After our third performance of the Luminario Ballet show Breathless, the man in this picture approached me, his eyes shining, and told me I was amazing. I He said, “I am 90 years old and I’ve seen a lot. Watching you up there invigorated me. It makes me feel like I have more life in me yet.”
There is no greater compliment than this, of course. No review gets you to the level of joy and divine clarity of purpose that this kind of moment__and human being__provides.
It also helped me to reconcile right away all of the demons I faced over the processes of The Last Supper, a 45-minute aerial/dance extravaganza that explores the hypothetical of Jesus, Mary and Judas going to Coachella. Although another work of mine was featured in the show, The Last Supper was the only piece I danced. And last year, as much as I was intrigued with the idea of it, I had issues to work out before I could commit to helping choreograph the work. Fortunately, Judith, the co-choreographer and mastermind of this, was unfazed by my challenges. That I had never been to Coachella, for example, or that inasmuch as I resemble the Jesus described in the Bible—woolly hair and all—I had no personal connection to the grunge music canon she wished to invade. I had to research Weezer and The Sweater Song before I could figure out how it might serve as the backdrop for the Crucifixion. I grew up with Nina Simone’s Take Me to the Water, not The Talking Heads Take Me to the River. This was not my scrapbook to mine.
Then there was my deficit of ego. How did I think I was worthy of playing Jesus? The lingering DSH (dance self-hatred) is ever evident in the fact that I not once bothered to judge whether others, like John Legend in the upcoming live version of Jesus Christ, Superstar, should play Jesus. No, this question mark was reserved only for me. (NOTE: Most pre-social-media-age dancers, especially those who have had extraordinary careers, suffer from DSH, but if you need more clarity, please ask and I will blog about it subsequently).
The good news is that last year, I had no space for such issues. I had specific, narrow windows of time with my aerial partner Sheila to work out our Mary/Jesus hammock duet, and only a week to choreograph the dance material I was responsible for. During the course of all this, I figured it out: Jesus is about humility, dummy, not ego.
Other than a persistent foot injury to navigate, I had fewer issues this year, especially after friends and family members, who are (thank God) often merciless in their honest responses to anything I’m in, enjoyed the show and me in it last year. They bought my Jesus. And it dawned on me that there are only a few other artists I know who could—and would—agree to the technical and aerial challenges the show promises. For example, just to make the entrance on to the stage during the Resurrection requires that I climb a silk in the third dark wing, wrap myself in a lock and then hang out until the preceding duet ends.
All of this was worth it the minute that Dorsay, the woman pictured, brought over to me her brother Sonny, a nonagenarian who saw the assassination of MLK when he was my age and whose grandparents were probably slaves. He said, “I felt so energized – it made me realize that I could fall in love again.”
My cousin Benny, who is more like a sage uncle, turns 90 this weekend. And shortly ago I received the link to a feature on a 91-year-old trailblazing physician in Harlem. https://www.facebook.com/heyirisdotcom/videos/1705054572895222/ They, and Sonny, have taught me so much in the last few days, not the least of which is that as long as you're here on the planet, living continues until you decide it stops.
And clearly, minor injuries notwithstanding, I'm not done living on stage.