Ballet diplomacy

Greece, in terms of both her domestic affairs and international relationships with the other peoples of the world, ought to exist as a piece of art that will not be content with merely representing the image of the world but will strive to be materialised through her recreation and seek herself in a comprehensively spherical notion. In this sense, a leader is sought who will be considered more as a painter than a politician, which means a person that is capable of conceiving society as a work of painting liberating humans from their enslaving stagnation and makes them insubordinate to time and to the world of wear and tear, playing the role of an architect designing the space in which time will be recycled creatively and give, thus, shape to history or of a poet uttering unutterable things.

However, it should be taken into consideration that if one is to become a poet, one should, primarily, be a musician exciting deeply human hearts with one’s gentle chords and elevate them highly to an “as much as possible for a human resemblance to God”.

As a result, generating civilisation is more principal than imposing tax-collecting policies. We are called for being opened to the ocean of universality in order to explore a new, numinous, deeper-than-before spiritual reality in the horizon of which time will be recomposed creatively. In this aspect, the target of Cultural Diplomacy lies exactly in indicating on paper the precise coordinates of this course.

The Ballet Diplomacy, that is, exercising external policy through the art of classical dance, is a significant and inextricable part of this project. This policy aims at achieving the spiritual training, the sentimental refining and the general elevation of a certain society’s citizens.

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Dance is a form of art through which man exceeds the natural boundaries of this world and is liberated from his gravitational power. Dancing means coming out of one’s self and being released from the almighty dominance of nature. I fly over the natural laws of gravity, finiteness and passiveness. I disentangle the form from its shadow. The dancer does not merely harmonise himself with cosmic laws through his concentric movements but incorporates them actively in his movement; he conquers them and resists against the entropy of life through this conquest of his. Dance, following the flow of cosmogonic evolutions, incorporates the characteristics of the occasionally-existing times without this action being devoid of political expedience.

For example, dance in the Renaissance, apart from having a purely artistic substance, was transmuted into a communicative tool of monarchic policies aiming at reshaping social morals as well as at teaching courtesy and refinement of movements. Subsequently, in the wake of the French Revolution, not only did the political subversion of monarchy occur but, mainly, a change in artistic and social standards ensued. The concept of dance among the French people of that time, seen in the angle of the ancient Greek world, was replaced by the development of new, more demanding and specialised techniques than before. Such new techniques provided dance with a strict character that was deprived from the symbolism of kinesiology it had borne in the remote past.

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During the 20th Century, dance came out definitively from the narrow sophisticated frames of royal palace’s court and emerged as a means of exercising foreign policies. The example of using classical ballet as a means of foreign policy during the cold war is characteristic. The USA, in the face of the clearly outlined peril of communist expansion, exercised –initially, by H. Truman and, subsequently, by D. Eisenhower- a foreign policy of mild force aiming, mainly, at spreading the ideas of the free world and exercising influence and appeal.

The American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet, which toured round Germany, Latin America and Asia, staging, mainly, The Sylphides and the Rodeo ballet performances, were the ambassadors of this policy. On the other side, classical ballet became the bastion of cultural diplomacy or Le Cheval de Bataille (the battle horse) of Soviet Union’s foreign policy. For example, A. Khachaturian’s Spartacus, the choreography of which was made in 1956 for the Kirov ballet company, featuring the rebellion of slaves against the Roman Empire, toured round the USA a few years afterwards and triggered fierce political reactions there.

Appropriating Spartacus and his becoming the emblem of Russian heroism were the causes for the production of the American film with American actor Kirk Douglas starring as Spartacus.

Dance, due to its power to transcend the meaning of words, always played a principal role in the exercise of the Russian cultural diplomacy, which is reflected in the promotion of this dance-oriented Russian policy in Latin America.

In compliance with these rules, Russia organised fast-track seminars on classical ballet under the auspices of the Russian-American Foundation, in conjunction with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, in Connecticut, USA, in 2008.

In terms of Greece, dance is interwoven in Greek people’s consciences with the connotation of the Turkish word key if, meaning “reckless frenzy of entertainment” and aiming at pleasing eyes as well as stirring humans’ lowest instincts that incite man to acquire his most despicable characteristics. This appeal to lowness and such a, pretentiously promoted as “popular”, kind of entertainment are the results of the dispiritisation and musical knowledge-lacking modern Greek educational system.

However lovable they might be, why are Tchaikovsky’s plays, such as the Swan Lake, the Sleeping Beauty or the Nutcracker, continuously performed on the big music stages of the country, while outstanding plays of Greek composers are unjustly scorned? Why, on 28th October, does the Greek Cultural Diplomacy omit to bring to front plays with an exceptional historic symbolism, such as Giorgos Sklavos’s ‘The Eagle’ or Papaioannou’s ‘A slave’s redemption’ or M. Xadjidakis’s ‘The cursed snake’, which refer to the glorious history of the resistance in 1940? Why isn’t Kalomoiris’s magnificent play ‘The death of the brave’ performed on 25th March? Did N. Skalkotas, one of the greatest Greek composers, know so few things when he wrote about the need of creating a ‘Greek musical dancing philosophy’? How did we allow Greece, the Charioteer of international civilization to progress although having exclusively borrowed and unassimilated cultural models?

We should always keep in mind that the foreign policy of a country makes way for history, when more than the defense of the state interests and the realization of the current national affairs, its main target is the concern about the distinctive features.

Peter Dennis Kapsaskis

PhD candidate in Cultural Diplomacy and Foreign Policy
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