Susan's Blog

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dream Me

Tonight I tried something new: bellydancing to ballet music. I put on my all-time favorite: Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, opus 20 Suite 4, I think it is. It is a violin solo, minor key, starts with a very stringy harp. Incredible. If you never listen to anything I’ve recommended, this is the time to start. You will have sweet dreams if you do. You will feel like dancing.

I danced with my magenta veil using belly dance moves to this very Russian music. The thing is, even the most Western European of Russian art forms have a touch of the Tatar, the East, from when the Mongols invaded and ruled for about 200 years. Professor Riasanovsky, my master’s thesis advisor at Penn, insisted that the Mongols had zero effect on Russian culture. But I beg to differ with that beloved curmudgeon. Look at the onion domes, listen to the Arabic lilt in that Swan Lake piece. It’s all there.

I can barely express what I felt as I put on that lovely, sad music, which I listened to as a child while dancing with my ballerina doll, Dancerina. She was a big doll, like a baby but with a pink and purple tutu, real pink satin slippers, glossy blond hair, and a crown on the top of her head. When you pushed down on the crown, she could spin en pointe. I would put my mom’s record, an old Eugene Ormandy Philly Orchestra rendition of Swan Lake on Dad’s old phonograph, (it was a big rectangular brown thing that stood on spindly legs) and spin with her on tiptoe in our basement playroom. Even though she was a baby doll, she was lovely. I longed to be that beautiful a dancer, but all my life I have felt like I was plump and clumsy.

And then, as I got older, I would occasionally dream that I was a ballerina. I would see myself on the stage, a slim and graceful version of myself. I would wake up feeling so excited to be her, and then realize in bitter disappointment that I was not.

But tonight when I got my idea to dance to Tchaikovsky, I could barely wait for the CD to settle into the player. I skipped ahead with the remote until I heard that thunk and twinkle of the harp. I had no plan, just to use the veil and to move fast when the music was fast, on little choo-choo tip-toe when there were tiny notes from the strings, and to spin when the violin goes around and around in circles.

For each move I emphasized my technique. I stretched out as tall as I could be, toes pointed, arms curved, form as perfect as I could make it. I imagined black velvet sky, swirling snow on a frozen silvery lake, and white swan-like dancers moving across it. My eyes were trained on high points in the room; the tall red roses Ned got me for my birthday, or the high arched moldings, so my focus was sharp and my head turned just right and I did not get dizzy.

At one point I caught a glimpse of myself doing the turns that Katia, my most recent teacher, had taught me, wearing black ballet flats that feel like lotion on my feet, my hair done up tight in a knot in the back, my neck long and straight from all this practice, my muscles pumping smoothly, holding me steady. While I danced, for that one song, my heart surged with happiness. In certain angles and perhaps because of soft nighttime light, I could have sworn that I saw the dream me in that mirror. I felt like her, at any rate.

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