A Society for the Advancement
The intense, even fierce criticism levelled at little me over the last few weeks, on account of what I fondly thought were mild-mannered comments on current events in the ballet world, have led me to consider founding a Society. For the time being, as Dante would say, it is a Party of One, but new membership is welcomed.
I The society will bear the name of Auguste Vestris (1760-1842), because, as the professor of Carlo Blasis, Jules Perrot and Auguste Bournonville, we may conclude that he was a/ a Man of Principle, b/ a Genius, and c/ who knows, possibly a helluva lot of fun to be around as well.
Vestris - what more suitable choice in this age of the Dictatorship of Beauty ? Though a celebrated dancer, he is said to have been stunningly unattractive, even, a Toad.
Let us have Toads, if they can but dance ! Let us have the short, the fat, and the ugly, if they can but dance !
That is not to suggest for a moment that the dancers that the Society will appoint as members Honoris Causa, are Toads. Indeed, some may be quite the opposite, but what counts in such matters, is the Principle of the Thing.
II The way the Society will work, is as follows.
It has been founded in France, first, because Vestris taught here, and second, because its head, the Party of One referred to above, lives here, at present.
Above all, France has always had a peculiar importance for the ballet.
The Society will, until further notice, have no finances, no membership cards, no bureaucracy, and no paper work, except for the essays people may wish to send in.
The Society's very modest aim is to encourage, yea, even here in benighted Western Europe, the return to certain principles, the principles of Leonardo, which are as new, as they are old, and as old, as they are new, viz,
(i) épaulement, as Leonardo would have it,
IV The Society would like to hold Lecture-Demonstrations, though it will no doubt be unable to do so, because it has no funds, and everyone is so busy. Had it the wherewithal, it would hold Compare and Contrast Days. Dancers would be invited to demonstrate passages in the two styles, and professors would be invited to express their views.
For the time being, the Society will have to content itself with a very restricted sort of activity.
1/ It welcomes essays, statements, book reviews, or just plain questions, from any competent, or intellectually curious person, distressed by the state of technique today, and in a Reforming Mood.
V The Vestris Society will look benevolently on the balletomane, but not on the Fan. In fact, the Vestris Society takes a dim view of its own founder, when in a Cojocaru-groupie mode. The balletomane knows that ballet is, or should be, a worthwhile art form, and is distressed by the contempt with which most intellectuals regard it. While the Fan, or Groupie, brings down opprobrium on us all.
VI The Vestris Society will encourage utterly uninhibited and wide-ranging attacks - though penned with style and decorum, of course - on choreography degrading to the artists. Choreographers who confuse Ipanema Beach at high noon with the Opera stage, and ballet dancers, with the clients of a Brazilian plastic surgeon, will wish they hadn't.
A sub-section of the Vestris Society, known as the Vestris Unit for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dancers, may eventually have to be set up.
VII The Vestris Society is concerned to hear of talented professors, holed out in the bush, by that I mean places like the Dakotas, Inverness, or the Kamchatka Peninsula, unsung, ignored by a wider public. We must find these people, and sing their praises !
Professors, unlike their disciples now gracing the stage, are not public figures, so we shall have to crave their permission to discuss their work. But, discuss it we must !
Once they have been selected, they will be appointed Vestris Fellows, Honoris Causa.
VIII The Vestris Society does not buy the idea that only the light-skinned, shall join the world's top companies.
It therefore welcomes the nomination as a member Honoris Causa, of black dancers who meet the aforementioned criteria.
The Party of One looks forward to your contributions.