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Author Topic: 6/13/04 Dianne Austin: Pointe of Reverance for Clay Aiken  (Read 6056 times)


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6/13/04 Dianne Austin: Pointe of Reverance for Clay Aiken
« on: April 28, 2010, 01:15:00 AM »
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Dianne Austin: Pointe of Reverance for Clay Aiken
« on: June 13, 2004, 08:56:52 PM »   

Pointe of Révérance For Clay Aiken - “Here, There, and Everywhere”
by Dianne Austin

For many fans of Clay Aiken, a dream-come-true would be to watch him in a one-man live concert on any stage, but maybe preferably, a smaller-venue stage, from the first row, dead center. So close, you are part of every expression on his face, and every move that he makes.  Am I right?  Yeah, I bet I’m right.

And the reason why, for those of you who may not consider yourself a fan, is because he doesn’t just entertain, he lifts us up, enlightens, inspires and even educates. Those of us who are his fans see the talent in this performer, but also know something of the man and his other endeavors in life.

But now, let’s turn it around and mix it up.  Tell me what you would do if Clay Aiken was sitting in the very same seat, in that same theater, watching YOU.  How would that make you feel? Every expression on your face, every move that you make. Would you be able to handle it?  Well, let’s see, sometimes such bizarre things may not be so hard to imagine.

“Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand, nobody can
Deny that there’s something there”

The first few strains of the guitar strings begin to play over the sound
system and then, that haunting voice.

She holds in fourth position, effacé en pointe,  with head tilted up and face in the spotlight, eyes closed.

The art and study of dance is a curious and fantastic activity.  Narrow it down just a little to the study of Ballet, and you’ve really got something strange, beautiful, exciting and full of passion.  Ballerinas devote a good part of their lives to this endeavor, and I am afraid, it’s a bit of a strange life.  All right, I’ll give you, it can be fulfilling and exhilarating, but its got to be somewhat unusual.  Because, as true as it is that any one of the arts requires dedication and hard work, the study of the most basic and purest form of dance, the Ballet, has got to be the hardest, most strenuous and rigorous of them all. And because of this, it just follows that the ballet dancer must become the workaholic, since the practice of the art must be constant and all-consuming.

I am not a ballerina.  Aside from the fact that God didn’t see it in the grand scheme of things to give me the talent it takes to be a ballerina, I don’t think I have it inside my soul to be one either.  It requires a lot more than just possessing innate talent to pursue such a career.  But God did think I should have some involvement with the ballet, and when I am taking class, I often think of him.  It’s just that sort of thing, that while you’re engaged in it, God comes to mind.  And I really like that, because while I’m dancing, it’s almost like I’m closer to what I believe him to be.

“I want her everywhere,
And if she’s beside me, I know I need never care,
But to love her is to need her everywhere”

That voice singing those words.  It’s just what she needs to get her off to
a strong start.  It’s why she chose that music.  It’s what can inspire her
to be the best she can be.

Two balancés, waltz turn, chassé into attitude turn, and then bourrét quickly, covering lots of ground across the stage.

And as she’s crossing to stage left, she takes a breath before beginning the chainés turns and looks for her spot off at stage right in the wings. Her eyes fall on a silhouette, a man, standing there in the darkness. The form looks somewhat familiar, but she can’t see the face.  She begins the turns and uses his face, which is in shadow, as her point for spotting.

Ballet will always and forever begin at the barre.  It’s where we get our “center“ and where you stretch and stay limber. You begin with pliés and tendus.  Then, dégagés, rond de jambe, fondu, usually ending with petit battements, develope and grand battements. Those might just sound like some pretty French words to some of you, but to me, it is the language of ballet, and it has great relevance. The same order, sometimes the same combination, but the same points of technique, every day.  Discipline.

Moving to the center of the room, and away from the barre is what you look forward to. The elements that are studied to the Nth degree at the barre can now be applied  to movement across the floor.

But before you actually move across the floor, you have to stay in one place in the middle, whole class, beginning with tendus and adagio, a “succession of slow and graceful movements which may be simple or of the most complex character, performed with fluidity and apparent ease”. These are followed by petit allegro, “bright and brisk” movements that usually entail some kind of jump or elevation change.  After this, you are able to actually cover some ground by practicing various kinds of turns, and ending with grand allegro, large brisk movements, across the floor.
“Knowing that love is to share,
Each of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking, but she doesn’t know he’s there”

As the turns bring her closer to him, she tries to focus on any distinguishing factor that can tell her who it is that’s watching her from the wings of the stage, but she must concentrate on her dance. All she knows is that he is tall and thin and he stands very straight, with legs slightly apart, arms folded, chin down, but eyes looking out. The chainés turns melt into a little run that must take her in the opposite direction, away from him.  He stands in the dark, but before she leaves that side of the stage, she notices the fedora tilted forward on his head.

