Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SKIDDING

The black curtains were open, covering the walls. My studio looked like a theater.
Notables were seated -- I mean tough-eyed, sophisticated "name" critics, artistic directors of two ballet companies, three ballerinas, a photographer, my agent, my managers.

It was standing room only. People were standing in aisle as well as seated on the floor in front of the seats.

The lights, on cue, blacked out. I took my place, center of the floor.

The spotlight faded up.

I was confident, centered, ready to dance a solo that a well-known choreographer had created for me. The music was an interesting Hindemith sonata. I was costumed handsomely-- head to toe in beige -- hair covered -- I'd invented a way to wrap an wide ace bandage around my head, that gave me a uniquely elegant look. (I wish I had a picture -- I looked like a beige sculpture.)

The NY Times critic had been paying attention to our weekend performances we'd been giving for a month -- listing every Sunday as a "special event." Our box office phone was ringing off the hook. Because we were selling out, I was planning to add more performances -- another month or two of "Four Choreographers."

The title, the concept was strong. I gave myself a pat on the back for that, and wow -- the Daily News critic referred to me as "the legendary Frankel," praising the show and my dancing!

No wonder I felt good as I did my first angular jabbing gesture. Then, I stepped out onto my right foot, firmly digging into the floor in a "demi-plie," ready to do a 90 degree high grand battement (almost a split-kick, the split kicks would come later).

Whoops ... The floor, the traction, the solid base that I needed -- it wasn't there!

I slipped. Not a lot, but enough to give me goose-bumps, the cold prickles of fear you feel a second before the disaster.

Concentrated, experienced in handling the unexpected things that can happen, that a dancer must deal with (I'd done more than a thousand one- night-stands where small, but terrifying disasters had occurred -- nails, tacks, splintered floor board, waxed floor, loose board, hole in the wood) -- instinctively, instantly, I pulled myself together.

With intensified concentration, I proceeded -- my left leg crossed to the right and I did the glissade (it's stepping out in preparation for a leap or series of quick steps), and slid, as if on ice, slid -- couldn't get a take-off into the next steps.

I fell onto a knee, immediately recovered, using my hand -- gracefully, smoothly -- even a dancer wouldn't have known it wasn't part of the choreography -- I made the knee-thing into a kneel.

What could I do? Stop? Tell the audience something was wrong with the floor? It was powder. I saw white power on my hand. I had seven minutes of dancing to do on a powdered, extremely slippery floor.

The barefoot dancers who danced in the opening number had used powder -- like I might have used resin. Powder helps bare feet move smoothly. Resin helps a ballet slipper dig securely into the floor. Barefoot dancers and a dancer in ballet slippers was part of the concept of the "legendary Frankel."

I tell myself now that I should have stopped. Told the audience what was wrong. Gotten someone to mop the floor. Oh yeah? Where was the mop? How long would it take for the floor to dry, and even afterward, there could be slippery spots. With what kind of assurance could I start the dance again?

I kept going -- did the best I could. It was a lousy performance.

Afterward, there were no comments -- I went upstairs to my home above the theater. I didn't wait till after the other dancers performed, to ask anyone straight questions, ask subtle questions, find out if anyone knew that I'd struggled, invented new steps, wasn't able to do most of choreography full out.

Too bad! The bell rang. The champ was knocked out. The fight was over.

It was after that performance that I moved to Malibu to be with JC in our lovely log cabin, and concentrate full time on writing my five novels.

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