Sunday 24 January 2021

The White Crow

Last night DC and I watched The White Crow, a film about the young Rudolf Nureyev. The title is, I feel, particularly fitting. The portrayals of both Nureyev (by Oleg Ivenko) and his teacher Alexander Pushkin (by Ralph Fiennes) were exemplary and in each for me could be seen something of the utmost importance. The tension towards the end of the film as events narrow in at the airport and around Nureyev's defection from the USSR to the West bring to focus the many ways in which this 'something' is so often stifled. And, even though I knew as an historical fact that he would make it, somehow the chance that he might not was palpable. And yet by the end of the film I had that feeling of having only seen something 'as if through a glass darkly' and yet for all that more clearly and there was a slight feeling of needing a drink, the thought of which I decided to let pass without action, rather to sit with the feelings.

Reflecting upon salient aspects of my experience watching this film I recall: the calm, centred expansive and controlled Pushkin; the form of a chair in Pushkin's apartment; the depiction of Nureyev's wonder as a child at the world and his thirst for experience of what was important to him; the clarity of focus in Nureyev as he cut through the stifling conventions of society. It is perhaps, too obvious to remark that (whilst understated) the whole film is perfused with Nureyev's potent sexuality. What then, in this mix and my own karma to elicit my feelings of having seen something 'as if through a glass darkly' and with the attendant (dismissed) thought that a night cap might be in order? It is I think this, that what we see in each of these; Pushkin, the chair and Nureyev is the emergence out of chaos of beauty and it is seen dimly because it exists in relation to the observer. And that fleeting thought of a nightcap was in reaction to the enormity of the perceived gap between my everyday experience and the possibility of a perfection so impossible as to render itself little more than a perverted glimpse of the deeper possibility afforded by a harmonious allowing of natural unfolding of the Tao. It is then obvious that a softening in to this allowing reveals the illusion of the gap and at the same time demonstrates the natural eroticism of experience and the beauty of it when attended by clarity.

I've read that Nureyev was like a child trapped in an adult's body. But is it not that he was to an extent simply less trapped than the bulk of us are? This returns me to Pushkin; his self control is liberating and he makes the point in the film that he teaches technique but that the dancer must use this to say something. And here I think we have the nub of the matter. Just what is it that we each really want to say? And more fundamentally to whom? What is seen through a glass darkly is the reflection of oneself as the very mirror itself, it is the resolution of the paradox of separation and the answer to the koan is the experience of beauty. Somehow in the portrayal of Pushkin and Nureyev both Fiennes and Ivenko bring this to life. And for me personally there is something in the Russian idiom the white crow - the outsider, which (at least in this film) is evocative of the shaman. There is I think, a shamanic quality to Nureyev as he's portrayed in this film and it elicits the potential for transformation.

Sunday 10 January 2021


I just did a zoom session with the dance collective I usually dance with. We danced at home in lockdown to the music and connected as best we could through the small video images and chat log. I quite quickly felt so sad; memories of dancing together in a public space with the feel of the floor, the space, the people, the sounds, the altar, the hugs and smiles... all so many months ago. And it's not just a social dance, no, it's the heart connection; the inner and outer connection; beings together setting aside the wrestling with any struggles to just be in them and to feel the space, the vast vast space that holds us, and to dance it. To dance it what ever it is, good, bad or indifferent, happy and joyous or more difficult. To hold a space for ourselves and each other, to let the body feel it and breath and move. Oh how my body mind and spirit need that. No wonder I've felt ill at ease without quite being able to say what was the trouble... oh sacred space to dance how we need this.

I've not been doing these zoom dance sessions as I found at the start of lockdown that they didn't really work for me. But I'm glad I had this connection. The dance at the physical level was little more than a jig about, barely a warm up by my usual energies BUT the memory of breathing and dancing oh so important! Dance dance wherever you may be...

Oh how I hope we can all dance together again soon!