In class, while Rocker moves us through a warm-up routine that’s become as familiar as brushing my teeth, he’s chatty and observant as he shapes dancers with thoughtful, constructive criticism.
But after a few margaritas, he’s disarmingly forthright.
At a corner table in the noisy bar one Saturday afternoon, this lean, balletic man with broad shoulders, high cheekbones and tawny skin, his chocolate brown eyes framed by long, dark eyelashes, leaned toward me. In a few words, he answered a question of mine that I hadn’t dared to ask anyone because I thought it rhetorical -- and somewhat self-absorbed.
Yet answers sometimes arrive unexpectedly. Or not.
Because, I’ve been asking the question -- if not out loud -- for nearly 18 months since Rocker’s and Danny’s dancer magnetism lured me into their class. Over 200 studio hours later, I still thrive in their presence. I plugged myself into a whole new source of energy and self-esteem. They are undeniably my most influential teachers at this phase in my born-again dancer life.
Through my writing, I have been picking up the edges of this luxurious cloak that I’ve wrapped around me, passion and obsession, and peeking underneath. It’s not always pretty. I have found Adolescent Misgivings, Regret, Lost Time and a Biological Clock, plus a bevy of labels like "Use it or lose it" and of course, "Carpe Diem!" There are days when I go to class at 8:15 p.m., when I could have gone to bed. At those times, I wonder why I am dancing when I’ve been up for 15 hours.
Secretly, I wonder if it may -- poof -- go away. Will I wake up one day in 2015 and hear myself say, “Yeah, I used to dance.” (sigh) “I went through a phase where I danced four days a week, like a madwoman.” (laugh)
But that afternoon at the bar, he leaned toward me, laid his brown eyes on mine and said:
“Even if you’d been doing this all along, you’d still be neurotic about it.”
I nod. (Oh. So he knows.)
“Look at us,” he shrugs and waves a hand at Danny. “We are.”
“And you’re cut from the same cloth.”
The dancer in me recognizes the dancer in you.
In that second I felt absolutely transparent.
Because, in theory, I thought, he knows everything now. Though he may not know the minutiae, he does know what it’s like to build your life around dancing -- like your life depends on it.
Though he doesn’t know all of those details, I thought, he may not be surprised to learn that I drive around town fantasizing and choreographing dances in my head. That I count down the hours before I go to class. That when I am in class, I concentrate to the point that I stop identifying with my image in the mirror. That I forget my own name. That I hear every observation, every critique or compliment that’s spoken and absorb them as if I’m the only person in the room.
He may not know that when I walked into their class the very first time, and every time afterward, that I lay my dancer’s heart at their feet. But he knows why I’m there.
I sat there like glass. Fragile.
“You’re intense,” he said matter of factly, playing with his drink on the table. I listened.
“You’re a hard worker. I can see how intense you are. You are so determined.” He clenched his fists and squared his jaw. “You’re always giving it everything.
“You’re like us, we can’t stop.”
So these feelings are not circumstantial, I realized. It’s just me. It’s always been there. There’s no cloak. It’s not separate from me. It is me.
I’m processing this realization when he makes his point.
Lighten up already. Lighten. Up.
“Find the joy, Laura,” he says. “It’s your passion, it’s your joy. I know you’re rediscovering yourself. You’re there. You’re strong. Now I want to see that playfulness in you.” He fanned his fingers with a little shrug, tilted his head, rolled his shoulders down his back. It’s a mannerism that I recognize as emphasis when he’s trying to get his students to Feel, not just Do.
He took a last sip of margarita, and we stood up to leave.
I gave you your answer.
Now go dance.
(c) 2010 Laura Bond Williams, All Rights Reserved.