Usually at this time I would report on some exciting dance event that I had seen somewhere in the world. Usually I go to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and am excited about a new artist they showcased, but that is not the case this year.
After the last curtain call for SPRING TO DANCE® 2014 had finished and the last applause died out, I prepared for our final board meeting and looked at making sure our finances were in order for the summer. After that I began to concentrate on an extended vacation that my entire body and soul needed. In over 50 years of dealing with various aspects of the dance world, this was the first time I was going to shut myself out and work on re-energizing for the next 50 years.
The success of 2014 had been obvious and the excitement for what the upcoming season would bring was exhilarating. So I closed my house, had some dear students of mine at Webster look after it and headed to Mexico, Oaxaca to be precise, to be with my wife, her daughter and her family to enjoy the beauty of its people, the magic of the landscapes and the history of the surroundings. It was great! I tried some writing that still leaves a great deal to be desired and managed to establish a pet like relationship with “Salma Hayak,” a chicken that two years ago landed on our backyard in Suchilquitongo, where Flor’s parents have a home, and adopted it as mine. We had great conversation and became close friends until she decided that the best place to lay eggs was in my little office and especially behind the computer. It was fun for a while, but her constant cackling while finding the right position started to get on everyone’s nerves.
When I said I saw no dance, that was not entirely true. La Guelagetza, an incredible feast that happens in Oaxaca each July/August. People come from all regions of the state to show their dresses, dances, and products. It is incredible and the joy they possessed as they danced, sang and played instruments through the “andador” was awe inspiring. But…
All things come to an end and after the four weeks were over I was driven early in the morning to catch a flight back to St. Louis and was able to spend a week in the office before I headed elsewhere.
With all in order at work, we packed again, this time for winter, and headed to Chile. There, my brother had prepared a true love fest as the entire family, with the sad exception of my daughter and her family, got together to baptize a small sail boat he had built in the “chilote” style of the southern islands of Chile. It is a beautiful boat and he gave it my mother’s name “Lola.” For three days by the lake we sang, we talked and we ate and ate and ate all day long. My nieces’ husbands are great cooks so from ceviches, to incredible meats, to paellas, to special Chilean corn dishes, we kept on eating. Family soccer games broke out and the close to 10 grandchildren my brother has brought shrieking laughter and joy to all.
When that was done, we returned to Santiago and were supposed to head up the mountains for two days of skiing. Fortunately, reason prevailed and we took a one day sabbatical while enjoying the streets of Santiago and cursing the incredible traffic jams, that cars on loans that will be hard to pay, fill the streets. But on the following days we ventured up with Sara, trying for the first time to master the slopes. Thank heaven for that so we could take it easy and not pretend to be younger than our actual age.
We also visited the Ballet Nacional Chileno’s office, a company my father had created. They have a new director and it is much smaller than before. A few “old” faces where there to say hello and made me feel welcome. But, minutes later, down in the streets we were, too much to see and too much to shop for.
As if all of this was not enough we headed to the shore with some dear friends of ours Pedro and Daniela whose company we thoroughly enjoy. She is a former dancer classmate of mine and has always been involved in the arts and so has he. He now has a program that brings to life Pablo Neruda’s writings. If all goes well we shall have them be part of SPRING TO DANCE® one of these years, as she interprets those poems beautifully in movement. We had glorious food at quaint rocky resorts, where fishermen bring their fresh catch. A couple of hours at Neruda’ s home in Isla Negra and two days were gone. So we hopped in the car and went to Valparaiso, an incredibly beautiful port, and Vina, its sister resort. We were just passing by as we headed to a place my nieces have further north. There, we gathered most of the clan again, walked the rocky and sandy beaches, told tales until late at night as new dishes were being cooked by the husbands of Francisca and Ale. A final lunch at a restaurant by the beach and off we were to face the traffic to Santiago. It was a long holiday weekend so we expected the worse, but it was not too bad.
The following day, a lunch with “locos,” a Chilean seafood delicacy was offered by my brother’s wife in honor of Flor’s birthday. And after a short nap we were headed back to the airport with memories to last a lifetime and renewed energy to face the excitement that is Dance St. Louis.
Needless to say, all this was tempered gravely by the news of events in Ferguson that had everyone in Chile worried. We could not quite judge the magnitude of the events until we landed here. Now our job is to find the healing process through the only thing we know, dance. And realizing we are one of the most integrated art forms, we might in partnership with all the local dance companies, help in the process.
Next one will be about dance, so I hope not to have bored you with my overindulgence in the beauty that my life in general has offered me and is offering me.