the soul of brevity is a want of wit; if you can dance it, why talk about it?

two-pronged corn forks with red handles. Why not?

The Royal New Zealand ballet in their new stiff tutus. If you haven’t seen ballet for a while, it can seem an absurd artform, a ridiculous discipline. The ballerinas bisected by these tulle discs, the bottoms moving without the tops, and the former attempting to resemble the latter and liberate themselves from gravity, or, at least, trying to leave the floor. On point.

Is it the erotic appeal of the calf? Or arch of the foot? Is it a speciality, a fetish, and, at root, erotic? But erotic like great grandmother’s knickers? When a glimpse of lace did it. Does it need to be justified? As if one should say to lace-makers today, all very well you do what you do but don’t expect anyone to take it seriously. Nobody’s turned on by a dainty these days.

Then lace is a making-lace, a braiding of the body, a turning out of its inner parts, a meshing with the air. And what does ballet do? You have to wait till the end piece in this programme, Red, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet to find out. Jorma Elo is a choreographer equipped to show you how ballet can become what it is.

The brilliance of this particular programme lies therein that it is only at the end of its journey you know why you were submitted to Paquita.

But even here something struck me – apart from finding it delightfully absurd -, possibly as it’s struck a great number of actual enthusiasts before me, the dilettante: ballet is born with opera houses; it comes to be an independent artform from the gallery.

The notion of elevation, specifically, relates to the angle from which the viewer regards the plane of the dance. Point is a function of freeing the dancer to occupy a place midway and therefore central to the horizon of the proscenium stage. That is, looking down from a relatively steep angle at the stage, a grounded dancer, a dancer with both feet flat on the ground, occupies a position which simply does not succeed at the elegance of a ballerina viewed from the same angle on point or lifted. Not a compositional issue. One of architecture.

The architecture of the theatre does not create a level playing-field. It pursues these strange and pleasurable underground relationships with what takes place on stage. Like the advent of ballet, for example.

What is it with the Russians and ballet anyway? What is it with the old colonies of Europe and some of the high artistic forms today? I recall seeing an extraordinary exhibition of West African high modernist sculpture maybe fifteen years ago. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska would have wept. Had he not been dead, along with a generation of artists. Tradition=smishrthleghvc-ition.

The Russian school was a dangerously fundamentalist offshoot. They invented nihilism. They lived at the limit of the old Europe and they knew it. And in the vital arts, notably theatre and dance – but think also of Malevich’s notebooks, which as Bruce Chatwin said, held in ovum just about every major artistic movement which was to come to pass – and in film, don’t you know – the traditions involuted. Folded into themselves.

What began as snobbery, ended as a thing nobody could live with: a pushing to the limit of an adopted line of enquiry in the arts. Although, too, think of sports, of science: consider the steroids in the great Soviet era of female weight-lifters; remember the electrification by which Uncle Joe got half a continent line-dancing; and the art trains of the 1920s. Ah. The 1920s.

Makes me wonder about NZ’s powers of incubation: there are, no doubt, some European cultural legacies yet latent in the backlands of our sheep – and latterly, dairy- – farming nation.

A further note about the Russian ballet: wasn’t it exactly because of its superficiality, its outward show of a cultural fealty to Europe, that it could sustain being weighted with an entire nation’s nationalist wannabe-European bliss-seeking? For its Nietzschean lightness, on point, the higher it reached, the ballet, the higher it leapt, the ballet, the higher it was lifted, by men who were about to become more famous than the women they lifted, the greater the aspiration betokened thereby, to be European. A football game can mean national shame. A ballet equally can show national pride. Nothing to do with the artform, but good for it.

I follow, I think it was Raeywn White, in her review of the Royal NZ Ballet, on Eva Radich’s Concert FM show, in taking “Abisheka”, the second part of Red for a wholly excellent, however, predictable piece of balletic choreography. By Adrian Burnett. It was derivative, said Eva Radich. NO. My analytic brain outpaced my sensory involvement with the piece, effected the words said by the reviewer.

I’ll hang with that summation. Sources were visible. Maybe internal to the tradition but the piece not solid, transparent to its sources. Your ancestors are showing, one might say. And so are John Psathas’s. Here.

“Abisheka” added a wholly necessary layer of sense: ballet interpreting contemporary dance. The star in this part of the programme was Tracy Grant Lord’s set and costume design. But the nose kept striking the glass of a representative piece.

I’d like to know if it was Raeywn White’s review that set Jorma Elo up as the legatee of William Forsythe’s reimagining of the balletic tradition, and Jiri Kylian and Matz Ek’s contribution to meeting this reimagined tradition with a gewisse musicality and sense of innovation in movement.

Where execution in “Paquita” had been questionable, here it was exceptional. Where conception in “Abisheka” had felt external to the drive of ballet – like there could be anything proper to it -, here was ample justification for the suspension of the dancer between the ground of contemporary dance and the ceiling of a transcendental dance. Viewed from the gallery and wondered at.

Shut your eyes. You can see it. Because it’s art, not representation.

This is probably how I managed to watch the last third of the programme through weeping. And, these days, my eyes aren’t up to much. I didn’t need to look. I knew. … Like a slaughter, I suppose. One that you know is for the best. You see the knife, and the opened up throat of the beast. You shut your eyes. If you’re in an Eastern European movie, you know it’s over because you feel the splatter on your face of warm blood.

Heinrich von Biber. Would be nice if they told you who was making the music. Inspired, jointly, choreography – and retroactively, this music. Check it., yeah.., (The choreography inspires the composer. He just happened to live and die 300 years ago.)

Bring on the groupuscles of the corps de ballets. The dance is irreducible and inhabits the suspended realm.