Cinderella’s Feretron Dance.
Cinderella dances with the image of her dead mother, in act one of Prokofiev's ballet.
The image re-presents the absence of mother. The image is the lack of mother imagined, or imaged. (It is also, of course, illustrated - that is the perhaps the simple and primary function of the painting of mother which is referred to by the dancers, and by Cinderella especially.)
In terms of its illustrative function the painting is merely necessary, in order to allow the audience to understand that something is not there but remains in the mind and memory of Cinderella.
What is interesting, for me, is the use of the image in this instance. The subject become object. The living subject become memorial object, to which the gestures of the living are addressed.
What lack is it that we are being asked to consider in this instance of reference to image? The lack of another subject? The lack of an imaginary other? The lack of a symbolic other? It is certainly not the lack of a Real other. Yet it seems that the threat of the Real of absence/lack, is somehow what energises Cinderella’s anxious and peculiarly formalised but utterly human movement. These rushes and steps backwards and forwards, the hiding and storing, and emphatic longing which are directed in overt and narrative gestures - can only be sustained by and in reference to re-presentation itself. What Cinderella dances for is not her mother, not Mother, but the very lack that produces the coordinates of being human, which is to say the gap between the words of the speaking being. Cinderella’s dance qua the image of mother is the dance, the dance of the being alienated by the imaginary with the ability to exist only via the imaginary.
Cinderella dances the intersecting line between anxiety and desire; representing without words the abyss of the woman who does not exist as the centrality of the alienation of the speaking being. Cinderella dances to the core of negativity instilled as we are born into language, her movement in the realisation of the energy of the void made manifest by the deadness of representation. It is only in the face of this representation that dance can happen, that the (christian) dance of life itself is actualised.
Mother is never seen, never understood to have any human characteristic at all. Even here, in the ballet, she has not only no voice but no movement. Rather it is Cinderella who by her movement, by her timidity and restraint of gesture, “speaks” the role of mother, the phantom of the Other who never, a priori, existed.
The absent mother is not object, she is also never figure. The woman does not exist. She is subject in as much as she is given meaning by and through the realisations, the gestural transfigurations of others. (Cinderella’s father’s gestures are also of note in this regard)
The figure/object to which I am able to correlate my notion of mother is a representational image made object. Where Gertrude is more than lacking by being present in all her utterly undeserving meaninglessness, Cinderella’s mother is pure lack, total absence made bearable by the act of (the painter’s) creation. This is why Cinderella’s mother is also absolutely true – she is absolutely fictional. There is more in Cinderella’s nothing-mother than there is in the unenviable barely something which is Gertrude.
Cinderella’s mother avoids being Gertrude by being nothing at all, which is to say nothing in all its positivity, all its animating abstraction. She does this by being a painting which only a daughter could pretend to love, against the horrifyingly ordinary imaginary reality of the ugly sisters and bitter step mother who, far from representing some ghastly nightmare, present reality in all its glorious and cruel comedy. Where Gertrude is a wobbly hook onto which a drama, a tragedy, can be barely believed to be mounted Cinderella for all its apparent childishness simply removes the real mother entirely from the stage and replaces her with the vast power of a representation.
Cinderella’s mother is only God, as represented via christ, as the image of the cross.
(Prince Charming might be usefully considered as the late medieval romantic repositioning of Christian religious fervour onto the beloved other?
And the fairy godmother - a kind of diabolical superego fantasy morality. Her pompous state of absolute moral certainty makes each of those little movements en pointe the more meaningful, shuffling slowly offstage, backwards, between the grotesque arabesque of “nature”.)