Matthew Lawrence discusses the relationship of dance and transcendence.

IT was my 94th consecutive plié (approximately) that changed my life, and 24 years later, that mystical day still leaves its imprint. I remember standing at the barre on a cloudy afternoon at Auckland City Dance Centre’s studios – my first full-time dance school – obsessively practising the “perfect” plié. After hours concentrating intently on maintaining my turnout muscles, squeezing body and mind to exhaustion, something clicked...

What happened next might seem like hyperbole, but I felt like time and space slowed a fraction. My plié felt free and perfectly engaged and, quite unexpectedly, I was performing ballet’s most technically demanding elements with ease and sure precision. Seven pirouettes en dehors, then eight, held on demi-pointe this time! A beautiful, high double tour, fifth-to-fifth – I had never done that before! In fact, I had never jumped so high and soft, never turned so well, never felt more coordinated. Ballet seemed unbelievably effortless. It was a mystical, addictive feeling.

Next day, class was dreadful. Neurotically, over several months, I practised plié after plié after plié, trying to replicate that supernatural feeling. Nothing. Then, miraculously, my magic plié returned for a class . . . and then disappeared, never to return again. For several years after these mystical moments, I became fixated and frustrated by my inability to recapture the feeling. I would occasionally have fantastic dreams of experiencing that wonderful sensation again, yet reality would not oblige . . .

This is an extract from "The magic plié" in the April/May issue of Dance Australia. To read the full article and more, buy Dance Australia at your favourite retail outlet, or online here... OR never miss an issue by subscribing here.

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