Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Iron Ballerina

I have been at the keyboard for some time, now, dealing with an editor, an old friend, and a Pope, but I've yet to hear the call for lunch, so I'll start up a post.
Yes, I am admittedly late on this year's review of the annual dance show that features two of my beautiful granddaughters and their hard working compatriots. The show was great, they were great, and I was once again educated by a section of the arts I have never played a very great part in. This time, especially by the boys.
You never know from one year to another how many of the male gender will show up. There are always a couple or three of the little guys, some years even quite a lot, but the ongoing general failure of western education - and possibly this stupidity works a wider circle - keeps making it difficult for boys to grasp the essential and irreplaceable wisdom of dance as one of the ultimate, if the not absolutely ultimate, factors in fitness, to say nothing of all the good it does for their minds, nervous systems, sense of balance, self-confidence, and so on.
And that is exactly the pitch that the mistress of the whole affair, Sabian Clover, took to the soccer fields last autumn as the Nelson second season got under way. I wasn't present for her address to the assembled jocks of the own, but I gather it went something like this:
"You think you're in shape now? Come to dance class and you'll find out what real shape is. Besides, you'll meet all sorts of girls."
So, a few came. Sabian already had her sons go through the process, and the plural is important here because a little drama occurred just before the year end show hit the stage. The spring performance plays just after the soccer season starts. Her middle lad went off to his soccer game - obviously he was not under a shooting contract with Warner Bothers - and broke his leg. But the show must go on, and the older brother, who had gone on to other things outside Nelson, came home and took his place.
Now I particularly appreciated this little saga, because the eight or so lads who were on stage, all quite skilfully tossing the girls about, and at the same time demonstrating very good body language, left an image in my head that a very few weeks later turned out to be, I think, as my father used to say, "the one we're looking for", that is, the last image I needed to fill out my own research into a fitness programme that totally satisifies my particular prefences, although I've no objection to anyone deciding that it's also the cat's pajamas for him or her.
This is the "Iron Ballerina", my 17 pound bar bell held aloft over my head while I skip about to the early morning's choice for dancing in the world of a Walkman and its cunning little earphones. The choice is still Emmylou and her musicians. James Burton we saw and heard again on Roy Orbison's "Black and White Nights", and Albert Lee, I realized from a little study of liner notes, is the main man on guitar on the album I began with, back in 78, "Quarter Moon".
When I started with the ukulele, I had a lot of questions neither my little instruction book nor, I suspect, anyone else in the music world could answer. That situation has changed, much for the better. This morning I had to ponder taking the five-string to Baker Street. Instruction in the modes and their preferential option for perfect comprehension has to start sooner or later. I could set a useful trap, parking myself outside the Royal Bank and strutting up and down in the E mode, both authentic and plagal. Amidst the inevitable tapping of feet and amazed faces, at some point someone who was as ignorant as I was a month ago would advise me that I was doing something dumb with E minor. That would lead to an interesting conversation.
Likewise, from the moment I stepped into the gym I started to have questions no one could answer until I'd finished my almost decade of research, and probably which I could never have answered in a million years if I hadn't happened to be doing my sun salute cool downs at the same time Eric Tuttle was standing still as a stone doing his wu chi.
Yes. The irreplaceable element of motionless exercise. Of course it moves, eventually, once the mind learns to take all its cues from its own body and not some book or trainer inflicted decisions, for all that these are also part of the general educational process. But there can be no true joy or in the body, or even genuine acceptance, without full understanding of just what the hell is going on.
So I had got around to a lot of stillness, a lot of gentle overhead stuff, and then, after watching those lads and later finding my beginning-of-the-yard-work-season-shoulders lacking in endurance at the wheelbarrow and our uphill climb with it, I had the moment of inspiration. My dancing legs were in pretty good shape, so now bring in the upper body with a musical barbell!
My upper back muscles complained very little, so long as I kept my habitually aggressive ambitions to myself, and got into the spirit of it all very quickly. I suspect that to push up over one's head is a more natural first-thing-in-the morning activity than to pull up, as I have been doing for some time with the ladder into the attic. In fact I am more inclined to hit the ladder consistently AFTER I've held the iron ballerina aloft for a bit.
It feels really good, by the way. My shoulder blades have a new life. In fact it feels good even to think about it, which is a well-known sign of Tai Chi wisdom.
In another fitness area, that of arm work that can also be felt in the shoulders, I've now off-loaded two rubber flex bars to people who listen up when I insist on their genius for proving how naturally intelligent it is to start slowly and gently from absolute zero force. The responses are raves.
But perhaps the biggest news, as it covers such a huge cultural front, is that I may have found a way to get the BBC involved in the music question. That probe was launched only yesterday morning, so it might take a while to know one way or the other.

No comments: