There is More, is a poetic series within the Breaking Classical collection and began as a progression of conversations with dance artist and poet Olivia Brown in 2016. The dialogue and subsequent internal reflections paired with a studio and performance project investigated how someone separates themselves from their training - particularly their classical ballet training. Olivia looked honestly at an often prevalent internal narrative in not just dance culture, but among many who interface with body culture and aesthetically driven expectations around beauty. Most especially in dance, voicing these experiences is often dismissed or derided as unhealthy. In some cases it can be viewed as disrespectful to the artform. Olivia found the experience resonated differently.
The understanding of a necessary foundation that allows expansion and expression of individuality is something I have been striving to gain for many years. [...] I love Allison’s photography and being a part of [Breaking Classical] was healing too truthfully, almost a way to say “farewell” to that picture of perfection, [that] ballerina in tutu and pointe shoes.
Breaking Classical, a deconstruction of ballet. Performance lecture presented February 17th, 2017 at the Billings Public Library. Photos by Miranda Murdock Photography
Olivia's intention was to fully re-immerse herself in the ballet tradition and bring out in poetic form an ekphrastic response. The process was facilitated through a weekly ballet barre practice followed with conversation and reflections about what mental narratives and physical feedback arose. Discussions also included how other ballet artists have critiqued dance culture and the ways in which the community responded to those critiques.
While considering the poise and posture of the balletic form, attire, and dance culture aesthetics Olivia reflected, "Your beauty is as a sunrise; but painted. Only to be seen, the glowing warmth never felt."
The project concluded with a public performance and a reading of Olivia's poetry with three additional contributing artists on February 14th, 2017.
Ballet Betrayed Me
“You haven’t been chosen for this piece.”
The words stung. I wasn’t good enough. Hours upon hours a week of classical training, and somehow I still wasn’t worthy.
I was told to “build my foundation” with ballet; the rest would come. I gave it my soul, and it sucked me dry. I wrenched my body into the perfect positions, being told I was “lovely” but now you’re telling me these very same positions are “too stiff”. I don’t catch on quickly enough, but give me three 8 counts of any classical movement and I can show you.
I’m not “right for the style of this piece”. Maybe once I learn to let my center go more, loosen up a bit. I’m not diverse.
It’s not my foundation, because I loved it and it betrayed me.
I loved how my spirit felt – alive with the music. But how could something so beautiful require so much hatred for my own body?
Gasping for air, I felt every tendon and muscle fiber screaming for relief, yet I felt transcendent. Swollen joints and bleeding feet were mere side effects, only concerning in their absence.
You wanted these agonies, in a sort of sick twisted masochism, to show that you were suffering for your art, your love of clean lines and the absence of failure.
Forced perfectionism changed my body into a temple of self-criticism.
Leotard, tights, pointe shoes, and teenage bodies with eyes transfixed on their own reflection. Eyes wander though – each girl picked apart her fellow dancer as if choosing different body parts and assembling them in her imagination.
Pointe Shoe Lament
We used to be kin, you and I, but now we are barely acquaintances.