Bombs or Ballet?

This week’s headlines…

  • Boston Bombing Suspect Killed in Shootout
  • Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast kills up to 15, with over 60 injured
  • Death Toll Rises to 32 in Iraq Café Suicide Bombing

These unfortunate headlines demonstrate a stark, inescapable facet of today’s world. Bombs. Violence. Death. Chaos. We live in violent times, bitterly relevant times. And then here’s me with my ballet post, my Tweets and Facebook shout-outs (peddling this blog:, telling people to hurry over and see a ballet dancer because she’s very pretty and graceful and you will swoon and it will be great, you’ll see.

Is ballet unnecessary or fluffy or irrelevant? Should I feel ashamed of my priorities, my preferences? Possibly. There’s room for all sorts of unappealing emotions in my psyche. But here’s the thing: for the past two days, I’ve needed it to retreat into. I’ve needed to go to a place of beauty and grace that’s separate from the chaos, the grim headlines.

I can’t change what’s going on in the world today. I won’t hide from it. I’ll process the tragic news with the dignity and respect it deserves. I’ll help where/when I can, and support those who fight for justice, peace, a better world. But at the end of the day (or, today, eight o’clock in the morning), I’ll slip away to spend some time with my lighter fare.

“Lighter fare” is, perhaps, the wrong word. The arts exist on a different realm. They represent explorations of all those complex emotions and snarled situations that waft in and out of our lives. They try to express the inexpressible. They explore the pathos in beauty, and the beauty in pathos. They lift us out of the everyday muck and allow us a glimpse of the bigger picture.

In my last blog, I extolled the virtues of “Old World” ballet, that era of beauty and charm and gorgeous classical music. Royal Ballet principal Alina Cojocaru is a stellar example of this and a link to her sublime dancing can be found on the post I linked above. But for today, I’m thinking I need a dose of Damian Smith and Yuan-Yuan Tan in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain (filmed outdoor, the Pacific Ocean as a stunning backdrop). It reminds me that, after the rain, after the bombing, can come the healing. Watching it, listening to the hauntingly beautiful music, something tight in me loosens. Something else, loose and ungrounded in me, settles, finds its place.

A must watch. Really. I must insist. And you’ll see for yourself just how relevant the arts can, and should be, in today’s world.

8 thoughts on “Bombs or Ballet?”

  1. Hello again. I totally agree with your post. We need beauty precisely because the world can be so hellish. (And yes, that After the Rain video is sublime).
    Along the same lines, I have it really brought home to me how important the “escapist” value of ballet is every time I visit my mother’s retirement home. Everyone in there is dealing with some kind of physical problem, and the sadness of aging, and people dying off around them. It’s a pretty dreary beige place. I decided they needed something to take them out of that place so every time I go I take a ballet video with me. Lots of Ashton, dashes of Petipa, Elite Syncopations, etc. etc. (I haven’t ventured into Mayerling territory yet…). It is astounding the positive difference it makes in their lives to hear great music, and see beautiful dancing. They demand to know when I will be back. Human beings need more than food and shelter. That’s why we have the arts.

  2. Oh, Katherine, your reply is lovely, just lovely. I so enjoyed reading it. And I smile to think of the color and music (in the people’s hearts as well as the stuff that goes into their ears) you spread at your mother’s retirement home.

    And I must confess, I have watched that “After the Rain” video four times in a row this morning. My heart is full of it.

  3. Everyone needs something to make their hearts sing. Consider yourself a lucky one to have found what makes you truly happy and what can be considered an escape from our modern world of terrors. Also, this beauty that flows from within helps to create a society where, when we have things (arts for example) that we take pride in, we all want to protect that way of life a little more. It builds community, builds pride and is a part of what makes a peaceful life a reality. Our society values this stability. It is something that we grapple with because so many beyond our boarders don’t. Ah, but that is so much more philosophical that I ever intended on getting with this reply.

  4. I will always take ballet over bombs or any other kind of violence. It is as you say, my sanctuary away from it all. Classical music and ballet are my “go to” places when I just can’t deal with the constant talking back from my boys. It is what I must have. Unfortunately in KC the classical radio station is no more which is what I always had my car radio tuned to but thankfully I have some wonderful CDs blessed to me by my dearest friend and can continue to have my “go to” at any time.
    I don’t think having a “go to” during times of trouble are an awful thing but a necessity. To bring us back from the insanity to sanity. An absolute that there is still beauty from ashes.

    • Okay, I am definitely feeling less guilty about my go-to need and fix. Thanks for sharing your go-to, Donna! The classical station here in the Monterey Bay area (and I think the SF Bay Area) has left us, too, but fortunately there’s HD classical for me here at the house. Not good for the car, but I hook my laptop up for the night for a wake-up alarm to commercial-free classical music. It’s such a nice way to start the day.
      Really sets things straight in my mind/heart.

  5. What a lovely and inspiring post! As I was watching the news all week, it made me realize what a totally different world we live in today. Things seemed so different when I was a kid–life was simpler, easier and so much more easy going. Raising kids in today’s world is difficult and can be terrifying at times (especially when you hear and see the constant news on TV and on the web). My 14 year old daughter is a dancer (ballet is her first love) and I feel so grateful and comforted that she can turn to her art with everything going on in today’s world. Things today are so unpredictable, but at least she has her safe haven–the dance studio, to escape to. Even dancing and sashe-ing (sp?) through the kitchen helps me remember the innocence of my childhood and gives me hope that my kids will grow strong and persearvere (sp?) through life as it is today. Ballet is meditation in motion and so needed in today’s world.

    • Kathy, thanks so much for this thoughtful reply! I have a 14 year old as well (a son, not a ballet kid, but I’m thinking that’s an okay thing for a boy not to be…) and you hit the nail on the head, describing raising today’s kids as “terrifying.” Thrilling and terrifying and fast-paced and electrifying. Guess that describes life in our times, as well. I’m so happy for you and your daughter for the safe haven she has. So well-put, your comment about ballet being “meditation in motion.” May the dance studio, and the craft of ballet, continue to protect and nourish her (and you too!).


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