The Outer Space of Imagination

By Georgia Finnegan

Forty years ago, a friend once told me, “Never stop thinking and imagining.” I haven’t stopped. “I am absorbed in the magic of movement and light. Movement never lies. It is the magic of what I call the outer space of the imagination.” This Graham quotation touches the fiber of my being, both as a woman and as a dancer. In the outer space of imagination, I hear music and my mind’s eye sees dance; I read words and my hand pushes me to write. I begin each day early so the quietness of the morning hours allows my imagination to move quietly and unfettered. From this outer space of imagination, I have garnered creative energies to write a Minnesota history of ballet.

Ballet in Literature

In preparation for writing this book, I read two novels suggested by Calumet Editions: The Dancers of Sycamore Street by Julie L’Enfant and Little Dancer Aged Fourteen written by the French author, Camille Laurens.  The Dancers of Sycamore Street woke me up to the dormant teenager inside me that longed to be a ballerina and to immerse myself completely in the artistic beauty of ballet. My adult reality knew, as the novel’s main character discovers, that artistic temperaments, power struggles and estrangement often taint the beauty of ballet.

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen completely astounded me. I realized that I had a shallow and naïve understanding of late-nineteenth century Parisian life. Laurens vividly portrays how poverty pushed young dancers, les petits rats of the Paris Opéra, into ballet.  With compelling research, Laurens describes the life of Marie van Goethem, Edgar Degas’ model for his statue, La Petite Danseuse.  In addition, Laurens shattered my naïveté about the impressionist artists of that time. Successfully describing the earthy and sensual human side of many of them.

Powerful Women

Both novels, written by women authors, give me encouragement as I reach into my outer space of imagination. I hail from a line of strong women:  a singing and dancing great-grandmother, great-great-aunt preacher, a colorful, bootlegging grandmother and a resilient, salt of the earth, loving mother. The stories of these three women, and how they maneuvered life’s detours, continue to resonate in my memories while their fortitude carries on in my genes.

Now it’s time to put that strong energy into writing. These are not my women stories, but stories about the movers and shakers of the Minnesota dance scene since the 1940’s.

Georgia Finnegan served as the Advancement Director for Minnesota Dance Theatre in 2017-18, and currently as an advisor to its Board of Directors.  With over 30 years in the nonprofit industry in Minnesota, she focuses on education, and arts administration. Georgia, founder of Saint Paul City Ballet (renamed St. Paul Ballet in 2014), continued its growth and development for sixteen years, garnering foundation, corporate, and individual donor support. Georgia works with her husband, Erik Saulitis, a dance photographer, helping market his business, Danceprints. She is a firm believer that the arts, in partnership with corporate, business, and community support, augment the economy of a city and increases the vitality and aesthetic beauty of its community.

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