I have been ‘on tour’ leading live drawing events with English National Ballet throughout October and November including Milton Keynes, Southampton (twice) Oxford, Liverpool and Bristol. The tour ends with two dates at The Coliseum in London to support The Nutcracker and Le Corsaire in December and January respectively.
The events have been fantastic, a unique opportunity to study some of the top dancers in the world, they are surely elite athletes as much as extraordinary artists. The ‘up close’ and raw aspect of the dancers in class breaks through the ‘fourth wall’ ie the illusory magic of the performance. The stage is stripped bare – as are the dancers, their vulnerabilities exposed…the concentration is intense, a deep kinaesthetic empathy takes place as we artists struggle for our drawn equivalents for what we can only glimpse as the pace speeds up and the sheer blood, sweat and tears that is the reality behind the effortlessness is played out before us.
We sit just behind the orchestra pit. Or sometimes in the boxes oblique to the stage. The vast empty theatre resonates with a ‘live charge’. With artifice and expectation.
The dancers, of course, are not there for our convenience as are life models. They have their own agenda. We artists are the privileged usurpers sneaking in through the back door. The dancers are supremely self-contained, they must sublimate self and mind to become hyper-corporeal. They must work with the tension between discipline and the fact of always being ‘on show’. Intense self-analysis. Self-scrutiny. Self-objectification.
The drawings are frenetic, often composite figures. Hybrids. Sometimes the bodies are as one consciousness – a single swathe of bodies filling the space. Abstracted. Dislocated. Their mappings, trajectories, marked out as ghost tracings through space.
If drawing is a communication with the self, which I believe it is, then this is something of an interior monologue rising to the surface on the page. And a reflection on the fact that we all inhabit bodies. We must deconstruct our gaze. But these bodies are the body perfected. Idealised. Uber-human. Super beings. Body as object. The body taken to extreme.