The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"God Creates, Woman Inspires, and Man Assembles"

Image credit

This quote is attributed of course to George Balanchine, a veritable connoisseur of the fairer sex.

This of course can be seen as something very sexist and objectifying. Are women only good for inspiring ideas but not conceiving them? Of course not.

Yet those of us fortunate enough to have created something for or concerning a woman (and anything I have written is hardly of the caliber of a Balanchine ballet!), feel quite deeply that this is true. From the beauty of a woman can spring such things that are almost supernatural; they almost erase the line between created and uncreated. It is a beauty that almost aches, because the beauty of a woman is a suffering beauty; it is one that gives life, that nurtures, and that can endure all. Fragile yet divine in fortitude, it is what sustains the human heart, and that is why it can inspire, uplift, and fill all things with light and joy.

And beside it, the greatest poet, composer or choreographer is no better than a plumber or a lowly cobbler. He receives the light, but he does not make it.


At 1:18 PM, Blogger AG said...

FYI, the photo is a studio portrait for "The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne," choreographed in 1948 by Balanchine for Ballet Society. From the left is Corrado Cagli, the designer; Vittori Rieti, the composer (he based the music off of a carnival song written by Lorenzo de'Medici); Tanaquil Le Clercq, "Ariadne"; and Balanchine.

And Balanchine really did express the belief that women could not be "assemblers," in a sort of "they are already beauty - how could they assemble it?" way. (He said on occasion that women could never be poets or composers, but it's hard sometimes to tell what he said in truth and what he said in jest, knowing people thought of him as a visionary and would take absurd comments as gospel truth.) And yet the ballerina on stage was indeed his co-assembler in art, playing the dual role of 'inspiring' the art and 'being' the art, and he loved them for it. Go figure.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger AG said...

The photographer is Irving Penn (I left that out somehow).

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Thanks, AG. I was too lazy to post the original source of the photo. Very typical of me.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger 123 said...

My wife is a dancer here in NYC and one of our good friends sublets the apartment of a former wife of Balanchine's. The most interesting aspect of Balanchine is his very real love of women, of the fact that he was so inspired by them. This is most fascinating when put together with the fact that he firmly believed in marriage, loved his wives, but was gay and wouldn't/couldn't sleep with them. Then again, perhaps this was closer the the 'holy marriages' of saints that lived together as brother and sister. Who knows what the background to these kinds of marriages might have been - homosexual temptation and an ascetic disciplining of it may have played a role here and there and who's to say that it would be such an unworthy help and motivation in celibacy - especially since we are enjoined not to despise marriage.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger AG said...


It is purely rumor and gossip that Balanchine was gay. There's no 'evidence' that he was homosexual, and certainly no evidence that he was attracted to men and attempting to 'repress' homosexual desires. (The rumor that he was a homosexual seemed to have started in the 70s, around the time it was thought that every creative man must be gay.) His most intimate friends have asserted that he was most definitely heterosexual as have his wives, at least publicly. It is, again, rumored that he may not have had passionate sexual relationships with his later wives (his earlier lovers have publicly spoken of his virility, even his favored, hmm how do I be coy, "techniques") and was possibly impotent as the result of serious health problems and treatments when he was in his 30s (possible impotency later in life has been discussed very infrequently in print).

The 'Balanchine was gay' gossip always comes down to, "I heard so-and-so say that he said that she said that she said..." and so on, and really shouldn't be repeated or spread, much less incur speculation as to what his marriages 'mean.' And while he clearly loved women, he did not 'firmly believe in marriage.' Separation and divorce did not seem to trouble him from a moral standpoint (4 divorces!), though he liked to say that all his wives 'left him' three out of the four did so after finding out he was having an affair with another woman, and he stated in middle age that marriage was silly and no one should do it: "just have affairs."

Homosexuality is not a slight, but the 'Balanchine is gay' gossip was started as a smear campaign.


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