Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Passion Revealed

Back in January of 2007 I got tagged by Grace which meant I was supposed to reveal 5 secrets about myself. I think I only got up to 3 secrets when I stopped playing the game. So now it's time for secret number 4...

The violin was not my first love.

Yes, it's true. My secret passion since I was five years old was ballet. I only took up the violin because my mother refused to let me take ballet lessons. She thought I was only interested in the pretty costumes, all that tulle and such. But it wasn't that. Ballet was just something that I have always thought was very beautiful. I loved the precision and the music, and I loved to move to the music. I am still attracted to an open wood floor and walls lined with mirrors. I want to fly through that space. When I was still little, I took out every book my local public library had on the subject and even taught myself the basic steps. When I turned 18, and was old enough to take care of myself (i.e., my mother could no longer stop me), I started taking lessons with an English woman in Providence, Miss Irene, who had trained at the Royal Ballet school.

When I moved to Boston to study music, I went to the ballet every chance I could get, whatever company was in town. A couple of friends from music school who shared my passion would go with me to hang out at the stage door until someone took pity on us and gave us seats in the theater. Those were the days of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, the cold war and the Bolshoi and Kirov. I remember standing backstage when the Kirov was performing with the excuse that we were waiting for my friend's aunt who was a Russian interpreter for the company. We were given fourth row seats just to get us out of their way.

My husband understood my passion. One of our first dates was to a performance of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet with Fonteyn and Nureyev, of course. He encouraged me to continue with lessons when we arrived in California, which I did right through my first pregnancy and into my second. I finally quit when I realized that my violin career was about to take off and I needed more time to practice. I decided it was time to choose and since it was too late and I was too old to have a career in ballet, I chose to concentrate my efforts on the violin.

I am not sorry I made that choice. The violin has been my constant companion for over half a century. I can't imagine life without it. And on occasion I have had the opportunity to play the great music written for the ballet, sitting in the orchestra pit instead of dancing on stage.

Which brings me to this past Sunday's performance by the Miami City Ballet of Arvo Pärt's hauntingly beautiful Fratres choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and called Liturgy. Pärt has arranged this melody for various combinations of instruments including cello, string orchestra, and string quartet. But the version used by Wheeldon for his ballet is the one utilizing a violin solo with string orchestra and percussion. The dancers were Haiyan Wu and Carlos Quenedit. The Chinese trained Wu was exquisite. I was so captivated by the performance that I have bought not only the mp3 recording but also the sheet music so I can play it myself. It was my idea of perfection—a marriage of beautiful violin music and ballet.

1 comment: