Learning to Dance Again

I mentioned recently that I have been experimenting with other forms of exercise, really just to see if I enjoy different things more, because I’m not a natural gym bunny. I never have been, and I have always strenuously objected against all forms of exercise. I am admittedly, very poor at dance, because I lack certain important things, such as rhythm and coordination, and thanks to my Dad, I have inherited two profoundly left feet.

(1)

However, I like to dance. That’s the problem. I only ever dance in public when I’m at some kind of social gathering, and to dance before midnight, I have to do it in a darkened room with a locked door, for fear of terrifying any passers-by with my elephantine feet. But I do dance, privately, and I’d like to be able to dance properly again, possibly in public, or at least without feeling boundless amounts of humiliation, whenever I try. There is a beauty, in dance, I think.

The challenges of dancing are numerous, not least of which because they demand fitness and commitment. One does not simply ‘fall into’ being able to dance. The best dancers dance every day, from the age of four or less, and they are amazing at it. One of my flatmates is one a dance course, and her commitment is fantastic. I wish I had that kind of commitment to what can only really be described as physical poetry. From a literary perspective then, ballet is the physical form of poetry, and the Romanticism movement. I have no real idea how to relate myself to dance, because I’ve only ever been able to relate myself to the written word, and to literary movement.

Anyway, to spare you my over-dramatic perceptions and opinions on ballet, I think it would be prudent to look at the health benefits of such activity. It naturally gives you a wonderful, toned and strong physique, and increase your cardiac strength and endurance, because you are constantly using all the muscles in your body. I like the idea of this; I find exercise that involves deep breathing boring, and I positively despise yoga; I often wonder how pointing one’s bottom in the air can be conducive to any kind of exercise at all. Ballet however encourages breathing, but also lots of moving and physical use. The use of a body to express things is wonderful, if you have the courage to do it properly.

So that’s my trend for the week, and I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks now. All these things require some courage to admit to the blogosphere, but as one very talented and admirable fellow bloggee states in many of her posts, it is important to be honest, because after all, what is the point in existing behind a facade that simply isn’t real? There isn’t one, and I suspect it’s much easier to be honest about one’s complete lack of elegance, than it is to be completely honest about personal issues.

I’ll let you know if I become graceful. Then we’ll be sure that miracles can happen…

(:

(1) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Two_dancers.jpg/250px-Two_dancers.jpg

©

Suits and Slippers

So I find myself writing this morning for the first time in some time, because I’ve been neglectful of many things recently. Not least of which is my blog. So for that I’m very sorry, however now I’m safely grounded back in my university bedroom, I shall be writing on a daily basis once again. My little vacations must start getting shorter, I suppose. But anyway, back to the topic of the day…

Being a ballet dancer hasn’t always appealed to me. In fact, I demanded to quit ballet when I was seven years old. I hated it, because I was clumsy and frankly, not very good. The video of my dance performance is diabolical. It’s so bad that I’ve hidden it, and I’m the only person on the planet who knows where it is hidden. But I have recently decided that contrary to by seven-year old conviction,  I’d very much like to learn to dance. My complete lack of grace and rhythm is an endless source of comedy in my household.

(1) And they're so cute.

There is, I suppose, a great element of sophistication and idealization around the art of ballet. It is romanticized, perhaps to the extent that it is misrepresented to the public. Anybody who watched Black Swan last year will know (or at least think that they know) about the dark side of the ballet. I suspect not all elements of ballet are quite as extreme as the film suggests, however, as with all professions, there’s bound to be something not quite right, something obscured under a facade of beauty and decadence, somewhere. I find it fascinating to look at all the facets of a particular profession to see where the flaws are, and how they can be resolved.

This is one of the reasons that I’ve been looking at consultancy as a career path; it can be integrated into wider interests too, and I like the problem solving and project managing. I’m fairly well organised, and I like to make huge, gorgeous projects happen. I like to take the idea of something conceptual and make it into something effective and useful in society as a whole. It’s like being a puppet master you get to put things together, and make them work with one another.

Back to the point of wanting to be a ballet dancer, however. I have a wish to have long, elegant leg lines, and a flat, toned stomach. The gym doesn’t really seem to be sufficient; it merely builds muscle, after a certain point which isn’t conducive to the rather elusive, slimline figure I covet. Genetically I’m not of a slim disposition, however I think there’s probably a balance to be struck. So I think I’m going to attempt to learn to dance, and people who know me well will be laughing their cotton socks off, reading this. I’m even laughing at myself a little bit.

So, a new thing I’m trying. Ballet. I’ll let you know how it does. I could be a ballet dancer. Admittedly I’m more likely to be a clown, however it’s a possibility. It might transpire that I’m more suited to hiking up mountains as opposed to dancing, but I suppose we’ll see. I really must remember to renew my gym membership, too…

(:

(1) http://www.sugarplumdancewear.co.uk/images/products_zoom/Diane_449_Retouch.jpg

©

A Short Note On “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”

Now, ordinarily, I’m not a fan of William Wordsworth; the endless melancholy, the continual references to the sublime; it can become quite exhausting, fifteen pages into the Lyrical Ballads. However, one particular poem, “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” (often abbreviated to “Tintern Abbey”) is somehow rather different, because it moves, ever so slightly, away from the style of his earlier, rather introverted style of poetry, and focusses a little on the relationship with Wordsworth and Dorothy, his sister.