Always, on every side of you is the ever constant mirror, reminding you of what your stance is like, if your toe is pointed, if your turn-out is right.  Are your arms in the correct position, is your head turned the right way, are you spotting on your turns, do you plié enough when you leap and land?  The mirror doesn’t lie, and you are told to check it constantly, so that you really develop somewhat of a strained sense of yourself that can, if you let it, effect the rest of your life in the world outside of dance; you may become somewhat self-absorbed, sometimes a little too critical of yourself, and yet at other times, a little too “puffed-up” perhaps, also. No wonder the ballet world sees a lot of people that seem to be kind of snooty and yet can be so self-deprecating that they sink into lives of anorexia and bulimia.

But that’s the subject of a paper in and of itself.  And I don’t believe the people I go to class with have those kinds of extreme problems, thank goodness.

Let’s get away from the negative, and dwell on the positive.

“I want her everywhere
And if she’s beside me I know I need never care,
But to love her is to need her everywhere”

She notices her fast heart-beat that normally, at this point in the piece,
should not be so accelerated.  Once more, she tries to focus on what she
needs to do with her dance.

More balancés, going towards the back of the stage which will take her right into the preparation for pirouettes, then into arabesque, back chassé into fuetté.   All of this done too far away from that side of the stage where he still stands.  But she manages to glance his way just one time and she notices he’s holding something.

After technique if you are lucky, if your body will still let you, if you really want  to begin or continue to pursue such an extraordinary effort , you may take pointe class.

For some, at my level, after coming to the class for only a short time, or maybe even after a long time, it is finally decided that it is only excruciating work.  After awhile, these students noticeably drop from that class, and don’t often come back.

Yes, a good part of it is definitely a strength thing, and I think I was born with the kind of legs it takes to execute some of the combinations.  But aside from just strength, beautiful ballet on pointe is always precluded by doing well in the technique class. So, however dedicated we become by taking every pointe class we can possibly fit into our schedule, we must be just as involved with technique class, forever trying to improve our turn-out, our extension and the correct positioning and coordination of the arm movements with the legs and feet.

“Knowing that love is to share,
Each one believing that love never dies,
Watching her eyes, and hoping I’m always there”

She notices, as she’s doing the grand jetés that she’s losing it on breath control, because her heart rate is too accelerated.  “Just don’t open your mouth and look like your panting” she says to herself.  “Keep breathing through your nose, and calm down”.  Funny, she wasn’t that nervous when she started.  But the man that was still visible in the wings seemed to change that for her.

The leaps land her very close to him.  The last one, finishing almost completely off-stage, ends practically on top of his toes as he stands there watching.  He’s caught off-guard by this, and as he takes a step backward to avoid impending contact, he lets out a giggle, puts his hands up and out to his side, and whispers “whoa, where are ya goin?  You’re not done yet!”  She looks up into his eyes, sees the smile, and gasps.  Her eyes move down to his left hand, in which he holds a single, long stem yellow rose.

And then, she hears the words of the song, the count of music to start again, and she has to turn away from him, with very fast and frantic piqué turns to the other side of the stage.

As time goes on and strength and endurance are developed, along with a mastering of ballet technique, all that remains to consider is the grace and beauty of the dancer herself. I’ve seen many students of ballet that have taken class for years, that study the terminology, that practice diligently and make dance a huge part of their lives, present a dance piece on stage, and still not have what it takes.  And what then does it take, you may ask?  Well now, that’s the hard part.  I wouldn’t even call it just talent, which of course, is necessary.  I would rely more on words like beauty, passion, grace and a real and intense love for the dance.
Speaking of “presenting” on stage: that brings us to our next consideration.

“I will be there
“And everywhere
Here, there and everywhere”

The last few phrases of the music bring her to center stage, and on the word  “everywhere”, she ends up in the same position she started, in fourth position effacé en pointe, with the spotlight on her face, once again.  This is perhaps the hardest part, because her breathing is fierce, her heartbeat hugely accelerated, and she must hold that position for as long as Clay Aiken holds his note. And as anyone who has heard him hold a last note will tell you, she could be having to hold her position for quite a long time. But she does it.

And, it finally ends.  Applause. The stage lights go to black.  She comes down off her pointe and waits.  Can’t see a thing.  Can’t see if he’s still there.  Just have to wait until lights come up again.

Enthusiastic applause is heard beyond the curtain.

Lights up.  She’s center, but deep, and can’t see off in the wings at stage right.  Walking forward towards the curtain and stopping there will be the cue for the stagehand to open the curtain for her.  As she moves in that direction she looks, and he is there.

He is applauding along with the rest of the audience.  The curtain opens, she looks out, smiles and takes her bow.  Someone walks up on stage and hands her a presentation bouqet of traditional red roses.  She takes another bow and turns to the side of the stage where he is standing.  He smiles and holds the single yellow rose out towards her and bows quickly.  Then he applauds again.  She responds in his direction with a dramatic reverance. When she raises her head up from her curtsy toward him, he winks and tips his hat.  She turns back to her audience and bows once more.

