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Just received The Ecstasy of Being the other day. Am absolutely delighted!
Did not know these writings existed!
Many thank yous to Nancy Allison for her part in this!
At 17 to 20 I would have walked deep into the “forest of this adventure.”
Just seeing glimpses of Joe Campbell’s reference to dance and his wife Jean in Reflections of Living was more than tantalizing, especially thinking of my own experiences and bliss in the Land of Dance.
I’ve approached the book so far in a more “Percival” manner…just opening pages and seeing what calls out to me.
Mentioned this in another post…even a moment of syncretism having recently participated in a zoom celebration of George Harrison for his posthumous Birthday. But that would always bring up the Beatles and Eastern connection, Transcendental Meditation and also the musical instruments such as tamboura and sitar.
So by happenstance open to a page with the painting of Krishna and Radha.
And later Siva or Shiva-Lord of the Dance-remember my mind being blown when Campbell referenced the symbolism of this figure. As a young dancer was fascinated.
I found myself just opening to various passages and reading those pages called into the middle of the forest to see if wonders or questions or other revelations of Joe Campbell and Jean might come to light. I am not disappointed, though intend to give the book a good “proper,” as the Brits might say, reading from front to back as well.
I love seeing the photographs of Jean in motion and energetic stillness and it is delightful to see Joe’s reverence and lauding of his “goddess” glanced in the further chapters!
One cannot help but feel with Joseph Campbell’s opinions about ballet and some other expressions of dance, that he shows a very natural prejudice in love, admiration and inspiration of Jean and her chosen calling in the Art of dance!
It’s sort of endearing really…
Many of us dancers know all the real stories and pains and legends within the world of ballet more than just the “aesthetic rendering” Joe reads into it.
But can readily forgive him for that. He was drawn or called beyond by his Muse Jean.
Looking back at a post about Erdman covered over a period of years, I am impressed how both Jean and Joe collaborated in the worlds of Myth and Dance and inspiring each other. I love that!
When I started delving into this book, I realized to my wonder, that Joe was changing his perspective or at least changing it on some points and ideas—most notably symbology related to woman or women in modern times.
I credit Jean for this in large part too.
Never had any issues with Campbell’s approach to the feminine or divine feminine or that energy—-even as a woman myself—-always understood the metaphor of “woman as life.”
However in changing or “rapidly” changing times, “woman in action,” or what was sometimes “cliched’” as the “field of action of the male”–has become a Vital Expression of every woman “adventurer.”
I had read some place earlier in which Campbell had lamented about how it was hard for any individual to find a place
with such rapid changes. And in the past Campbell made references to Amazons to show Woman in Action…but for some that seemed like a “skim.”
But remembered how Campbell had covered goddess as teacher and initiator, i.e. the warrior goddesses such as Athena.
Even showed how Caesar had equated a Celtic Goddess, Brigid? With Minerva.
Though that particular Goddess was balanced in pairs of opposites being symbolic of Healing not just Warrior/teacher.
So in Ecstasy of Being, Campbell is finally searching (and again I have a sneaky feeling, Jean inspired and influenced him) for a New Reference and Call of Adventure related to Women…not just as Mother or Wise Woman or Amazon or even a journey based on “seeking union,” with a partner but as an Individual seeking her own expression and creating Her Own Symbols.
To me that felt as though Campbell was here today and had just written this book!
What so often frustrates me is hearing or reading those who had briefly dived into Campbell, then immediately “assumed” all his myth searching was coming from a Chauvinist view.
I disagree, but now seeing his passage re-relating to the woman’s need as well into a call of action rather than “just being”-was an Aha Moment!
It showed that Campbell was trying to stretch, change and move with the times.
Now for some, his language of the “feminine mind” and so forth might still elicit the raise of a womanly brow. Grin.
I accredit this to the times and language, which must have surrounded Campbell as he grew up.
Those forms of expression are not so easily changed—yet thinking of what both he and Jean lived through right up to the Moon Landing and beyond and continuing to face the rapidly changing world? That is remarkable!
In fact, knowing the adventures they shared early-on—-it seems as though they beat the beatniks to their time as well!
To just imagine all the creation Jean experienced and her call to adventure and some of this is happening in the 1930s? My God! It is wonderful!
But I did have a good natured laugh seeing Joe express Woman’s journey as an individual or saying the Warrior Goddess would be a great rep today.
Now of course everything is Infinitely more complicated and there are bounds of etiquette which have become required vehicles for our communication with others in respect and kindness. But that is a whole other subject.
But to see the individual and dual calls of adventure and experience for Jean and Joe is absolutely lovely!
I must see a video of Jean in her field of Action.
My only wonder was whether either Jean or Joe had mentioned or witnessed the dancers of Alvin Ailey who also incorporate Graham and Horton styles in their movements…but also the “spirituals?”
Seeing those dancers in performance has moved me to tears and my guess is that Jean Erdman had a similar but unique command of energy and stage presence! For others have commented upon Jean’s dancing moving them to tears as well!
My interest related to Ailey is that Ailey and Judith Jamison were not merely having dancers showcase traditional cultural roots going back overseas, but like Martha Graham and Jean Erdman were incorporating all those journeys up to modern times and using elements of Graham as well to do that! Using the space and form of expression.
The only difference is many of the ballet lines and movements remain, but to me rather than creating an intricate painting and story in the manner of a Balanchine through technique and spatial movement, the expression of the Ailey dancers is rooted right down into the bones! The Ailey dancers are raw passion rising unexpectedly like doves from the river of the soul-which goes back to all that “bird symbology” expressed in a recent “Myth Blast.”
Or fire…the whole body is the heart and soul of the movement regardless of outward form. Very beautiful and transcendent. The audience is moved with the journey of movement and expression very much like Jean!
Now, as we all remain in situ, or search for our Thoreau moments know I will continue to enjoy the discovery of The Ecstasy of Being!
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