Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Shall We Dance?

In a recent article in the New York Times by Julie Bloom, she reported that models with a background of dance have a substantial advantage over the girls who don’t. She stated that
"a string of in-demand models with serious dance backgrounds literally have a leg up. At the same time, as the pages of this fall’s set of weighty magazines attest, professional dancers are influencing fashion in ways never seen before."
Miss Bloom gave one of the top models, Coco Rocha, as an example.

During my modeling years, I remember many times when I said to myself, “Thank God for my insistent mother.” For every summer when I was a child, she enrolled me in folk dancing. Yes, I would have preferred ballet……but growing up in a third world country - there was not much choice. I used to resent her choosing my activities for me, like the piano lessons and the art classes. But then again, when I was growing up, parents chose for us not the other way around.

I begrudged these 'forced' dance and music lessons, but in them I learned how to count beats in music; alternating between allegro and andante. I was able to determine that there is a high point and a low point in every piece of music. I also learned that any piece of music tells a story and that I am able to use my body to tell that story. Not that I was a critical thinker when I was younger because one just takes the lessons and forgets them, however, because one has the basics of music and dance, one is now wired to pick up those clues when listening to music. I also learned how to perform: I learned how to be comfortable in front of an audience despite my resistance to it.

Up to this day, even way after I retired as a model, I found myself taking numerous dance classes and exploring where my body could take me. I took African dance, Afro-Cuban dance, salsa, ballroom, belly dancing, etc. You name it…I can dance it. Dance gives me an outlet for creativity. In the same way singers use their voices as musical instruments, though I am not a prima ballerina, I use my body as an instrument of creative expression, as well.

Genre, tempo, and downbeat of the music were the biggest clues for me of how I would enter the runway. It was instinctive.

There were multiple times in my career when the musical advantage was blatant. Where other girls just walked down the runway, I danced down the runway, figuratively. There was even a time when designers like Versace would ask the girls to walk against the music. This is done sometimes to give the show a different edge. And even with that, a model can just walk and disregard the music but I found myself walking not to the downbeat but to another rhythm that I could hear from the music. Drummers know what I am talking about. It is a nuance, yes, not consciously observed by the audience, but I am still walking in harmony with the music while other girls walked like they were just walking in the street.

It was not always easy to do your own thing. Most of the time, we are asked to walk with other girls especially in ready to wear collections. But there are many times when you are given the opportunity to do as you please. When I was a starving model in Paris, we had to do a huge show in a chateau in Versailles somewhere, for Kenzo. The girls were transported to the place on a very comfortable bus in the morning. We had so much time to rehearse and prepare that by the time the guests arrived from Paris we were all ready and made-up. We were backstage drinking champagne. A big group of models formed a circle and even took turns dancing in the middle while the circle clapped their hands. I remember Gloria Burgess regaling us with her dancing antics. We were just having ‘bored models amuse themselves’ kind of fun.

When the show started, I had to go out with about 11 other girls wearing Balinese inspired dresses. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was the champagne. Maybe it was because it was a party, really and everyone was just having fun, even the audience. Backstage, even Kenzo was relaxed and giggly. Maybe because I knew instinctively that as a new model in Paris, I had to make a move sometime to get noticed. This was a good place as any for we were out of the ‘tents’. (collection time shows) It was not a press show but a show celebrating Kenzo. The difficult journalists were not in town; most were French press and the French are usually very open to originality and uniqueness. I don’t know what got into me but I let the music carry me. When I was walking down the runway, I started to pose like a Balinese dancer making all the hand movements from the Balinese dance while walking down the runway.

The thing about doing something good is that some of the girls after me started to copy me and do the same thing. It was not part of the choreography but it became part of it. I am not saying that a model should do unrehearsed things on the runway, especially these days where they expect girls to march in and out of the runway. But sometimes you, as a model, are given a chance to excel where it does not disrupt the flow of things and where your creativity is much appreciated. It is at that time that you should dance.

