The summer begins in Madrid. Well, for me at least. I have planned out for myself a grand European summer vacation, with arrangements that will take me from Madrid to Toledo, Paris, and Barcelona. It is, without a doubt, the most adventurous solitary endeavor I have ever embarked on, and I'm thrilled to say that I will be on this terrific adventure through the first of August. I thought I'd make a few reports here and there as they pertain to OBT and my life as a traveling dancer.
So, with introductions aside, greetings from Madrid! I arrived here at four in the afternoon today, thus capping off exactly twenty-four hours of travel. I'm not nearly as jetlagged as I expected, but then again, I did arrive just in time for siesta. I'm staying with a friend near the Centro del Sol in the very heart of downtown Madrid; earlier this evening I had a chance to stroll around my new neighborhood and enjoy my new scenery, my new ambiance, and quite easily the best horchata I've ever had in my life. It's currently twenty past nine pm here, meaning that dinner is in an hour or two, and, in the true madrilena spirit (there should be a tilde over the n but I'm not sure how to type that) I don't anticipate being in bed before two am. I have no idea how Spanish ballet dancers could function on that sleeping schedule, but then again, they might wonder the same about us.
I had a very interesting conversation with the man seated next to me on my flight from Portland to Amsterdam (ten hours, in case you were wondering). He was on his way from a conference in Hawaii to Ghana, where he was working for improving democratic elections and relations. From there he would follow his job assignments to London, Rome, Bologna, and Barcelona; all in all he was looking at many months of traveling. He was passionate about his job, happily embroiled in politics and people so much so that he didn't seem to mind not having a concrete home. When he found out what I did for a living he sat back in his seat, seemingly impressed.
"You know," he told me, "I've always been very scared of artists. You are very intimidating people. You have the power to create things, every single day, and that isn't daunting or scary to you. You are creators where most of us are just doers. If I was on stage I would fall apart, it would be a disaster."
I was flattered, and I'd never really thought of myself as a creator, so to speak. I told him that I thought of choreographers as the real creators in the dance world, literally giving birth to new steps, sequences, dances that we simply perform. "I just take what I'm given," I explained, "and do my best to run with it. Whatever a choreographer hands me, I add myself to it and put it onstage. That's the fun part; taking someone's creation and making it your own, adding your own personality and identity to it."
"That would be creating as well," he said, "because you're creating this interesting and new version of yourself every single night for people to see. You're very exposed and you're sharing and you're something new that the audience has never seen before. I could never do that, and I don't think anybody can really do that except real artists. It's very wonderful."
I'm always so heartwarmed by the response that people have when learning I'm a professional ballet dancer, but for some reason his comments really stuck. Perhaps it was because it was coming from another professional whose labor I so admired, who traveled the world to educate and help and lead. Here was someone who was going into the heart of Africa to lend his knowledge and services to a dire situation, and he was praising me for what I do. I would have taken his comments for sarcasm if his sincerity weren't so assuredly plausible.
He ended that conversation by simply stating, "You make a lot of people very happy." I don't think I could have asked for a better start to my Grand European Vacation (yes, it's a title), for really, what's better than knowing that after a month of new discoveries, adventures and inspirations, I get to return to a job that makes me, and others, so very happy?