Berlin to Ballet West – Audition with Ballet West – Part Three
Deflated and exasperated from my sojourn to San Francisco, I tried to have a bit of hope that the next audition was going to be more in alignment with what I was seeking.
Ballet West was in Aspen, Colorado for their summer engagements and I was to go there and take company class, (Like a real audition!).
The wedding had gone well. With a few bumps. It is important to have a sense of humor at such events because memories are created by the mistakes and those things that seem to go very wrong a the time.
Overall … many things went perfectly.
The one big one was the fitting of the dress.
We had made a slight mistake. That mistake was that we had the dress sized first … and then had the 25-year-old dress cleaned.
No one knew that when you clean old fabrics that they can stretch. In this case, they stretched a lot.
Somehow (intuitively) the night before the wedding, we decided that we should try on the dress.
Much to our shock and my sister’s dismay, the dress was clearly two sizes too big.
My dark-haired, brown-eyed sister with a heart-shaped face was swimming in this dress. She was thin and beautiful but … in this dress … we could have put two of her in it.
The lace caps on the sleeves were falling off her shoulders and she did not have the “boobs” to hold it up.
Panic ensued and everyone is attempting to come up with a solution that might work.
“Mother to the Rescue!”
Our mother had been born a premature baby of such a small birth weight that she was the only child in her category to survive because that week the hospital got its first incubators for premature babies. It saved my mother’s life. But certain problems came along with being born early and not being really ready.
She had, terrible hair, nails that broke constantly because they were so fragile, and she had a deformity on one of her kidneys that required extensive surgery when she was 17 years old to save her life.
Oh, and one more important fact, her boobs never developed. Even when she was pregnant, they never decided to join the party.
In those days, the medical community was very much into the concept that “Baby Formula” was perfect and better for babies than breast milk.
That was of course not true but that was the slant back in those days.
To compensate for the obvious lack in the forward section of her chest, she wore “falsies” throughout my childhood.
And she was one of the first in line with the new surgical procedure for breast implants.
She got them when I was about 15 years old.
When my father’s friends found out … they were curious and asked, “What is it like to have a wife with breast implants?”
His response was … “It’s like being in bed with another woman!”
So, here we are the night before the wedding and my sister is in a panic! But my mother still had (in her drawers) the old “foam falsies”
She goes to her bedroom and brings out her old bras that allow for those “falsies” to be tucked into the bra. We then put the bra on my sister and “low and behold” the dress could stay up. The boobs were keeping the dress from falling to her waist!
It seemed the perfect solution!
We were all relieved.
I wondered if her fiancé, Mark would notice!
The next day, I am walking down the aisle and I go to my place at the front and turn around to see the bride come in.
But I am not watching my sister, I am watching her fiancé!
He is standing there all proud and happy and then he sees her walking down the aisle.
I watch him do a double take, stop breathing, and stare at her chest.
It was clearly not what he … remembered … and he seemed … confused?
As my sister comes to the front, I hear her say to him, “Not a word from you!”
After all, we are in a serious Roman Catholic wedding in the church and inappropriate behavior is deeply frowned upon.
I see him smile, knowingly but he did not say anything.
We start the long Catholic process of a mass for the wedding. All of us are kneeling and doing the appropriate rituals.
Then my sister whispers, “Suzanne/Mark please pull up the sleeves of my arms on the dress, I am about to lose this dress.
I look over and sure enough, the dress is inching its way down and the inflated brazier is not completely doing its job.
Her fiancé Mark and I begin tugging at the sleeves trying to pull the dress up. As unobtrusively as possible.
I am sure it must have looked very funny from behind.
We had to do it a couple of times during the Mass to not flash the priests.
So, while the wedding was fabulous, that was our one small glitch.
Not bad for the many things that can and will go wrong in such situations.
And it makes a great story to tell and retell.
After the wedding, the pressure was off, and I was back to preparing for my audition with Ballet West.
This company was located in Salt Lake City, UT. A city that (as a child) I had passed through but did not remember much because we were camping, going up to the Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Uinta Mountains.
This audition was going to be during their Summer Arts festival that happened each year in Aspen Colorado.
I was thrilled to go to one of my favorite places in Colorado for this audition.
What had not registered (at that time) was that the director of Ballet West, Bruce Marks and his wife (at the time) Toni Lander the ballet mistress, were the same dancers that had inspired me to be a dancer so very long ago.
I had seen both of them dance the Moor’s Pavane, those many years ago in Dallas, when I was 5 years old.
It seems destiny is not without a keen sense of timing, humor, and foreshadowing.
