Q: To you, Ballet is…?
Rosa Park: …The oxygen in my life
— In the Wings, April 2015
It’s been 5 months since Rosa Park retired.
Rosa Park – where does one begin. Anyone who has had the pleasure and honour of watching her dance — well, that sums it up — a pleasure, and an honour. An absolute and utter privilege.
Rosa Park dances as one might breathe* – with such seeming effortless ease.
*assuming all conditions are stable, e.g. not on top of high mountain
I don’t mean that everything looked simple. No, because part of appreciating dance, sometimes, is in realising how intricate, incredible and incredibly difficult every single bit of it is.
But everything looked like magic.
It was magic. Such magic as will never cross the stage again. Each dancer brings her (or his) own magic and craft to the performance, of course. And now that Rosa Park has retired, we will not pass this way again.
If we want to talk about technical things, we can talk about those fouettes – single, double, triple loops; or those explosive jumps across the stage and down the line of Espadas for Don Quixote and that leg shooting up like a piston in a high kick – sharp, bright moves, accents. Such precision. Those spins in a circle at double-speed round the stage. Executing the unbearable, the impossible — you know I’m thinking about Opus 25 now:
How does anyone do that, lying down on the ground and then using the sheer strength of one’s core to draw one’s torso upwards? (Apart from with the assistance of an incredible partner, of course.)
Steely strength underpinning every single move — e.g. a single ankle, a single foot, a single toe shoe en pointe — that is all that pins Rosa Park to the ground with the other leg raised in attitude, as she starts to rotate to her left, slowly, so gracefully– and at the last possible moment, she lands and finishes the turn.
Every single moment is simple, strong, and finishes beautifully. No move is wasted – no move is simply an arc in the air. You do know what I mean – not loose arms, but arms that move with meaning and purpose – perhaps made up of little things, added up in multitudes. (Perhaps a lift of the chin, or each move going through a proper circle, or hands meeting in the middle in clean crisp movements.)
Grace. A steely, precious grace in every move, every lift of the arm. Remember: waist down is technique, waist up is dancing. Such dancing – so full of the joy of being alive– making us, too, feel the joy of being alive.
Everything about Rosa Park drew one’s eye to her. You can watch videos on Singapore Dance Theatre’s facebook page.
While all performances stood out, I think that if I could rewatch any — I might like to see — 2014’s Don Quixote, of course (the entire performance, in fact, was brilliant); R&J 2011; Opus 25, which I never tire of seeing; and Rosa’s Bittersweet with Timothy Coleman. — and, of course, Swan Lake (that delightful Odette who can’t quite trust the Prince yet; that delightfully wicked Odile!).
Here’s another picture of Rosa’s farewell at the end of Nutcracker, with her twin daughters.
But, I suppose, no one misses dancing more than a dancer herself or himself.
Rosa Park now teaches at City Ballet Academy, which was opened by Xia Haiying, her predecessor (former principal artist) at Singapore Dance Theatre 🙂