Wednesday of last week, my wife and I made the nerve wracking journey up 95 to 495 to Bethesda, Md. from Williamsburg, Va. We managed to avoid the man reading the newspaper while tailgating the car in front of him. We avoided all of the texters, the people with their I Phones attached to their ears and the road jockeys. We made the relatively short but dangerous journey :-) because we had a date to see the musical Billy Elliot at the Kennedy Center in D.C. with my wife’s mother. After a wonderful evening of culture, including dinner at the Rooftop Terrace Restaurant at the Kennedy Center and seeing Billy Elliot, I thought there must be a blog here!
Not quite sure of what to write about, we came home bringing my mother-in-law and her Billy Elliot movie with us. We watched it and for many reasons it moved me, compounding my desire and need to write about it, relating it to art.
I remember well seeing The Russian Ballet Company of Delaware perform in our little town of Camden, Maine in the mid-1990’s. I was taken by the beauty of the movements, the discipline that it must take to be so precise and make it look effortless. I remember vividly from art school the ballerina paintings by Edgar Degas. Degas’ passion for painting and for the ballet came together to produce a prolific, profound body of work having completed over 1500 paintings portraying the Paris Opera Ballet. His paintings captured the hard work, movement, emotions and the beauty of the ballet. Prima Ballerina by Degas is pictured below.
On a recent tour of a collector’s home I was just admiring a modern marble statue of a ballerina that spun effortlessly around a vertical axis. Ballet produces an elegance to the human form that goes unnoticed in everyday life. We have a friend whose daughter is on her way to becoming a prima ballerina, dedicating herself to her craft from a young age. I appreciate the artistic nature of ballet but embarrassingly so, that is about the extent of my knowledge of the art.
So what affected me so much with the musical and movie Billy Elliot? There are many life lessons to take away but here is what moved me: The passion for dance that Billy developed, first because he enjoyed it, second because he became good at it, but most of all because he was able to express what he called “a fire inside of him”. He said he felt like he was invisible and that he was flying when he was dancing. It took him to another place where he was at peace and happy. Dance became a possible way out of what others expected of him. Billy was willing to follow his dream even if it wasn’t what others expected, even if others found it odd and even if he was ridiculed.
It took me a long time to discover what I was passionate about. I feel fortunate that I am doing what I love to do. I was lucky and had a wonderful childhood, unlike Billy, but for years I thought you had to make a living carrying a briefcase and work in accounting or a similar field. Deciding to become an artist whether it is a painter, dancer or musician really is putting yourself “out there”. It is scary to most and many unfortunately don’t take the risk and miss the journey.
I loved Billy’s passion and how he was willing to put himself “out there”. I love to meet successful people, hear their story of where they came from, what drives them, when did they know who they wanted to be, whether it is in business or the arts.
Whenever I need a little motivation, a boost of energy or to rekindle my passion, I will watch the movie Billy Elliot again and remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I love to do. Without a doubt harnessing one’s passion and applying it to one’s craft will help an artist take his or her work to another level, whether it is expressed through a paint brush, by musical instrument or in a dancer’s movements. It is a wonderful emotion to feel inside and to be able to express in ways that others might appreciate.