- ABOUT US
Karlie Tipton, Editorial Assistant
Photo by STEVEN WALKER
By Karlie Tipton
April 25, 2013
Rarely do I walk blindly into any experience. If there’s a party, I want to know who will be there, if there will be food and drinks, and how long should I stay. Before I purchase a ticket to any movie, I research the actors, writers, directors, and anyone else involved in the production. Never will I step foot into a restaurant without first exhausting my resources discovering what dishes I should avoid, the best time to go, or how much cash I should bring.
This may make for an existence lacking in spontaneity, but alas, it’s a price I’m willing to pay in order to allow myself the illusion that I have control over the circumstances of my life.
However, when Megan Rossman offered me the chance to accompany her to the Oklahoma City Ballet’s final dress rehearsal of Swan Lake, I arrived fifteen minutes before show time having no idea what I would encounter—mostly because I forgot to look anything up.
From the moment the velvet curtain began to rise and the blue spotlight cast its watery glow on the stage, I was no longer in control: The dancers and musicians positioned ten rows in front of me were.
Swan Lake, originally composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1876, is the story of Princess Odette, who is transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse, one that can only be broken by true love. She finds just that in the form of handsome prince Siegfried. However, the evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, tricks Siegfried into falling in love with his daughter, Odile, who has been disguised to look like the Swan Princess. Too late, Siegfried realizes he has been duped and flees to find Odette. Although she forgives his betrayal, Von Rothbart will not allow Siegfried to break his promise to marry Odile, thereby ensuring that Odette will be forever cursed. In order to be together forever, Odette and Siegfried leap off a cliff, ending their lives but breaking Von Rothbart’s curse.
I learned all of that online after the fact. During the two hours of the actual performance, I was hypnotized—less by the story and more by the light, the costumes, the movement, and the music. Although the story itself is beautiful, I believe knowing it would have distracted from the artistry of the performance. Instead of admiring the gravity-defying manner in which Odette floated and fluttered across stage amongst her fellow swans, I would have perhaps wondered when Von Rothbart was going to show up and ruin things.
Knowing how my ever fast-forwarding brain functions, I’m sure I would have missed many of the small but remarkable details, like the way the ballerina’s feet deftly lifted off the ground and landed again without a sound.
Art, in its truest form, is about connecting emotionally with another human being. It’s about expressing something so deep within ourselves that words will not suffice.
In fact, this may be the most difficult blog I’ve ever written because I simply cannot capture the beauty and grace of which a ballerina’s body is capable. How can I encapsulate in these six hundred words the journey from pure elation to utter despair as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Theme marks the deaths of our beloved prince and princess? Writing about something as beautiful as that ballet is like writing about love: I can use all the pretty words I want, but it will never truly encapsulate the experience.
Although it lacks much of the beauty and elegance of Swan Lake, the 2010 movie Black Swan did have a line that has become increasingly pertinent to my life over the past couple years.
“The only person standing in your way is you. It’s time to let her go. Lose yourself.”
Giving up control is difficult. Letting yourself feel something beyond the point of understanding is much easier said—or written—than done. But both are important to becoming a better writer and a better human being.