Ordinarily, I tend to veer away from the topic of feminist criticism, because it can be contentious, and not necessarily an objective approach when criticising the actual entity that is a text. In terms of cultural and contextual criticism, it’s a fundamentally necessary approach, however in terms of the text itself, it can be somewhat narrowing in terms of interpretation. However, “Tintern Abbey” differs from much of Wordsworth’s earlier poetry, because it focusses on someone other than William, and also on Dorothy’s position in his life.

The relationship between William and Dorothy therefore is one of paramount importance within Wordsworth’s writing, and can be examined in relation to feminism due to the prominence of Dorothy’s absence. Despite being such an important literary figure herself, she had little opportunity to express it, or develop her talents; it is possible to imagine the literary significance she would have had, had she not been bound by the expectations of her gender.

I like the subtlety of “Tintern Abbey”; it is reflective, calm, and far less melodramatic, when compared with much of the earlier poetry, for example The Ruined Cottage. The structure of the poem, in five stanzas that are irregular, shows a more meandering approach taken, almost as though it is a thought process, in the writing of the poem. The poem was written several years after he actually sat above the abbey he discusses; this is very important, because the time that has passed represents a growing maturity and a rather different perspective on the world; this would also include a change in the relationship he has with his sister. The early radicalism that Wordsworth had so heartily supported was firmly pushed away, in favour of calm, peaceful poems and a more contemplative approach taken within his writing.

I like to read the Romantics only really in conjunction with aestheticism, however it is impossible to think that they were without literary merit, and their poetry is perhaps some of the most accessible ever written.

(:

©

On Decadence and Aesthetics

English students are renouned for being fussy, sometimes pretentious students; we are the fussy eaters of the academic world. We tend to know our tastes very early on, purely because my the time we reach undergraduate level, we’ve been forced into reading something from every movement, whether we were aware of it or not. And the impressions that these types of literature make on us as children, tend to remain with us forever.

Personally, I have little patience with Greek and Roman literature, with the exception of Tales From Ovid. Mythology does not tickle my fancy very often, and instead, I’m rather enamoured with modernism, aestheticism, and nineteenth century Russian literature. I occasionally dip into the pond of Victorian certainty, when I fancy something rather more tame; occasionally into a little satire, when I’m feeling sceptical. But when I’m bored, I’ll venture to look at Virginia Woolf, and if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I’ll look into James Joyce too. When I’m in need of comfort, I’ll read some Wilde, and feel much, much better about almost everything. If I had to choose  a favourite period, I’d be hanging somewhere between aesthetics and modernism. I dare say I’d attempt to look at both of them.

An excellent quotation of Oscar Wilde (1)

The sublime was a concept present in the late Romantic period; an idea that succeeded the concept of the picturesque, but came before aestheticism. The sublime essentially meant something of overwhelming natural beauty, something that was difficult to process intellectually. Wordsworth writes of the sublime in one of his most famous poems, Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey (1798). This revolutionary piece of writing marked a progression in the field of aesthetics, being a truly sublime piece of writing, however is not quite a fully formed aesthetic work, still considering issues of the deity, which can be considered political. Aestheticism fundamentally leans against the inclusion of political and social themes within art.

Arguably however, Samuel Coleridge, a lover of science and geology, but also a lover of literature and poetry, wrote the first widely appreciated work in the field of aesthetics, in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Whilst many can argue that the poem condemns a certain number of practices, for example the shooting of the albatross, which can be considered a metaphor for wasting life, he also writes seemingly “on the surface”, and for pleasure. This kind of writing seems connected to Oscar Wilde, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Two of the biggest Romantic poets formed the basis of aestheticism; Keats, Byron, and Shelley went on to build on this very scarce foundation, left by the two famous writers.

Dante's Lady Lilith; an excellent example of the aesthetic period (2)

To my mind at least, the picturesque, the sublime, and the aesthetic seem to be progressions of one another; in picturesque artwork, a frame is used, to either include or exclude a concept or image, and the painter has final control over the scene; the imagination and the reality of a location or concept amalgamate to create something that is picturesque, but fundamentally, it is not purely realistic. Aestheticism takes this concept further by widening where the ‘picture’ can come from, and what frame can be used, and there is absolutely no requirement for the inclusion of sociopolitical themes.

Aestheticism emerged partly as a reaction to the Enlightenment as a later extension of Romanticism; instead of looking at science, and factual things, the idea of art being created because it is beautiful emerged. Oscar Wilde is probably the most prominent of the aesthetic writers, alongside people such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The concept of ‘art for art’s sake’ overrode any social concerns, or political agendas. This was really a period of decadence and beauty.

I’m something of a fan of decadence and beauty in literature; I love things that will fascinate my mind, blow it backwards, and take me to something of a utopia whereby there are no deep social issues. Sometimes, it is nice to be immersed in such a beautiful world, and to escape darker, more imposing literature such as Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Devils. Literature provides a point of escape for so many people; the decadent writers lived in a world that preceded world wars, common invasion, and a plethora of other genocides; a practice that ran rampant throughout the 20th century. In many ways, their world was something far more innocent; the British Empire covered a quarter of the globe, and nothing ever truly threatened the innately British superiority complex. In many ways, it was a world so supremely different from ours that it could be considered a whole other culture, an almost untainted one.

I wonder what everyone else finds fascinating…

(:

(1) http://files.myopera.com/tatora/blog/4878_PRO_sample_01.gif

(2) http://gypsyscarlett.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/art-dante-gabriel-rossetti-lady-lilith-18681.jpg

©