So, I missed writing this past Sunday because I went down to Chicago for the weekend to see my nine-year-old niece, Ella, dance in The Nutcracker. She did a wonderful job, and although her role as a Party Girl in the opening scene of the ballet did not have a glamorous costume or even lots of true balletic maneuvers–much to her chagrin–she still managed to bring a remarkable presence and joie de vivre to her part, as her dad’s photos of her indicate. Everywhere she went on the stage, she was thoroughly engaged in her persona and she beamed the essence of excitement that all party girls feel when they dance.
I was impressed with the performance abilities of the youth in the Hyde Park School of Dance. All the younger dancers were poised, energetic, on cue, and on their marks. The principles could have fooled you into thinking they were professionals, not high school students. The show took place in a gorgeous, Victorian-era theater, Mandel Hall, on the campus of the University of Chicago. All in all, it was a great time and I was very proud of Ella, even if she felt disappointed not to have what she considered a “better” role in the dance.
Don’t we all feel this way sometimes? Like we have been cheated out of the role we deserve? I know I have felt this way in my life, well after the age of nine. The older I get, the less I am bothered by such things, but I remember very clearly many times when I did not get the gold ring I thought I wanted: a certain boy, a certain job, recognition from my peers, and even in these wiser and more mature days of mine, acceptance for publication in some poetry journal or other.
What I have learned is that it helps always to give whatever I am doing my all. I try to do things one hundred and ten percent, just like Ella did. I say, dance like you mean it, even if there are no grand jetés or pirouettes choreographed into your part. Jump your jumps, run purposefully, smile, and light up your eyes every chance you get. Georg operated this way and I know he would have agreed with this approach to life.
I will end with a prose poem that I wrote as an experiment with my friends in what we have come to call the First Liners Club. We have been creating first lines for each other and then seeing what this leads us each to write. I shared a notion with them that had been running through my head of late and I gave us this first line, “She remembers something that has not yet happened.” Here is what I wrote:
She remembers a day that has not yet happened, the day when her heart stopped—just like that—and one-by-one, her molecules peeled off and set sail for points undetermined on the four winds. She remembers it was a day filled with wonder, when she became sandstorm, snowstorm, summer breeze, winter hearth, hummingbird, cheetah, mountain stream, symphony, oak tree, firefly, smile, and the scent of lilacs at dusk. She remembers the pained faces of her family and friends grieving the loss of her, and she remembers yelling at them, I am still here! But, they could not hear her, at least not with normal ears. Some, one or two, heard her with the ears in their hearts, and they knew she was not really gone, only perpetually late for every occasion to the point of never actually showing up. She remembers that those who loved her did not mind this and they always set a place for her, just in case. She remembers to remind herself that in the next life, she will do more, be more, love more. She remembers that she will never be late again.
And so onward with the dance. Remember, a hundred and ten percent. Always. Today is Thursday Dad, and I am thinking of you, of course.
Photographs by Stephan Mazurek