freedom in movement, and freedom of letting go. Pure freedom to discover life.

By truly getting absorbed in music we release, we create, and we inspire. If we just let the music guide us (inhibitions aside) it will eventually lead to some form of dance.

Maybe you’re the type of person that holds on to inhibition just a little tighter. Maybe it takes more than music to loosen you up. Maybe you love dancing but never do it when you’re home alone. Maybe you don’t dance unless you have had a glass or two of wine. Maybe you just haven’t danced in so long you feel you’ve lost your rhythm. Which ever type of dancer you are do one thing right now…

Stop everything. Turn on your favorite song or discover a new tune from the list below. Kick off your shoes (yes this is mandatory) and turn up the volume.

If you need to, close the blinds. If you need to open all the windows, do it! By all means just turn it up, close your eyes, feel the music run through you and move your body.

Because we have one life to life and the raw sense of freedom we get from organically moving our bodies is priceless. Maybe it will take you practice to chisel away at that inhibition. That’s okay! Just keep doing it and you’ll find one day that your toes are singing and all your body wants to do is get up and move.

Here’s a video to get you started! It’s from JOnsi’s new Go album:

There’s plenty of great music out there and it’s totally subjective but it’s always nice to share music and discover new ones. Here is a list of the songs that are playing in my player most recently. Just a note there are so many good songs out there that soundtracks come and go as a weekly fare. For this week:

Jonsi Go (album) to listen to the album just click

The Killers   Human

Bruce Springsteen   Brilliant Disguise

Velvet The Big Pink

Empire of the Sun   Walking on a Dream

The Orb   Little Fluffy Clouds

Phoenix Girlfriend

Phantogram   When I’m Small

Passion Pit   Sleepyhead

Santigold   I’m A Lady

Vampire Weekend   Horatcha

The XX   Islands

The Temper Trap   Sweet Disposition

The Shins   Sleeping Lesson

If you have any suggestions on music that makes you dance, please share in the comment box!  Always lookin’ for new tunes!

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