There are girls who do not like real life. When they hear the sounds from the straight road that leads from childhood, they dart into a side turning. When they take their hands away from their eyes, they find themselves in the gallery of the ballet…When I was young I too adored the ballet. What appeals to these girls is the moonlit atmosphere of love and death.
How this quote so echo’s my young pale self, her preoccupations and aspirations . How I longed for this escape, Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes, the final dance of the dying swan on the only existing black and white film of Anna Pavlova, heart -wrenchingly exquisite in its pathos, that very same moonlit atmosphere of love and death that Mr Quentin Crisp was speaking of .
I had the right build, a long slender neck, high arches, a suitable height but the nearest I got when a child were a few lessons from which I soon recoiled. Hurrying back into my shell, discouraged in feeling myself the only ugly duckling, with my national health round owl like pink plastic specks and dull straight hair. The other girls seemed all to have jumped that stage and seemed swans already. My true feelings were never revealed, despite the incomprehension of my mother who I had so begged to attend, she nor anyone else tried to persuade or to encourage me to continue. I soon substituted the real thing for imaginary ballerinas, curling up in my bed or perched on a window sill reading Noel Streatfeild’s book Ballet Shoes about children in a ballet school who you believed would all eventually fulfil their dreams.
I came upon a little book by a dancer in the New York City Ballet under Balanchine in which the anguish of the reality of this profession is drawn in a whole new light. How she suffered! The moonlight failed to show us the bleeding toes the staggering painfully into position before a curtain call, the anguished quest to satisfy her impossible search for perfection. The strange realization that her art only existed when that curtain rises, all agony forgotten. It was disappointing, I was disillusioned but at the same time inspired, how then to find The Real Life if not a dedication to the single pursuit of perfection in ones chosen field?
The author of this little book finally realized at the end of her last Winter Season. ‘My only concern,‘ she writes, ‘Is to find a truth, something or someone who is constant.’
Interestingly that much maligned, often ignored or refuted source of limitless treasure the Bible has a lot to say about the real life and what is truth. It not only contains revealed truth but encourages us to do that very thing to ‘get a firm hold on the real life.’ The expression of my dancer is worth much meditation because the answer to that question is priceless and enduring. It leads us to a fulfilment where all those fears we could not face, from which as children we hid behind our hands will no longer haunt us. A future where we find what ultimately all men search, perfect happiness.
How I loved and love still those satin slippers, the point shoe, the costumes from yards of tulle, the ballerina length, the tutus, the graceful movements of the arms lifted, tapering fingers brushing the air like feathers floating above the lake of dreams. I once believed that this happiness may have lain there, if only.
Now as never before at this moment I know that neither this nor any other impassioned dedication to a career, the amassing of wealth or fame, comes even close. In actual fact that is nothing but a mirage, a mere distraction from the Real Life that is promised.