“There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years ”
When I was twelve years old my ballet teacher, Jody White, asked her students to read the Walt Whitman poem that begins with these lines. She and her husband, Ralph White, insisted that their students think beyond technique to the artistry that inspires audiences and leaves tracks in the history of dance. They led me to understand that a performing artist’s work is made up of the palette of colors that their life gives them.
“Leda Meredith stood out in a beautifully nuanced portrayal of Lady Macbeth.”
That review was written by Jennifer Dunning of the NY Times for Francis Patrelle’s MacBeth’ in 1994. Fine, but how did I get there? How does a young dancer translate her or his passion into believable characters that will move an audience? A high extension or multiple pirouette is not enough. Those must become the tools, the verbs used to express something more.
I realize that I am going against the current trend here. I have danced so-called abstract work, and loved doing it. But when I look for where this performing art form can make the most impact, I think of moving audiences, making audiences think about something in a different way. Making that guy in the fourth row, the guy who hasn’t cried in years, shed a few tears and go home happier for it. Making that woman in the balcony, who was about to give up, notice that there is beauty in the world, and go home seeing the stars between the skyscrapers for the first time in years.
Technique is invaluable, but only as a language. If I have poor technique, it is as if I am muttering. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the idea I am trying to express is: you won’t get it. On the other hand, if all I am about is technique, it is as if I am reciting perfectly pronounced ABCs who cares?
If there are any students reading this, please listen: learn your technique(s) well, otherwise none will be able to understand what you are trying to say.
Professionals, pay attention. What do you have to offer the audience – the role – the art form? It is upon your choices that the next generation of dancers will build their careers.
Leda can also be found at ledameredith.net
About the writer:
Leda Meredith’s biography deserves to be reprinted in full. the-vu proudly welcomes her exceptional talent to our pages.
As a performer, Leda Meredith’s career spans contemporary dance, classical ballet, and theatre. Her performances have taken her to twenty-five countries on four continents. She has been a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre II, Edward Villella, Manhattan Ballet, Dances Patrelle, and others. She was a company member of Jennifer Muller/The Works for over seven years, and originated numerous roles in the repertory. She returned as Artistic Associate Director for the company’s 25th anniversary season in 1999-2000.
Her piece Lullabye Lane, premiered as part of Jennifer Muller/The Works 25th anniversary season at the Joyce Theater in New York. With original music by composer James Sasser, Lullabye Lane marked their seventh collaboration. They recently completed the full evening work Small Talk At The Volcano. In Spring 2000 she co-created a cabaret style piece entitled All About Angels and Eggs, with Michael Jahoda and Maria Naidu at Dansatelier in Rotterdam. Other choreographic credits include works for Malaparte Theatre Company, the Gene Frankel Theatre in New York, Dixon Place, Peridance International, the Hatch Saturday Series, First Fridays at Five, and the Arts on the Hudson Festival.
She is a returning guest instructor for the Henny Jurriens Stichting in Amsterdam, Western Washington University; and Dance Loft in Rorschach, Switzerland. Leda is currently on faculty with Ballet Academy East. She has taught as part of the 1996 Iles de Danse in France, and for the Artist’s Trusts International Course in England. In December, 1999 she was guest instructor for Carolyn Carlsons Atelier de Paris. Other dance programs she has taught for include the California State University at Los Angeles, and Brigham Young University in Hawaii.