Dancing with Laurie

I fell completely in love with her the moment I saw her. And then, when I saw her dance, even more so. The fact Laurie Scandurra was slightly older than me, combined with the sadly unavoidable reality that I was 10 or 11 at the time, probably explains why I didn’t propose marriage to her on the spot.

Laurie was and is one of my favorite dancers – ever. And I’ve seen, without exaggeration, hundreds of dancers.

For quite a few years I was a ballet dancer. And, once a dancer always a dancer, at least that’s how I see it.

I wouldn’t trade in my dancing days for anything. I had the privilege of dancing a lead role for the Joffrey Ballet and I danced quite a number of roles (and quite a number of times) for a regional dance company in Orange County, New York called, the Orange County Ballet Theater. It was there that I met Laurie.

She was then and remains now my favorite female dancer. We all had our favorite dancers back then. We’d compare favorites much like kids would compare favorites in their collection of baseball cards.

My love for the ballet preceded my love for Laurie by about five or six years. It happened when, at age five, my mother took me to see the New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at City Center. At the end of the ballet I was sure of three things: I wanted to dance, marry Clara, and beat-up her brother Fritz for breaking her Nutcracker in the first act. I even mailed Clara a love letter addressed to, well, Clara.

I’m still waiting for a response.

My favorite male dancer was, without question, Edward Villella of the New York City Ballet. When Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union in 1961 and became all the rage, I wasn’t having it. As far as I was concerned he was no match for Villella. And, for pure depth of artistry, no one was a match for Erik Bruhn of the Royal Danish Ballet. Bruhn was, without question, the Laurence Olivier of dance. I’d rather see Bruhn do one pirouette than anyone else do 10.

But when it came to women, Laurie, as I said, was my favorite. She wasn’t just good, she was great. Why? Because like all great dancers, the all of her being, physically, emotionally and spiritually, was present in her every movement. There wasn’t an emotion on the life-scale of emotions that couldn’t flow out of her with breathtaking power and completeness. I could’ve watched her dance forever. And, oh my, how I wanted to dance with her.

Like me, Laurie did not have the over-valued and over-hyped George Balanchine-body, meaning tall, lean, and absent even a hint of curve. As a result, she didn’t get cast in roles like the lead in Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake (she would have soared in both). Had she ever been given the chance to dance the lead in “Firebird” she would have come close to matching the greatest female lead in that ballet, Maria Tallchief. Francisco Moncion and Maria Tallchief owned the “Firebird.”

Back then Balanchine, in the eyes of many at the time, could do no wrong. He was seen as almost a God by some. Not me. Yes, he was a brilliant choreographer, but I was not a fanatical fan of Balanchine like my mother and so many others. In fact, when I first saw his ballet, “Agon,” my mother positively blanched and nearly lost her footing when, as we were leaving the theatre, I told her the only thing that needed to be done to fully capture my opinion of the ballet was to add a Y to the end of its name. I was seven.

I did like some of Balanchine’s ballets very much. I would have given anything to dance “Tarantella” with Laurie. There are other ballets I would have loved to dance with her as well. “Afternoon of a Faun” comes to mind and then, of course, she would have been spectacular in the role of the ballerina had I ever had the chance to dance the part I coveted more than any other, the role of Petrushka in the ballet “Petrushka.”

I’ll tell you this, if we get a do-over in life,  my plan is to propose marriage to Laurie the second I see her, so what if I’ll only be 10 at the time! And then, of course, I’ll ask her to dance.

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