Last week I went to the Linbury Studio in Covent Garden to watch Gandini Jugglers in their new work, 4x4: Ephemeral Architectures, choreographed by Ludovic Ondiviela, with music for a string quintet, composed by Nimrod Borenstein.
Artistic director, Sean Gandini writes Tracing pathways in space, four jugglers and four ballet dancers share a stage for the first time. 4x4: Ephemeral Architectures is a celebration of where these paths meet. This piece is a return to our love of pure patterns and mathematics, our roots in imagining juggling as a form of dance.
It was one of the most joyful as well as skilful pieces I’ve seen in a long time. The air was alive with the movement of coloured juggling balls, hoops and batons, the dancers weaving around and between, seeming to create continual yet transient patterns of lines crossing, curving and weaving through the space. Much of the performance was beautifully side-lit, and then by a chess-board of light. From time to time the dancers commented on the action, adding another playful dimension. It was clearly an incredibly complex piece, involving silent counting, and split second responses to each other and the objects in flight, but the overall effect was of something very youthful, humorous and magical.
Equally entertaining was listening to Sean Gandini and Ludovic Ondiviela in interview later. As if on a mega caffeine rush, Gandini gabbled on with great energy, the mic being passed between him and his choreographer as if they were still juggling.
But that’s dance at its most skilled and professional. Ballet for adults is something else. After years of teaching contemporary dance and Pilates, over the last year I’ve begun to teach ballet, albeit at a fairly basic level to a small group of adults. I’m convinced of the health benefits. There’s nothing like it for strengthening the legs and feet, and improving balance and co-ordination – all of which are essential as we get older. But more than this is the opportunity to work with music, with the shape and flow of movement, and with different dynamics and rhythm – to actually dance rather than just exercise.
Teaching ballet to children, or to would-be professionals, is one thing – but what are the particular elements involved in teaching adults, who have different abilities, restrictions and requirements, but can nevertheless achieve a great deal? This is something I want to explore and develop over the next few years.
Through my internet browsing I came across Kathy Mata, a teacher based in San Francisco, and found this short film of her teaching truly inspiring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtuGVjmmmAs
It’s an odd experience completing the final draft of a novel, as I did last week. I winged it off to my publisher and two writers whose opinion I trust and value, went off to my ballet class, then took a friend out for an excellent fish dinner in our local French restaurant. I didn’t manage much sleep that night, overcome by existential anxiety and churning restlessness, and was woken at five-thirty by my son, who was taking the early flight to Berlin and had overslept. Too late either for public transport or an airport car-park, he needed me to go with him and drive his car home. As the electricity had failed, we dressed by torchlight, and finally launched ourselves into the dark of early morning. After a white-knuckle drive we reached the airport with fifteen minutes to spare. I abandoned him at the quick-drop-off point, only to find myself apparently locked into his car, and a queue of cars behind me. After much panic-stricken pressing of buttons, the passenger window eventually slid open, so I clambered out, threw the pound coin into the machine to open the barrier, myself back through the window into the car, and drove off.
Why the hell do I feel compelled to write novels anyway? I’ve always loved reading, but that hardly answers the question, and I’ve wanted to write for almost as long as I knew books existed. There are times, but rarely, when I read a novel that contributes to making life worth living. I finish reading and go back to the beginning again, dwelling on the characters, the setting, the poetry of the writing itself still echoing in my mind. Those times the imagination is lit up and the world seems richer, more expansive and at the same time more intimate. Novels such as John Williams' Stoner, Marilynne Robinson’s Home, and most recently Philip Larkin’s extraordinary novel, A Girl in Winter are food for the heart and soul, as well as the mind.
To aspire to write something of such quality seems entirely worthwhile. I have no delusions, and I know I’m nowhere near yet, but we all improve with the hours we put in. I’m in for the long haul, and perhaps, in part, this is what drives me to keep on working.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.