Paper Doll Dancer

Paper Doll DancerThis dancer existed before she existed, from a time when I was doing paper cutouts for my Christmas tree. A plain white  sillouette, she livened my tree along with others in various poses. Lights gave them their glow… and even the illusion of movement.

She has been revived for an exhibit of paper dolls, planned by my friend, Diane Stevenson, to open at the Mary C. Okeefe Center on April 12, 2013. Many artists will participate.

This was a project that I had procrastinated about for some time. I don’t have much confidence as a painter, and I could barely imagine making costumes that would fit. It was something new, and I was much occupied with other things.

Paper Doll Dancer with My Hand 031 (768x1024) (2)When I finally faced the fact that it was now or never.  I took out the sillouette “en arabesque” (she was slightly bent out of shape from being sandwiched with the others between the covers of an old drawing paper pad). I straightened her carefully (She was definitely the one.), and traced her onto a sheet of very good watercolor paper. Then I went and had lunch.

The next day I pushed all my nervous doubts aside, filled a bowl with water, and opened my box of Prang paints. Once settled on my old “kneeling seat”…brush in hand, a strange calm came over me: a sense of belonging right where I was. My heart gave a sigh. I had been here before: Hadn’t I illustrated my “Blue Chair” book a few years back with considerable ease and pleasure. Yes… It had been a while. But the sweet familiarity of wetting the brush and mixing the paints brought me back…gave me courage for the task. Applying the brush to the contours of the young dancer, bringing some color into her pallor, seemed to liven her whole demeanor and – by so doing – enlivened mine. We were both revived by this process. We were one.

Paper Doll Dancer (Blue-green Dancing Dress) (799x1024) (2)For the first costume I kept it simple. A pretty little dancing dress, a small wisp of color and freedom that just might appeal to a young girl for whom dancing freely is the best sort of release.  As for me, I was feeling my way…still not quite secure enough to be more inventive. By the following day, my balletic past had asked to be honored. More detail would be required. By then I was up to the challenge. A tutu!

Paper Doll Tutu 040 (768x1024) (2)Alright…yes, I could draw and paint a tutu, could make it fit the slender torso of my dancer, find a way to make it less confining, less expecting of exactness. Oh! Brilliant idea! I would use the colors of the chakras to soften the rigid shape, add a playful note to a less than playful moment in my memory.  A flower for her hair brings to mind the Don Quixote pas de deux. But no fan, please…

After this I moved on to my liberation, when – thanks to Isadora Duncan, and the birth of my daughter – I left ballet behind me, and eventually discovered Airth: my dance of balance….my long time devotion to oneness with nature through uniting breath and movement.

Paper Doll Dancer, Airth Costume (768x1024) (2)Ahhh…comfort. Ahhh…ease of movement. Ahhh…freedom reflected by the flow of thin muslin…freedom based upon a strong sure torso practiced in the undulation at the core of all natural movement. I am nature, I am human nature. I am convinced that I am free to be me…and teach others the same. I perform and teach in equal measure, and they overlap. Airth was a long run…probably still running, though the outward expression has changed. Has evolved?

It is time to move on. The older woman, with a new kind of freedom in mind, flew to Paris. Her heart woke up in the city of lights; every step seemed a dance. She fell in love…with Paris, returning again and again. The older woman remembered the dream of her younger self, and wrote a novel in which Lily/Leif got to dance at the Paris Opera. L’Opera! I give you the last costume..now. Voila! La Danseuse en Paris.

Paper Doll Paris Outfit 037 (768x1024) (2)

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2 Responses to “Paper Doll Dancer”

  1. Kendall Says:

    I love everything about this post. The paper doll is a stand-in for a woman whose dance is and always has been her life, in various costumes: beautifully balanced on strong legs with large hands for making gestures, bread, pictures, poems. Whatever you make. Including blog posts.

  2. leiflife Says:

    Oh, Kendall… It meant so much to me to do this post. It may be playful…and an accounting of a process, but… Of course you would know the depths that are expressed. Thank you…

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