There is a Japanese theory called Wabi-sabi, where things are considered most beautiful when they have a flaw or are broken. A vase with a chip in it or a plate with a crack do not necessarily need to be thrown away, but they can be appreciated as objects that wear badges of time well spent and of being a well loved, used and enjoyed item. So is the dancer’s broken toe or pulled muscle Wabi-sabi? The blisters on their feet… Is that a beautiful sign of authenticity, use, love and being of service? Totally Wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi is saying that imperfection adds to beauty. It is a concept that seems so opposite from everything being told to us in the world today. Maybe that is why I like it so much. But it is so true. Nothing can actually be perfect. What perfect even means would be different for everyone. For example, I like a small, old house with a porch. My daughter likes box houses with giant windows. My son would say condo or farm. There is no right or wrong. Every one of us sees perfection through different eyes. But we are also all very much the same. No body is unbreakable. No dancer does not stumble and fall. I prefer an old scuffed up teapot to a new shiny one. I like objects that have character. Same with dancers. It is hard to apply Wabi-sabi to ballet in particular. It is all about precision. However, I can see the character and authenticity…the naturalness and raw quality when they are at the barre. The dancer may be striving for strong, physical exactness but they are wearing shabby leg warmers, ripped tights and shoes with holes to do it. They are letting their Wabi-sabi shine through.
The dancers we love to watch the most, have spirit and emotion. Emotions are messy and genuine. Wabi-sabi. We see the heart break, the joy, the fear or the confusion. That extra dimension of naturalness and authenticity creates the balance with the pretty perfection and endears us to it more deeply. We all like things that are a little damaged. Like people…no one gets through life without a scar or two. A bruise, a chip, a fall or a break.
Wabi-sabi teaches us to embrace the imperfect. It teaches us to see the beauty of the cracked, broken or fleeting. In the dance studio or out in the real world it would serve all of us well to appreciate and see a little more of the beauty in our flaws and imperfections. Which aren’t really flaws at all…