I thought it might be time for another anecdote. I recently recounted the story of my spill during "The Nutcracker." This is one from my third season in the company.
We were rehearsing a rather awkward military(ish) piece-complete with camouflage and barets. (not do be confused with "bourrees" which is a French term that is used in ballet technique.) At one point in the piece, there were a series of drag/slides across the floor. These were executed by the man standing behind the woman on the left side of the stage with his hands under her armpits, and she was locked in an erect, board-like stance on two feet. He leaned her far to the left to begin pushing her into a slide with her feet going towards the right. As he approached center, he pulled her upright and leaned her to the right so now he was dragging her with her body tilted head first toward stage right, and this continued to exit offstage. This was accomplished while running.
In our old building, there was a series of floor to ceiling windows that lined the right side of the studio. There were ballet barres that ran along the windows, and below them, on the floor were metal heating/air conditioning vents.
My partner and I are known for many things, but one of our most proud attributes is that we belong to what we named "The Big-Foot Club." (or B.F.C.) I have always been president, and she, vice-president. We share a common bond, for on numerous occasions, our feet have gotten in the way of our normal life tasks. This day was no exception.
I took off full force from stage left. All was well. I lifted her vertically. All was going as planned. As I took her to the right, mayhem ensued. Somehow, my body decided it would be a good idea to place my left foot under both of hers. As I tripped, I freed my foot in time to step over her body, turning her face down to the floor at a forty-five degree angle. Precisely at this moment, fate intervened and placed my right foot under her feet. All of this continued in an extremely graceful bobbling, stumbling manner at approximately fifty-two miles per hour. I struggled for what seemed like a lifetime to get us back on our feet.
Then I saw it. The barre and the window.
When young boys/men are first learning to partner young girls/women, every teacher worth his or her salt preaches one thing. Make the lady look good no matter what. To take it a step further, if something is going wrong, save the lady. Especially in the event of lifts, men are taught to land under the girl if all else fails.
I had always prided myself with my acute knowledge of partnering that only comes with years of meticulous coaching. In that split three year second, I did what came naturally to me. Full with the momentum of the step, I heaved my partner head first under the barre towards the window and landed completely on top of her. Her hands hit the metal vent making the most violent sound that could accompany nothing else but death itself.
Nice job, Matthew.
As we peeled our mangled bodies off of the floor, we soon discovered that we were both in one piece-well, two pieces, naturally. The faces of those around us were momentarily those of people who had just witnessed a car accident, but the room soon erupted with laughter upon the realization that we were relatively unscathed.
Little did I know at the time that moments like these are the ones that define a career. These are what ballet legends are made of. It's not the number of pirouettes one does or how high one jumps that people remember. It's the disasters.
I can say only one thing about this momentous occasion in my ballet history. I owe that young woman my life. She really sacrificed herself for the greater good of my career. Thank you.