She takes one step back.  The curtain closes in front of her.  She looks stage right, and he’s gone.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, and all of the elements jive and mesh at the right point in time, you may find yourself, along with your teacher, deciding to prepare a piece for performance on the stage.

I think the two single most important pre-existing factors for this decision are; am I ready and what music will I choose?

Of course, only you and your teacher will know if you’re ready, and even when both of you think you may be, that remains to be seen, because performing on the stage, in front of an audience, is an entirely different ball-game.  As a dancer, you may have reached that level where you are confident of your talent and technical skill, but you can never really know if you can pull off the performance for the people, until you get yourself
out there and just try it.  You’ve heard of the phrase “dance like there’s nobody watching?”  Well, when you’re out there under the lights, with the audience staring up at you, you want to be able to take that idea and make it your own.

The music.  Second most important factor.  If the music doesn’t inspire, if it doesn’t lift you, get to you, do something to you, then you won’t be the best you can be.  Because, I truly believe, that ballet is ultimately a combination of the talent and heart of the dancer along with the emotional and spiritual effect of the music.  The music is important, and you must choose it wisely.

The sound blasted from the radio, and it was some horrible hip-hop droning that offended the senses. She reached for the button to try to stop it. Why was it tuned in to that station to wake her from her sleep?  She managed to turn it off, and then sank back against her pillow.

Wow, now that was one hell of a dream!

As she lay there, slowly coming around to an alert state, the images of the dream slipped in and out, and she smiled.  The dance, satisfying, yet a little frantic.  The yellow rose.  The achingly melodic sound of the voice providing the music.  The audience shrouded in darkness.  And, Oh my God, the shadowy figure!  Then she laughed a little, because she realized who it had been.  She began to analyze her dream and herself, wondering if she was a little crazy, but then finally deducing that the whole thing was pretty understandable for her.

Over the past few weeks, she had been entertaining the idea of perhaps trying a solo pointe piece for the recital that was coming up.  She’d go back and forth with it, since the thought petrified her, but it was something exciting to at least consider.  And lately, she’d been listening to Clay Aiken on a CD her daughter had given her, with older songs recorded on it.  One of them, her favorite, was “Here, There and Everywhere.” So it made perfect sense, since the prospect of the pointe piece was on her mind and that song kept playing over and over in her brain, that she put the two of them together in her dream.

But then some very odd occurrences took place during the rest of the day.

When she got to class, the normal chit-chat was taking place amongst the students prior to the start of the warm-up at the barre.  A woman she had befriended several weeks before asked her how all the writing was going, and was some of it still about Clay Aiken?  Before she could respond, another young woman that had just started in the class a couple of weeks before, heard Clay’s name mentioned, and asked if she liked his music. After an affirmative response, the girl began talking in run-on sentences with one thought barely ending before the next one began.  From what she could understand, this young lady was also a fan of his, and mentioned a lot of the music he was known for. And then, the girl said a very strange thing.

It was, “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard him do this one particular old song that he sang on American Idol, but it’s called “Here, There and Everywhere” and its really fantastic, and you should think about maybe asking the teacher to choreograph something with it for you, because you’d be good and . . . .

And on and on it went.  But all that really registered was the name of the song.

That evening she got home after he did, since she had errands to run and an appointment that took up her time late in the day.  When she came into the house, she saw his briefcase and keys on the back entry sideboard where he always left them so he’d know where they’d be again the next morning.  Very organized habits, actually for a man, she thought.

“Hey, I’m home”, she called up the stairs to their room, where she figured he’d be, changing his clothes.  “Hi you.  I’ll be down in a minute”, was the response. She then walked into the kitchen to search the frig for what could possibly be turned into dinner that night.  There, staring at her from its lovely position on the counter was a bud vase holding one, long-stem, yellow rose.

She walked back to the foot of the stairs and called up.  “Thanks for the rose!  What was that for?” “Oh, he yelled down,” just thought of you today and how your beauty and grace overwhelm me!”

Wow, wonder what he’s he up to, she thought.

And as she walked from the foot of the stairway towards the kitchen, her eyes caught something on the bottom step of the staircase that she hadn’t seen the moment before. She picked it up and turned it over in her hands.  It was gray, soft and velvety, and a little crushed on the crown.

“Hey honey,” she shouted up to him one more time.  “What’s with the funny hat?

And before he answered her, she thought again of her dream and the mysterious figure that stood and watched, the entire time from the wings. She hugged the fedora to her breast, and smiled.
Lovingly dedicated to the three people that have made me a better dancer: First, my dear friend Sandra who pushed, cajoled and insisted that I return to ballet after being away for some time, and for always saying “you can do it”, then, my teacher Sharon who is my heart and soul when it comes to dance; thank you for nurturing, challenging and inspiring with your own grace and beauty, and of course, to Clay Aiken, who lifts me up, and does something to me with his voice, and who will forever be the music I choose for any dance. E-Mail Dianne

Copyright 2004 Dianne Austin.  Printed with the permission of the writer.
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