When I was a little girl, my mom and dad would sometimes let me rent a movie at Video Warehouse. We would occasionally go for
Follow that Bird
, but I didn't actually like that one. Ms. Finch really freaked me out because she wanted to take Big Bird from his peeps on The Street. She misunderstood his situation entirely. I still hate when things are misunderstood. Most of the time, though, I wanted to watch another movie full of danger: Disney's
When it became available on Blueray several years ago, Brendan bought it for me. Watching it recently a LOT with another little girl who claims
as favorite film, I've recalled loving it so, so much. And now I appreciate so much I never saw before. It is a beautiful movie. I love the look of all the characters and scenery. The trees look like those in medieval paintings. Understanding what I do now about childhood influences and experiences and their future effects, I see that the story of
The Sleeping Beauty
has been an informing narrative, and score, in my life.
I think as a little girl I liked
the best because Aurora was my favorite princess. But, watching it as an adult I realize that the music, all adapted from Tchaikovsky's ballet version of the tale, and the fairies were really what I loved. And Philip. I loved Philip. My romantic dreams somewhat developed based on Philip (and Mighty Mouse, ahem... but that's a different post...). Here was this prince who did two things that I still find attractive: 1) He asserted himself, showing confidence and bravery, and 2) He sang and danced. I loved dancing even as a tiny little thing, so a prince who knew how to just walk right up and join in your dance seemed like a great thing. He also cared more about "love" (I do NOT want to have a discussion about whether the instant-infatuation model of early Disney was good for kids or not) than position. After all, as he pointed out, it was the 14th century. Later on in the movie, Philip is a real-deal hero. He has to slay the dragon, Maleficent, who employs "all the powers of Hell." He uses a "sword of truth" to do it. Christ-type, much? Of course I was attracted to him. I want a hero who will slay all the powers of Hell for my sake.
Then there are those empathetic, celebration-loving, gift-giving, thoughtfully planning, sacrificial, virtuosic fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Greatest names ever. I realize now that those fairies were who I really patterned after. And they are there in the fight against evil with Philip- turning arrows to bubbles and boiling oil (how very 14th century!) to rainbow archways. I wanted to be Aurora in my play because she was the star, of course, but I think deep-down I wanted to be those fairies! My little list of adjectives for them became my own character goals for myself. I was never much of a romantic, princess type. I was never the Beauty among my peers. There were other girls to play that part (a fact I was regularly reminded of every time some boy that I liked would come to ask me if some friend or another of mine was into him!). But, I was the fairies. I was a mastermind, a mascot, a planner, a little eccentric, a lover of Flora and Fauna. And I sure did love to flit about.
And when I would flit as a young, young thing, I would hold Tchaikovsky's themes in my head and heart. One day, the Royal Ballet's
was shown on PBS. OH. SNAP. You mean this is a BALLET?!?! You mean that music is BALLET music!?!? I was deleriously happy! The choreography I saw on the screen gelled in my head before I even knew I was trying to learn it. My dramatic heart loved the scenes with Carabosse (Maleficent) casting her curses and Aurora's death-throes dance around the stage, but who did I love the most? The fairies. SO MANY FAIRIES, all with adorable choreography and music. If there was any part of me left that didn't want to be a ballerina, it gave in completely upon sight of
. A few years later, at Summer intensives around the country, I learned lots of solos from the ballet, and I still know them all. I especially loved the giant
My dreams continued coming true when I arrived for year-round intensive ballet instruction and perfomance at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. The first ballet I was cast in was, you guessed it,
, and Ronald Hynd and Annette Page came from England to stage it. They had both been dancers in the Royal Ballet. I read that Hynd had a similar experience to mine- falling in love with
as a young, hopeful dancer in the 1940s. Of course, I had very small bit parts, but I got to be on stage while that wonderful music played and add to the scenes my little smile and body and was therefore in Heaven. I was on stage for all the fairies' variations. I loved every minute. I also got to learn the part of nymph, a baby fairy in the corps de ballet. I laid on stage as a sleeping nobelwoman while the awaited kiss was planted, and I sometimes got to harass the Prince with a rubber snake in the much-coveted, flattering role, Hag #1. That Spring, for our student production, girls were cast to do the fairy variations. I understudied the Fairy of Beauty and struggled with the pointe work but always nailed the pirouettes at the end. I never danced it on stage, but at least I got to rehearse it.
