All eight of us surround the wooden table resembling the scene from The Last Supper. Only this was not an act from the piece; rather, this was our lunch ritual. A beautiful array of vegetables, bread, and hummus lie before our muscle-aching bodies. I ask Arnulfo, the Colombian dancer based in Vienna, what Christmas is like without snow. “Actually, in some cities there are indoor ice rinks and areas with fake snow.” Agitated from across the table, Aureliusz refutes with “Jesus’ birthplace was a desert!” He takes a big bite from his bread, “Besides,” he chews, “snow has nothing to do with Christmas.” Aureliusz knew American customs all too well. The theaters in Poland played Hollywood films with one Polish voice actor dubbed over for every character. He then asks if there are really newspaper boys riding their bikes from house to house, and I affirm his belief with, “Actually, throwing papers was my first job.” I was far from America in the tiny village of Millstatt, Austria, but somehow its influence surrounded me.
I didn’t have an alarm clock; instead I woke up to Andrea Maria chopping carrots. Most of the cast lived together in a villa during the rehearsal period. Mornings began with a cutting board because breakfast was a communal affair. Apples, carrots, bananas, soy yogurt, müsli, and on weekends coconut flakes, all went into the bowl. There were six of us, representing four different continents, ranging in age from eighteen to forty, and all of us were under the same brown-tiled roof.
Though at the beginning I was a bit intimidated by my colleagues, we soon developed a bond. Playful banter was to be expected but, most importantly, my opinions were valued which made for a very supportive environment. I was the only native English speaker, and that was the language in which we communicated. Oftentimes the other dancers would look to me for reassurance that what they’d said made sense. As a result, I became more conscious of my word choice as well as my clarity of speech. The second common language was German and, since I had only taken one semester of German, my ability to communicate was limited to the present tense which was fitting because the piece was entitled HERE AND NOW. Our third and most effective common language was, of course, dance.
Along with a performance, the bow is a gesture showing one’s gratitude for the opportunity to perform. I lift my head and the audience is lifted from a trance and brought back to their seats in the theater. The performers become human again and finally, the audience recognizes that we are all sharing the same space. Movement and performance has become more than simply memorizing steps and moving in unison. Performing is the ability to communicate to a room full of strangers without saying a word. And while the relationship built with the audience is important—it seems that so much of a dancer’s career is spent towards the prideful moments of recognition and praise—perhaps most meaningful of all is what the audience does not see: the sense of camaraderie felt between dancers that blossoms through collaboration.
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