My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Master & Apprentice: the power of performing side-by-side

I have an idea brewing in the back of my mind and as some of you may already know, that means trouble because I very rarely give up on my ideas.  It has to do with this whole question of how to inspire passion, energy, and vitality in young classical musicians and in audiences, particularly in smaller communities, since that's where I happen to find myself at the moment.  In the next few months I have a feeling you may get glimpses of it through my posts on this blog.  Or who knows, it may all come out in one big outpouring of verbiage.  Consider this post the first glimpse of what is to come.

This past weekend I had the distinct honor of taking my almost five-year-old daughter, Emma, to her very first ballet, "with real living people on stage," as she says.  We went to see Leo Delibes' Coppelia, which just happens to be one of her favorite ballets, performed by a local company, the Southwest Virginia Ballet.  I wasn't sure exactly what to expect since growing up in San Francisco, I had always been "fortunate" enough to have the San Francisco Ballet only a 20-minute drive away.  So yes, I was a bit spoiled, I suppose, and I was wondering how good a little local ballet company really could be.  I was also a little concerned because since Emma was about 3 years old she has been watching a DVD of Coppelia ad nauseum; she had all of the choreography down, and the music memorized ("Mom, no, this is where Franz falls asleep, not when he's climbing up the ladder!")  Would she turn her nose down as soon as the curtain went up?  Would she wonder where her beloved Franz and Swanilda were?  Yes, I know, you're probably chuckling to yourselves.  That's ok.

So the performance was in a small high-school gymnasium and as soon as the lights went down and the curtain went up, Emma was transfixed.  The first dancers on stage were high-school kids and younger, with the role of Swanilda being danced by a very talented high-school senior.  One exception was Dr. Coppelius, who was played by an older man in the community but that is a part that is not actually danced.  Next came the lead male, Franz, and this is where I, and I'm guessing others as well, became transfixed.  Franz was danced by the Artistic Director of the Southwest Virginia Ballet, Pedro Szalay, a professional dancer, through and through.  What I love and respect is that he didn't make it look like he was dancing the role because no one else could or because his ego led him to do this.  He was up there on stage, dancing like he would if he were in any "professional" ballet company.  It was glorious.  And at some point, as Franz was holding Swanilda over his head proudly, I shook my head and found myself grinning from ear to ear thinking, "My goodness, that girl must be having the time of her life!"  I have to imagine that it will be quite a while before these performances fade into just a visual memory for her.  Mr. Szalay's energy and elegance infected the others in the ballet company as well.  It was obvious that they respected his artistry and wanted to do their very best.  As for me, I was riveted during the entire performance...yes, by Mr. Szalay's performance, because he was really very good, but also by the young dancers because they had obviously put in many hours of hard work and because they were all having a great time on stage doing the best job that they could and they knew it.

What a way to truly learn about the beauty of ballet, about performing, about be side-by-side with a professional like that - a professional that doesn't put a wall between student and master, that seizes such a moment and uses the magic of artistry and passion to infect those around him, both on stage and in the audience.  If only there could be more moments like this...

Or perhaps there could...

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