In this final post on dancing, I imagine someone I once knew who played the piano for ballet dancers: someone who never drew attention to himself – just played.
High summer’s light—June light—and curtains
At French windows shift in air invisible.
Fiercely frowning, alone, an old man bows to the piano keys.
His fingers flash & fly, strike black & white alike.
Behind him, he hears pale dancers
Who are not there,
Who might return (or not),
Who once were here (but now are not)—
Hears them slip, skip, step to his fingers’ lift & lilt;
Hears at the shining grand-piano keyboard
The schuss, the brush, the hush of silken shoes
On polished gold-grained floorboards
As his hands follow & give chase:
Shadow & reach
Echo & overlap
Criss-cross & race.
His fingers stretch & span the keys
While dancers spin & leap the fifths & octaves.
Around him, around the ones who are not there,
Mirrors gleam back lightness of steps; glass
Beams back the dazzle of brilliant notes:
Waiting for the beat,
In the dancing room,
Echoing the poise, the pose, the pause
Of pallid dancers in an empty place
With drifting translucent curtains,
Echoing the peace of dancers in a bleached, bare, beech-wood space
Of bright piano keys,
Of mirrors floor to ceiling height,
Of white light full of angles, reflections, refractions—
The music cascades, fades in a dying fall.
See! The player at the grand piano turns, quite spent.
Pale dancers in his head, his ears,
Have also turned; not one of them remains:
Just soundless music in his hands, his mind.
Somewhere, something (he cannot say) aches today.
Some kind of loss (o! strike white! strike black!) breaks grey in him.
Then something takes his breath away.
© Lizzie Ballagher
With thanks to the managers and staff at Dance Junction in Rochester, Kent, UK.