Thursday, 31 January 2008

Modern Dance

This is something I started a while ago. I'm trying to decide where to take it I have about 6 pages in total, but it could go much further. Should I bother?

“Stop! Turn around very slowly,” Miss Foucault commanded in her thick French accent. “Now when I leap, you should catch me by the hips around shoulder height and lift me over your head.” She leapt, I missed, and she came crashing down on top of me. Oddly, it was never the other way around.

It was only a fluke that I ended up in this class. My girlfriend Tamsin talked me into taking Beginning Modern Dance for my last PE requirement in my senior year of college. She was going to take it, too, but we broke up between my registration time and hers. In the end, I was the only beginner signed up, so they combined my “class” with the advanced class, taught by Elise Foucault, who if not for a tragic toe injury would be Prima Ballerina in the Royal Ballet.

I'd heard rumors that Miss Foucault...Elise...was a predator, but had found nothing to substantiate them. However, I'd become her “project.” As I was a raw beginner, none of the more-experienced women ever wanted to partner me...that, and the fact that I was older. I took time out after my sophomore year to play horn in the San Diego Symphony, which has since folded. At 28, I was the oldest person in the room; even Elise was only 27.

Unpaired, I became her demonstration dummy, especially it seemed, when I had to touch or hold her in intimate places. Of course, I was also the only straight male in the class. Half the women were gay, too, but not Elise; she made that abundantly clear. The only advantage I had over the other men was that I was bigger and stronger, so lifting Elise, who was tall for a dancer, was relatively easy. Very tactile and with a very small “personal space,” she stood too close for my American sensibilities, and was embarrassed by nothing, not even unisex changing spaces. Since our class put on a performance every three weeks, I frequently had to help her change costume. That was excruciating, but I kept reminding myself that I was dancing with one of the best in the world.

She wanted, I think, two things: to turn me into a dancer, and get me into her bed. I would say that neither was on the cards, but I have this thing about dancers, and she had a perfect dancer's body. I also liked how she showed her emotion. If she was sad, you could see it from the back of the auditorium. She was also very plain-speaking. “I want you to make love to me,” she'd said in front of the whole class. She was talking about a particular move we were working on, but I could see in her eyes that she meant it for real. If she wasn't my teacher, I'd be tempted.

The worst thing about it is that I dreamt about her about 10 years ago, before I'd ever seen or even heard of her...and she was wearing the red and white leotard that she was wearing now as she lay on top of me. I could never get that image out of my head, and when I first saw her dance in London, I immediately knew it was her, even from a distance. Nothing really happened in the dream, just her standing there in front of me...and she spoke to me. “Don't worry, I'll get there,” is what she had said in an American accent.

Fortunately, we had fallen onto a soft matt. “Don't try to do it all in a single motion,” she scolded as she rolled off. “Turn, catch, then lift.” Her blue eyes beamed out from under her short auburn hair. Unlike most, she looked me straight in the eye when speaking to me. It was a little disconcerting. The others in the class knew better than to laugh when I dropped her, which was on a regular basis. She had a sharp tongue, and if she swore at you in Franglais, you were in deep trouble. She would find something particularly embarrassing for you to do.

I don't know what she saw in me. Perhaps it was just because I was older than the others. Still, I had the least experience, and she was very demanding of me. Of course, she couldn't have her partner dropping her in a performance. Fortunately, I never have.

They had to give me a crash course in the basics of dance, and most of all, dancing with a partner. It's all about trust. The others were used to all the crazy familiarity exercises: moving blindfolded, falling and being caught by your peers, and the touching ones. That was the hardest – not being afraid to touch another dancer anywhere you are told to, or to allow them to touch you in the same manner. I did these exercises with everyone, but with Elise on a regular basis because I was her partner. I still haven't gotten used to it and often flinch if she touches me where I'm ticklish or somewhere private. If I baulk at touching her anywhere, I get slapped. Of course, someday I may have to lift her by her pelvis. I feared that day would be coming soon.

I finally succeeded in catching her and lifting. She seemed so light to me, as if she was floating and I was just holding her down. We tried it a couple more times to clean up a few lines, mostly my foot placement, and then the other couples tried. Elise and I would be the only ones doing the move in the next performance, but she always made sure that everyone could do it in case there was an injury. The rest of class was spent running that particular scene. It was pretty rough, especially me, since that was the first time we'd run it straight through.

