To Messrs C. Beaumont & S. Idzikowski
What great pleasure does seeing published this fine volume on the art of dancing bring me! And how touched am I by your having dedicated it to me!
You who cultivate this art form with an artist’s love and sincerity, rather than with the detached of the cool professional have compiled a work that is destined to succeed. But I am not alone in welcoming it – your labours will be greeted with enthusiasm by all those concerned with the art form’s future. Although the volume’s declared aim may be modest, it has cunningly collated and synthesised, with great clarity and precision, a school brought to its present state of accomplishment by three splendid generations of artists.
Not only do I sing the merits of your work – I cherish the hope that it be imitated and that it break the path for the more extensive publications the art of dance has long awaited.
Some would denigrate our art form as futile and decadent. That opinion merely reflects the profane, narrow mindset of those unable to imagine anything that might arise above the most mundane of daily tasks.
How can one describe as futile an art form that displays and develops the marvellous beauty of the human form, just as one sees in a marble sculpture, or a painting on canvas? No less venerable, noble and dignified than sculpture or painting, is the superb beauty of the dance.
From a practical standpoint, the dance lends its practitioners not only strength and health, but elegance and grace as well. How wrong the physiologists have been, in allowing the dance to be struck from physical education programmes! Whereas, its advantages are far greater than sports, whose stark tensions do but stiffen the limbs and coarsen the soul, as the exasperated sportsman in his search for victory thrusts aside all but muscular striving and nervous strain, with the sole aim of crushing his adversary under foot. Whereas, the dance develops each articulation and muscle in accordance with the most natural function, ever in balance and in the greatest harmony. While elevating the mind, the dance shapes gesture, leading from one pose and one movement to the next, not idly but obeying the rules of silent poetry and musical rhythm.
How can one call the dance a decadent art? Cast out from the temples of ancient Hellas, a passing visitor to the salons of France or the stages of Italy, Terpsichore has now found in Russia her Templar Knights, her Vestal Virgins, her staunchest champions. Buoyant with new life, she lifts the heavy spirits of mortal men.
Nothing could make me happier in this, the autumn of my artistic life, but to see in the young a fresh blossoming of our art.
Alas! For those who do not know or have never seen, this art form may indeed seem futile and decadent. But it has had its classical, and its romantic period. It has known a school of truth, and a futuristic epoch, bizarre and tortuous perhaps… The dance will nonetheless live on, forever young, for beauty is to the mind what matter is to the physical order: it may alter, but will never die.
Translation by K. L. Kanter, Paris, November 2014