Thursday, February 17, 2011
Attending a dance performance always makes me walk just a bit differently afterward. I stand up a little straighter, my neck elongates, there’s a purposefulness to my movement that’s somewhat more catlike. Last night I saw The Washington Ballet’s new Rock & Roll- a work in three parts that conflates the traditions and structure of ballet, that storied institution, with the freedom and irresistible swagger that made – and makes – rock & roll so exciting. Doing so uses the best of both to great physical effect: the idea that the next move could be either a loose-hipped gyration or a tightly executed pirouette, and they both happen. When the bursts come, they are explosive, but then they stop, they break, just short of the peak, and then do it again, snapping tight, releasing, the stare and flicker of the eyelash all part of the act. That essential control of the body in ballet is why the form is so important as a foundation. Something like the idea that you must know the rules so that you may break them.
It’s this foundation in ballet that allows model Karlie Kloss to so magnetically take charge of the runway. As Washington Post reporter Sarah Kaufman wrote from Fashion Week on Tuesday, ballet served as an essential part of the model’s training. Interest in Kloss, her walk and her ballet background is nothing new, however. Beyond simply grace, what ballet taught her was body control and manipulation. It taught her presence, and it gave her the foundation for subversion. Kaufman’s article focuses on the model’s feminine, gracefully sexy walk, but it was not always so. Her walk now is not the walk it used to be. Kloss looks markedly different in 2011 than she did nearly three years ago, in 2008, when New York magazine palled around with the slightly gawky then-15 year-old, talking prom and introducing her to Molly Simms, who plays the Fairy GodModel and pronounces her pretty. In the video accompanying Kaufman’s piece, Kloss has clearly transformed from the lanky teenager to a more filled-out woman, and her movement has changed accordingly. She is freer now. Her hips move more, and they mirror the sway of her shoulders and the subtle tilts of the head. She is still ballet, but she is definitely also rock & roll.