Pole pas de deux

Pole pas de deux

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Last Dance: Time and Space

I picked Ludovico Einaudi's Divenire for what turned out to be a farewell dance. I was introduced to his music this past July when the adult dancers at my ballet studio gave their showcase performance. The Modern class picked two Einaudi pieces and I was hooked. About an hour after the end of the Ballet Nouveau Colorado "Dance Found" performance I was downloading the entire album that is also entitled Divenire.

In the music I could feel the magic of being a defensemen. Defense is the position I play in ice hockey. The position is all about speed and destroying the scoring chances of the other team. Like dance, being a defensemen comes down to time and space. Take away the opposing team's time and space. Make them turn over the puck and get it to your forwards so they can take the battle to the opposite side of the ice. Dance is taking up space and dividing the time. I felt something else in Divenire. The music switches from deep emotion to a beautiful fast tempo that you feel when you are hunting down the puck with everything in your heart. If you are still playing at my age it is 98% passion.

I'm running out of time and space as an athlete. I've been playing ice hockey since I was thirteen. I am now fifty-six and I don't play beer league hockey anymore. In fact my former pole dance teacher was at my last game where there was a running clock and referee's. Now I play pickup summer hockey from May to August with some very good friends. Dance has changed the way I play. My balance is better and pole dance helps maintain the upper body and core strength that hockey players share with dancers. But it cannot turn back the clock. I am very familiar with the hospital emergency and operating rooms. Ice hockey is both elegant and brutal. I know in my heart the time is nearing when I will have to say goodbye to my skates.

So my battered skates and a green jersey I wore with the big white "C" for captain for so many seasons came with me to my dance lesson on that hot August afternoon. For some reason that day I didn't feel much like working on pole moves. I had something I just couldn't wait to say. My teacher had no idea what I was up to when I walked in with my skates and jersey. This was going to be the first time that I had ever danced with props. But there is more to those two pieces of hockey "stuff". The jersey has small tears in it, black marks from the other teams stick tape, and places where the puck has left a bit of itself and a bruise on my body. The skates are cut everywhere by the other teams skate blades and they too have multiple puck marks where the other teams shots have made their presence known.

I stood on the edge of the studio hardwood floor and counted the introduction to Divenire with my jersey over my dance clothes and my skates in my right hand. I didn't ballet walk to the center pole of the studio. I walked like a player coming down the tunnel from the locker room to the rink gate with a stick in hand. At the center studio pole I set my skates on the floor and slowly pulled my jersey off with the wistfulness I felt after my last league game. Like someone who just can't take it off and leave. Then I ballet walked to the far side of the studio and looked out the window at the southwest Denver skyline.

And then I danced. I left everything I felt in those moments on the hardwood and brass that afternoon. You would be interested to know that changing direction from skating backward to forward while driving an opposing player away from the prime scoring area is what a ballet dancer calls a pas de bourrée step. The balancé step is nothing more that getting your feet set so that you can shove someone out of the goaltenders line of sight. I danced around my hockey stuff. I was a hockey player, and now I'm a dancer. I have to let go. I can't let go. I ran, I climbed and I made my spins long and fast.

I inverted on the pole that my skates were at the base of and stretched my arms out to them in the best Balanchine line I could find in my heart. At one point near mid song I ran to the window and looked out at the setting sun and I couldn't find my breath because I was trying not to cry. When the count told me it was almost over I stopped and walked over to my skates. I pulled my jersey back on and grabbed my skates. As I walked back to the end of the hardwood for my exit I noticed that my teacher had red eyes.

I told my story. I divided the time and space. My last dance looking into the Denver skyline. Balanchine was right you know. He admonished every dancer who held back. Never save anything. Never wait. There are no other times. The time is now. Live in the moment. Every dance is fragile. It might be your last.

Ludovico Einaudi "Divenire"

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