Fantasia

My unrequited love affair with ballet

BaryshnikovWhen I was a girl, my mother took me to the ballet. Not the classic Nutcracker Suite that mommies take their little girls to see, but the New York City Ballet Company, with Balanchine still at the helm. I left the theater  feeling light as a snowflake, sure that I’d found my future … that all I needed were a few lessons, a pair of those cool ballet slippers and I could leap and twirl on my tippy toes just like the stars at the ballet.

I had not accounted for the klutz factor. I was very young and sure that wanting it badly enough would make it happen.

bolshoiAlas, but it did not happen. I had absolutely no talent for dance. None. In the course of years, I tried everything from ballet, through tap, to jazz and everything in between with essentially the same results.  I wasn’t even good enough to make me feel comfortable dancing at parties.

But I coped.

I could play the piano and was enough of a musician to be included in a circle of people who cared about music, some of whom shared my love of dance. I translated dreams of dancing in the ballet to going to the ballet whenever I could, collecting movies about dance,  and had the pleasure of introducing my granddaughter to the ballet.

For anyone who likes dance … even if you don’t … please enjoy one of my favorite “ballet movies” ever … the  delicious parody of classical ballet from the “Fantasia.” No matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. You just have to love hippos in tutus.

If this doesn’t make you laugh, maybe you were replaced by a pod while you slept.

Cover of "Fantasia (Special 60th Annivers...

Gorgeous, Behind-The-Scenes Photos From The New York City Ballet (ibtimes.com)
The Beauty of Balanchine: New York City Ballet (onefinestay.com)
Let the Month of Sugar Plums Begin! (nytimes.com)
Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker! Win A Pair of tickets! (mommyniri.com)
Gorgeous, Behind-The-Scenes Photos From The New York City Ballet (businessinsider.com)
The genius of Balanchine: A visual breakdown (cbsnews.com)
Dance: Moscow Ballet’s daddy of all “Nutcrackers” returns (denverpost.com)

About those dinosaurs … It all started with “Fantasia”

This conversation started because my husband, unlike me, is not fascinated by dinosaurs. He seemed a bit baffled as to why I’d include a big story about dinosaurs when I didn’t write it or take any of the photographs. Note: Should a dinosaur wander through my back yard, be assured that I will be out there taking pictures until either the huge reptile ambles away or eats me, whichever comes first.

Unlike many things which have adult origins — technology, philosophy, history — all the “ologies” and “osophies” that attended my education and subsequent research — my passion for dinosaurs goes all the way back, back, back in time to when I was four or five years old and my Aunt Ethel took me to see “Fantasia,” the original, not the later remake.

Who remembers in “Fantasia” the history of the earth, starring the rise and fall of the dinosaurs? It is set to Igor Stravinsky‘s brilliant “The Rites of Spring.” The music itself might be enough, but with the Disney artists on their best game, it was something else and embedded itself in my mind for a lifetime.

In case you’ve forgotten or have by some oversight never seen it, here it is. I wish it were a little brighter but the sound is excellent and it is still as extraordinary as ever it was:

None of these graphics were generated by computers. All of it … each frame … was drawn by human artists. The music was played live by an orchestra full of real musicians. Contrary to popular opinion, special effects were not invented by Steven Spielberg.

I was just a little kid and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I had nightmares for years about dinosaurs hiding under the bed, in the hallway, in my closet. I couldn’t sleep without a nightlight because I was sure there was a dinosaur lurking, ready to grab me in giant jaws with teeth 9 feet long. I was a child of great imagination and excessive sensitivity.

As I got older, I began to read books and discovered lots of really cool stuff about dinosaurs, most important (to me) was that North America — what is now the middle of the United States had been giant reptile central, the heartland of the Brontosaurus, Velociraptor and other astonishing creatures. Where now stand cities like St. Louis and Kansas City, Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled. Perhaps their legacy lives on in corporate boardrooms and Washington D.C., but I digress.

When this was made, the whole asteroid thing was yet unknown, so the history of the earth is missing that piece of information, but I’m sure Disney’s artists would have happily included it had they known. Meanwhile, I’m totally whacked at the idea of earth getting hit by an asteroid. I always have a good laugh when someone in some space lab mentions, casually, that there’s an asteroid headed our way, but not to worry, there’s no better than a 50-50 chance it will really hit us.

That we pathetic creatures, crawling around the surface of the earth, believe we are all-powerful and can control our destiny by technology is funny. Not only has this planet been hit by asteroids — not once but many times — but each time, the event precipitated the extinction of Earth’s dominant species. The dinosaurs lasted a lot longer than we have. Should one of those big hunks of space debris smack into us, I think it unlikely that all the computers, weaponry, technology or prayers we can muster will be of any use at all. Our collective ass will be grass without even the opportunity to text our best buddies about the impending big bang.

We will be gone, quite likely having had even less effect on our planet, in the final analysis, than did the dinosaurs.

Humankind has always suffered above all from the sin of pride. Hubris, as the Greeks called it. We think we are creatures of God and perhaps we are, but who said we are the only creatures of God or that He gave us a permanent free pass from extermination?

map-dinosaurs-1993

And this is what so fascinates me and probably always will. That these creatures, these huge, powerful creatures who ruled this planet for more years than we can comprehend were, in a single calamitous event, exterminated. Eliminated from the earth leaving just their bones by which to remember them. And we think we are so all-powerful. I bet they thought so, too.

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