The other day, I went flipping through all of my dance drawings because Jeff was looking for something new to put up. When we came upon this one in the sketchbooks, he knew it was the one.
The thing about going through my ballet drawings is that, whether they're good or bad, I can remember exactly where I was, who I was looking at and what was going on in my heart when I drew each one. That is especially true of all of the eight books of drawings I did during the three months I spent drawing Susan Jaffe's retirement.
On this night, Susan had danced for the last time with Carlos Molina. I don't have any idea what it must be like, the intimate relationship of a ballet partnership. The levels of trust and faith built upon the intense periods of frustration, joy and pure exploration which are rehearsals. And, to really ratchet up the pressure, it's really all about love--usually tragic and doomed--being expressed in the motion and physical relationship between two people.
Also, it's a constantly changing relationship. The one thing dancers are ALWAYS doing is trying to get better. Show me a dancer who doesn't think they could have been better--go ahead, try; I've known a lot of dancers and I've never met one.
But a last dance is as good as it's ever going to get, because there is no next time. Susan said goodbye to a lot of partnerships in her final season. Some of her partners were her mentors, some her peers and some were younger, but they all felt they were moving with something special when they danced with Susan. Carlos, in particular, seemed to look to her for guidance and mentoring. All of which he would have to drop when it came time to take the stage, because on stage, he had to rise to the occassion and be her equal; he did so because she demanded it and he got better because she did.
Anyway, the last night they performed, I was sitting in the stage left wing watching and drawing and for some reason, when it was all over I stayed exactly where I was and just watched. At the end of the performance, after the bows, everyone lingered a bit because that's the way it was with those last performances. Gradually, the backstage crowd left the stage and the ghost light was lit. Still, Susan and Carlos stood, clenched together as they had been since the curtain closed, hugging and weeping, extending their final goodbye alone on the darkened stage.
Until, finally, they let go and it was done.