So two completely random things from my spring break trip inspired this post. First, sitting on the plane next to two ladies discussing their membership in the Audubon Society while one was reading “The Talk of the Town” section of The New Yorker got me thinking about who actually appreciates art, and who “appreciates” art because they’re told that they should appreciate it.
Second, apparently at about three drinks in, I get really good at pirouettes. I landed three doubles in a row on my last night in upstate New York. Granted, my flexibility is shot and jeans are terrible for mobility, but somehow I got that leg into a passé, spotted on my new friend Alex, and landed it beautifully.
Most of my friends know that I used to dance. It was a huge part of my life until college, but somehow in the last couple years, it got less and less convenient to do. I stopped stretching every night, doing relevés at random times, and stopped talking about how I used to dance. In my college applications, I defined myself with three main things: biology, dance, and writing. Now I define myself in a mad multitude of things: biology, protein structure research, RA, emergency medicine, writing, and a whole lot else. But just like so many other things I left behind in my life — painting, soccer, sewing, speech and debate, choir, water polo — I haven’t forgotten about dance.
Twelve years of dance (seven years of ballet, five years of modern/lyrical, and the full twelve years of traditional Chinese) has left me with an appreciation for the athleticism and artistry of dance. It’s more than just envy, like “I wish I could do that.” I understand what things are important or ingenious because I’ve done it myself — I’ve studied it and can formulate my own opinions. Freshman year for an IHUM paper, I went to see a performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Merce Cunningham is the epitome of modern dance, the ultimate example of dance abstraction that inspires a succinct WTF from a layperson. But I know how to look at it, and I know what I like about it. Sure, I could talk to people about what I found interesting about the performance, but it’s not a status symbol to me.
I don’t consider myself an “artsy” person, but I do have a sense of pride in being knowledgeable about many things. That being said, I think of it more as a quiet proficiency than something to tout. I don’t intentionally go walking around with the latest issue of The New Yorker in hand, nor do I attend dance performances or art shows just to be able to say I went. I prefer to be genuinely interested in what I’m seeing or reading, and to appreciate it because I see my own definition of artistry in it. Maybe that makes me my own brand of pretentious, but I’m kind of okay with that.