I remember once during a couture show of Christian Lacroix, I was given a Virgin Mary gown, a gold/silver shift that clung to my body. On top of that, I wore a huge stole of the same material but embroidered and it was placed on top of my head like a virgin’s veil. The music in the background was operatic aria. There is a high point in the music when the tenor belts out a “high C”. I walked down the runway to the music slowly waiting for the music to build up. As the music got faster and more intense, so was my approach of the top of the runway where a model turns and poses to go back. When the tenor hit the note, I was right on the place where I was supposed to be and I dramatically dropped the veil at the same time to go around my arms like a stole. The audience burst out in tremendous applause. It was really a timing thing and I really could not duplicate it in the next 2 shows. During the break before the next show, Lacroix people: the ladies of the atelier and the press agents of Lacroix, came to me and told me their hairs stood up during that passage. In a way, I knew. I knew I hit the high note and it was perfect. I knew that I moved to the music and it carried both the audience and me to a point of climax that the image and the moment will stay in their minds for a long time. I knew that I did a great job and that this house will hire me again for the next season. I also knew that Christian will not hesitate to assign his beautiful gowns to me for I knew how to make his clothes come alive. It was really a moment. And the thing with moments….you have to be ready when it comes. They say that “One should dance like nobody is watching.” In modeling, sometimes you should find that inner dancer in you, pretend nobody is watching and express yourself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

..if i may, you keep stating that you have "long retired" but truly, you have become a "MODEL" model all this time...an enigma who kept her mystery and appeal (even craved for by her legions of fans) and your blog beautifully written blog is sounding like you were fishing for those rare and out-of-world moments of triumph in your career, of which only a thinking and artistic persona like you will identify with..otherwise it would have been another pair of legs with a "picture perfect" model down the catwalk...
we want you back.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...did you notice that the theatrics of a fashion show has evolved and it has veered away from the models and the clothes but on venues, stage production and oddities on the stage (ciggarette butts on the floor, rain on the catwalk, Galliano over the top stagey trash of whatevers..we see the point but what is really the point?)...that as these are put up in almost every show..(hello, its exhausting and unnecessary), the otherwise simpleton of a parade of models becomes "okey"...i say simpleton though they may not be but they can not elevate to the demands of the presentation...
you described those magical "moments" as you are out there modeling on the catwalk and grandly received as they see you, your work and the creation of the designer...that is the kind of fuss we miss. That is a fashion show. I love the Dries van notten dinner tabl/catwalk with chandelier presentation...that was well put together and everything comes together and is true to his designs...that can kind of show we can relate..or i guess i just love him.
whatever..i love you and your work..and we want you back.
Jay A.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you are very inspiring.you write beautifully. thanks for sharing your 'gifts' to the world.


4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I would give to see a tape of that spectacular Lacroix moment!!Your superbly written narrative had me on the edge of my seat. It was truly a vicarious thrill...ang gleng gleng mo talaga!! That moment (in your youtube clip) when you swirled like a turumpo for Carolina...or was it Oscar and your right earring lost its moorings...pero hindi ka pa rin nagpaawat...and you continued your "Anna Bayle Walk" was outstanding!!

On another note....I hope you had a swell time visiting Manila. I read many Anna sightings (you judged some aspiring Bench (?) models..attended a 10 most beautiful-magazine event etc)in local publications (they all felt like they were in the presence of royalty...e di ba totoo naman?)..so I hoped you had a super marvelous time.


12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello ana bayle,

such beautiful thoughts! you wrote like those events just happened yesterday.

and you write fiercely! but filled with such wit & wisdom( practical musings that can be applied in any other field not just in fashion).

thanks! thanks! thanks!

when are you coming up with an anna bayle coffee table book? and is that show on air now? can't wait, actually.


7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..you are magnificent!!!.i am talking about this photo and how you owned the attitude of this pose..face focused and emotion well projected...the tilt of your head has tha commanding fierceness of a woman with strength and feminine grace...your body is fluid yet strong and well planted..as if you ready to fly a t the same time..
pure theatrics....

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...you truly speak what you preach...this photo on this blog alone truly portrays the essence of what you meant...from the way you angle your hips, to the intensity of your face down to your finger tips you are in character and has the carriage of a traditional Mindanao princess dancer...the models behind you looks limp and unfocused even with the way theys pread their hands and arms...you are magnificent and a vision in your catwalk appearances.
ping federis

2:04 PM  
Blogger pinstripesboy said...

What a vicarious thrill to read your memories of your many years as one of the definitive runway divas of the modern era. Very, very well written piece Anna. Kakaloka!! What I would give to see a clip of that super dramatic Lacroix moment.

