Wednesday, April 23, 2008

from "A Dancer's Life"

Let's look today at Raven Wilkinson, one of the lesser-known but truly brilliant stars of American dance. The first African American ballet dancer in the Ballet Russes, she toured all across the country with them and was promoted to the rank of soloist with them. A truly amazing dancer, she overcame hardship and prejudice to do what she loved, dance. After dancing with Ballet Russes for six seasons, she left because of the racial prejudice she encountered while touring in the south when a group of KKK came onto the stage and threatened her life. Later, she went on to dance as a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet. In 1974 she returned to her homeland and can still be seen in character parts at the New York City Opera. She was also featured in the 2005 documentary, Ballet Russes. (For some reason my computer doesn't want to italicise the title) For more on Ballet Russes, visit; photograph courtesy of the New York Times.

-- text by Sophie Lewis

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."