“Daniel,” she said, accosting me at the end of the session, “Do you have some time later today?"

“I've got an orchestra rehearsal until late, and...”

“Would you come to the studio afterwards?” she asked. It was more of a command. She truly was a diva and never expected anyone to refuse her.

“It might run over,” I replied, hoping to put it off. “It's a dress rehearsal for tomorrow night's concert.”

“I will wait for you,” she answered, sounding slightly disappointed.

“Won't the building be locked?”

“Just knock on the window of my office and I'll let you in.” She had an answer for everything.

“I can't stay up too late. It's a difficult concert, and I've got a few solos.”

“Don't worry.”

I realized there was no way out. As I took a quick shower, I wondered what she wanted from me. Was this it? Would this be the moment she made her move? There were only four more weeks left in the term, and then I was finished with my PE requirement – no more dance. There was something about it that I would miss. I grew up watching a lot of ballet and was always around dancers. Gina, my high school girlfriend was a dancer, and I often played for her performances - I also play some piano. My mother had wanted to be a dancer until she got pregnant with me. My brother and sister followed in quick succession, and that ended her aspirations.

I was a quick study and had all but caught up with the class in certain things. Elise told me that I had a natural awareness of my body that few other dancers had. Others had to learn it, and even then, it was always forced. I knew exactly what she meant. I've always been able to see it – dancers whose every move was complete to the tips of their fingers and toes. Elise had it in spades, of course, even when she wasn't dancing. Anything that involved “classical” dance, I was pretty useless. She always choreographed around that fault.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Itchy feet

Rebecca stood waiting at the door. She'd knocked once, twice, three times. Biting her lip, she started turning away before the lock clicked and the door creaked open.

"I ..." she began.

"You are expected," answered a wizened old hag. That didn't properly describe her, she must have been beautiful once. She moved with a grace that belied her years, and she still had her figure.

"I was told ..." Rebecca started again, following her through the dusty narrow passage. The medium had told her to come, no reason, but the cards told the place and the time, and that it was both urgent and important.

"Just come on in and see what you find, dear," the hag replied, with a gentle, almost motherly smirk. "You will find it, what you are looking for."

"What am I looking for?" Rebecca asked. Besides a man, she thought, and she was unlikely to find one here.

"Your heart knows," she answered, leading Rebecca around a corner. That's where the bare bulbs stopped. The corridor widened and was lit by candles, evenly spaced at intervals of 10 feet.

Rebecca felt odd, that she'd already walked further than the length of the building, yet the corridor stretched as far as she could see. It had only been a small hovel at the end of an alley, deep in the heart of the City of London. If her bearings were right, she should have been standing in the middle of The Embankment, dodging cars as they sped past. Another 20 paces, and she would be swimming in the Thames, yet the passage continued.

As the hag led on, Rebecca was astounded by her strength. Someone of her advanced age should have struggled. Rebecca was still comparitively young, in her forties, long divorced, but kept herself in shape hoping that Mr Right would find her eventually. She would never give up hope; she was sure he would come eventually. As they continued, it became warmer, too warm for the coat that had protected her from London's cold, wet winter outside. She took it off, glad that she'd left her laptop at the office. That would have been too much to carry easily.

"You may leave it here darling," the hag said, pointing to a row of hooks on the wall. Likewise, she put her own gray shawl there. Rebecca was surprized at how thin she was, thin and upright, and she hadn't noticed before how tall she was, nearly as tall as Rebecca. "You have lovely hair, dear," she said, reaching up to clear a loose lock that fell before Rebecca's eyes on a regular basis.

That her hair had remained a deep red in her mid-forties was unusual in her family. By 40, her mother's hair was completely white, and her father's was almost gone by then, but it, too, was white along with his beard. They appeared as though they had been frightened to an inch of their lives when they were young, but never breathed a word of it to their only daughter. Rebecca couldn't remember when her mother's hair was completely red. Even at 5, she remembered a streak of white. That she would think of it then boggled her, as they pressed forward. She wished they were with her now.

She stopped. Something about the hag was familiar, as though she had seen her before, and suddenly she seemed even less old when she looked around.

