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Appreciation of Ballet

Book cover for We're All Insane

Ballet & Thinking

Ballet Is Culture

  • Ballet is the high art of culture. It is the only art where perfection is required.
  • We are going to use ballet as an example of “how to” and “how not to” use thinking.

Helpful Thinking for Appreciating Ballet

This page provides some perspective on ballet that can help you to either appreciate or to appreciate it more.

To See Ballet

  • Look at a ballet performance as two things happening simultaneously.

First, the dancer is moving and the movement needs to be followed. You can follow the outline, the form, the arms, the hands, the legs, the feet. Whether you choose to follow a part or the whole of the dancer, this way of two still works. You should experiment and note that some dancers and dances are better appreciated with one aspect over another.

Second, the dancer is cutting and the cutting needs to be followed. The dancer is precisely cutting and shaping space with their movements.

Let us repeat, space is being shaped by the dancer’s cuts. The dancer is the scissors cutting the air into perfect patterns, shapes, and lines. If you prefer, the dancer is the pen and the air is the canvass for the invisible line-drawing on your mind. You must see these ideal shapes and lines to enjoy ballet.

Rule for Seeing Ballet

  • You must simultaneously see the dancer and the lines cut by the dancer to be affected by ballet.

Human Vision

Dance takes advantage of an aspect of human vision that Leonardo da Vinci was probably the first to comment on trails. Your eyes make trails of movement even when you do not see the trails externally. Some call the trails visible persistence.

You can see trails easily with fireworks displays, which take advantage of trails for our entertainment. Trails have long been exploited by animators like Walt Disney to create a sense of motion between still images. Sometimes you see trails externally that you would not normally due to special effects, special lighting, special contrasts, failing vision, or hallucinogenics.

For the purpose of ballet, it is important to know your brain registers and is affected by these trails even when you do not see them externally.

These trails are what ballet is designed to affect you with. The meaning of art is its effect. Ballet has no effect and no meaning if you do not follow and so feel the trails. Once you are sensitive to the trails, they can affect you with surprise, joy, amusement, and many enjoyable emotions and experiences.

See how helpful thinking can be. Now many more can appreciate ballet in particular and dance in general by becoming affected by line.

Hurtful Thinking

Now if you try to see the dancer and the cuts with thinking, then you will fail to see. If you think about the dancer making cuts, then you will fail to see. If you try to interpret or understand the trails, then you will fail to see. If you try to follow a method to see both dancer and cuts, then you will fail to see. Thought will never see no matter how correct or ordered. There is no procedure for seeing so no thinking.

You cannot see the ballet with or through thinking. Thinking was only helpful by telling you where to look. Thinking itself can never look or see for you. Thinking can only interfere with, distort, and disrupt your experience. Think before and after seeing not when seeing. You can stop to think but go back to just seeing.

Thinking Good & Bad

  • So thinking was good for pointing us where to look. And thinking was bad for looking.

2 Great Ballerinas

“I would not know what the spirit of a philosopher might wish more to be than a good dancer.” —Friedrich Nietzsche