On sex, women, and divine beauty

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Or:  further reflections on Jerome Robbins’ En Sol

But Gillot is divinely graceful and otherworldlily beautiful (all impossibly long arms and legs, a beauty so unusual, so striking as to be un-sexual, positively… seraphinic, powers and thrones, powers and thrones, I kept thinking — see this post)

Either most evolutionary psychologists are wrong in suggesting that our perception of beauty in members of opposite sex is sexually driven (being in their view  recognition of a good breeding material); or I am a cross-wired mutant:  my greatest loves have hardly been the most beautiful women I have known; and when faced with some types of beauty I am moved but — not attracted.

Agnes Gillot, and the Paris Opera Ballet in general, are case in point:  I find them very beautiful and can stare at them for hours (usually hitting the replay button twice), but I am neither in love, nor sexually stimulated.

And while this could be a matter of intimidation (very beautiful women are often not courted precisely because they are in the opinions of men too beautiful for them to stand a chance), it seems, in my case, very well hidden indeed:  I seem unable even to fantasize about these girls.  (Bah!  I am… uninterested in fantasizing!)

As beautiful as I find these ideal athletes, for pleasure I seem to prefer girls with… more flesh on them. An Evolutionary Psychologist might explain that:  slightly chunkier girls are better breeding material, all that flesh — evidence of good feeding.  But if so then why do I find the Opera Ballet girls beautiful?  What could possibly be the point?  Atavism?  A throw back?

Nor is this a case of intimidation (i.e. preferring easier girls):  while I have noticed — with great surprise — that trashy/easy looking girls get a lot of attention from men — perhaps because seeming cheap they do not intimidate; or perhaps because their unkemptness suggests general laxity (hair refusing the control of the comb being symbolic of a… shall we say, more general lack of control), the girls I have loved have all been prim and rather severely controlled.  (Such girls can turn out to be surprisingly adventurous lovers – ease (or difficulty) of getting isn’t in any way indicative of the quality of the food).  This, too, is straight Evolutionary Psychology:  girls who are hard to get pose less risk (of infection); but even folk psychology can explain this:  when a reserved girl loves you, you feel singled out for special treatment.  Such love seems more… personal, more precious.  (And it strokes your vanity).

OK, so evolutionary psychology explains perfectly my sexual conduct to-date: I prefer healthy looking (good breeders), well groomed, self-controlled (safe) girls.

It does not seem to explain why I find Agnes Gillot divinely beautiful.  Why thrones, powers, principalities and dominions come to mind.  Or why there should be such a thing as divine beauty:  things so beautiful as to make us think of them as supernatural, greater than life, worthy of worship, and — unsexual, pure.  Atavism?  Or — faulty mutation, a mistake in the cognitive apparatus?

The ability to sense this divine beauty may be a minority phenomenon (I am surprised by how many people seem not to… — er — divine it); but one sees it frequently enough:  there exist whole branches of mysticism — in otherwise unrelated religious traditions — whose whole point is the contemplation of divine beauty.  Ergo, if it is a mutation, it is a fairly common one.  And if it is, then it is there for a reason.

What reason could that be?

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Hey, let’s have fun with this:  here’s a poll: Do you experience divine beauty?  By which I mean:  if you are religious, do you find God beautiful?  If (like me) you are irreligious, are you sometimes faced with experiences of beauty that make you think of God/ things divine/ transcendent/ otherworldly?

Jerome Robbins En Sol

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Jerome Robbins choreography “En Sol” (“In the sun”) suits the music (Ravel’s G-Minor concerto, in French: “en sol majeur”) so well, one might swear the music was a ballet commission.  The choreography takes as its theme the beach and the sea — an idea very well suited to the jumpy outer movements (all that frolicking on the beach) and the gently swaying middle movement (floating on the swaying sea).  It is brilliantly conceived on the ensemble level, with all parts — individuals, small groups — moving in harmony as if they were parts of one body.  Agnes Gillot’s rendition of swaying waves is so convincing as to be mesmerizing – just like the sea.

Unfortunately, the male lead is stiff and wooden — with an occasional technical blip — and utterly lacking in the gift of grace.  It is possible to ignore him for the most part, but not when he is dead center (the “swimming figure” in 1st movement makes me want to cry:  it could be so beautiful and he ruins it); nor in those instances in which he trips up the female lead.  Rather funnily, during the final bows he seems quite satisfied with his performance, rather like that certain Japanese prince Sei Shonagon mentions in the Pillow Book — subject to mean snickerings behind his back, who thought composing poetry was easy and frequently dashed out fast and furious — drivel.

But Gillot is divinely graceful and otherworldlily beautiful (all impossibly long arms and legs, a beauty so unusual, so striking as to be un-sexual, positively… seraphinic, powers and thrones, powers and thrones, I kept thinking 1), head-taller than the rest, she both dominates and saves the show.  One can’t help reflecting, when watching her in the pas-de-deux on the fate of extraordinarily gifted women reduced to coupling with mediocre men or — not coupling at all.

What is it like, I once asked one, to date men less intelligent than you?   What to do?  She said, and asked:  What is it like to date women less intelligent than you?

Oh, I said, I no longer do.

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1 See Ophanim.

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