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I Grew Up at the American Ballet Theatre

By Kyle Blumenthal

I have spent many hours and years on the side of the dance studios at the American Ballet Theater observing the life of a dancer. My sister was a ballerina and took many dance classes in Manhattan at the American Ballet Theatre. I also took dance and at one point as a child was auditioned for the Nutcracker in Manhattan. I got the part and was watching as my bunny costume with the white tail was being brought to me. I turned them down much to my Mother’s dismay. I knew my passion was in painting and music. I did not want to hurt my sister since she was also auditioning for the candy canes. I understood all too well how competitive the business was with the sweat, bloody feet, and tears and dieting. The American Ballet Theater was the highest achievement for a dancer in the classical sense. I spent many hours focused on a faded reproduction of Paulo, Picasso’s Son, as Harlequin, 1924, oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso hanging on the wall as dancers scurried about. I have a good sense of dance and the language as well as the movement. Just as I am mesmerized by paintings, sculptures, music and poetry, I am also taken in by dance by highly trained performers as well as the beginner.

The atmosphere and life is part of who I am. As a small child, I remember how the dancers had crushes on Rudolf Nureyev. Each dancer was so taken and just loved him. There was a day when Nureyev was in the dance studio. I watched the dancers eyes light up as they watched from the studio door. I thought they would faint. I remember how the dancers would adjust their leotards to make their legs look longer by bringing up the sides more almost up to the waist. I remember the sweat in the dressing rooms and the bloody feet from the tow shoes, the lamb’s wool that was stuffed in the tow shoes and the crowded store with the high counter where dancers would purchase new toe shoes as they wore out so quickly. I loved the long ribbons that were meticulously tied around the dancer’s legs just so. I remember when George Balanchine’s choreography was the news amongst the dancer’s conversations. I enjoyed the sound of the dance Master’s stick on the floor counting the beats to the music. The pianist at the grand piano in the studios and the resin box on the floor by the entrance to the studio. My memories of the Dance Master walking slowly with her stick back and fourth in front of the studio watching the dancers carefully and making her comments. I grew up at the American Ballet Theatre watching my short legs swaying back and fourth not touching the floor as I sat waiting, listening, observing, soaking it all up. I was the youngest in my family so I had to go. I couldn’t be left at home by myself at a young age. I stared at the faded reproduction of Picasso’s little son in the Harlequin costume for hours and days and years.

My first one person exhibition in New York City was at the Harkness House Gallery. I was just graduating with my BFA from Pratt Institute. My exhibition included many pastels of dancers in motion, oil paintings, charcoal drawings, and one of the first video art productions shown on a large scale screen. I wanted my painting to move to music. Steve Rutt, an Inventor behind early video animation was so kind as to help me move my paintings to music. This was amazing. Steve Rutt has recently passed away on May 20, 2011. The show was reviewed in Arts Magazine. I completed my MFA Thesis with Carol Kingston, an internationally known painter and stage designer and I studied with Stan Brodsky a Nationally known Painter for my first Masters in Painting. My MFA Thesis was titled “Freedom of the Dancing Soul”. I worked to convey the feeling of dancers that had jumped in mid air and were suspended there. My mixed media approach gave transparency to the work so that my colors seemed to run in mid air. Now I find myself designing the stage for dancers at Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook State University. The dancers are student dancers from Spotlight Dance Academy in Stony Brook.

The stage is another canvas for me. I dream of creating beautiful works of art which combine the visual arts, music, dance, color and light.

 

   
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