“After an illustrious career and a rigorous performance schedule, it has become clear that I must hang up my tights and retire from the dance. It is hard to step away from what has become my art, but I feel I must. The compounded stress of step after step has taken a toll on my weary body and I must now look to the future – hoping for recovery of both my basic mobility and my faculties. After putting my heart on the line for the audience day after day, I fear I have created a distance from my family that I must mend in this next season of life. Thank you to my fans and supporters – you have been my muse. I am blessed to be able to go out at the pinnacle of my career.”
The retirement speech no one attended…
Yes, I performed in the ballet last week. A performance for which I demanded a one dollar check that I will not cash, thus making me a professional dancer. I feel very accomplished.
In all actuality, I played the king in the second act of Sleeping Beauty. I had very little to do but sit on the throne while the dancers performed for me. I did have to guide my queen to the front of the stage twice: once to hug our princess and once at the coda to do a little step that I never did quite the same in any of the four performances. It certainly never once came out as I was taught.
I named my character KING LEOPOLD the UNPREDICTABLE. As I assumed this role, I felt like he was the kind of king who might dance with you, might offer a toast, or might smite you at his whim. If you were a courtier, you’d have to be on your toes when you approached King Leopold’s throne.
At more than one point during the week I was accused of being a diva. In my defense, I simply informed the prop master that in keeping with the character of King Leopold, I needed a sword and a turkey leg to gnaw on – at the very least a chalice of grog! If I were a king and people were performing for me, I would definitely have a turkey leg! Not only did the prop master not cater to my demands, she laughed at me… that was at home because the prop master doubles as my wife in real life.
Truth be told, I did learn just how hard the dancers work. In past performances, I only saw grace and beauty from the audience. On the stage you see strain, taut muscles, and exertion that they mask behind their radiant smiles. I also learned that ballet dancers sweat a lot and backstage smells worse than any locker room I’ve ever been in. I did have a great time with my teenage daughter and her friends. Although she feared embarrassment, she was actually excited for the old man to be there, which is enough to make it all worthwhile.
I am happy to report that there were no casualties, either from the king’s poor temperament or his two left feet. And now I can add Professional Ballet Dancer to my list of accomplishments. It is a stunning achievement considering I’ve had no formal training. But art is a matter of the heart, not someone else’s critique. And the dance will forever have a place in my soul.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Photo attribution: “Alexandra Ansanell in Ondine Royal Ballet” By JRPHOTO used under Creative Common License. (Wikimedia Commons)