Tilting at Windmills?

It's been a very busy week, but I guess they all are. There won't be any let up until I get through Semana Poética at the end of October. At the moment my mind is on the relationship between poetry and painting. We'll be considering this in my literature course soon, mainly in the context of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. So we'll talk about some poems by Rafael Alberti dedicated to Velázquez, Goya, and Picasso, and we'll talk about Guernica and some of what has been written about that iconic work. If I can help my students become more aware of some of the multitude of dialogues a work invites them to participate in, between artists, between artists and other works of art, between the work and what readers/viewers have already experienced in other works of art, etc., then I will feel I've been successful. Of course, I can only be aware of their awareness if they are able to articulate something about the dialogues they are hearing. I hope I can help them in that regard.
I guess I was thinking about something similar this morning when I was considering what I have observed regarding the development of ballerinas. In the process I've learned a little, very little, but a little, about ballet as an art form. Good dialogues require that the participants speak the same language, and preferably with a high degree of proficiency. The language of ballet is a demanding one and is acquired only after many years of extremely rigorous training. It was in that context that I read a policy statement in the CPYB student handbook titled "CPYB's Rising Stars Philosophy." The text outlines quite succinctly, no doubt mainly for parents, the school's philosophy regarding student progress and how that progress may relate to performance opportunities. Ability, hard work, dedication, and perseverance are essential prerequisites. But they are no guarantee that they will result in the hoped for performance opportunities! In our touchy-feely, don't tread on my self-esteem society, this is a bold statement. And a refreshingly honest one! The artistic director has many, many considerations to make, and, let's not forget, decisions regarding individual casting are made in the context of what is best for the work. In short, it's not about individuals. Learning to deal with disappointment is a hard lesson. I was reminded of this when Asun related to me how she witnessed a sad moment: a young student in bitter tears after learning she had not been promoted to the next level. Oouch! But if that little girl can recover, and understand that the dialogue she wants to be a part of simply demands more training, then she'll have acquired an invaluable lesson. She may conclude the effort is not worth it--that's fine, and is in no way a defeat. The defeat comes when you stop dreaming. (But, as Antonio Machado so beautifully shows us, over and over: dream awake!) There are an awful lot of big dreams in the heads of those young dancers. Every day they see the photos of the ones who made it adorning the walls. The stars! The big names. Inspiring. And maybe intimidating. It can be a harsh place sometimes, no doubt, just as Víctor Ullate's school in Madrid can be an unforgiving environment. And so the faculty at CPYB make, I believe, quite commendable efforts to be honest: no false promises, the dream is not going to work out for everyone. But the effort expended, the invaluable discipline acquired, may just help more than one kid realize bigger, more important dreams.
Maybe we're all just tilting at windmills. And let's remember: Don Quixote's victory came late in life, very late, when he put his feet on the ground and realized it was fine, indeed a blessing, just to be Alonso Quijano.
(Above, a photo I took this past spring; a couple of windmills in La Mancha that were likely around in Cervantes' day.)