Saturday, March 17, 2012

Readings: Body of a Dancer('s Ex-)

I don’t know if this blog has gone into hibernation, or if it’s in a coma. It may be in a persistent vegetative state. What follows will be a forced attempt to prove that it is not quite ready to be taken off life support. I will base this attempted resuscitation on a book. What else, right?

The book’s title is Body of a Dancer. It was brought to my attention by Facebook friend, Diana Hart Johnson. This memoir was written by a woman with the exotic moniker, Renée E. D’Aoust. It was, in part, that “E” which grabbed me. It distinguishes this particular Renée from all the other D’Aousts out there, clamoring and throwing elbows, in order to position themselves to collect their richly-deserved fifteen minutes. Renée was wise not to disclose the full name for which that “E” stands as a monument, thereby to sound like a political assassin, or serial killer. The book, upon reading, discloses Ms. D’Aoust to be a very good writer.

My Facebook friend, Diana, was, some years ago, a dancer with the Martha Graham Company. So was my first wife, Christine. Not so surprisingly, our author, Renée E. D’Aoust, also has a Graham connection. (If you see a pattern forming here, you are still with me; if you don’t…abandon all hope and go watch some reality TV.) Much of the book, Body of a Dancer, concerns the time Ms. D’Aoust spent in New York City, studying the Graham technique as a pretender for a spot in the company. As a man who functioned as a devoted fifth wheel to my ex-wife’s career cart in the world of Grahamdance for over a decade, I can attest that Ms. D’Aoust (whose experiences therein begin a little more than ten years after mine ended), captures that world with a precision and insight that is as painful to vicariously relive as it is delightful to appreciate for its intelligent mastery of the art of writing.

Have I endorsed and promoted this book as a thing you should buy and read? Yes, I have.

One of the reasons I decided to read the book, after having it brought to my attention by D.H. Johnson, was my expectation that there might be some anecdotal material in the book concerning my ex-wife. As it turns out, she is mentioned only once, in a footnote concerning three other Graham dancers, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Donlin Foreman, and Terese Capucilli, who together with Christine Dakin (saddled forever with my patronymic, as a professional necessity) formed an independent dance company.

Jacqui Buglisi was our first friend when we moved to New York City. We knew her years before the advent of Mr. Foreman. Chris and Jacqui met through their work with Pearl Lang’s school and company. They danced together in the chorus of a YiddishTheater production of Sholom Aleichem’s comedy, “It’s Hard To Be a Jew” which Pearl choreographed. For several months, while otherwise unemployed, I worked as an assistant to Pearl’s business manager, a guy named Bill Gatewood (no relation to your office computer). This included going to Italy on a tour of Pearl’s company. Through this association I also had the pleasure to spend some time with and around Pearl’s husband, the wonderful actor, Joseph Wiseman.

Terese Capucilli was relatively new to the company around the time my association with that world was dying a protracted death. She was in the company as a rising star in 1979, when I was a trailing spouse on a Graham Company tour of Europe and the Middle East.

So, I was not able to wallow in any dirt about my ex- as shoveled from the pages of this book. I was, however, surprised learn that the Buglisi-Foreman marriage is no more. I still have a leather belt buckle that Don Foreman tooled for me as a gift, back in the day. And, in closing, here is a poem I wrote long ago about an afternoon spent with the beautiful Ms. Buglisi:


We toured amongst the Fauves.
I discussed her art in terms of mine.
She fed me meat and bread and oranges.

She verbally caressed the sanctity
of the human form until
I was ready to scream -- or worship.

She guessed eyes, but I confessed
it was her mouth I watched
when shapeless words ceased to satisfy.

I sipped my Jack Daniels
as slowly as possible, but
her Grand Marnier was forever emptied.

When she guessed at the time
she was an hour short --
I was more than two.

It is April already.
The days are getting longer.
God knows, I shouldn’t look at her at all.

Ah, well. Enough is enough. This is now making me sad. But the blog is up and running. If you skipped over the embedded links, go back and read them. And read the book.