“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.”
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.