Dancers in Pink

Dancers in Pink, Edgar Degas, 1885

Degas was a grumpy artist. But he created loveliness. That’s the encouragement I need at the moment.

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The Dance Class

The Dance Class, Edgar Degas, 1873-76
The Dance Class, Edgar Degas, 1873-76

This month, since I am writing a poem a day, my art posts will have poetry to accompany them. It’s rather like having music to accompany a dance–it enriches the experience without taking away from the masterful work. And I’m only saying that because I’m sure it’s something this old dance instructor might have said. Here is my poem about him.

The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer

The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas, c. 1881
The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas, c. 1881

My little girls have an interest in ballet. To determine if the interest has more to do with the pretty tutus and shoes, I bought a DVD featuring a ballet class for little girls (and did not buy the cute little outfits). We have watched it twice now, pointing our toes, standing tall, and stretching muscles we don’t normally stretch. It’s fun! Degas had a deep interest in watching dancers and their movements. I am beginning to understand why… when each movement is perfected and put together with others, it becomes a work of art, intentional beauty, practiced grace.

Degas’ Dancer on Stage

the-star-dancer-on-stage
The Star (Dancer on Stage), Edgar Degas, circa 1878
Sandee, from my novella “A Portrait of Happiness and Love,” has her own copy (a copy she painted in high school) of this painting hanging on her wall. On a night when her mind is particularly attuned to spiritual matters, she derives from the painting “a picture of what God sees looking at me. The entirety of humanity looms in the background, but I am in clear focus.”

Impressionists like Degas are known for their untraditional vantage points. In this case, the viewer looks down at the dancer, as if the viewer is in a balcony seat. Sandee’s insights, however, make me wonder what the artist (any artist) thinks of his works in terms of spirituality. Some might faithfully try to duplicate God’s creation. Others create a world of their own design. And perhaps Sandee is right; some artists might try to paint what God sees. This gives us a whole other way to wrap our minds around art.