The essay I listened to was “An Athlete of God” by Martha Graham. She tells the listener about how dance may seem easy, but there are a lot of things that dancers must go through to actually look the way they do. Martha Graham opens her essay with the line, “I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing, or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.” She is saying that a person may not get anywhere or will not succeed without practicing. She symbolizes living with performing and dancing; the comparison is joined by one thing, the human body. Dance speaks through a dancers body while life occurs also in the body. Martha Graham states that dancers must train for many years for their bodies to be accustomed to the movement. “The body is shaped, disciplined, honored, and in time, trusted. The movement becomes clean, precise, eloquent, truthful.” After a dancer has trained and has become mature enough, that is when their true personality is shown in their dancing. “It is at this point that sweep of life catches up the mere personality of the performer, and while the individual-the undivided one-becomes greater, the personal life becomes less personal.” She then says that dancers can notice small details in the things they do and that they are then aware of the beauty of the art. Although dance is takes a lot of hard work and dedication, in the end it is a wonderful sight to see. This is why Martha Graham calls dancers, “athletes of God.”
“An Athlete of God” relates to The Power of One because Martha Graham’s love for dance is just like Peekay’s passion for boxing. After Peekay had won the boxing final he said, “It was the power of one stirring in me, nothing Lieutenant Smit said could dampen my spirits. I jumped down from the ring feeling ten feet tall.” This explains the feeling one may get after they achieved something great, whether it be a boxing match, a dance performance, or even a goal someone has set for their self. It is also related to how Doc had accomplished playing the “Concerto of the Great Southland” and Chopin’s Nocturne Number Five. Martha Graham, Peekay, and Doc all had made great accomplishments with a lot of practice. Martha Graham said, “Practice means to perform over and over again, in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” Peekay had trained in the field of boxing for two years before his first fight. When Doc knew that he had to perform for the brigadier, he began practicing Chopin’s nocturne; when the time came to perform the piece, Doc played the nocturne perfectly. Martha Graham’s idea that the love of dance will come to the dancer after hard work is directly related to the piece of advice that Hoppie gave Peekay. Peekay will never forget the words given to him, “First with the head and then with the heart.”
Being a dancer, I can genuinely relate to all of the points Martha Graham makes in her essay. In the essay she says, “It takes about ten years to make a mature dancer.” I have just completed my eleventh year of dancing, and I still believe that I have not learned everything I need to know about dance. As a dancer, it takes a lot of time and dedication in life to do well when I perform. It is not easy to always be in a studio, dancing the night away while my friends are at the mall or hanging out somewhere else. Along with the commitment, a dancer can never be sure if they will stay healthy throughout their career. Like Martha Graham says, “But the path to the paradise of that achievement is not easier than any other. There is fatigue so great that the body cries even in its sleep. There are times of complete frustration. There are daily small deaths.” I have experienced all of these episodes. Lately, to me, dance has been hard to deal with. For the past two weeks I constantly found myself angry or frustrated during rehearsals. This is because I have a very important ballet competition coming up this weekend on Saturday, February 26, 2011. My friends and I have been working for months to technically perfect our dances. This past week we ran our dances in front of the director at our school, and the only thing she tells us is that we have done really well in the technique of the dances but now we need to show our personality. It is difficult to bring out a part of yourself that you have never expressed before. We have run out of time to clean things up in our dances, and now it is time to show our love for dance. “And there is grace. I mean the grace resulting from faith...faith in life, in love, in people, in the act of dancing. All this is necessary to any performance in life which is magnetic, powerful, rich in meaning.” I have worked hard and long in dance and now it is time for me to express that hard work and the love of the art.