I only made that connection later when I was preparing to leave Berlin and so many challenges seemed determined to prevent me from getting there.
Circumstances and other very powerful dancers would end up supporting me to go so I could have a chance to work with one of the greatest ballet coaches in the world (from their perspective), Toni Lander.
But when destiny calls … it will often bring with it karmic reciprocity from my own past, to repeat in ways that would seem hauntingly confusing.
But that is another story for another time.
I flew into Aspen Airport and arrive at the theater at the designated time.
The dancers are all laughing and they seem so much happier and less serious than in San Francisco!
They are chatting with me and there is a causal ease that is more open and carefree.
At that time the males in the company were approximately 50% gay and 50% straight.
Or that was my best guess.
Some of the men seemed unclear as to where they stood on that invisible line.
That was very different from Berlin. That company was more like 75% gay men at the time.
The atmosphere is different and the flows of energy seem positive on many levels.
The first to introduce himself to me was Bob Arbogast.
He was a flirt from his nose to his toes. But he was clearly married to Maureen who watched over his antics with a keen awareness of his personality. He was no serious threat and very married.
At least someone was talking to me and being kind and inviting.
I learned how he got to Ballet West from back east and it was nice to feel as if someone wanted to have an entertaining conversation.
The air of this company had a type of western openness mixed with the freedom and spirit of a cowboy’s grace, skills, and wildness.
This was so different from the very serious and yet, professional atmosphere in Berlin which was mixed with the intensity and emotional turmoil of two world wars that had scarred the land and the descendants of the people.
This energy here … felt more like home.
Being born and raised a Texas girl, complete with horses, and a lake house, it was a better flow and fit.
Or so it seemed.
The women in the ballet company seemed still distant but that is not surprising in the highly competitive world of ballet.
I took company class, and everything was casual and easy. I felt not on edge, and I did not need to defend against the egos of those that liked to play power games.
Everything went well and smoothly.
I was offered a job for the following season, as a corps de ballet dancer.
That was no surprise, I did not expect a soloist contract right up front. A director needs to see how you are on stage.
Each director is looking for a particular something.
Gert Reinholm (from the Berlin Ballet) preferred interesting faces that were powerful in their intensity and ability to emote dark and complex emotional states while dancing. Technique was less important, but a high degree of competency was required, and it was more about the mood that a dancer could convey that interested him the most.
But Bruce Marks was a friendly, easy-going, carefree Aquarian. The rarest bird in the world is an Aquarian boss. I did not know that at the time but it would be a breath of fresh air that worked with my Leo self. Leo and Aquarius are good friends and understand each other well. While I did not know all that at the time, I could feel the differences and the shifts that were beginning to open and blend with my energy.
While Bruce Marks liked technique and style … he seemed to be looking for something else. What that was on first impressions I was not sure. But it was there, guiding him in invisible ways.
My first impression was that he was a lovely gay man. But then I remembered that he was supposed to be married to Toni Lander and that they had children.
Toni was nowhere to be found and while I made a note of that fact, it did not seem to be a problem.
The ballet company was half the size of the Berlin Ballet and less than the San Francisco Ballet.
I left the theater knowing after having been invited by Bruce Marks to see the performance from backstage that evening.
I was excited to see what flavor this new expression of ballet might conjure up.
The program was a mixed program and while it was interesting, beautiful, modern, and a style that was clearly American, it seemed less technically stunning than what I routinely saw in Berlin.
But all the top Dancers in Berlin were Russian-trained and could hold their own in almost any theater in the world. The Russians are always dramatic, tempestuous, and inspiring to watch.
Even those differences were not a problem for me because I was looking for a place to call home. I wanted to be in a place where I could stretch, explore, and find my own style rather than have another’s artistic and choreographic preference beaten into me.
I was getting excited not by the company as much as I was excited about where this type of freedom could lead me.
I felt like a horse that for the first time was being given its head.
I felt that I might be able to break out of the confines of perfectionism and the incessant demand for technical brilliance and instead perhaps … move toward true artistic expression.
Something was calling me to this place.
Beware the sirens that fate has conjured.
Notice the hopes that the soul has pondered.
Listen with your eyes and smell the electricity in the air.
That is when you will notice something very rare.
The Aquarian Sun sits within the eyes of the dream.
Would call to me and become a new theme.
I would be asked to let go of the known.
To become a lark … finally flown.
Up into the air to pass the stars in the sky.
That is how one discovers that past that old bull’s eye.
Something waits to become whole and free.
It was destined to happen … now it was going to be up to me.