Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Anna Karenina, Dance, and Relief

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Last week, I saw the Eifman St. Petersburg Ballet perform Anna Karenina. Before the performance, Julia Zarankin gave a lecture on the novel to ballet-goers. She said that Tolstoy was deeply interested in exploring what the body knows that the mind does not, which makes interpreting Anna Karenina as dance an exciting choice. This thought stayed with me during the performance, which was always beautiful to watch and, in particular sequences, thrilling. In an interview with Globe and Mail writer Martha Schabas, Boris Eifman, founder and artistic director of the Eifman Ballet, said, “I’m not trying to illustrate the plot of the novel. My ballet is something very different – a kind of choreographed psychoanalysis of Anna’s mind.”* A psychoanalysis of movement and image but not of words: the body’s way of “speaking.” When I watch dance, I almost always feel an exquisite, palpable relief—the relief of being released from language. Then I become deeply absorbed in non-linguistic, though not agrammatical, expressiveness: the body’s knowledge and potential and desire mapped across time unfolding as space. My own limited range of motion feels wildly expanded watching the dancers perform theirs. Relation becomes perceptible: the body’s relation to other bodies, to the creation of space, to modes of duration. To the mind as an interval for feeling. A kind of humming with being. As if life itself were gathering a barely discernible form.

*Martha Schabas, “Dancing into Anna Karenina’s Mind,” The Globe and Mail, April 17, 2015, accessed April 26, 2015,

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Julie Joosten

Julie Joosten is originally from Georgia but now lives in Toronto. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers Program and a PhD from Cornell University. Her poems and reviews can be read in like starlings, Lemon Hound, Lit, Jacket 2, Tarpaulin Sky, the Malahat Review and The Fiddlehead. She recently guest edited an issue of BafterC, a journal of contemporary poetry. Her first book, Light Light, was shortlisted for the 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, and the 2014 Goldie Award.

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