Three years later, after my injury, I was struggling to make it through what I was slowly realizing were my final weeks as a ballet dancer. What was the last ballet of the season?
, of course. One of the better, older dancers in the Professional Division by that point, I was cast to learn and even perform some much more respectable roles than wet nurse and hag. I was learning Lilac Fairy Attendent- a tutu and wing wearing part that I loved. I would dance a lot during that beautiful prologue with all those fairies. But, one terrible day at my doctor's office, he let me know that my injury was clearly not healing and that, yes, that pain was dangerous. I discussed with him that this part I had that I loved so much was hurting me and that it was probably a better long-term decision to let it go. I had to go to the Ballet Mistress' office and confess that I couldn't hang. I was afraid that I'd hurt myself or make too many mistakes because of pain. Boy do I kick myself for that decision now. I don't know that there really was an alternative, but I wish I had just pushed myself to do it anyway. Instead of dancing my way through my favorite ballet scene of all time for my last performance, I stood on stage as a member of the court in a hideous gown and wig and watched everyone else dance everything I had ever hoped for. I hated every moment and would silently cry through the whole thing. I didn't even try to hide it, but of course, no one ever noticed because no one was watching me.
Last year, a friend of mine gave me some free tickets to see that same production. I knew enough to bring along a best friend and our husbands. It was a lovely evening, and the pain of watching it all was somewhat mitigated by time, my own progress, and being able to at least use my knowledge to fill my girlfriend's ear with top-notch, insider commentary! I don't think I even cried. I might have later at home. I was surprised that I didn't get upset while we were there, but I think there are a lot of reasons for that. First, I'm Flora-Fauna-Merryweather type. I want it to be fine for everyone else, and I'm excited, truly excited, to have my experiences, even the really, really crappy ones, make things better or more interesting for others. Also, I have stuffed that ballet pain down with an iron tamp, and it only comes out in very extreme circumstances or when I want it too (although, even then it's hard sometimes). At any rate, I enjoyed the night with my friends and was reminded how much I still love
, even if now I have some really painful memories of it that I really could do without. I see the art in my story. I love the running
theme. I see the artistic intention in
being the first and last ballet I ever danced professionally. Do I understand it? No, I really don't. Or I didn't, but I'm starting to see it.
I was inspired to dredge all this up while watching the Disney
with my daughter a couple of weeks ago. All the tears I should have cried that night at the ballet with my friends came pouring quietly out during the movie. I cannot watch it without dancing all the parts I hear and feeling all the hopes of my childhood come raring up. My sweet little daughter dances along to the movie, and she doesn't even know my history with the whole thing. I watch the fairies now with more identification than ever as they play the role of little mommies to Briar Rose. I see my husband and my God in Philip and am more in love than ever with them both. I cried when I felt the pain of the King and Queen as they hear their daughter being cursed, watch her taken away as a baby, and wait for her safe return, "never knowing." I don't think I would get so much out of the movie if I wasn't watching it with a heart that is so inflamed by the music. I don't think I'd look at my daughter and marvel over the fact that she is here and that I have the stories I have to pass to her and for her to use. People ask me all the time if I'm going to put Hazel in ballet and my heart leaps every time. "Why would I do that to her?" is always the first thought that races through, but it is followed up with all my sweet memories of dreaming and hoping, of waltzing and spinning. I do hope Hazel will find something she loves as much as I loved dancing, as much as I love
The Sleeping Beauty
. Maybe it will be something horrible like basketball. I shudder to think! But I do hope that I will be a good little Flora to her and plan and help on her behalf as she uncovers whatever it is that she loves. I hope that she will have the Sword of Truth. I hope that she will plunge headlong after her dreams and stay in the story. I can't wait to see how
continues to come up. I am sure that it will.
My Blurry Little Dancer
My Princess Aurora
Cutey Peasants (and my friend in the nymph costume)