For as long as I can remember, my dearest wish has been to be a black, male dancer. My first serious teacher was Donald McKayle, a tall, dark Appolo from, I think, somewhere in the Carribean and my ideal has forever since taken his form. Never mind that I am female, quite Caucasian and currently too old to perform on a stage, but still, after last night’s performance of the Lines Ballet Company in San Francisco, the old longing came back in spades. Glorious as the whole company is, it was the long-legged dark skinned men, unhampered by toe shoes and chiffon bursting strong and free onto the stage that brought back all those impossible early yearnings of the young dancer I once was.
This morning, musing in bed, I can still feel their moves in my body as these guys arose out of the wings with wings, and danced the dance of life in all its creative possibility. I saw their power and their poignant subtlety, their consummate skill and their freedom. They were beyond beautiful to me – they were life itself, the life I wish to live and the beauty I wish to bring to the world. In human form they were the metaphor and model I wish to embody, and the image of the words I try, as a writer, to write.
What I want in my daily life is their discipline and the skill that gives them their freedom to fly; I wish to live with 100% of myself, taking risks from the balanced safety of my whole being. I wish to rise high in the air as I leap, extending myself to the limits of my body. I want to have no doubts about my abilities, knowing that even at rest I am gorgeous, and in motion know how to take ever-changing shapes that express the wildness and subtlety of my being. I want my every breath to count, and my heart to beat with the rhythm of the music so that I can convey in every move the beauty of the world. That’s the kind of artist – the kind of person – I want to be every day.
Those metaphors were lit for me up in the balcony where I watched in thrall the range of their genius, their moving shapes, their quiet stillness. Their spines were supple and strong enough to carry each other, and their muscles relaxed enough to be carried; they made seemingly impossible leaps of faith, landing where trust in each other had to be perfect. They took solos and shone, and then provided backup to the shining of the others. With grace they assisted one another, gave space and support and found their unique places in the design of the whole. Their bodies sang with the great fun they were having, unfettered, self-assured and powered by the innate creativity of the universe.
I was so jealous! Not only did I long to be able to do what they did, but I wanted to BE them, even though I couldn’t even be one of them when I was their age, in my prime! But here’s what I think I can do: I can see them dance and imbibe the quality of their dancing into my own being. I can be grateful that they exist in the world for us in the audience to experience; I can know that if a small troupe of dancers can, with discipline, talent and the desire to do so, create that much magical beauty, the world will be alright despite all evidence to the contrary. I can, in my moments when all looks bleak, be assured that the dancers and artists and writers who come after me shall also be able to create a vision of what “the best” looks and feels like, and that everything I live for will not be lost when I am gone.
But. Maybe, in my next life I would so love to come back and be a black male dancer
Causes Carolyn North Supports
Daily Bread Project, which I founded in 1982 - see...