Dancing Like No Other

Sun was gaining more and more power, winter was fighting its last battles, spring was spreading slowly but steady and I felt like dancing. With my dogs, with the birds outside, with the delicate spring-flavoured wind.

Everybody should dance. At least twice a day. I do. It gives one such a rejuvenating feeling. Just like spring does.

The joyful energy of dance filled my every cell and I felt the need to paint it. I started searching for protagonists for my painting story. Since I was always in awe with the elegance and the grace of ballerinas, I thought it would be a great idea to paint one.

Ora, the prima-ballerina I had chosen to model me for my painting was not a regular ballet dancer. She was special. A bit eccentric and really spoiled and stubborn, but extremely talented and devoted to her art. She lived for her ballet. And she wouldn’t model for me by dancing with just any partner. She wanted the best one, because she wanted to give a performance to remember and that couldn’t be done with a regular man. So I had traveled far and wide, searching/looking for what she asked for. And just the moment I wanted to quit, he appeared in front of my eyes: the red-crowned crane, Akio, from Japan. His dance was exquisite. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. My presence didn’t seem to bother him. He was so absorbed in his dance that he, probably, hadn’t even noticed me. I felt like my quest was over! There he was: someone who not only danced like no other but who was, also, so passionate about what he was doing that everything disappeared around him while he danced.

The fact that he was a crane, was a bit of a problem at first. But we overcame that. After many discussions (lucky me he was a good English speaker), Akio agreed to be my ballerina’s partner and so I introduced them to one another. They spent some time togheter to get to know each other so they could bond in the spring-celebration dance they would perform for me to paint.

Akio told Ora that his kind has been dancing since the beginning of time and they consider dance a sacred thing. In their society, they dance for sheer joy, celebrating life. Otherwise, they only dance with their mate. Their unison dance is a celebration of their love, a ritual the pair will perform together many times over the years, to strengthen their lifelong bond. Parents teach their babies to dance and young cranes practice dancing for years before they choose a mate. Akio was a young crane who didn’t have a mate, yet, but he had an innate dancing talent.

Ora had also found out that the red-crowned crane was on the brink of extinction in Japan due to hunting and the destruction of their natural marshland habitat for agricultural development. But, happily, the Japanese people took action and, in 1920, a group of farmers started feeding the birds in the wild. The crane population grew and nowadays there are over a thousand birds in Hokkaido region in Japan, but they are totally dependant on humans for food during the winter, therefore their future is still uncertain.

Many other interesting things did Ora find out that day, like the impressive wingspan of Akio, that is 2.5 m, his height that is about 1.58 m, that the red patch on his head is not a feather but bare skin, or that the red-crowned crane is one of the longest-living species of bird, living up to 30-40 years in the wild or up to 70 years in captivity.

When Ora’s time to talk came, she didn’t know what to share. She wanted to tell so many things but she had to choose the most relevant ones. And…she did. In her way. Akio learned that she was the only child and maybe that’s why she was so stubborn and spoiled, that she wasn’t a natural brunette (I don’t know why she considered that an important thing to share, but she did) and that her secret wish was to ride a bear. Her favourite ballet piece was Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”. That was not such a surprise, knowing her, but, even if she would have liked “Swan Lake” the most, she couldn’t have said that to a crane. Akio had also found out that even if the ballet dancers are typically known for their grace, poise, and dedication, they are incredibly strong and probably are the strongest athletes out there, as several studies had found. One mustn’t be fooled by the delicate appearance of a ballerina. They are really tough, both physically and mentally. Ballet is such a complex art sport that many athletes take ballet lessons to improve their performances. To name a few: Eddie George, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barry Sanders. Also, The Chicago Bulls used to train with the Joffrey Ballet troupe in the off-season during the Michael Jordan Era.

I definitely have to google for Arnold, the ballet dancer, to see if she was not making things up because, sometimes, she really seems to live in her own fabricated world.

That was all the sharing Ora did. She wanted to say so much more but she couldn’t decide what, so she stopped.

But the crane was pleased with the things he learned and they started to dance and I started to paint. They totally completed each other: the most graceful dancers from two different worlds dancing like one. A strange but superb duet. At the end of one week, my painting was ready, but the Ora and Akio hadn’t noticed I finished. They kept on dancing like no other couple had ever done. I left leaving them moving gracefully under the blossomed cherry tree. They were a weird pair. But perfect.