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This article first appeared in our November 2005 issue.

November 2005

Life's Yearning

By B.W. Hoffman

hen I interviewed Amii Legendre on the telephone the other day, she was more mother than professional dancer. That had not always been the case. In the not too distant past, she was more professional dancer than mother. Of the time we most mused upon together in our conversation, Amii had been both all at once. In early summer of this year, Amii danced eight months pregnant in a professional performance at the Velocity Theatre in Washington state.

Amii can easily add the skill of verbal choreographer to her professional credits. As I listened to her describe the full-bellied artistry, I was transformed. No longer was my head pressed into a cell phone in a noisy, neighborhood Starbucks. I was second row, center stage watching a dance unfold with beauty, mastery, and utter vulnerability.

I thought of how clumsy my wife had felt during the pregnancy of our first son, Jeb. Amii admitted that the “out of control” nature of her body at the time of the performance allowed for a more authentic, anthropological state to exist onstage. She said, “You cannot invite a baby or animal into a dance piece because they are not capable of craft or performance.” I reflected upon the circus animal acts I had seen, and felt the ironic truth of that statement.

Amii never used words like “turn” or “spin” which would have been my expectation. Rather the dance Amii described played out in eloquent phrases like “in the process of yearning”, and “the space we live in.” It was in those phrases that my eyes closed upon arms waving and legs careening, and the endless symphony of shadow-making.

What Amii was trying to message to her audience in this performance during her eighth month of pregnancy, was the space of “a lurch.” In this duet, Amii and her dance partner were exploring the idea of Utopia and how we all in some way look to achieve perfection of some kind. But this is of course impossible, Amii admitted, and where we find ourselves is in the position of “a lurch,” towards the perfection. The dance took on the structure of a thing we can never attain but are always in the process of yearning for.

The dancing was also both a greeting and a farewell on various levels. First, there was the physical and the logical. This would be Amii’s last performance before moving across the United States to New York State. Amii’s boyfriend Paul and father of their now born daughter Stella, is the Associate Dean of the Social Justice Department at Bard College upstate. It is also there that Stella has a half sister that she will someday know and play with. Paul was once a loving donor to a lesbian couple who remain close friends.

The greeting was also to the baby growing inside and a farewell of the life that had been before conception. Here Amii spoke of the continuum of expectation; of progress and failure, and of what is maintained and un-maintained. It is here that my head jumped out of my theatre seat and the Starbucks and now leaned on the bed frames of my own two sons. As many parents, I often sit nearby and watch them sleep. It is when they are still that I pause at all to make sense of all of my own yearning for the perfection of life and fatherhood. Did I meet my own expectations or fall short? Did I meet my wife’s, my kids? And the continuum of it all as life keeps moving in a constant dance of progress and failure and my own earnest “lurch” towards perfection.

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