Together Yet ApartBeth Williams
By Georgia Finnegan
A thin veil of darkness covers the first rays of daylight as I begin my morning rhythm. Only the percolating sound of coffee interrupts my quiet time. I step into my study, open the second drawer of my 1950’s desk, and grasp my waiting journal and daily readings. I’m in place, embraced by a sheltering home.
Thoughts of family, friends, and colleagues meander through my mind. I miss their physical closeness and how easily we could visit, work, and dance before this novel coronavirus pandemic. Digital togetherness takes center stage now and an attitude change is in order.
As a dancer I need to move my body, stretch my limbs and muscles, and explore all possibilities that exist to mesh everyday movements with ballet. Instead of classical ballet, I do what I call functional ballet. I commit to keeping my core muscles taut and held while I’m standing, aligning my shoulders and hips when I walk, flexing and pointing my feet as I sit, stretching my muscles in the small spaces of my home, standing on demi-pointe at the kitchen counter or bathroom sink, and racing up and down the stairs to engage my fast-twitch muscles.
A functional ballet exercise includes a good social distancing activity: walking and exploring the neighborhood. A deep longing for nature and the outdoors goes back to my childhood when every mid-summer my family took our annual trek from Saint Paul, Minnesota “back home” to Butler, Pennsylvania. With tingling excitement, I would climb into the back seat of my family’s barn-red Ford station wagon and head back home to Granny’s house.
Years later, memories of those annual trips still resonate within me. I can close my eyes, open my ears, and hear the reverberation of the brick road against the car’s wheels as we safely arrive on the street where Granny lived. I remember fearlessly exploring the gully and woods by her home. I longed to serendipitously find a hidden creek with the melodious sound of gurgling water.
I never found a hidden creek, but life gave me a new home not far from my Saint Paul roots–Minnehaha Creek. Walking and exploring this creek not only exercised my legs but also refreshes my attitude.
I recently shared with a close confidante and friend, who is an extraordinary ballet dancer and coach, my thoughts how digital living makes for a dissonance in close relationships and that together apart demands an ever-resilient positive attitude. I asked her what she thinks when I say attitude. She belly-laughed and answered, “It makes me think of all the places in the world where you have struck an attitude pose.” I threw my head back and also heartily laughed. Yes, she knows me well. An attitude in ballet is my favorite pose. I have ballet attitude photos from St. Petersburg, Russia to the Alpes in France to a beach in St. Martin’s Island to Minnehaha Creek. A nineteenth century dancer, Carlo Blasis derived the attitude pose from the Roman statue of Mercury by Giovanni da Bologna. He stated, Infuse your attitude…with feeling and expression. With these uncertain times I need to infuse my attitude knowing that the winter of our discontent shall pass, and hope will bring a new normal and new understandings.
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.