The Joffrey and the Fall

Gesture 1

The irony. Me taking a spectacular spill, adding injury to injury, as I readied myself for the ballet. My indisputable clumsiness vs. the epitome of human grace.

That was three days ago on Sunday — all of us (the dancers and I) doing what we do well. And in my case, I don’t mean well like a stunt woman; I mean well as in with great frequency.

My scene was our small walk-in closet, fitted with rods, drawers and shelves to make efficient use of every inch. My props included a small step ladder and a 4x2x2-foot container of summer clothes way up on the high shelf.

It doesn’t matter how or why (I usually don’t know anyway), but I fell from the third step. That’s the top. My bum bounced off the darks drawer of our elfa® laundry storage system. Some other part of me sent the shoe racks dropping like dominoes. And the bin of clothes emptied all over the floor.

Rattled, I assessed the damage. Bruising and a scrape destined for welt status, but no blood and nothing broken. At least nothing that wasn’t already.

Flashback to April 17th. I couldn’t leave my job without one more dramatic fall. So, after a party in my honor, I allowed a shallow driveway curb to sneak up under me while walking with two colleagues to our cars. “I’m fine,” I insisted to the guys, who raised me from the pavement, and to the nearby onlookers. I lied.

My lack of grace was well known by my closest coworkers. It’s part of my brand. In our office, the fall was renamed for me. “Hey, Lori. I did a Lori.” Amber even wrote a poem about my 2013 fall and subsequent wrist surgery in which she either generously or erroneously characterized me as quick on my feet.

Most remembered by all is my 2009 double tumble and two consecutive nights in the same ER. The first night for my foot, broken in the first tumble. The second for my split-open head that hit the sharp baseboard with all the weight of my hurling body, when I propelled myself down a flight of 12 stairs at home with the crutches I was given to protect my foot. My assistant emailed the department: “Lori will not be in today due to further injury.”

Back again to Sunday, ballet day. I was shaken but needed to catch the train. So I slapped on my behind a large-sized square bandage (we are well-stocked) and headed off, still limping from the foot I broke on April 17th. It was the final Chicago performance of the Joffrey Ballet’s “New Works,” and the generous invite came from Karen, my wise friend.

The raising of the curtain took me right back to art school. The dancers weren’t nude, but the costumes were fine for figure drawing: skin-tight white and barely gray. Lighting so soft and even, yet the muscles that defined every bit of their bodies could cast shadows.

Gesture 6

Gesture 4  Gesture 5

I so miss figure drawing and still keep thick pads of newsprint with page after page of gestures from college classes. I’ve posted some of them here. Gestures are sketched from short poses by the model – usually ten to 30 seconds in my experience.

On that stage were countless drawings I wished I could make. “Everyone, hold it right there,” I wanted to say. “Four minutes is all I need.” (Eight dancers; 30 seconds each.) I’d pull out my new monster Moleskin sketchbook – the one my work friends gave me as part of a going away present – and a well-sharpened ebony pencil. Do you think that’s how Degas did it? But in French?

Gesture 3

“Edgar Degas, more than any of his contemporaries, studied the infinite variety of particular movements that make up continuous motion. Ballerinas in arrested movement, a split-second pose cut from a sequence of their dance, make one of his favorite subjects,” says Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Sixth Edition.

Exactly, dude.

Degas had it right. It’s all too much to appreciate at once. So I focused in.

  • Eight dancers from the hips down,16 legs, some straight, some bent at varying angles, legs together, legs apart, in the air, flat on the stage, intersecting and moving in patterns.
  • The wrinkles, folds and draping of their costumes rippling with motion.
  • Dramatic, dappled lighting, stationary yet in its own concurrent ballet as it fell on the moving bodies.
  • The organic forms two dancing figures can make together, whether still or moving.
  • Lithe and writhing upper bodies suggesting nature — birds flying, flowers blooming, fish swimming.

I put my glasses in my lap and watched near-sighted an expressionistic moving painting, a blur of flailing limbs and bouncing torsos.

I can’t draw such uncommon human formations without the figures before me, and even then, who knows? But maybe I can appreciate the ballet for more than what is common. Whether for grace or for additional artistic possibilities.

just lori

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