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Balancing Yin and Yang in the Arts

Worf Ballet

So, I went to a variety performance about a month ago called Fall for Dance at the OC Performing Arts Center. There were some interesting dances. But the last one, called Soldier’s Mass, by The National Ballet of Canada, kind of prodded me on a topic that I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and that would be the balance of Yin and Yang, or in my broad, non-Taoist use of it, masculinity and femininity, in the liberal arts.

Wiki describes Yin and Yang as the following:

Yin is usually characterized as slow, soft, insubstantial, diffuse, cold, wet, and tranquil. It is generally associated with the feminine, birth and generation, and with the night. Yang, by contrast, is characterized as hard, fast, solid, dry, focused, hot, and aggressive. It is associated with masculinity and daytime.

I hadn’t read the program prior to watching the performances, so when the last one came up, all I knew was that it would be a ballet. And it was. A ballet about soldiers, war, death, and what have you. An ambitious goal. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t really buy into it. It was my first ballet (well, not counting the pas de deux before it), so I’m not sure if there is even such a thing as a masculine ballet (I presume not), but the dance was definitely too feminine given the subject matter. Yes, the obvious war symbolism was there, soldiers falling (slowly), dying, etc. But when I deconstructed the moves, I saw men lifting up other men, spinning them gracefully about, with their perfectly pointed tippy toes, all while exuding the traditional “lightness” of ballet. The flamboyance just didn’t really convey the tragedy of war to me. One can’t just throw on some fatigues, play back a sad soundtrack, and call it a day. Too much Yin. Perhaps if the movements had been a little less smooth and fluid, if the forms had been more “serif” versus “sans-serif” for you typography nuts, I could have liked it more. Just a little more Yang, please.

In of itself, there’s nothing wrong with flamboyance, but the question is, does it fit? The stereotype against gay people is that they are flamboyant. And that’s usually not the case. You go to the battlefield, (if) you (can) find a gay soldier, he’s like any other soldier. You find a female soldier on the battlefield. Same thing. You’re not going to see her whip out her floral dress while unloading an M4, blowing kisses. So I wouldn’t expect a Maori war dance to be sung along to how Jack met Jill and how stellar their romantic getaway was. Nor would I expect a Star Trek ballet to work without me busting up laughing. Props to trying to get dichotomies to work together, but if it fails, it can result in pure comedy, intended or otherwise. If it works, I guess the artist(s) has struck gold.

That’s not to say I don’t think it isn’t possible to convey Yang through Yin or vice versa. I think some of my favorite balanced works are by female artists and authors giving their take on masculinity or on traditionally masculine works. Take for instance, The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. That’s one of my favorite books. It’s a retelling of the Arthurian legends as told completely through the perspectives of the women. Morgaine, Gwenhwyfar , etc. The men are still in there, doing there thing, crushing skulls, etc, but they’re largely in the background. Man, I really wanted an autographed copy, but she has passed on. Then there’s Neil Gaiman. He has pretty balanced works, as well. Stardust (the book, not the movie) was so cute. Ha, speaking of the word “cute,” I used to shun that word like the plague back in high school. Too feminine. I actually used surrogate words in its place. So stupid. “It looks…funny/strange/odd/neat/cool.” But never “cute.” Now, I don’t give a shit. “Cute cute cute cute cute!”

I realize now my example of conveying Yang through Yin or Yin through Yang is a bit of a cheat, though. Both elements are still present. So is it possible to convey the other while using only one? Now that would be an interesting problem to tackle, and a very interesting artistic work to see, if one exists (and, I think, totally counter to the Yin/Yang philosophy). It’s like those literary exercises: “Describe green without using green, nor any shade thereof, and without using any object of said color.” Hmm, that’s not quite it either. More like, describe “white” only in terms of “black” or vice versa.

So yeah, balance. It’s a good thing. You’ve got Saw and other ultra-violent movies on one end. Then your Dawson’s Creek on the other. The former didn’t interest me at all, the second made me feel really uncomfortable, almost physically uncomfortable. “Cannot compute.” Actually, almost like the tv was reaching out, and applying foundation on my face = change channel. And then you’ve got the tasty stuff in between. I would say Kenshin from my other post would be 65/35 masc/fem. It’s pretty bloody, but there’s a nice subplot of femininity tempering unchecked masculinity. And, no, I’m not trying to say anything about gender roles. A female could easily epitomize masculinity, and vice versa. I do find it more likely that a woman can dig masculine stuff rather than a man enjoying feminine stuff, though. I’m still looking for that work written by a heterosexual male that totally pulls off the female perspective convincingly. I think it would be an interesting demonstration of skill and understanding. But I don’t know of one. Hmm. I wonder if Joss Whedon counts, actually. I’m not a girl so I guess I wouldn’t be able to recognize for sure anyway. Though Buffy did do ridiculously well with the womenfolk.

http://www.sfballet.org/

Now, this looks interesting. Not sure how long that splash vid will be there, but this program has a nifty modern feel to it. I don’t think ballet will be replacing motorsports or MMA for me anytime soon, but still, I won’t know if I’ll like it until I see it, huh? These dancers definitely look more into it than the dude in the pas de deux I saw.

Damn, SF looks like a nice place to live.


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