But neither the general public nor the media seem to appreciate just how much work goes into an interpretive, character-based dance such as the one Left Shark performed last night, and how easy it is, if you are committed to your craft, to lose yourself in the moment. Allow me to enlighten you.
As a former ballerina, classically trained at the School of the Boston Ballet, I can assure you that Left Shark -- if he is the student of dance I suspect him to be -- trained for months to get inside the head of his character. Literally. Who is Left Shark? he probably asked himself. And why must he dance?
What is his relationship to Right Shark? Are they lovers? Enemies? Do they share custody of a boy shark who's starting to ask questions about his parents' separation, for example?
This is what true dancers -- or danseurs -- do. As Patrick Swayze's character said in "Dirty Dancing," "The steps aren't enough. Feel the music."
I speak from experience. At 12 I played a mouse in "The Nutcracker" and for months I studied the abrupt movements, barely discernible to the human eye, of other house mice. What moved them? What was their raison d'etre? By the end of my character study I had become that mouse. It took nearly a year for me to drop character afterward.
At 13 I played Arabian Coffee in "The Nutcracker." Believe me, getting inside the head of an exotic hot beverage would test even Lee Strasberg's imagination. I decided to play it complex: caffeinated but also seductive. I wrote in a storyline about an elephant and a prince that only I knew about, but I assure you, it deeply enriched the character.
But by far the most challenging role I was ever tasked with undertaking was that of a sylph -- or an "invisible being of the air" -- in a ballet called "Les Sylphides." The ballet is non-narrative; there is no plot. My character's motivation was therefore mine to create. I imagined her a malnourished Ukrainian runaway who came to America and discovered the simple pleasures of Capri Sun and "The Simpsons." She would return to her homeland one day, but not before she got her bachelor's degree and some much-needed dental work. Externally, she was sweet and vulnerable, but inside she was tough as nails. The part was only four measures long, but I made the most of it.
The point is, no detail is too small or insignificant. And this likely explains why, to the untrained eye, it seems like Left Shark was off his mark or forgot the choreography. He wasn't drunk. He wasn't overwhelmed by the lights and the crowd and the music. Nor -- as some have claimed -- was he unable to see out of the costume. This wouldn't stop an artiste.
I submit that Left Shark was so engrossed in his character that he felt moved to improvise in the moment. Maybe he envisioned a shifting tide or prey in the distance. Maybe he sniffed a shipwreck or sensed danger lurking behind the palm tree. Perhaps Beach Ball had given him the stink eye. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was intentional. I can recognize a method dancer when I see one.
So, leave Left Shark alone. He is soulful and artistic, and I for one look forward to seeing him stretch and grow. Sadly, of Right Shark, I cannot say the same.