Say hello

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Last night, at Studio M, Señor gave our Ballet 2/3 class a lovely, languorous port de bras sequence. From 5th croisé, look back coyly as you chassé back before opening arms into 3rd and tendu devant, tombé and switch arms to gaze at the upper balcony seats, ronde to the other corner, open arms to seconde, posé forward into 5th, lift back leg into a mini arabesque and lunge back, cambré forward and back, prep arms for pirouette, pirouette en dedans with arms in 5th, detourné to the other side.

We marked it, then Señor moved some people over to the front line, the way he normally does, choosing different people from week to week. He asked F to stand beside me, then asked, “Hey, do you know each other?” Smiles and nods. We were two of the regulars — I’ve been taking Señor’s class, on and off, for more than a year now. “I have a brilliant idea. Why don’t we all introduce ourselves and say hello?”

The energy in the room changed. Normally guarded ladies smiled at the newbies, the guy who’d spent most of the barre staring at his reflection in the mirror greeted everyone warmly, people shook hands and looked each other in the eye. After living in Toronto for 8 years, I’ve gotten so used to people looking away, looking down, going to great lengths to avoid offending each other with their eyes. I remember feeling invisible the first few times I walked around downtown, people enclosed in their public bubbles of unseeing. So different from my home city, Manila — where from the moment you step out eyes are on you, looks of undisguised curiosity or judgement, sometimes just a neutral look that lasts maybe 5 seconds and asks nothing in return but acknowledgement.

Señor said, “Now let’s translate that same feeling of openness and warmth to our port de bras. Be present. Be generous with your audience, with each other. Leave the porch lights on!” The pianist rippled through the first bars and we chasséd back. Señor turned on the studio’s two spotlights. Our arms said hello to the front row, to the balcony, to each other in the mirror. Hello, I see you. I see you too. Thank you.

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