Pas de deux
What follows is a ballet story from Aurielle. You are always encouraged to read her blog. I have to thank her for the geraniums on my kitchen window sill.
I have been terribly lonely at times -- especially on Sundays. Why on Sundays? I spoke with Thelma Palmer on the phone. She lives on Guemes Island, back in the Skagit. Thelma loves me like a mermaid, and then she is gone under the waves
I was at the beach this morning, because I camped there, Fri. night and Sat. night, so I woke up Sunday morning, sleeping on the sand. People keep saying I should get a tent, but I like it too much to sleep outdoors under the stars. It was wonderful when I woke up. I didn't start to feel lonely until later in the day.
Now here is Aurielle's dance story.
I studied ballet as a girl. The mistress who taught me though my teen years was named Judith Aane. She had an apricot poodle that matched her own hair, which she gathered into an enormous bun accentuated with a silk gardenia. She wore tea rose perfume, and smelled of ashes and roses. Mave lipstick covered narrow lips, although smileless, she was beautiful. Her eyelashes were thick and coated heavily with black mascara, her eyebrows in half-circles framed aqua irises and expressionless lids. She was no bigger than a whisper and wore tiny chiffon skirts over her leotard. I once saw her en pointe, warming up before a class dancing wildly, she was music.
I walked from school and changed in a little dressing room spending every afternoon in the studio. I loved to dance. It was meditation; learned and controlled I practice a way to move. I was living art. I tortured my body the way that dancers do, with bloody toes and minimal food. I twisted my hair into a chignon and pressed down my curls with a tacky gel called dippity doo, being scolded if a rogue curl was to spring out.
I had a studio in my garage and slept with weights pressing apart my knees to perfect my turn-out. I auditioned for companies in other cities, hoping to one day leave home. I imagined living on my own with a jar of bobby pins, a box of rosin and a moody pianist. But I was just a girl and it was enough for my parents to leave me there after school every day.
My first kiss was from the Nutcracker Prince, a lanky boy named Derek. (I had been kissed previously by the other girls as this was the way of sharing lipstick backstage.) Derek pulled my legs high over my head while I stood en pointe at a barre. Letting go with my hand, I pressed into his strong arms and shoulders wanting at once to impress him with my flexibility and to rely on his strength. He walked towards me extending my leg higher. I pointed my toe and looked into his eyes, wondering if I might be split. I watched for malace, but never found any. It took my full attention not to cringe as my tendons lengthened. I mastered the pleasant smile of one used to suffering. The stretch was slow and warm and I liked him. But I never relied entirely on his balance, there was always a hand, ready to catch myself on the barre or wall nearby. We slept in corners after matinees and before evening performances. I woke to find him watching me.
I was too small to be a dancer. I have shrunken legs and it took a great deal of effort to diminish my developing curves. (The goal was to be thin enough not to menstuate.)
I was never going to dance for a living, I knew that. But I loved it still. I longed to leap and never touch ground. I wanted to spin and fly weightless and silent. Melting into the music I didn't count, I felt each step. I breathed the choreography.
The ballet mistress sent me to another studio as I improved, the one where Derek practiced. I was to learn pas de deux. She told me to buy a special undergarment which would keep the men from crushing my waist. I imagined guts pressing and bones cracking beneath these panties, and only thier tenacious elasticity holding in my organs.
Dancing with men wasn't the same. Suddenly, it wasn't my power, thrusting me in leaps across a stage, it was a concerted stillness that was necessary. I leapt, but was caught and held and then manipulated. Occasionally I was dropped and scrambled mid-air to ready myself for landing. Most often I was suspended like an object. My piroettes were no longer solitary, a man who smelled of eucalyptus rub had wide hands on my waist and spun me while I spotted and steadied myself. These men were older and loved the new little ballerinas. They carried us in the dressing rooms even after being scolded by teachers. They formed my body into arches and lifted me and spun me as if I were a marionette. They stood back during sessions of turns or mock-death scenes and then returned to hold my still body or spot a series of eternal spins.
It wasn't mine anymore. Ballet lost its charm.
I didn't realize that it was my lack of autonomy that pressed me to quit. I blamed it on wanting to go to homecoming one year and not being permitted by the mistress. I also cited a minor (imaginary?) knee injury.
I left ballet, as most girls do. I attended the homecoming and those that followed.
Independence continues to be important to me. But I wonder, if I had trusted, if I had allowed myself to be suspended by someone else's strength for a little while, if I would have found a balance.