Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another New Twist...Classic.

"Blue Dancers" ~ Edgar Degas, c.1889
Edgar Degas was...well, strange. He's one of the founding fathers of Impressionism and one of the most eminent painters of people in everyday life. He devoted his life to his work, but had an edge to his personality that alienated himself from polite society.

Degas was trained in the style of the old masters and never lost his deep affinity for it must have surprised and disturbed him when he found himself morphing into a different sort of artist. Though he was accomplished at painting the elite--the structured portraits and formal still lifes filled with deep colors and chirascuro--he found himself haunting cafés and parks and salons, observing and sketching the ordinary.  Those sketches blossomed into a body of work seldom produced by any artist--sculptures, oils on canvas, and pastels of his subjects--fill museums and galleries around the world today.

And yet, he was...well, opinionated. Witty and handsome, he could have been the toast of Paris had it not been for his argumentative and prejudicial nature. A fundamental Roman Catholic, he was extremely anti-semitic, and once fired a model upon learning that she was a Protestant.  His friend and fellow painter, Auguste  Renoir, was quoted as saying, "What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn't stay till the end." He never married and reportedly spent the last ten years of his life nearly blind, wandering the streets of Paris alone.

Degas' largest body of work was his focus (some would say 'obsession') with ballet dancers. He sketched them in class, on the stage, and in the wings. Acknowledging the athleticism of ballet, Degas was one of the first painters to capture the quality of real movement in his work.  In his quest to portray the real qualities, in addition to the ethereal qualities, of ballet, he haunted the studios, the stages, and the theatre wings of the Paris Opera House. Can you imagine the dancers standing together, preparing to go on stage, and seeing that guy "over there" stalking them, staring at them...yet again?

Yes, Degas was...controversial.

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding (or in this case, the painting), and his work stands as a testament to the beauty and hard work and dedication of a life in the ballet world.

There is a resurgence today of that testament. Long viewed in recent times as simply a 'girly' and 'pretty' endeavor, ballet is receiving new acknowledgement as an artistic endeavor which is also an athletic endeavor. Or an athletic endeavor which is also an artistic endeavor. Either way, ballet is receiving the attention of stage (Billy Eliot), screen (Black Swan), and now, song (Runaway), and I say "high time!".

The old with the new. A classical twist on a contemporary gentre. By an artist that many deem to be strange, opinionated, and controversial. Where have I heard that story before?

The video below is an excerpt from Kanye West's newest endeavor, a "full length" movie (or a very long music video) called "Runaway". WARNING: This excerpt is considered the "clean" version, but the subject matter and the lyrics are explicit. You decide if you want to share it with anyone under, oh, say...thirty. ;-)

The best thing about the movie is West's decision to devote nearly ten minutes of ballet to his thirty-five minute video . The moment I saw it, images of Degas' blue dancers (there is a whole series of them) came to mind. There is scant difference between the images of Degas' art, and those of West's dancers. While I was never a big fan of Kanye West (who can forget the Taylor Swift debacle?), I can now see him as an artist...albeit a different sort, probably not one I'd want to hang out with. That's okay. Art isn't always made by 'nice' guys...and he just may be viewed as a classic someday.What a wonderful tapestry can be woven when we dare to twist the new with the old.  Enjoy!

Today, dare to be unconventional.


  1. Nice that we can enjoy Degas' art, but never have to worry about running into him at the supermarket or having to share a dinner with him, eh?

    Ballet is so intense as an art form. I had no idea it was thought of as "girly" or "pretty." Looks grueling, atheletic and beautiful to me.

  2. Thank you, Reya.

    Ballet seems to be thought of that way only here in America. When Andrea was in Europe, she was astounded to witness the mega-enthusiasm of ballet in Russia, Poland, and Prague.

    Throngs of fans celebrate the ballet stars, men and women both, as elite atheletes, superstars, and national icons. People forge tickets to get into the Maryinski Ballet, where you dare not get up from your seat or it will be stolen. Andrea likened it to a cross between a Superb
    Bowl game and a rock concert each time she went...very intense.

    Here in America it's a completely different atmosphere...much to my deep sorrow. Maybe pieces like this will help to change the perception.

    Grueling, atheletic, and beautiful. Well said! xoxo

  3. A celebration of the human form.

  4. Oh, what a perfect definition, Rick. Of course a poet would come up with it.

    Thank you for your brief but eloquent comment...passing it on to Andrea immediately. xoxo

  5. Dear Jo. Did you know that I'm learning why it would feel neglectful not to come here once a day? It is for the ease of learning.

