The Essence of Elegance
I'm with A Presence
In your magnetic presence.
Fills the darkened rows;
Floods them in your majesty.
Where e'er you lingered,
Much more brilliantly, - it glows.
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
“Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.”
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."
Audrey Hepburn personified her own definitions of elegance. She was its epitome in its truest senses of what I believe are its characteristics: fine-tuned, well-put together, graceful, poised, stylish in tasteful simplicity in appearance and manner; unique, pleasingly ingenuous and charming without self-consciousness or pretention.
She was naturally elegant, which to me IS elegant, coming naturally from within, filling one's presence and actions. She was elegant no matter what she was wearing or how she was or was not 'made-up'. Authentic, i.e.: 'herself'.
That, to me, is elegance.
These photos of her well illustrate that she was versatile, equally at ease in formal situations and attire, - or with a checkered napkin draped over her head, lost in rapt attention to what was going on around her, - or alone, absorbed in reading!
Maya Plisetskaya age 34 - dances Dying Swan1959
She first performed at the Bolshoi in 1936 at 11. She joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 1943, was immediately recognized as a different kind of ballerina and moved from the corps to soloist in record time; noticeable with her arresting appearance: bright red hair, long fluid limbs, flexible back, strong slim legs. She became known for her technical prowess, but more, her stage charisma, inherent grace and innovative style fixed her place among the greats.
She was to continue to perform regularly at the Bolshoi till she was 75, still far from retirement for at least another 10 years. She had captured many roles, including her inimitable "Dying Swan". She said her legs must conform to classical style, to become the accompaniment to her expressive hands and arms, which were always free to be her own 'wings', 'never the wings of another dancer'. With them, she said, she was able to express nationalities, stories, character, emotions, life and death. She felt and interpreted movements of live swans as she danced the "Dying Swan".
From the beginning, she made each role her own; even her movements as a corps member drew astonished attention. Described as 'an artistic genius', 'fire unleashed, bursting like fireworks', 'a human reference point', 'a true miracle' and 'a little figure with a great, impressive stage presence, Maya is also called "ballet's monster sacre, a flaring, flaming beacon in a world of dimly twinkling talents, a beauty in the world of prettiness." She was enshrined in a Russian documentary, "Ava Maya". There is something so creative in her that it rivets the attention and leaves one unable to account for the mystery of her radiance, the plasticity of her movements, the impact of her effect.
- She IS the essence of elegance in every sense, in my opinion.
"Simplicity is the keynote to all elegance."
“Elegance is refusal.”
“Elegance comes from being as beautiful inside as outside.”
Among elegant people of the earlier decades of the 20th century, French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, influenced her own generation and those that followed with the timely, devastating simplicity of her designs, accessories and their total essence. Surely elegance is most obvious in taste so exquisite that it leads others to prefer the beautiful, the simple, the graceful, rather than the gaudy and the pretentious which is offered, for their personal styles and behaviors.
'Refusal' surely refers to tasteful, intelligent discernment of what is good and valuable, rather than acceptance of what is unworthy and paltry among one's choices. Knowing to not settle for shabbiness or needing to, since one's innate elegance influences the externals, rather than vice versa!
A Personal Moment
Once I faced that exact challenge. I was weary and feeling I'd 'lost it', - whatever I may have possessed personally, so much that re-reading a book I'd had since college: Madame Dariaux', "Elegance", brought me to tears. It seemed to be an impossible list of everything I no longer had or hoped to have; - until I realized that the book was no more than a manual on grooming guidelines, sort of the "Emily Post" of fashion sense.
It mentioned naught about the essence of elegance within a person, -Which, I realized, was still within me.
So it is that the personal environment and choices rest upon a person's own integrity and true elegance; it is in projecting those positives out, rather than absorbing shabby, defeating negatives in - and recognizing the difference. The general circumstances may continue; one need not be conformed to them.
