Sunday, February 10, 2008

Texas Produced ONE Bright Light, At Least*

Alvin Ailey. He was a genius.

Went to see the company's last performance in Boston this season and came out of it, as always, in total awe.

Their latest T-shirt shows words like power, passion, strength, spirit. These words capture only fleeting glimpses of what this company is. I would pay money just to see these dancers walk across the stage, in all their muscular glory and spiritual abandon, as they do so gracefully in Ailey's enduring masterpiece Revelations. In this ballet even when they hold still it's breath-taking. And when they move, Lord...they show us the epitome of what human movement can be.

*Sigh.* This is the only company in the world that can make me feel for a moment that I missed the boat...that I should have tried harder, persisted with the dance training, if only for a slim chance to be near this kind of greatness, touch the hem of it. Ailey started the company in 1958. Four years later it was already being recognized as a national treasure: the company was chosen to tour Asia and Australia as part of the John F. Kennedy's "Special International Program for Cultural Presentations." Fifty years later it is the BEST dance company this country has to offer, I think, and has been for years.

One of my colleagues, an orthopedic surgeon I enjoy working with, once expressed surprise that I should look upon another profession, especially an artistic one, as potentially more fulfilling than the work we do to serve others in medicine. I can't explain it. I remember that when I danced and danced well, really well, I felt as if I had pushed past certain human limits and liberated the part of me that knew how to take flight, to connect with others and with music, with stories our human words can't fully express, and turn my breath and muscles into channels for some divine energy nothing else could capture.

So when I watch these perfectly beautiful, strong, powerful passionate men and women up there doing just that, I do feel a great deal of longing. One of my teachers at the Joffrey Ballet School once went on TV and described me as someone who had "the soul of a dancer." In many ways I feel like I let some of these amazing teachers down choosing a different road. But I also truly feel I'm living the life I'm supposed to be living, with the soulmates by my side, husband and children, that I'm supposed to be living with. I'll just have to be a doctor's body carrying a dancer's soul, I guess!

*Tongue was firmly planted in cheek when I wrote the title. I know there are a lot of great folks from Texas.

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