I ARRIVE AT the Lansburgh's Center, where the company rehearses each day in our new but unfinished studio on the sixth floor. The din of construction work goes on daily around us, the hammering, sawing, scraping.
It's noon, and the company assembles for our usual Monday meeting. My carefully worked out rehearsal plan for the week has to be revised, as Geoff must reschedule his movement class for senior citizens in order to be at our Friday concert-in-the-schools performance. Lisa has a Tuesday staff meeting at Somebodies exercise studio in Georgetown, where she works part-time. Martin, our manager, arrives with the news that Carmen won't be in at all today. Her visa is about to expire, and she has to get her immigration papers in working order. (Carmen hopes to find a position dancing in Mexico City next spring, since it is still too dangerous for her to return now to El Salvador.) The solution for today's schedule: rehearse the repertoire, and teach Cedric his part in the men's duet from "Strummin.'" Four p.m. comes too soon.
It's 6:45 a.m. My 3-year-old-nephew, Tony, has begun his ritual rising with the sun. This annoys me to no end; I must speak to my mother about this. Tony and his 5-year-old brother, Earl, spend the weekdays with their grandmother because my sister, Tootie, works as a steamfitter during the day and attends apprentice classes at night.
Child-rearing by Grandma is a tradition in our family. Each morning mother prepares Earl for kindergarten, while trying to keep Tony out of trouble. I have noticed that Earl resents the constant attention Tony demands at his age. Sibling rivalry has begun. I must point this out to mother.
I arrive at Lansburgh's wearing a suit today. Sometimes I do this to ward off depression and to recharge my self-esteem -- especially when there is no money in sight. Everyone in the front office is shocked. They fuss over my appearance.
Today, Cedric can't be at rehearsal. Geoff is sick with a virus. Lisa has to leave early for her staff meeting. Solution: work with the women on the "Autumnfest" quartet, a satirical ritual-fertility dance from "Equinox." By 4 p.m., everyone is exhausted from a strenuous workout and productive learning session.
When I descend to the front office, a party is in full swing. It's executive director Phil Ogilvie's birthday. Five empty bottles of champagne sit on the nearby desk. Suddenly, I don't feel like celebrating. My friend, Mike, offers to buy a sixpack. We chat over beers.
Another early morning, thanks to Tony. Today, I'm going to scald myself awake in the shower. It's the only way. A cold shower would lock every muscle in my body and send me into a state of shock.
Despite the early bugle call, I'm late for company class. Maybe it's because I don't drink coffee. Don Bailey, our ballet master, has the company wait for me. Classical music -- and ear-shattering hammer blows. All during class, construction workers and curious visitors stop to look through the windows of the studio. It's difficult to concentrate, yet the intuitive response to an "audience" spurs me onward. After all, aren't we giving them an artistic "experience"? The headline "Construction Workers Learn About Dance" keeps running through my head. Soon class comes to an end, and it's time for rehearsal. Thank goodness, everyone is here today.
Some of the dancers volunteer to stay for extra rehearsal. By 6 p.m., I leave for home. It has rained all day. As I take my seat on the bus to Anacostia, another rider sits next to me in the seat by the window. We both notice that he is being rained on, from inside the bus. I suggest to him that he open his umbrella, and ponder in sadness, "Only in Anacostia would this happen." And the Metro fares have taken another rise.
This morning the kids are in a bad mood. They're fighting at the breakfast table. I'm listening from the living room, taking it all in, and analyzing each word. Finally, when I am convinced of the problem, I call Earl from the table and sit him down in front of me. I am firm but compassionate in explaining his false impressions: "Your Grandmother does not love your brother more than she loves you. Because of his age, his just learning how to talk and his knack for getting into trouble, he requires more attention than you do." I go on to explain that kindergarten is an exciting place to be and that his teacher cares very much about her pupils, of which he is very fortunate to be one. I promise myself to spend more time with him, and to talk to his grandmother about the situation.
At the studio, I interview a young black dancer who wants to join the company. This is our third dancer this week. There are no openings, no grant funding and no future profitable touring dates until March.
I am sympathetic with dancers looking for work. My heart wants to provide for every dancer who is disillusioned or just plain looking for a break. This gives new meaning to the day's work. Tomorrow, we must give of ourselves to 800 eager schoolchildren. No time for sulking.
For once, I am awake before the kids. (That's because I couldn't sleep anyway.) I start breakfast and enjoy reading the paper. I read only the comics in the morning. They're my antidote for the headlines.
At noon, the company departs from Lansburgh's for our concert-in-the-schools performance at River Terrace Elementary-School, sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society and the Friday Morning Music Club. Besides doing this because we genuinely love the interaction with children, the program has been our major hometown source of income, whenever we have not been forced to tour to survive.
By 1, we are set up to go. Kindergarten through third grade. The audience is enthusiastic. Every child wants to answer every question, or make his or her contribution to our story. I begin to wonder if we'll ever get through it before time runs out.
Program No. 2 is for fourth through sixth grades. They are an older and more controlled group, though no less enthusiastic. Our "Magic Show" is a smooth success. We finish by 3 p.m.
Tony and Earl are with their mother for the weekend. I haven't the heart to bring up the rivalry between them. My mom is too busy cooking for a church outing on Saturday. She's looked forward to this for weeks. I'll let her go in peace.
Definitely not a day of rest. Up before 6 to drive my mother to her departure point with the church group. This is so I can borrow the car for the day.
At noon I arrive at Epiphany Church to prepare for a free performance for its church bazaar. Two hours later, four of us dance for five minutes. It is over before we get started. Everyone loves the dance.
It's 7; we are due at Georgetown University to see a production that features choreography by Betsey, our senior member of the company. Betsey has reserved front row seats for us. The show is wonderful, the choreography fresh, witty and original. I feel proud.
After driving Martin home to Cheverly, I return to find my mother resting from an exciting day. She tells me all about it. I take a deep breath, look heavenward and decide it's now or never. "Mother, since you're in such a good mood. . ." I tell her of my observations about Earl and Tony. She is sad that she wasn't more aware. But her loving heart knows she would never choose one of her children over another. She takes it well, and promises to work towards a resolution of tensions. We both feel better and wearily call it a night