The Inspiration of Ballet West
I am on a date with myself to see Ballet West, a Dance company from Utah performing at the Joyce Theatre in Manhattan. As I settle into my seat I sense couples eyeing my solitude with pity and I suddenly doubt my exercise in self love. But that momentary discomfort changes when the curtain comes up on a bright stage of men in nude trunks.
As the dance begins, it is wonderful and energetic but with little emotion, all angular modern moves on classically trained bodies, technical and precise. They are perky and joyful to watch but will their performance move me? I am certainly impressed by their physiques. There is not a speck of fat, not a single warble on the women’s bare (no tights!) thighs of steel – I am in the second row! They are not emaciated, just athletes in peak form. I envy their taut abdomens.
I am drawn in by an exceptional pas de deux between two men exhibiting their equality in strength and masculinity. They match each other perfectly in timing and leg height and then flow over each other in fluid intertwined precision.
But it is the women who make me question my life choices. I long to be them, stretching my soul out across that stage, trusting my partner, my body.
A woman enters (Arolyn Williams) in a flowing dress, all legs and extensions, mysterious with elegant arched lines. Her partner, fearless and strong, makes their partnering feats look simple. It’s a joy to watch him sail her through the space in shapes I’ve never imagined. Meanwhile I am regretting my age, questioning my life path. I’m grateful my parents insisted on college, but I suddenly wish I’d danced professionally younger. I fantasize about roads not taken and recall a conversation with my mother. Why hadn’t she encouraged me? Maybe she did. I rewrite our dialogue in my head to a conversation long lost as dancers in white appear in a piece called Sweet and Bitter. Isn’t that just like life? A stunning African-American woman (Katlyn Addison) slices fiercely across the stage, her confidence as cutting as her sharp feet and fast spot. I am unable to look at anyone else. I watch these gorgeous dancers and wonder—do they have doubts? None that show.
“Maybe I wasn’t confident enough”, I muse. I was a good dancer, but I was young, I needed more training. I was scared. Was my mother to blame? Was it my fault? Did I not believe in myself enough?
The last dance begins, the women in grey shorts and flowing tunic tops, the men in smart dark vests and pants. The lead woman, (Arolyn Williams) small and expressive, reminds me of a ballet friend I performed with years ago, classical yet spunky with a depth of feeling. I begin to think of all the friends with whom I performed over the years, the laughs, the camaraderie. She dances away from the lead man (Chase O’Connell) to another male dancer. Chase in turn partners a tall flirt (Beckanne Sisk) with dark hair and flashing eyes, dangerous and gorgeous and reminiscent of another dancer friend from my past. She dances away from him too.
O’Connell comes back, walking through the others wearing no vest, no pants, just grey shorts. He has lost both of the women. Everyone leaves and it begins to snow. The women each appear but they don’t go to him this time. He is alone—but not sad alone— he dances slowly, naked, strong and I love this man, and his vulnerability as he crawls, as he reaches his long frame, as he turns and jumps. Throughout the night and my waves of joy and longing, wishing I had danced with a major company, wondering if I’d been good enough, envying their bodies, maybe the answer was love. Maybe I could simpy love all of me – even the parts that were scared and didn’t go for it in the past – and not lose hope this time, but instead do what I love to do to whatever extent I can. As the dancer kneels he raises his head up as the snow comes down and I thought, “and this is how it ends”.
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