If I have one regret in marrying a bunhead it is that I have never seen her dance.
Not even on video.
Oh there was one really nice video but it was long ago taped over by a car race, inadvertently I think.
From the time she was three years old, Rose Alcantara’s life was pretty much dedicated to ballet, first through her mother’s will and then from Rose’s own heart.
When we attended our first ballet together, San Francisco Ballet’s “Romeo and Juliet,” I learned that former dancers aren’t like you and me. They sit on the edge of their seat with erect posture and a tissue in one hand. They count measures, gasp appreciatively at things you and I will never see and huff at things the dancers later will wish they never did.
You do not hold hands with a dancer at a ballet, nor do you break their concentration. They are in another world and the price of admission is the painfully curled toes, arthritis, aching joints, broken bones and torn tendons acquired over the years.
I have come to accept that it is pretty much a closed society to which I will never gain full admission. My glimpses from the outside, however, fill me with awe, admiration and humility.
While I have never seen Rose dance Coppelia or Cinderella or L. Macbeth or the Nutcracker, this move to Belize has given me a marvelous glimpse into her career through the scores of photos that, until this week, have been relegated to boxes in dark corners of the garage.
One frame, one picture, one slide at a time I have been immersing myself into Rose’s life as a dancer.
I am no judge of form, although here and there I did review dance performances as a newspaper arts critic. But I can say this, the pure joy that flows from Rose’s face in her dance photos is spectacular. I want to bottle it and send a sample to everyone in the world.
More than that, I want to create moments in her life that revive that expression of joy.
Among the stacks of photos, I found a letter Rose wrote to her mother, Maria, who came from a convent life in Mexico and her father, Januario, who came from the Philippines and served in World War II as a U.S. Army scout in the Pacific.
This is what Rose the bunhead wrote to them upon graduating from high school:
“I dedicate this to my lovely parents for without them I would not have my father’s lips or my mother’s figure. Starting from the year 1962 you would braid my hair then send me off to school, call me in from playing baseball with the boys to go to ballet and make me eat those horrible lima beans.
“I suppose at the tender age of three you thought I had something going in my favor. Not every child can tip-toe at such an early age in life. So you enrolled your sweet little brat in ballet school. You would take me by the hand and up the stairs and I had a purple leotard that wrinkled and the littlest ballet slippers imaginable. Even when times got rough you found a way for me to continue those classes. I wonder what I would have become without this training. You have given me a true love for the Arts and made it a part of my life. Not every parent can do that. There were many times when I thought nothing was to become of me, but you were always there to lend your advice and support. You were also there to praise me for even a small thing, like a shuffle ball change.
“I will repay you one day when I reach my aspiration. I warmly appreciate you placing that goal out there for me. I consider myself truly lucky to have the finest parents God could give.
“With all my love, your daughter …”
If her aspiration was to be a professional dancer, Rose did indeed reach it. She once danced The Nutcracker in December and gave birth to her daughter, Caira, in April.
Crazy, huh? That is passion.
In time, she passed her aspirations on to students, too, at her own dance school and then as a personal fitness trainer, yoga instructor and Pilates teacher. (This seems to be a natural progression for many ballet dancers I have met through Rose!)
Well, back to packing. I’m hoping that somewhere in all this mess we’ll find a video of Rose from her dancing days. And when we do, I plan to hit the pause button and gaze at that smile, that glorious smile, and try to capture some of that raw passion in my own heart so that I may be blessed to see life through a dancer’s eyes.
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