I attended and was wowed by my first ballet, The Nutcracker, at London’s Coliseum last weekend. Superlatives hover in the space between my ears. I marvel at the level of commitment required to achieve balletic fluency, and found it spell-binding – the art’s intention, I suppose.
Reflecting on what exactly moved me so, I recall a biography of Martha Graham the world renowned choreographer who, when she died at 96 in 1991, left a legacy of change and development in the ballet world as had none other:
Martha was not beautiful, and she was certainly no longer young. What then did she have?
She had Vision.
And she had Presence.
Any star has the ability to seize and hold attention. This is a requisite, and a matter of dynamics, nervous projection, and a secure ego, the star’s tools. But Martha had the rare, the nearly unique gift to fuse the outer manifestation with the inner concept: the word made flesh. Simply, she was. She approximated the Holy Virgin and her relationship to Christ. And before the awful concept, every man and woman in the house watching approached divine awareness.
Agnes de Mille
Martha, The Life and Work of Martha Graham, page 182
First Vintage Books Edition, 1992
Martha Graham was ‘nearly unique.’ I imagine she would have approved of this season’s last night of The Nutcracker in London. Marvellous and extraordinary, engaging and involving, the fluidity and fusion of ‘outer manifestation with the inner concept,’ and ‘divine awareness,’ sum up very well what I thought about this staged celebration of lithe joy.