An Open Letter to the Alberta Ballet, on the Occasion of Watching Joni Mitchell’s the Fiddle & the Drum
Dear Alberta Ballet:
Do you remember me?
I was the young man, twenty years ago, who worked for you as a stage hand at Vanier Hall in Prince George. I don’t remember the name of the performance, but I certainly remember the performance itself. And the performers. I remember how hard you all worked, the sweat pouring off your bodies, the smiles on-stage, the grimaces in the wings. You swore, you leapt, you shone. Me, I was transformed.
I was the still-young man, two years later, who was traveling for the first time to the nation’s capital, expanding his horizons. You’d already broadened my view, sparked my passion for dance, so it was a perfect confluence of experience that you were there with me, performing Equus at the National Arts Centre. I jumped at the chance to see you again and, though I think I preferred standing in the wings to the sitting in the audience, you once again you left me floating.
I was the man, now greying at the temples, who months ago pondered whether to include your Joni Mitchell collaboration in my third year of season tickets with Dance Victoria. (Please don’t tell Joni, but I’ve never really caught onto her music.) It’s hard to choose dance based on text, but I figured what the hell – my worst nights of dance are often better than any day. (You know you’re ultimately responsible for this passion of mine, don’t you, AB?)
I was the man last night in Row A – did you see me? – whose mouth spent the night mirroring the shape of the globe projected on the back wall, silently expressing an amazed appreciation that expanded with every performance. In the end, finally, as you improvized a physical jazz to the lyrics “…pave paradise…” my open mouth admitted a sound. I imagine it came out as a Woop! or something to that effect, but no matter the words, what they expressed was joy.
I was the guy who, while yelling his appreciation, had his wife cutting tracks into his left arm with the nails on her right hand, so overcome by excitement she had no idea she was nearly drawing blood. When you’d left (why did you have to go?), she turned to me, stared dumbfounded for a moment and then said, “That was The. Best.! My jaw is cramped from smiling! In all my years of watching dance [around the world], that was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. … Can we go again tomorrow?”
I was the fella who after the show bumped into a friend at the Brasserie L’Ecole bar and, after ordering the obligatory truffle oil drizzled frites and glasses of Burghundy, turned towards said buddy when he remarked, in his deepest Y-chromosome voice, “Dude, did you see those guys?!” Yeah, I did. Epitomes of fitness and masculinity. “Man, I kinda had to be tricked into going [his wife having sold - accurately - images of lithe, scantily clad women in green body paint], but damn, that was amazing! I’m wishing I’d taken dance as a kid.”
I was the guy who, with the night coming to an end, grinned at my friend’s remark, having years ago already come to the same regret. My smile broadened as he and his wife agreed that any of their male children-to-be would be enrolled in ballet classes. And I closed my eyes while swallowing a mouthful of red, warmed by the knowledge that an appreciation of the many values of dance had found its way into the veins of one more hot-blooded dude who’d never before felt its pulse.
My dear Alberta, do you remember me?
I remember you.
I remember as clearly as a winter night that first of your performances so many years ago in Prince George, and I shall similarly remember and value, always, last night’s the Fiddle & the Drum.
With deepest appreciation,