It’s always looked like when they were little girls, ballerinas decided they wanted to be fairy princesses and trained like superheroes to get there.
The X-Men have their Danger Room. Batman has the BatCave.
Ballerinas have the barre.
I grew up reading comic books, got into Martial Arts, and fell in love with action movies from a young age. Superheroes – more specifically, powerful bodies – have always been a constant source of fascination and appreciation for me.
Back in college when we were all shooting the shit in the Martial Arts club, the subject of ballet came up. Many famous Martial Artists have studied ballet – Jean Claude Van-Damme and David Lee Roth immediately come to mind - and one of the guys made a disparaging remark about ballet. One of the other guys piped up and said, “You have to think about it this way: that ballerina in her pink tutu can – from their tip-toes – jump into a head-high 720 tornado kick that pretty much takes your head off, land on their toes, and do it without breathing hard and with a smile. You sure you don’t want to learn how to do that, too?”
From that day on, I never thought of ballerinas the same way again. Then, I met some.
Dancers are crazy. I mean that with such an insane amount of respect. Think about it:
From an early age, these women are in classes where they encourage and strain and carefully force their bodies into hyper-flexible states. They train their bodies to do extraordinary feats of strength that would make most other athletes cry and cringe and make it all look graceful, effortless, beautiful.
From their tip-toes.
Pointe work boggles my mind, still. Those shoes sum up so much of what I love about dancers: they’re deceptively pretty, almost dainty looking. Until you see how hard that damn box is. Until you see a dancer beat the hell out of her pointe shoes to warm them up, to break them in. Until you look at the bottom of them after an act in a show and see how torn up they get, evidence of unbelievable forces that the dancer exerts.
You can’t fake pointe. Not really, not to trained eyes.
There is a truth you can’t fake when you watch a dancer move in those shoes: her level of comfort and stability and confidence.
The flex of strong muscles bearing weight.
The turn of hips and tightening of the core.
The intelligence put into her hands and shoulders.
The quest for perfect shapes.
The truth that proper technique is a means of self-expression through a fixed lens.
Which is why, to me, Pointe Is Truth.
This is as much of a celebration of that grace and effortlessness as it is about a dancer’s power and strength and fortitude. It’s about admiring the art that they’re able to create with their bodies and acknowledging the beauty of the bodies they’re using.
And, let me be clear: there are rampant body-image issues within the dance community, but also in society as a whole. There are many dancers who I’ve worked with who look at those who came before them and said in so many words, “I wish I looked like her.”
In some small way, I hope to empower dancers – women - to see themselves as we see them: strong, beautiful and a force of nature.
This is about a celebration of the hard work that these extraordinary women have put into their craft and themselves. Therefore, I’m leaving their bodies un-Photoshopped. While I do not think Photoshop is evil in and of itself, I am calling the series “Pointe Is Truth”, right? I want to honor that truth of their bodies as well.
Thank you so much for reading this, and I do hope you enjoy.
- Theik Smith, September 28th, 2016