At the tender age of 19, I started dating a contemporary ballet dancer. His knowledge of art and culture, I thought, would elevate my aesthetic acumen. We would cry ugly tears at Balanchine’s Swan Lake and convulse with laughter at Les Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo and make out during intermissions in Manhattan’s most pretentious cultural venues.
Friends, family, onlookers, laymen, serfs of our urban kingdom would envy my real-life Adonis like a 3rd grader envies her best friend’s My Size Barbie.
Somehow, I would develop his poise, grace and athleticism, through divine intervention or osmosis or a steady diet of post-coital cigarettes and ballerina tea.
The love? Raw, physical, gritty. The sex? Divine. The pillow talk? So artsy.
In the nearly three-year relationship that followed, I came to appreciate dance in a way that I never had before; I fell deeply in love; much of the former was realized. But there was always a profound disconnect, I think, between us: He was a dancer, and I was not.
So, if you ever find yourself lusting after a man in tights or that quirky, flexible B.F.A you see in the dining hall or even Channing Tatum in Step Up, first consider the following:
Other men and women will touch him in various states of undress. For work. Modern and postmodern techniques like contact improvisation rely heavily on touch to facilitate the choreographic process. Or, in English, prepare to watch your significant other sandwiched between two men clad in thongs, heavy eye makeup and body glitter, only to receive hearty applause from 300 elderly arts patrons.
He’ll talk about dance all the time, and you’ll never quite get it. This may be characteristic of other creative types, too. But no matter how many performances I attended or books I read, my opinion on dance felt uninformed or invalid. The barriers of entry to understanding an art without words are high and nebulous. I was an illiterate child in a world with no Hooked on Phonics.
Effective communication is difficult. Conservatory-bred dancers communicate fundamentally with the physical, or in metaphors of space, movement and the human body. Every argument turns into a series of indecipherable quips about the geometries, anatomies and spatial intentions of your relationship.
You will inevitably feel fat and uncoordinated. Alas, this is self-explanatory. “His ass is amazing” quickly turns into, “His ass is amazing,” followed by a rash of unsuccessful fad dieting and anxiety dreams about anabolic steroids.
Ladies and gentlemen: Sashay at your own risk.