The above is a quote from Sarah, a second-grader at Juan Pablo Duarte Elementary School in Washington Heights. It was included with a list of other quotes by her fellow students describing what love is to them in the absolutely COOLEST wedding invitation I have ever received. A good friend from writing class, Melinda, the best yet-to-be-published novelist I know, is getting married and her invitation consisted of a series of coaster-sized squares each containing different wedding info such as how she and Paulo met, maps of the venue, reasons why they chose to have a pirate-themed wedding (which I found unbelievably interesting), thought behind the unique design of their rings, and on one square is this very sweet list of quotes from 2nd graders in the school where Melinda recently taught, defining love. Whilst getting her MFA at the New School, Melinda taught for this amazing program called The Community Word Project, a non-profit organization akin to Pierre Dulaine‘s American Ballroom Theater (featured in films Take the Lead and Mad Hot Ballroom), but which teaches children in low-income NYC schools to express and explore themselves and relate to each other not through dance but poetry. Click here for a great article about her class in El Diario newspaper that she translated into English.
Anyway, that quote stood out to me when I read it last night because: 1) as a perpetually single amateur dancer and massive dance fan I sometimes think of such terms in the sense of seeing a brilliant performance that makes me want to cry; and 2) in particular, tomorrow night is going to be long-time principal dancer Julio Bocca‘s last performance with the company that has been his home for 20 years, ABT. At only 39, Bocca, who began dance lessons about the same time he learned to walk, became a principal (to non-balletomanes, that means absolute highest level-status attainable) with the most prestigious company in the world (okay, arguably :)) while a mere teenager. Thus, a man, not even 40, who’s devoted his entire life to this art, is retired as of this Friday. He’s explained in the many many interviews he’s given over the past couple months that he’s tired, wants to relax, sail in the ocean, see things, stay up late, eat, drink, not have a nervous breakdown after a vacation trying to shape up for the upcoming season, live like a normal person. He even told Playbill he’s envious of the people he sees sitting outside at Lincoln Center plaza soaking up sun and drinking wine in the afternoon… which I find amusing since I’m one such lazy-ass he’s ‘envious’ of! But it makes you realize just how hard of a life a dancer lives and how much they give up for their way-too-short careers. Even for me, when the orthopedist insists I take a little break, I’m initially upset then before long realize how nice it is to have wine every night with dinner, catch up on movies, books, and friends’ lives over five-course and several-hour-long meals eating whatever I please (beany bloating Mexican food, salty dehydrating Greek caviar spread and anchovies, etc. etc.). I can’t imagine what not only a professional, but one of the greatest in the world must have given up to devote himself so wholly to this life that he’s achieved the status he has. My sedentary appellate law job is cheesecake in comparison… But like most retiring dancers, he’s hardly leaving dance. He plans to perform one more year with his company in Argentina (which performs, in addition to ballet, tango, and what is one of the most beautiful of all dance forms — balletic tango), then presumably will choreograph and serve as its artistic director. And there’s even speculation he may one day lead the ABT. So, sad as his multitude of fans are — and I’m sure there will be a cacophany of sobs tomorrow night in the Met — it’s not like we won’t be seeing his work, in other forms, again and again. Choreographer and artistic director seem like the consummate post-dance-career careers — he can use his mass of creative skills he’s accumulated throughout the years without now sacrificing wine and food and sun and sailing and all that other good stuff life has to offer. So, there, it is a celebration, though a damn sad one.
Back to the Juan Pablo Duarte second-graders’ Word Community Project for a few more truly wonderful little quotes about love:
“Love is like you are in the park, happy with the sun and with yourself.” Madeline
“Love is giving something to each person and love is when you love the person but not like a boyfriend because that’s nasty, yo.” Leslie
“Love is me in ballet with a little pink tutu on and my hair picked up with bobby pins.” Kayla
“Love is me and my brother holding hands, looking at the bright blue sky with a shooting star.” Luismil
“El amor es muy caliente como la luz del cielo, y los corazones se despiertan a la luz del mar” (“Love is hot like the sky’s light, and hearts wake up in the light of the sea” — damn, I cannot write like this at my age; she is 7). Arlene
“Love is me and the Community Word Project practicing our poem with volume, rhythm, and gesture.” Ashley
And my personal favorite:
“Love is being with cute boys and presents and candy hearts and mostly chocolate. Love is riding a bike down the hill and you crash into a cute boy who likes you and cares about you and doesn’t want you to get hurt.” Kiyana