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January 17, 2023 2 mins

A closed, elite group asks for sacrifice and extreme devotion from its members. It produces elegant dancers, but at what cost?

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
There is no need for the outside world because we
are removed from it and apart from it and in
our own universe. For My Heart podcasts and Rococo Punch,
this is the turning room of mirrors. Well, it completely
wanted all of our attention and all of our devotion.
Not unlike the convent. What you're doing is larger than yourself,

almost like a religion, Like this is bigger than you.
He used to say, what are you looking at, dear?
You can't see you, Only I can see you. He
could do no wrong, like he was a god. In
the US, there is ballet before George Balanchine and ballet
after George Balanchine. Balancine grew up dancing for the Czar

in Russia. He survived the Russian Revolution. He turned classical
ballet into something new. His movements were fast and big.
They colored outside the lines of traditional ballet. They vaulted
him to a position of power few artists ever reach.
There are not very many of us left around that
actually grew up with balancing. It was like I grew

up with Mozart. Balancing made dancers feel chosen, like they
were part of something bigger. It was intoxicating and demanding.
It was really about risk. He would request things that
could be almost undoable. Most of it was really challenging
our willingness to risk. It gets a different kind of quiet.

I could feel the audience like you're in a vacuum together,
that really dynamic connection between us. Nothing like it. But
what was the cost for the dancers who brought these
ballets to life where the lines between the professional and
the personal were hazy and often crossed, Their bodies used
as tools, scrutinized and pushed to the breaking point. He

was obsessed with women. I think throughout his whole life
balancing did not like star female dancers to have children.
He would famously say, like any woman can be a mother,
but only you few select people can be ballerinos. How
far does balancing shadow extend beyond himself. You don't have
a voice in ballet. You literally aren't supposed to speak,

and you learn not to and you learn to push
things down. So many people have developed a really dysfunctional
relationship with exercise and with food, simply because most people
in the ballet world, I'm interested in their experience of
watching it, then in the dances experience of executing it.

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