I saw a LOT of movies during the 1980s. It’s what we did. We went to the movies. To the theater. To the cinema!
I saw White Nights in the theater, when it came out in 1985.
I couldn’t drive yet, so it was probably one of my friends – who had their licence already – who found themselves carting around as many theater geeks as could fit in whatever type of car their parents owned to the movies on some given night.
Right out of the gate, this film thrilled me. I had never seen Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in quite this way before. I had seen plenty of ballet but not like this.
This scene is the opening credits of the movie. It’s a truncated version of a ballet by Roland Petit, but I didn’t know that then.
At the time, I thought this particular ballet was something done for the movie, something written especially for the film. I didn’t realize how famous a piece it was, and who was involved in the original collaboration.
Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort is a ballet – choreographed by Roland Petit in 1946, with a story by Jean Cocteau – that tells the story of a young man driven to suicide by his faithless lover, set to the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, by J. S. Bach, BWV 582.
I have felt the pull this character seems to be feeling. I have felt the pain and desperation this man expresses, as he pushes and pulls in an effort to simply quiet his mind.
I know this man, and that “knowing” is what my work is leading me to, what I’m interested in exploring.
What is this connection we feel to others brought on by a piece of art? Why do I know how he feels? How is it that we can share these feelings?
But this piece doesn’t make me what to share this character’s fate, simply because I know his pain. On the contrary.
This performance of this work makes me want to live because of the very fact that I do connect with something being communicated, something that could only be communicated in this way – through the medium of art, ballet, in particular.
Enjoy this luscious emotion fest! (And, I’ve a bonus treat for you below this video!)
BONUS: This is a full performance of this wonderful, haunting piece. Well worth your time.