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Ritual Fire Dance

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Ritual Fire Dance

Arthur Rubenstein recorded "Danza ritual del fuego" in 1947. A year later, my cousin, Anna Colella, was practicing this music daily and I, age four, was sitting beneath the piano, enveloped by Falla's fierce rhythm.

My sense of form was influenced by this early experience. It gave me a visual imagination which is measured and stimulated by the repetition of elements. When I look at my hexagonal grid, upon which I invent shapes, I recall the look of piano strings and sheet music.

In art school, Richard Carlyon encouraged me to listen to the music of Igor Stravinsky. Carlyon, a painter who was interested in the work of Martha Graham, initiated in me a lifelong enthusiasm for this Russian composer. His melodic and often wildly syncopated "Firebird" and "Violin Concerto" conjured up images in my mind years before I attended performances at New York City Ballet.

It is true that Ballanchine made this music visible with his choreography. His dancers enlarged my vision of the figurative. I saw in a new way the clarity of shape, tension, and gesture that had interested me as a student. In "Agon," for example, the poses made an indelible visual impression on me. I was delighted to learn that the pointed foot, which elongated the line of the female body, was associated with Byzantine icons. My abstract shapes achieved a sense of lift by standing them on a point tangent to the lower edge of the rectangle.

My taste for fast edges, pointed shapes, and saturated hues is excited by the quick turns and angular movements of ballet dancers. Over one of the work tables in my studio is a well known photograph of Maria Kowroski in a pose from "Rubies" (the music is Stravinsky's "Capriccio for Piano & Orchestra"). She rises on a point that pushes up through her right leg while her left leg is turned up and back, incredibly parallel to her erect torso. Her right hand reaches high above her head and is shaped to repeat her headdress. It is just a moment in the dance, but looking at it gives me the energy to take a few turns of my own, with line and color.

– January 2006

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