Rashaen Arts is a master of his art. It is an exceptional art form. It enables him to tell stories without uttering a word, paint pictures without touching a paintbrush. His art is dance.
With just a few subtle movements, Arts takes on the aspect of a swan – the long neck, the arched wings. He then raises his arms, opening them up to the heavens as if to worship the sun: a flower. And when he performs an entrechat, nimbly crossing his feet as he gracefully jumps into the air, he conveys the rapture of love. “Emotions are very important”, explains Jamaican-born Rashaen Arts. “We express them in our dance; our bodies are our instruments.”
Dressed entirely in black, he is the epitome of physical perfection. Arts is a professional ballet dancer, a role that is all about one thing: harmony of strength and elegance – as contradictory as these concepts may seem. Your mission as a dancer is to shift people’s perceptions of what is possible. Only by doing so can you produce truly unique performances.
The designers and engineers developing modern cars face similar challenges. How to combine cutting-edge vehicle dynamics and efficiency with sophisticated, individual design? How to reconcile solidity and agility while also incorporating increasingly intelligent systems? Their job is not simply about turning modern technology into an amazing experience. Rather, they must carefully consider how to fulfil complex specifications and still end up with a finished product that conveys effortlessness, clarity and sensuousness.
This is what the Mercedes-Benz concept of modern luxury is based on. It reinterprets the old dream of mobility with stunning results. The E-Class Coupé, for example: a perfect synthesis of all the above. Top-class modern ballet is equally masterful. But what is it that sets the dancers apart? Watching Rashaen Arts and listening to him speak gives us an idea. He, too, is on a continual quest for ever-greater control, an ever-deeper focus on the essence of things, ever more zest and dexterity – all manifested within aesthetically flawless forms.
Rashaen Arts begins to dance. He runs, twists and glides across the floor. Then he smiles, suddenly bursting forward in a series of explosive steps, bending and flowing as he does so. He performs an arabesque followed by a series of fouetté turns, whipping his raised leg around his standing leg to spin around. He does this six, twelve, twenty times.Hundreds of sequences blend into one. It is modern dance at its dazzling best. A display of the seemingly impossible, an exercise in making the unfathomably difficult appear effortless. Ballet is all about turning a feat of supreme strength into a display of sublime elegance. About turning structure into beauty and movement into art.
To show us how it’s done, Rashaen Arts, 27, and his dance partner Alexandra Inculet, 26, have come to an old, decommissioned colliery complex in the German city of Essen. The polished concrete floor of an old warehouse is to serve as their stage. They are both members of the renowned “Ballett am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg”, one of the world’s top ballet ensembles. They also both share a special passion for modern dance and the freedom it allows as compared with classical ballet.
Modern ballet gives dancers the scope to improvise and interpret. Here, they can use their countless painstakingly rehearsed sequences to react individually and intuitively to various stimuli.
Dancing and the continual movement that it involves is itself the best form of dance training, say the two dancers. But they also go swimming, cycling and running. Back in Canada, Alexandra Inculet used to play football and basketball as well. Many ballet dancers go to the gym on a daily basis, in addition to their dance training, for yoga and pilates sessions. There is nothing worse than turning up to ballet a little out of shape. “For your partner it’s like dragging a sand bag around, like a dead weight.”
Continual training is therefore a must, as is honing your expressiveness and sense of balance. And when it all comes together, the result is truly phenomenal. The contradictory aspects of dance become entirely invisible, as if they didn’t ever exist.
“When we dance, we are living in the moment,” says Rashaen Arts. Then he lifts his partner into the air. Canadian-born Alexandra Inculet, whose ballet dancing career began at the age of three, places her hand into her partner’s. Her body is as tense and taut as can be, but not a single muscle is trembling. Her arms are outstretched, her control reaching all the way through to her finger tips; her legs sail effortlessly through the air, appearing almost weightless. While clearly a moment of intense concentration and effort, it is presented with sheer grace. Inculet swings back down, landing softly on the hard floor of the colliery.
What almost looks incidental is in fact the result of many years of ballet school training.
Six days a week, and up to ten hours per day. “You really have to be completely dedicated,” explains Alexandra Inculet.
Trust also plays a key role. “When we dance, we are in a sort of dialogue with each other”, she continues. “You allow your partner in, you trust his movements, his steps, his arms, his hands.” And then there is the matter of finding a balance between strength and control, which no good performance can ever be without. The key to this lies in the stomach. “The flowing movements and the clarity of style all come from the stomach,” says Inculet. “Its muscles must always be taut, it is the core from which we draw our strength.”