Stillness in Ballet and in Life

I haven’t posted on my blog in awhile. Dancers who take my class have probably wondered where I’ve been for the last few months. I went to California mid February through mid April to be with my mother for the end of her life. I quit a play I was in, took time off from my day job, and found subs for my ballet classes. Instead of learning my student’s names, I learned the names of everyone in her assisted living facility — the nurses and wonderful caregivers, the residents, even Mario, the chef.

I wasn’t focusing on dance, clearly, but I did take a few ballet classes while I was in Berkeley. During the adagio of one class, the teacher pointed out the importance of finding stillness for a moment, of creating a picture. When you pose for an imaginary camera, she explained, you draw in your audience, catch their eye and deepen the viewer’s experience of the dance.

Her comment resonated with me because my life had paused. I was being with my mother every day, sitting by her bedside, reading to her, playing her music, holding her hand and just being. But in the meantime I was taking a pause from my own life. Everything else stopped as I was deepening my experience with my mother. Until she found her ultimate stillness, I was staying still.

I always think of ballet as a flow of energy that grows and reaches even in a pose. I’d forgotten that of course, like life, ballet threads energy between stillness and motion. It weaves distinct clear poses with swirling surges and within that fabric of movement, at times it must take a breath and be still. It isn’t easy to do this in dance, to continue the flow without making it choppy, yet harness the energy to find that split second pause.

Although I’m back in New York now, I’m still grieving my mother, missing her, remembering moments during this special time we shared, and moments throughout our lives. She was by no means a ‘stage mom’ but she did enroll me in ballet when I was a kid. She probably attended hundreds of performances and shows over the years. When I was a teenager, and she was in her fifties, she even started taking ballet classes too.

I’m thrust now back into the rumble of  city life — rehearsing a reading of another play, helping with another opera, working, teaching, and getting back in touch with friends. Yet I’m taking with me, among many things, this last precious lesson she taught me, the value of taking time out to be still.

* Photo by David Hofmann via Upsplash

3 comments

  1. Oh Sarah, it took my breath away this morning when I saw your name in my reading feed. I know the power and meaning of this reemergence. You, as ever, breath poetry into everything you write, just as you do into all of like. I love you, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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