June's Post-it Notes from Instagram

Over on our Instagram page, we're posting a weekly installation from Clare Johnson's Post-it Note Project, a long running daily project. Here's her wrap-up and statement from June's posts.

June's Theme: Limitless, Stopping

When I was little, my mom brought home what turned into a coveted favorite film—I’d search for it again and again at the library, where it seemed to only surface every few years. A 1977 documentary called The Children of Theatre Street, it explored a historic ballet school in Saint Petersburg. Grace Kelly calmly narrates as Soviet-era kids in tights run around the creaky halls of repurposed early-19th-century buildings, chatting casually with each other while performing physical feats that I felt pretty firmly to be impossible. I loved ballet in a foreign, outside way; I was never going to be that kind of athlete or that kind of gender. As a grown-up artist, I will also never be able to afford ballet tickets. But a few years ago, I made a friend at an art event who often had an extra ticket, generously connected me to volunteering options, sometimes even brings me to rehearsals. The dancers are as astounding as in the movies—more astounding—and endlessly fun to draw. The art of choreography, so different from my art, fills me with frantic unexplored ideas. But the world onstage mostly ignores my world; it’s still hopelessly straight, enacting rigid leftover gender roles that make no sense on these limitless bodies. I wish I had a say in that. A rare occasion watching all-male troupe Ballets Trockadero—diverse male-bodied dancers performing en pointe, queering romantic pas de deux, tenderly supporting each other into lifts and turns—overwhelmed me with emotions the usual ballet rarely touches. Spying on rehearsals with my friend, I’m drawn to the space between the women’s performance selves and everyday selves, unmasked faces, the moment they slouch with tiredness then pull their posture up as if on a string for the next set of leaps. June is when dancers here retire, around my age I think. Carrie Imler is known for executing Swan Lake’s famous 32-turn sequence with an arsenal of double spins thrown in, lifting her arms suddenly in a move that would throw other dancers off-balance. She came back from injuries to perform it one last time, at the very end of her encore show. A huge performance hall of ballet patrons screamed like soccer fans, I felt like reality had been upended, crowds shouting and standing in waves of excitement as she spun in endless rotations. But then it does end—no one else dances it that way. The last post-it is of Red Angels, by choreographer Ulysses Dove. Even with male-female pairs, it felt somehow queerer, made me smile. But also felt slightly ominously dated, early-90s-ish in a way that set off sad little alarm bells. And yes, it was AIDS; he died in 1996, didn’t get to make half of what he should have.