Our friendly neighborhood photog, Kevin, has created a 2017 calendar of images from performances and workshops at Suspend and, by happy coincidence, Denis and I are collectively Mr. February (I’m a February baby).
The image he used is one of my all-time favorites, captured during our dress rehearsal/tech run of “Duelo Trapecio.”
In a lot of ways, this image speaks to the best gift that Denis has given me: specifically, a stable foundation from which to fly.
Literally, in this picture, I’ve just mounted the trapeze from a candlestick:
…and I’m lifting my body out of Denis’ hands so he can roll to the side and I can beat up to a pike balance. (Technically, in this choreography, that’s all one move for me: I use the muscles of my back to pull up into an arc, release my back à la Martha Graham at the top, then allow momentum to carry me around the bar and the act of straightening my legs to pull me into the pike balance.)
As these things go, it’s a fairly basic acro-to-trapeze transition, but it’s not without risk.
In this sequence, timing is crucial — if he releases before my knees catch the bar, I have a split-second to react so I don’t pile-drive into his face and potentially break my own neck. If I enter the swinging phase of my beat too soon, I’ll whack him in the head with my hands or head at high velocity.
Likewise, if (as happened in the night of our first performance!) something goes wrong(1) and the trapeze isn’t where it should be, it’s up to me to gracefully exit the candlestick without making both of us look like idiots (hello, walk-over), and up to him to proceed smoothly with his portion of the choreography.
- What happened, in practice, was that D somehow got blinded by the stage lights during his transition from the previous sequence (in which I cartwheel and he catches my legs) and whacked his head on the trapeze! It’s on a rotating point, so it turned 90 degrees and wasn’t there when I reached the apex of the candlestick. Thank G-d for the billion years of training and preparation that made me steam right on through with a walk-over followed by a straddle mount.
Metaphorically, he has grounded himself so I can reach my goal (the trapeze) and soar. He has lifted me up without hanging on. I have trusted him to support me, and he has trusted me to take care of myself and of him.
As a model for relationships, there’s much to be said in favor of partnering. Each party must do his or her share of the work, each party is accountable to the other, and when both parties do what they need to do, the result is a beautiful harmony of movement; poetry in motion indeed.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes do, the dancers or aerialists in a good partnering relationship are able to respond accordingly — and while nothing can prevent all harmful outcomes, the care and attention that go into this kind of work allow for damage control through rapid-fire adjustments (and the kind of trust that can think, “I get that you’re presently holding me up by my unmentionables so I won’t fall and break my neck so later we can laugh at this trainwreck instead of crying about it…”).
Perhaps most importantly, though, a good partnering relationship allows us to accomplish things we cannot do alone — like a pas-de-chat that floats two meters above the ground, or (as in our example above) mounting a dance trapeze from a handstand(2).
- In an unassisted handstand, this trap hits too high for that. I could manage an ankle hang, or I could maybe mount from a front handspring, but a regular handstand won’t get me to the position depicted.
A good relationship of any kind, really, allows us to accomplish things we couldn’t on our own.
I am able to pursue my dreams because I have a strong and stable partner helping to lift me up towards them. I hope that I am, at least to some degree, doing the same for D. But it’s not only romantic partners and spouses who can do those things — good friends, loving parents and siblings, and even our peers in the dance studio lift us towards our dreams.
Just as ballet partnering depends not on romantic attachment(3), but on consistency and trust, so with the relationships in our lives that allow us to fly.
- Not that I would deny a certain kind of romantic sensibility that can evolve even in the most most platonic of these relationships — but that’s a topic for another time.
I am, of course, planning on buying a copy of Kevin’s calendar for our house (and for my Mom and Mother-in-Law, as Christmas presents). It will help keep him in photographic equipment so he can continue to grow as an artist and to take amazing pictures of all of us that sometimes manage to say a great deal about important things.