Longing. Yearning. Delight.
Sadness. All emotions that a dancer has to convey. It is not easy to
concentrate on dancing and acting at the same time, to not make that concentrating-on-the-next-move face, but professionals have to. Whether it is improvising if a prop is in your way (as Steven McMahon
had to do in a rehearsal for George
and Betty’s House, part of Family Matters),
or showing excitement or conflict or whatever emotion the piece calls for at that
moment, a dancer must be on it. It is not something you often think about with
ballet dancers, but if you ever attend a Ballet Memphis show you have seen it in play.
Dorothy Gunther Pugh used to
teach us to “shoot fireworks out of our sternums” as we danced. She didn’t mean
to arch your back or stick your chest out, but she spoke of another almost
indefinable quality of the body in ballet. A gracefulness, an engaged face, a
body and spirit completely in the moment. Fireworks are what it takes.