May 1st. Workers' Day! So let's talk about work. This morning there is an interesting article in the Times by David Brooks, who I typically find rather pedantic. He writes about genius and the common notion, now supported by recent research, that talent really is, after all, mainly a question of hard work and practice. This is the third or fourth article I've read in the past several weeks on this new research. So, kiddies, no excuses. Get working. Brooks refers to a tennis academy in Russia where the students practice rallies without a ball. The idea is to get the student to slow down and focus exclusively on technique. Brooks points out that "in this way, performers delay the automatizing process. The mind wants to turn deliberate, newly learned skills into unconscious, automatically performed skills. But the mind is sloppy and will settle for good enough." Tell me about it! Excepting perhaps basketball, my motto growing up, more than "good enough", was more like "what the hell." (And, unfortunately, for me, the genetic hand I was dealt did not really help in terms of pursuing a future in basketball. See any 5' 7'' white guys in the NBA recently?) As a young woman Marcia Dale Weary clearly understood this reality intuitively. This is why I find seeing a few minutes of a class at CPYB so fascinating. Repeat, repeat... again, again. Stop. Correct. Again... Of course genes play a role, but perhaps we've been giving them way too much credit. There are four principal dancers in New York City Ballet, considered by many the top ballet company in the world, who did their formative training in Carlisle at CPYB. It ain't the water. (You will also find CPYB alums in the principal ranks of many of the world's top ballet companies.) There is a photo, reproduced above, CPYB uses often in their brochures and programs of Marcia Dale Weary down on hands and knees helping a small child get her foot into exactly the right position. It's a charming photo and gets right at the heart of this question: no detail is too small. (And, we might add, the poignant symbolic lesson: no true master is too proud to humble him/herself if it's necessary for the development of the student.) Technical perfection is a prerequisite for those who want to aim high. You can't cut corners. Etc., etc. If ballet were a question of inherent talent, you'd expect the top companies to be populated with kids coming out of little academies from all over the world. But it doesn't work like that. They come mainly from the handful of places where the work and dedication is most intensive. But it's a wonderful thing we have all these little dance schools (and art schools, saturday morning soccer leagues, piano lessons, etc.): life would be pretty darn miserable if we could only experience the new through the filter of intensive training.
Yesterday Soler visited the literature class taught by Antonio Hierro. He came to talk about his work with Banderas on the film adapatation of his novel El camino de los ingleses. It was an excellent session and Soler, as always, made some observations that reminded me of his own experiences and his determination, from a young age, to be a novelist. And not just a novelist, but one of the very best. Work, work, work... and it's paying off. National Critics Prize, Nadal Prize, general critical praise, etc. In the larger photo, CPYB alum Ashley Bouder, critically acclaimed principal at New York City Ballet. So, from top photo to bottom photo we're talking well over 10,000 hours of exhausting training. Literally. I'm guessing Daniela is somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000. Seems pretty crazy, but who's to question another's dreams? And if the dream takes another direction, or simply doesn't work out? That's fine. After all, excuse the cliché, it's about the journey.