    I always learn and by the best method, through the senses. First there is your writing, which combines melody and skill. If it were a meal I'd compliment the chef for his "light touch," which is something I consider exceedingly rare in the culinary world. It means the chef is "getting out of the way," letting the food be the star. Of course it requires great skill and art but the greatest cooks do it with such humility that the guest might forget that someone is sweating in a hot kitchen and has been awake for many hours, who likely started thinking of your meal while it was still on hoof or in the field.

    Next for content itself. I never knew that about Degas for instance. And certainly I would not have likely found this video.

    The combination of fine art and music, including all periods of both. You spoil us!

    By the way, I had to go find the lyrics. I watched the video to appreciate the dancers. I'm always blown away by the control of ballerinas. The majesty of the art form moves me and leaves me unable to describe the feeling. But their strength and control simply boggles my imagination. I'm in awe.

    The lyrics (whew). I thought Allen Ginsburg had issues! Maybe I'm just getting old. But I had to quickly close the screen window to protect the innocent.

    And thank you for the perfect icons for Oats and Children of Zol.


  6. What a wonderful post, Mom.

    I thank you for contributing to my effort as well as thousands of others in trying to eradicate the wrong impression of ballet being "girly" or "too delicate for boys". It is in fact, anything but those definitions. I have never sweat more, put more effort into, or experienced more physically and mentally than I have during my life with ballet. If that isn't intense, physical, and worthy of both males and females to make a living out of than I just don't know what is.

    I completely agree with the definition that Rick gave as a "celebration of the human form". During my time oversees in Europe I got to witness that celebration firsthand. Ballet dancers, both males and females, were seen as rock stars. The culture in Europe is well educated and knows how ballet evolved and just how physically demanding it is. More than that they know that while ballet can appear delicate for the ballerina (mind you that behind all that grace is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears) it can also be masculine for a male dancer, if trained properly.

    Degas, while controversial at the time, made a great contribution to the world today. He captured the movement and athleticism of dancers in his time much like many aspiring photographers or sculptors are doing today. I think you are right, Mom, there is a slow resurgence in pop culture for ballet. While this can be a good thing, I do hope we can keep it in the direction of staying respectful towards ballet rather than demeaning - which by the way our society has headed before, is entirely possible.

  7. Dubby, I'm so humbled by your kind remarks.

    I am much more student than teacher, but I love the arts and writing down the thoughts that go rumbling around in my head about it all.

    To be seen as a teacher is the highest compliment you could give me. Thank you so much.

    As I write my musings, it becomes more and more clear to me that they all tie together. The common thread is acceptance...a willingness to "let it be," if you will.

    All things eventually work together in harmony if we can step out of the way. BIG if.

    As for the rest of your comments:

    1) If we're keeping score on the number of issues between Ginsberg and West, I think it's a tie with a very high score.

    2) The lyrics are hideous.

    3) We are getting old.

    4) You are most welcome. xoxo

  8. My Andrea,

    You, more than anyone else, know that my journey into the world of the arts began with you leading the way.

    You were quietly determined little girl who instinctively knew where she wanted to go and how she could get there. I simply followed along and soon found I enjoyed the ride.

    The passion you feel for your vocation pours from your written words, and I am honored by them. Thank you for adding your wisdom and experience to this discussion.

    Your final point is most excellent...that it is ultimately our responsibility to respect the art forms we love, and that while they continue to evolve and grow, we must continue to cherish and protect them all the same.

    Thanks again for all you are and all you do and all you will do in the future. You are a mighty, beautiful woman.

    I'm so proud and lucky to be your mom. ♥

  9. What a brilliant beautiful poignant prose for and to your beloved Andrea! She must be as proud of you as you are of her.
    Love everything you put on paper and I, like Dubby am mesmorized by your writings. The paintings, the music and well, just plain everything...Thank you! LOVE!!!! PEACE!!!

  10. Hello, Vicki. I missed you today until I remembered that you were probably at the salon all day. I hope it was a good one for you.

    Your words buoy me up, as always, Vicki. I can see your smile and feel the love. THANK YOU.

  11. I posted this on Andrea's wall. Whoa. Black Swan definitely got people thinking about ballet.

  12. Words "posted this" are a live link to the blog

  13. Sorry I'm so late on this...I'll go read it now. Thank you for posting it, and I agree...sometimes it takes the craziest things to get people to notice something wonderful. xoxo


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