"Come dear. Must hurry," she said. Her voice was familiar, too, as if she had always known it.

Embarrassed, she strode ahead.

"Relax," the woman said, she couldn't be described as a hag anymore. "You are safe here, more safe than you could imagine." She couldn't have been over 60, but Rebecca would have sworn that the hag who opened the door was at least in her nineties.

The passage had continued to get warmer as they progressed, and Rebecca found the heat stifling. If she wasn't sure that they had been traveling at the same level, she would have thought she was decending into hell.

"I think we are both overdressed," the old woman said, stopping, and beginning to remove the smock that hid what had become a beautiful figure, and now she was as tall as Rebecca and her hair was turning red. She couldn't have been older than 50, and her hair was darkening to a deep red much like Rebecca, and the air of familiarity was uncanny. "Here, put this on," she said, handing Rebecca a short cotton dress, plain white. The woman put a similar one on herself. The woman's build was much like Rebecca's.

Once Rebecca had changed, leaving her blouse and skirt on another series of hooks next to the smock, the woman turned abruptly and pushed forward. "Come now, we are almost there," she said over her shoulder.

Rebecca found herself much more comfortable, dressed the same as the woman. "What am I looking for?" she asked herself. Whatever it was would be behind the large mahogany door that they were fast approaching. She thought suddenly about her ex-husband, who was a mistake from the start. It didn't last long, not even close to the point of bearing children. Now it was too late. Still, she knew there was a man out there for her, one that had her name stamped on his soul, as his was stamped on hers. She wished she could read that name; it would make life so much easier.

The passage widened to a large antechamber, lit by six torches. The door towered before them. Rebecca wondered ironically that this might be the gate to hell, and Cerberus would be waiting for them on the other side. Would it allow her to pass, or would she be its dinner. The woman had said she was safe, but Rebecca had no reason to trust her, until she looked at her.

Speechless, she thought she was looking in a mirror, but the woman just smiled back at her. It was a smile she knew well. It was her own. "You will understand shortly,"

"What?..." Rebecca choked on her question. She didn't even know what she was going to ask.

"Would you do anything for him?" the woman asked, as if she knew the answer.


"The man whose name is etched on your soul."

"How did you know?" Rebecca asked.

The woman didn't flinch. "Would you?"

"Yes," Rebecca answered without thinking. "Yes, I would do anything for him, and I know he would do anything for me."

"You are right," the woman said, stepping forward and embracing her. "He has." She kissed Rebecca tenderly on the lips, and vanished.

Left on her own, Rebecca knew she had to open the door and face whatever was there. The return was easy, a long corridor and turn left, but she hadn't come all this way just to return without at least seeing what was at the end. She pulled on the large gold ring that she found at eye level. The door creaked open to an angelic chorus of horns and harps. It was filled with people, at least she thought they were people, then she thought they were angels, as some could fly or float, but none had wings. Souls?

At the sight of her, the hoard gave way to an aisle strewn with red rose petals. Stepping forward, she was surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands of angels; that's what she had finally decided upon. The aisle seemed to stretch forward endlessly, and she suddenly felt like Dorothy entering the Emerald City, but this city was diamond and gold with heavenly music.

The woman that brought her there had been one of those souls, she thought, striding forward more purposely. Was it her own immortal soul, come to retrieve her for this man for whom she yearned, who yearned equally for her? When she could see the end, she found an empty throne, mahagony again, like the door far behind her. She pressed forward, almost to a run.

Stopping before it, she realized that the throne was meant to seat two. Nearly out of breath, she waited, turning around to survey the crowd that watched expectantly. She suddenly felt conspicuous as the only person wearing any clothes.

"Have a seat," said a man's voice behind her. She knew that voice, instinctively. It was him, leaning, one elbow on the arm of the throne. There was a playfulness in his deep baritone.

Rebecca felt a lump in her throat as she looked at him, transfixed.

"What's another minute when I've waited an eternity for you?" he joked.

"Where am I?" she asked, stepping up to throne.

"Home, dearest," he said. "You have come home at last," he repeated, as though he couldn't believe it himself.

"Come sit with me for eternity," he said as they sat on throne arm in arm, "or at least until your feet start itching again."