Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!
I love to be inspired…it’s what helps me get from one day to the next. I find inspiration everywhere I go, in everything I do, and everything I hear. This week I was fortunate enough to hear Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air discuss a new book on the history of ballet. The book, Apollo’s Angels: a history of ballet, by Jennifer Homans discusses all aspects of ballet from the personal (she was a dance) to the cultural and historical aspects of the dance.
Homans made an interesting observation about ballet; you don’t need to understand a spoken language to appreciate the art form. It’s a universal art form that appeals to multiple senses. In addition to the art and creative aspects of ballet, Homans discussed the spiritual side of this beautiful art form.
She spoke about George Balanchine, one of the world’s greatest choreographers. Balanchine believed that ballet was a philosophy and an approach to life. He believed that dance and music were sacred art and that one finds G-d through the senses.
While discussing Balanchine who was Russian Orthodox, she spoke about ballet almost being a religious experience. She says, “There’s something almost religious about ballet, about being a dancer, the commitment, the ritual of going to class every day…When you work very hard and achieve coordination and skill in the body, there’s a way in which it sets you free.”
So what does this have to do with health and healing? Knowing the body is crucial to become a good dancer. Understanding what and why things hurt or are different in the body are crucial for the dancer to know to prevent injury, but still push the dancer and the body to peak performance. The same is true when you are diagnosed with an illness. Understanding what differences in the body are natural/normal given the diagnosis and those that need attention can truly be a life saver.
Just like an athlete understanding your body’s mechanics will enable you to catch changes early so they can possibly be thwarted if they are negative; or enhanced if they are positive. Your senses will allow you to experience life from new perspectives. Balanchine’s philosophy was to “give it all now”, something we all should be working toward…mindfulness and presence.
Maybe you’re a budding dancer and maybe you’re not, but the lessons from ballet can aid you in trying to get better. The philosophy of the world’s greatest dancers and choreographers can be applied to living your life successfully with a chronic or other life-altering illness. After all….who wouldn’t like to experience a little transcendence?