quaker fencer

kathz isn't quite my name. I may be a Quaker. If I'm a fencer I'm a bad one and I don't do sabre. If I'm a Quaker I'm a bad one - but you've worked that out already. Read on. Comment if you like. Don't expect a reply.

Location: United Kingdom

Monday, March 17, 2008

bladework and footwork

I thought for a moment we'd converted a sabreur. There he was, standing by the piste, epee in hand. Perhaps he'd seen the error of his slashing ways?

But no. Conversation revealed that he'd started with epee, moved on to sabre, but thought he'd fence epee once in a while to keep in practice.

It was a shame but at least there was a chance for conversation. Even though attendance wasn't quite as high as in the past few weeks, we were still queuing for the electric pistes - and I'm still supposed to be resting my foot. Anyway, I was curious about this fencer as I'd seen his Facebook page and knew he trained at the Royal Ballet.

There are clear connections between the skills required for fencing and those needed for ballet, as one of the coaches says. It's easy to recognize the ballet-trained beginners - they're the ones who don't quiver when asked to stand on their toes.bend their knees outward into a demi-plie, and hold the position for a minute or two. They have accuracy too and a high level of bodily control.

But I didn't just want to talk to him because he was a good fencer. I enjoy watching ballet - not so much as opera but still with the immense pleasure that comes from watching people make years of training look easy as they enact deep emotions. They do swordfights too - the photo shows Jonathon Byrne Ollivier of the Northern Ballet Theatre as Athos in the ballet of The Three Musketeers.

The dancer had spent four years in professional ballet - from cabaret in Zurich to a stint as a dancer with the English National Opera - before injuries forced him to give up. These days he's a nurse, putting the knowledge of physiognomy all dancers gain to a useful purpose. But he lit up when he spoke of dancing and assured me he regretted nothing of his short career. I recalled ballets I had seen from the Gloria which uses Poulenc's music and imagery from the First World War to the pure delight of Ashton's choreography for Fille Mal Gardee. This led the dancer to speak of his love of Bournonville's choreography - and as he reminisced he almost moved into the bouncing leaps that are the Danish choreographer's trademark.

The conversation was cut short when the piste became free. We connected and tested our swords, saluted and put on masks and began to fence. The dancer was a joy to watch but at least I knew there was no hope of outdoing him in grace and speed. I had two hopes. I could cut through his elegant fencing and land the occasional hit by being direct and inelegant. And I could hope he fenced like a sabreur, guarding above the waist and pausing to establish right of way.

I managed more hits than I'd expected. But of course I didn't win. And that's not just because my foot hurt, cutting my speed further. I tried to focus on bladework and did my best. But I had no hope against the strength, speed and precision of a dancer. What's worse - I have a bruise on my wrist, suggesting a fell into the error of letting my guard slip.

And if any fencers doubt the skills of ballet dancers, watch strength and precision demanded by this brief piece of Bournonville choreography, danced by the 18-year-old Johann Kobborg. What a fencer he would make.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:52 am  

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