Hand-Thrown Pot

brad 1This is a piece of pottery made at the Arkansas Arts Center by my friend Brad.  He was a multi-talented fellow, potter and a good ballet dancer.  He and I danced together several times which was great fun, although I think we made a somewhat odd couple, he being long, tall and lanky, and me…well let’s just say I’m on the short side and willowy is not one of my attributes, despite the expectations for ballet. He was a considerate partner and I enjoyed dancing with him; I always knew he would catch me if I bobbled, important when wearing pointe shoes.

The Arts Center was a marvelous place to work.  I was first hired as an actress in the Tell-A-Tale children’s theater troupe. It was exhausting work – not only did we act (I had 5 cohorts), but we drove from school to school, set up the stage (or lunchroom, or gym or wherever we were assigned), made-up and got into costumes, performed, did a q&a with the students, then broke everything down, including untaping and rolling up the dance floor and DROVE TO ANOTHER SCHOOL. Rinse, repeat, as they say. A little known fact about Little Rock – it was a test case for the first ATMs, and those ATMs saved us actors. The bank was always closed when we were off work…

After Christmas, I was asked to head up a dance company – right up my alley. The Center had a very nice stage, full lighting capability, and ballet classes taught by Manolo Agullo, a Cuban charmer of the old school who was training some decent dancers. I had a blast. So why did I leave? As in many a story, love called in the form of my now-hubby who wanted to be in the movie business.

Manolo is dead. And I’ve lost track of Brad.  But I keep this little pot on the window sill above the sink. I love the delicate crazing, the shape and the reminder it is to me of a very happy time.

brad 2

Antique Sarreguemines Coffee Set

Coffee setCoffee set marked Flore U&C Sarre- guemines.

The factory supplied most of the original tiles that decorated the walls of the Paris metro and Napoleon commissioned decorative pieces from them for his apartments at Versailles.

I bought the set when I was living in Germany. Did I have a use for it? Hahaha. I was a ballet dancer with a tiny apartment and in Germany at that time, you didn’t visit one another’s apartments, you met at a restaurant or bar. This may have changed, but while I lived there, I never had a visitor in for coffee. In fact, I didn’t drink the stuff; my beverages consisted of carrot juice, apfelsaft (apple juice sold in the canteen for theater staff,) and after performances, red wine at the Italian place where we wound down. But this set had to be mine.

I bought it at my favorite “antique” store where, with the exception of a flokati rug, I had found all the furnishings in my apartment: a painted glass lamp with little crystal beads, a rocking chair, a carved coat rack with a beveled mirror to hang on the wall, a couple of chairs and a solid wooden table that took me almost an hour to drag home. In the midst of my spare décor, the coffee set glowed like an expensive painting.

When I moved back to the States, the husband of a dancer friend was being transferred to NYC and he offered to ship some items home for me. I sent the coat rack, the flokati (which has long since become scraggly and been abandoned), and this set. The lamp, a true antique, I opted to keep with me as carry on. Unfortunately, I had a plane change.

The second airline insisted the package was too big. I tried to explain it was an antique but to no avail. The box that came off the baggage carousel tinkled and was full of painted glass shards. Only the beading was intact. I have wondered if I had been then as I am now, I could have saved it. Dancers are trained to listen to authority – the teacher, the choreographer, the stage manager, the coach. It has taken some time to become a person with my own authority.

Writing this, I feel such regret for that lost lamp. It was precious because it lit a special time of my life. From the 6th grade on, I had been determined to be ballerina, never mind my short legs. After years of struggle, I won a place in a good company. After every performance, I went home and turned on that light. Under it, I examined my battered feet, ate my skimpy meals or read. I was happy!

I have no such close connection to the coffee set but its beauty continues to holds me.

Tiny Treasures

Tiny flowers and grass under my feet, plus the treasure of a yellow bird. The flower will become a blackberry if there’s enough water. The grass is unknown but ubiquitous, and I think the bird a gold finch.

When I walk in the woods, I have begun looking at my feet. It started because West Virginia is very rocky and you never know when you’ll be tipped over by a hidden bump in the grass. And although I still love looking out over the trees and mountains, I am finding the there are terrific things to see if I focus in.

You have to understand that as a ballet dancer I was trained never to look at my feet. You show your face to the audience, not the part in your hair. This habit had funny consequences on my first trip to Europe. Many of the streets were cobblestones. I didn’t want to look at them when there was so much to see – church towers, castles, history rising up from the ground. With pleasure I looked up, as I had been trained.

My sister, who often walked with me, still tells about how she would be talking to me and suddenly I would disappear. “One minute you were beside me, the next gone. I’d look back and there you were, sprawled on the street.” She refused to walk European style, arms linked, for fear I’d take her down with me.

So much for the grace of a dancer.

Theatre Thank You

Inscribed Clay bell. This little clay bell was given to me as a theatre gift for performing in “Royal Hunt for the Sun”. As part of the Colorado Concert Ballet (now just the Colorado Ballet), we used to dance/act in various productions at the Bonfils Theater in Denver.

I debuted as an actress in “The Most Happy Fella”, a song about Standing on the Corner, Watching All the Girls Go By. The director chose ME for a little (miniscule) solo: I was to walk alone across the stage, smile at the singer, drop a hanky and flirt. I had never flirted in my real life, how did one do it? On the last night I was persuaded by older cast members that it was tradition to have a little extra fun and I was given a pair of lacy underwear to drop instead of the hanky. End of theatrical innocence…

Then there was “Finian’s Rainbow” for which I was cast as Susan the Silent. Dancing only, but there were scenes when I was on stage with the actors, not dancing, standing still for long minutes. I remember the feeling of my hands swelling up to twice their size as I stood there – I had no idea what to do with them.

My biggest role in the adult shows (children’s theatre being another matter) was as Dressy Tessy Tura, the stripper in “Gypsy,” acting and singing “You’ve got to have a gimmick.” My gimmick was that I danced on pointe as I stripped. No stripping of course; in fact my dancing teacher thought I was too young to wear a two piece bikini on stage, so I was decked out in a full leotard, red and white stripped with fringe under the boobs. For the last show, I brought in my own bikini, sewed the fringe onto it, and strutted my stuff. Boy was I mad when my jazz/modern teacher said, that’s what you should have worn from the beginning.

We got little thank you souvenirs on opening night at most performances, being unpaid and all. I have no idea why I kept this one but now it stands in for some great times. I learned about lesbians in a Bonfils dressing room (just conversation, not deed.) I slept out in the audience on the carpet between shows. And I got my first taste of the theatrical life and learned, oh yes, it was the life for me!