Monday, May 7, 2007

On The Retirement of Muriel Maffre, Shapeshifter

Dear Muriel,

Thank you for years of glorious dancing. Thank you for your bravery and humility. Thank you for cutting your hair. For seeming to treat each occasion on stage as another experiment, another chance to learn something additional about the music, your partner, the phrasing, the color of the moment, or even how far it would take you to get your endless leg to its seeming far off destination. The miracle is that you never gave control a compulsive or brittle look. You made it Olympian and grand. Love, death, sex, humor, sorrow, mystery and plain old hoofing--you brought it all to the stage.

What has made your dancing sublime is that you always treated your extraordinary intelligence as your starting point rather than your endgame. Each time you took on a role you devoured then metabolized it into spare, eloquent physical expression, and so you evolved into one of the least sentimental, most luxuriously Spartan and frequently hilarious dancers in the company.

In the early years I got to watch you refine your technical arsenal, hone your musical clarity and find the means to let your body play without impediment. I don’t remember which year it was, but one season you came before us with all your parts assuredly in place. It was then that I realized you were no longer dancing, you were shapeshifting. That ability to totally morph from Myrtha to Odette to the dominant woman in Agon to Ratmansky’s ruined Pavlova brought us a large world of extraordinary women. Your long fearless body occupied it with heroic grace. Grazie infinite.

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