Friday, March 14, 2008

"Dance was his life."

Pause in your work.
Pause in your work.
Pause in your work--put a hand to your heart.
Think on a friend, now lost, whom you loved.
In the warp and the weft of the world he helped make,
His thread may be gone, but the pattern remains.

This morning, Stacey and I attended the funeral of Gus Giordano, the father of a good friend. I only met Gus a couple of times, but I knew that he was a legend in the dance world, an innovator and teacher whose influence was incalculable. The funeral, both in its attendees and its program, reflected that; it was the funeral of an artist, a man whose legacy surrounds us. "Dance was his life," said one of his sons. One of his students imagined him telling her, as she stood at the podium, "Stretch farther!" and "Work harder!" She quoted Saint Augustine: "O man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you."

And there was dancing. Strong, young dancers leaping and twirling down the aisles of the vast church, radiating joy. Watching them, I was reminded of why I find dance--which I both see and do too rarely--to be so powerful: it seems to offer so many of art's essential aims in breathtakingly pure form. The difficult is made, through dedication, to look easy. The limits that most of us accept without a thought--in this case, the strictures of gravity--are, through hard work, transcended. And the everyday stuff of life--those feet that trip us up, those hands that fumble with our keys--are transformed into expressive instruments of joy. Watching those dancers, and thinking of an elegant and powerful young Gus Giordano half a century ago, was incredibly moving.

Tomorrow night we're going out dancing, and Gus and his family will be in our hearts. We'll dance poorly, but we'll do it with joy. I think he'd approve.

Rest in peace, Gus.

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