Dear young dancers of the Ballet Conservatory of South Texas:
Hello, girls! Thank you for inviting us, the audience at your performance Poetry in Motion, to glimpse your development as dancers and artists. I know you will grimace when you hear this, because you are young and need approval designed just for you, individually— but, collectively, the dancers in your company show strong training and fortitude. Each dancer has a presence and a style all her own.
The audience was treated to the sight of 13 girls who had spent hours committing new choreography to muscle memory. I saw dancers who had stretched their training toward the modern-classical movement that dominates major ballet stages these days. I saw moments of elegance that gave me pause. I watched you transition easily from the modern pointe work to the classical, to a hint of the folkloric. I watched your eyes when you did something that you felt was right and you knew it. I also saw the interior wince when you did not meet your own standards.
I had forgotten how heartwarming and heartbreaking it is to see young ballet artists in process, on stage. Heartwarming, because you want so much to give us, your audience, the best of you, and we can see it. Never lose that vulnerability as a performer — it will give your steps an intimacy that cannot be replicated.
Your dancing is heartbreaking for a similar reason. You want so much to create a perfect technical performance that sometimes you forget that when you are onstage, your whole body is an instrument with which to give a physical music to mood, theme, or story. Unlock your faces, so that they become as expressive as your arms; give us a sense of the larger world intimated by your choreographer(s). Your job as a dancer is not limited to technical perfection; your artistry is equally important, if not more so.
Worry less about your extension — it will come. What you want us to see when you do a grand jeté is not the highest front leg in the world, but the smooth unbroken line of the body from lift to landing. Throwing your leg up jolts your upper body, breaking the illusion that you are, in fact, weightless, and does damage to your hip joints.
Because there are only 13 of you, it is a miracle to me that you were able to give a two-hour, almost non-stop performance. You were patient and professional during a handful of technical glitches that were out of your control. You helped one another when a prop was dropped, and the audience, watching your teamwork, sighed in appreciation.
You were glorious. You give a good name to ballet and San Antonio, and with any luck, your company will develop a local following that will see what I saw on Saturday night — that momentary, miraculous poignancy in which new dancers meet fresh, crisp choreography and make it their own, or, as in the case of the second act, glide fearlessly as wilis, the jilted ghost girls who are at once in the world and outside of it.
Bravo ballet dancers of the Conservatory of South Texas. I can’t wait to see what you do next, with your delicate adagio work and your serious faces. •