This weekend, the Ballet Quad-Cities dancers are telling stories about love.
So, I went to the ballet studio and talked with Courtney Lyon, the company’s artistic director, about what’s new with the annual show, called “Love Stories.”
She gave me some answers. And she gave me more to think about.
This year, the company will perform six mini-pieces that Lyon and founder Joedy Cook count as the company’s greatest hits from past years.
“They’re all tied to the theme of love,” Lyon said. “It’s an easy topic to explore. Love is a celebration of life and that’s what dance is, too.”
As I sat next to Lyon and watched a rehearsal, we talked about the styles of dance to be performed Friday and Saturday, from hip-hop to classical and how the dancers have to quickly switch from free-flowing movements to more tight, on-point techniques.
When the dancers were a bit too stiff, she called out with a laugh: “Why are you being so serious? This is supposed to be fun.”
The dancers didn’t say anything back, of course.
One of the first things you learn in ballet class, Lyon said, is to be quiet.
“Nobody yells in the ballet studio,” Lyon said. “That's why we have little ones line up outside the door and stop giggling before they can go inside. It’s a place of respect and silence. It’s a sacred, magical place where you can bare your souls.”
She told me about “Newsflash,” which is inspired by the pre-social media world of enticing advertising and another that portrays playful movements with chairs, called “Chairished.” "Delicatessen" is described as a “love story that chronicles the sweetness, the bliss, and the mundaneness of love.”
Then there’s “Unknown Love,” which deals with what’s going on in your head during a blind date.
“First dates in general are pretty awkward,” said Lovar Davis Kidd, the freelance choreographer based in Cedar Rapids behind "Unknown Love." “There are a lot of things each person is thinking that you can make into goofy things and kick it up.”
Last week, Kidd returned to the Quad-Cities to work with dancers to revive his 2010 piece.
“The concept is great because every person out there has a different idea of what love means to them,” he said. “And when you see this ballet, six different people will have six different opinions of what was going on.”
Lyon said that's one of her favorite things about the ballet.
"You don't always know how to think about it, but you know what you feel," she said. "Each audience can get a sense of what that dance made them feel and it doesn't have to be the same. It's the opportunity to say with dance what you can't say in words."
All of this sounded like a good story for the newspaper a few days away from Valentine's Day. I stopped asking questions.
And then, something else happened.
The music stopped and the out-of-breath dancers walked around, saying “thank you” to each other. These are people from all over the world who chased dreams of dancing professionally. They all learned, when they were the little ones waiting outside the door, that the ballet studio is a sacred place. They’re here 40 hours per week with their coworkers, best friends, teammates.
“These dancers have special relationships with a ton of trust,” Lyon said. “Saying 'thanks' is one of those things that’s an acknowledgement of what they all just did together.”
It’s one of those routines that she sees every day, so Lyon didn’t think much of it. But it’s almost Valentine’s Day, when you might look for love in hidden and ordinary places, so we talked about it.
The “thank you,” Lyon said, means a lot of things: Thank you for not dropping me, for making me look normal, for making that beautiful thing with me, for chasing the same dream.
And then, she said the thing I kept thinking about after I left the ballet studio.
“That’s a sort of nice, isn’t it? Love really does come in all sorts of forms."