I remember reading the Vogue cover story a couple of months back when the world's next top models were on the cover (putting just one model of color was a big slap on the faces of the current crop of Asian models!). Steven Meisel rejected the current notion that the top models these days have no personalities. I'm like, Steven honey, have you seen the runways lately? 99% of the time, them models have the blank faces of The Children of the Corn!! Super Scary!!


5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...time has changed indeed and even if Naomi Campbell, Kristen Mcmenamy and even Linda did a few shows recently..they lost their magic even if they strutted their personalities with them as they were dragged down to the mass of generics on the runway nowadays..it this testament that indeed the clothes are the focus but there no true models out there nowadays..the ones who put out that extra oomph and presence that is very much the topping of each show..
walk in walk out lights out

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...yes its true, the industry has changed and even the idea of haute couture is sounding just like "fabulous" or "genius" is taken nowadays..so accesible, so nonchalant...we have lost that filtering few who can dictate and inspire us in the fashion industry. Of course it must reach to the masses but its dangerously too close to the point that we are losing the idea to inspire, to look up to something idealistic.
The fashion editors are truly evil in this day and age...Anna Wintour is looking like a jaded rat, Glenda Bailey will just kiss any ass that will give her a freebie,I spare the Europeans for they make the effort to challenge what is the norm and be innovative in its publications. The models nowadays are no longer inspiring, they are nothing but girls that fit the clothes and if asked to have their own style be put out on the catwalk..they look uneasy, unsure and stumbles..no drama, lifeless.
Very few of them can we truly respect...and those are the ones that end up in exclusive contracts. Its time to dance Anna Bayle..show them how to do it
N. Campbell

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that really irks me these days is the manner in which the term supermodel is used so blitely. I realize the term means different things to different people but really, when they start calling Miss this and Miss That a supermodel just because she had 12 shows in NY, 16 in Paris and 29 in Milan in one, two or even five seasons they're now supermodels? Bakkeeettt???

12:31 PM  
Blogger Cracked said...

Interesting insights on a world that is quite alien to me...esp from a Asian American perspective..even more so from a Pilipino American one! I look forward to your next post.


Ps. I'd like to add a link to your blog on my own...with your permission, of course. :D

12:54 PM  
Blogger Gail said...

Hello Anna-Very nice to see you on YouTube! Could you please tell me who did the music on your video?

Lovely site!

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

club 69 honey...its called "walk for me"...fierce isn't it?..Anna is truly a legend!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Amar said...

hey Anna,
My name is Amar Faiz and i started a modelling agency in Oslo Norway called Idollooks in 2004, mainly to permote models of color. You are a great inspiration for me. I wanted to get intouch with you and show you my 3 phillipina girls and more.

Keep on rockin!:)

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna, you were the Verushcka and shall be your own Carmen Dell'Orifice. The way your mind thinks and works shows in the way you write and live your life. Lke a National Icon, you have not only conquered the fashion world of beauty nor left your mark as a "supermodel", you have allowed yourself to continue being an artist.
Anna Bayle = Art.
We want your Art back.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Gail said...

"Anonymous", thank you so much for graciously answering my question about the music. Much appreciated.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello ms bayle,

anna, i miss your writings...when will we see the much awaited 'the next annabayle'...?i'm excited to say the least...


3:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girl just happened to come across your page!! How the hell are you...and where are you? It would be nice to catch up wit ya. I'm in Vegas now. Nicholas is almost six now, boy time sure does fly huh! Hope your fine and give the little one a big kiss from his Auntie Sonia Cole.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your hair in the Philippine Tatler pictures. I am trying to grow my hair (it's shoulder length now) and style it the way you did in the pictorial. Is that how you do your hair every day? I am so tired of everyone having straight and long hair. Your hair is big, curly and sexy and healthy and so very glamorous. I WANT IT!!!

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna, you are very lucky, beautiful and talented. Fantastic photo's by the way...

7:01 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

You're a beautiful writer as well as a beautiful person, Anna. I hope to read more of your writing in the future.

11:58 PM  
Blogger shounn said...

omg, ur not just beautiful, ur brainy too.. haha

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several time i stumble on your Youtube video "Walk like Anna Bayle"...and god so love me today i was able to read your blog... its just what i'm expecting from a girl that stand up her own with the elite models of her time, it was inspiring and entertaining and speak of very much of you... UNFORGETABLE...Good health to you and your family.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a clip from you tube of the
picture above from the Thierry Mugler fashion show. AMAZING!!
Anna moved like a goddess.....

1:26 PM  

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