Thursday, November 3, 2011

A cultural leap: an American goes east

I read an article on my homepage and I'm compelled to share. I grew up studying ballet, dancing and dreaming of being a principal, and also composing in the language of the ballet. Called choreography, the language of dance is beautiful in itself and through a crafted series of characters, reveals a story. As a student, I recognized that Russia produced the best dancers; they were known for it. The finest training I ever received was given me by Frank and Irina Pal, two fabulous and passionate dancers from Czechoslovakia who were trained in the grand classical Russian style. I had the good fortune to study with them at their school in Wichita Falls, Texas. The Pals escaped Leipzig after the second world war on the last American truck out of city just as the Russian troops were entering from the other direction. Eventually they wound up in Wichita Falls, bringing their art and passion to a north Texas city where the cultural climate had been described to them as a wasteland, but they were determined, romantic, and devoted to their students, and they had their own share of "Texas/Czech" grit. I have vivid and (almost) fond memories of Frank shouting at me in Russian! In addition to the studio, they also formed a semi-professional ballet company that toured and they, along with their students, performed regularly for many years.

The Pals escaped to America; Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov defected. In the history of ballet, it is always the east coming west to find artistic freedom. But now, it is the other way. Now something remarkable is happening and a guy, a kid from North Dakota, David Hallberg of Grand Rapids, South Dakota, has been invited to dance as a principal with The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, the first American, the first foreigner ever! His story is remarkable, his courage and perseverance are incredible. And if this photograph is any indication, in movement he captures the essence of something so beautiful and filled with light, I had goosebumps just looking at it. What evidence this gives of how the world has changed, of how it has become smaller and more willing to share. Nothing matters here of cultural differences or ethnic biases. Only beauty matters, a universal language. Bravo, David. I wish I could be there.

Read the full article here and visit David's website here

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