"Into The Forest": Peak Oil Ballet

Synchronicity is when you have a head full of peak oil and ballet and run across a novel about two orphaned sisters, one a ballerina, coping with an energy crash. Without electricity, Eva can no longer dance to music; all she has is an old metronome scrounged from the dump by her late father. She dances to the music she remembers.

Usually she’ll be at the barre, working her way through the endless chain of exercises that began with her first wavering, stiff-armed plié and won’t end until she quits dancing. Watching her there, lowering and rising with the pliés she’ll never finish, reminds me of the Bolshoi ballerina during that period of Russian martial law in the early nineties who said: “Revolutions will come and go, but we will still be here doing our battements tendus.”

That dance continues—pliés, relevés, battements tendus, ronds de jambes, développés, first at the barre and then in the center, that same little alphabet, over and over and over again to the relentless tick of the metronome, until now, a million repetitions later, each move is pliant, fluent, perfect. Even something simple as her leg stretching in tendu or her arm opening out to second position speaks to some longing or delight or knowledge far beyond words.

Sometimes while I’m sitting there, she’ll abandon her exercises and dance for me. Today she began with Clara’s first solo from The Nutcracker. It’s a pretty little divertissement, quick and pert, and I remember how it delighted the Christmas crowds the year she danced it.

But just before she reaches the point where Fritz is supposed to snatch the nutcracker from her hands, her steps changed, and she was dancing something I had never seen, a haunting, jarring dance that began with a series of slow, pensive arabesques from which she collapsed into knock-kneed, flat-footed second position. Then with her feet still spread in second, she rose en pointe, her open legs making her look unsettlingly strong and tall. From there she flung herself into a run of quick, tight, classical turns, ending again with her heels out, her ankles cocked, her elbows up. Then again she rose into a faultless arabesque.

So compelling was her dancing that at some point as I was watching her, I found myself believing I could hear the music she was dancing to, a discordant and disturbing music, a music of contrasts and quick reversals. There was a sense of suppression, a feeling of waiting to it. Yet for all its tight control, there was also the disconcerting feeling of something wild rising, as though some untamed thing were being unleashed by those cocked ankles and crooked elbows, by those clean turns and perfect leaps, as if some wilderness in Eva that I had never known was struggling to surface.

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4 comments on “"Into The Forest": Peak Oil Ballet

  1. Stefanie says:

    OMG! I read this book several years ago and loved it. My husband read it first and liked it so must he handed it to me and told me I had to read it. It's one of those little books that really makes you think. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Actually I'm starting to find it rather painful to read because, as I am now convinced, the general scenario is one that is likely to become real in my lifetime. Although I have a lot more survival awareness and knowledge than those girls, it is still going to be rough. 😦

  3. Stefanie says:

    Yes, the most chilling part of the book was how it all happened. It seemed more real than stories of nuclear war or world wide disaster. If you can find a copy of a book called Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren, I highly recommend it. It's got a similar scenario only it's a group of people trying to survive and they rescue books too 🙂

  4. Sylvia says:

    The only part I don't buy (so far) is how the people didn't know what was going on. If things had altered so much that the government had eliminated the media and the internet and the ham radio operators (and international short wave radio), I think there would have been other radical changes (rationing, conscription, suspension of civil liberties) as well that would have shaken people up in advance of the final crash. The final crash wouldn't just come out of the blue.
    I think what is scary about peak oil is that even when people (esp. people in leadership) see disaster coming they don't do anything about it. (New Orleans is a perfect example.) That is a mystery of human nature. I can see how that might be a difficult thing to explain in a novel, but at least it would be more realistic than the people being completely ignorant.
    Rescuing books sounds like a good idea. I'm up to the part where books are saving those girls' skins. Yay!

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