It's equivalent to letting the sunshine into one's being on an overcast day!
Eyes that see,
Ears that hear,
When it is near, -
That it can be.
The self survives
‘Ere it knows
Where it goes.
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
Elegance Is A Human Feature
Chanel's kind of essential elegance and ability to influence others to appreciate it may also be found in Greta Garbo. But, be clear: these qualities of elegance and its influence are certainly not reserved for women, nor even for adults. It is as natural in a man as a woman, though it may be expressed somewhat differently; no less noticeably, however.
- Marlon Brando had elegance, as did Paul Newman. I think of Ralph Lauren and Jean-Paul Gaultier, a number of world leaders, philosophers and scientists, plus many others before and since those mentioned, from whom it radiates. No such list is adequate without mention of the first Dallas Cowboys coach, "Mr." Tom Landry, always a well-respected, well-groomed, well-mannered gentleman, even as he coached and inspired the team to several championships and SuperBowls.
- Several child-prodigy opera singers, the latest of whom I'm aware being Aria Tesolin, radiate elegance of presence and spirit. I believe she's nine now, but has been singing impressive opera since she was three! One must hear it to fully believe this! As phenomenal as her singing is, one is amazed how her bearing and person project her natural elegance
As with men and women from all walks of life who abundantly have it, elegance radiates through their personal presence, manners and demeanor, and in what they draw into themselves and what they radiate from themselves; - be they statesmen, film stars, athletes, artists, professionals, tycoons, service men or construction workers. We simply are able to observe it more readily in more visible people.
It is not WHAT they do, but with what verve and truth they do it, and so, imbuing it with their spirits and essences. The Statue of David is impressive, no doubt; but so is the carefully crafted Mother's Day card meticulously made by a caring child. The little tyke at my door on Halloween who asked for a piece of the candy for his mama demonstrated his own elegance with that gracious gesture.
Works Are Reflections of Personal Elegance
Indeed, the works people do and create shine forth their own reflected elegance, from farming to composing, from designing to mathematics, from writing to baking.
Whatever humans do can become a radiating reflection of unique personal elegance within themselves. It needn't achieve fame or fortune to prove its authentic elegant quality which, being intrinsically simply 'there', it is sensed by others whenever it is enjoyed, used or beheld.
Leonardo da Vinci
An excellent example of the qualities of elegance in a famous man was Leonardo daVinci, who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Though a mere human, he knew about these things!
Sophistication, which by definition is savoir faire, refinement, intelligence, confidence, civility, and experience, - is a characteristic of elegance and vice versa.
This well illustrates its definition: ~ "The shabbiest of work clothes could not disguise his sophistication." ~ Elegance applies as well.
Elegance is that essential trait within a person which he may endow on his work and his artistry, and with which his creations, movements, self-expression, and presence will be imbued. It is never superficial or artificial, nor is it ever what is on his back, though what is on his back may reflect its own creator's elegance, as well.
So I might sum it up as: elegance is a quality of the Quality of being true to one's Being, rather than posing as a camouflage or disguise for it.
The air, the aura
Surrounding a person,
While fully focused upon
Excellence of the work.
An innate agility,
A Courage to Be,
Unafraid of being different
Because that’s what it is, - To Be.
Pristine beauty and charm
Uncanny, uncontrived ability
______© Nellieanna H. Hay
Maya Plisetskaya age 61 - dances Dying Swan 1986
Maya Plisetskaya danced the "Dying Swan" many times in her career, at home and abroad, both before 1959 and after 1986. Each example portrays special meaning for us, as we see her studying the swans in 1959, in order better to interpret their movements and attitudes; now here, showing that, over the 50 years between these two performances,- her technique, grace and incredibly sensitive interpretation of the Saint-Saëns dance show no evidence of having diminished. Later performances remained the same. At age 87, in 2012, her presence and agelessness are ongoing and ever-deepening; and her elegance, timeless.